By Jennifer Tzeses
With all the daily wear and tear we put our shoes through, it's no wonder their average lifespan seems to be no more than a season or two. But with the right TLC you can spruce up all your flats, sandals, boots and stilettos so they look shiny and new for a lot longer. Here, advice from the experts for keeping your tootsie protectors in tip-top shape so you can walk miles in your own shoes.
1. Support Your Soles
Lots of walking can wear out the soles of your shoes, so you'll need reinforcement. "Have a cobbler glue on a sole protector, a preventive thin layer of rubber, which keeps water from soaking through the shoes, makes them slip-resistant and helps them last longer," says Jim McFarland, spokesman and historian for the Shoe Service Institute and owner of McFarland's Shoe repair in Lakeland, Florida. "By doing this, you can actually extend the life of the shoes by about six or seven years," he says.
2. Get a New Lift
The lifts on your heels are often the first to go, especially if you're on your feet a lot. When you buy heels, they usually come with a plastic lift. "Get it replaced," says McFarland. "The hard rubber lifts a shoe repairman will put on are much more durable and can last five to 10 times longer than the plastic ones." Once they wear out, make sure you have them replaced as soon as you can see the nail in the heel.
3. Save From a Rainy Day
As soon as you get a new pair of shoes, no matter the material, spray on a water protector, so that rain or any liquids won't be able to penetrate the shoes, says McFarland. Repeat once per season (four times a year). If your leather shoes get caught in the rain, let them dry at room temperature-using a blow dryer will end up shrinking them.
4. Hit the Spots
When a stain strikes, treat it immediately. Suede has to be handled with kid gloves, says McFarland. Water spots should be gently buffed out with a suede stone or brush as soon as possible for the best chance of removal. When it comes to leather, salt stains can permanently damage your shoes, says McFarland. So be sure to treat them quickly with a damp cloth.
5. Stay in Shape
To help keep the shape of boots, invest in boot trees or stuff them with paper, says Joe Rocco, owner of Jim's Shoe Repair in New York City. He adds, "When a wet or sweaty shoe dries, it has a tendency to curl." Cedar shoe trees can extend leather shoes up to three times their expected life span, agrees McFarland. You can also try laying your boots down in the closet when you store them-this prevents them from losing their shape, wrinkling and sagging at the ankles.
6. Polish to Perfection
If your shoes start to look dull and worn out, help the color stay fresh by having them polished and conditioned. Older leather shoes can dry out, so get them treated with a conditioner to put oils back into the leather, making them soft and supple. "Cream polish, in a neutral color, is best for shining shoes since wax can dry out leather," says Rocco. To cover scratches, use a cream a shade lighter than the shoe.
7. Savvy Storage
Keep your shoes tucked away in a closet that's room temperature. An area that's too hot can shrink the leather, says McFarland. If your shoes are damp or wet, never put them right back in their box-this can cause odor, bacteria, mold and mildew to form.
8. Bait and Switch
It may be tempting to slip on the same pair of shoes every day, but shoes need a day off too, so be sure to rotate different pairs, says McFarland. Most footwear needs to air out and breathe, so try not to wear the same pair more than two or three times a week, he says. Shoes will last a lot longer if they have time to rest and recover their shape.
9. Take the Shoe by the Horn
Always use a shoehorn when putting on your shoes. If you have difficulty getting into a pair, you can end up crushing the heel area, says Rocco. A shoehorn will save the heel collar from unnecessary wear and keep it in good condition longer.
10. Keep Them Covered
The best way to protect shoes from dust and dirt in your closet is to store them in felt or cotton shoe bags, so they can breathe, says Rocco. Plastic bags can dry them out. If you aren't storing all your shoes in bags but setting them out on a shoe rack instead, try to keep space between each pair, especially between leather and patent leather. "If they are touching, they can actually bleed onto one another," says Rocco.
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