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How to keep shoes in good condition, according to an expert

Because your shoe collection deserves to stand the test of time.
Illustration of five Women outside, wearing different styles of suede shoes
Edward Berthelot / Contributor / Getty Images / Streetstyleshooters / Contributor / Getty Images / Jeremy Moeller / Contributor / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

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Life isn't always kind to our footwear collection, and our favorite shoes have to contend with a number of obstacles like weather, dirt and jagged streets that threaten to tarnish their "good as new" vibe. Luckily, you don't have to just accept scuff marks and stains as a part of life, and there are plenty of ways to fight back and keep your kicks in great shape for a long time.

To help us get started, Shop TODAY reached out to Guillaume Berteau, head of footwear and accessories restoration services at The Cobblers, to get some tips for keeping our shoes looking brand new. We're also rounding up a few pairs that lend themselves well to restoration services, so you can enjoy them for years to come!

How to keep your shoes in good condition

Want to keep your shoes looking fresh to death but not sure where to start? There are several ways to help extend the life of your favorite pair of kicks:

  • Use cedar shoe trees: "During the day, the foot perspires and dampens the shoe leather, which can cause it to crease. If you are not proactive about it, it is very possible that the crease will become permanent in the leather. Cedar shoe trees will absorb all potential moisture and prevent any creasing," Berteau said.
  • Don't wear the same shoes every day: "It's a good idea to alternate shoes every day. Having a rotation will always contribute to the lifetime of each pair," the footwear expert explained.
  • Remember to spot clean stains: "For spot cleaning scuffs and spots on leather, I would recommend dry cleaning fluid spot removers. For suede and nubuck leathers, suede erasers are definitely the way to go. For other materials such as fabrics and synthetic leather, spot removers are also a good option. Gonzo spot remover also works for food stains," Berteau said.
  • Shoe polish can work wonders: "There are different ways to polish leather. Cream polish will penetrate the pores of the leather and nourish the leather, while a wax polish will seal the leather and give it a more waterproof finish," Berteau said. "It is important to clean and condition leather before polishing to remove any dirt and excess polish."

What to know about shoe repair

If you've been tempted to get your shoes repaired in the past but weren't sure what the process entails, you've come to the right place. Berteau broke down the need-to-know info for us below:

  • Certain materials are easier to repair than others: "Leather is always the most durable and repairable material. The characteristics of leather allow us to sand it, fill it, color it, etc. Leather can really be brought back from the dead sometimes! Other materials such as vinyl, fabrics, and suede can be a bit trickier to repair sometimes, although not impossible," he explained.
  • There are different shoe repair options: "There are deep cleaning and repair/reconstruction services that can quite literally make the most worn-down tattered shoes look brand new, but we also have a separate category of services dedicated to protection, which is key to maintaining the longevity of new or newly refurbished shoes," Berteau said. "Protection services start off with waterproofing the uppers, which will repel water and liquids, thereby preventing stains. Next, protective soles and heel tips are added to the bottom of the shoe which will prevent the original soles from wearing out."
  • Investing in a good pair of shoes makes repairs easier: "We recommend investing a little bit more into a good pair of leather shoes and continue to maintain them throughout time," the footwear expert told us. "Buying cheap shoes might seem like a good economical option at first, but at the end of the day, if you end up needing to replace them after a few months or a year, you might end up spending more, while simultaneously contributing to the amount of waste that we produce as a society."
  • Occasionally, a shoe is just too far gone to be repaired: "If the material is synthetic and is old and peeling, or the leather is too dried out and is cracking all over, there is not much that can be done. Otherwise, when it comes to fabric and suede, if there is extensive damage, sometimes there is nothing that can be done other than replacing it. Depending on the location of the damage and the construction of the shoes, it can sometimes be too far gone to fix as well," Berteau said.

Durable flat shoes for women

Earth Origins Perforated Leather Flats

When you find a pair of flats that you love, you want to hold onto them for a while, and this budget-friendly leather pair definitely has us crushing hard. The stretchy style features perforated detailing on the side, padded arch support and a cute plaid lining. It's available in three neutral colors — black, blue and brown — plus a show-stopping red for those days when you want to make a true fashion statement.

Rockport Total Motion Laylani Pieced Loafers

Building a shoe collection that you'd like to last through the ages? A timeless loafer made with leather and suede is a worthy contender. Rockport's Laylani loafers are pretty and practical thanks to their interior cushioning and shock absorption.

Sofft Simons Perforated Leather Oxfords

Whether you pair this versatile pair of oxfords with a dress and tights or a pair of jeans and a silky blouse, you really can't go wrong. The leather shoes feature fun perforated detailing, arch support and cushioning, so you'll look chic while you're staying comfy.

Hush Puppies Hazel Pointe

This flat is a nice mix between a ballet flat and a loafer and comes in both leather and suede options. With 10 colors available to choose from (our fave is the metallic gold hue), the shoe also has some nice comfortable features like memory foam and plenty of cushioning.

Durable heels for women

Cobb Hill Kailyn Asymmetrical Mary Jane Pump

After tossing our fair share of tattered pumps over the years, we're ready to invest in a pair that we can keep looking brand new for years to come, and these Mary Janes from Cobb Hill definitely has us smiling. The leather style has a comfortable block heel, a supportive footbed and gorgeous texture on the strap and the upper part of the shoe.

Franco Sarto Pisa Pump

Whether you like to live life in color or prefer a more muted hue, this pretty pump from Franco Sarto has something for everyone and comes in six hues ranging from purple and emerald to cream and black. The square-toe pump is available in suede or responsibly sourced leather and can look modern or classic, depending on how you style it.

Fawna Black Milled Nappa

You can rest assured that this leather Mary Jane will go the distance and keep your tootsies cozy for years on end. The multitasking style can be dressed up or down and has plenty of splurge-worthy features like arch support and cushioning and a durable rubber outsole.

Clarks Artisan Slip-on Leather Pumps

A basic pair of black pumps is a wardrobe essential and this style from Clarks Artisan is both fashionable and functional. The slip-on leather heel is perfect for job interviews, date nights and family functions alike, making it one multitasking style that's worth the splurge.

Durable boots and booties for women

Zodiac Padma Tall Boot

Sassy in suede! These sleek boots are available in two shades — black and brown — and have a sturdy three-inch heel that offers just enough height without making you feel like you're teetering around on stilts all day. The suede style is also a more affordable alternative to their leather counterparts and equally as stylish.

Vionic Cecily Ankle Boot

We're suckers for a cute pair of booties and this fashion-forward pair comes in three leather colors — black, brown and animal print — that will never go out of style, meaning it's a perfect investment piece that you can repair through the decades when they get a little too scuffed up.

Sorel Cate Chelsea Bootie

Waterproof leather and suede? Yes, please! Sorel's sassy weatherproof booties come in both materials and four neutral colors: black, brown, tan and light blue. We're big fans of the walkable block heel, the interior cushioning and the slip-on style!

Coach Farrah Wide-Calf Logo Buckle Riding Boots

You know you've found a quality pair of leather boots when they look ultra buttery (in the best possible way), and this equestrian-inspired pair is about as smooth and shiny as they come. The sleek riding boots get dressed up a bit with the help of some golden hardware but otherwise maintain a streamlined, chill vibe that makes them perfect to pair with any outfit.

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