Shoe Revival: A Professional’s Step-by-Step Guide
Shoes pictured above are our sensational Bolton Blacks. They're record sellers so be quick!
We’ve all got that one pair of shoes we love. The ones that are just a little bit comfier, a little more stylish and weirdly sentimental. The ones you reach for when all else fails, as a voiceless extension of your personality. Chances are you wear them often, and this creates a problem.
Shoes like this get tired and eventually go beyond the point of ‘charmingly well-worn’, instead becoming tatty and ready for retirement. But hold onto them for a moment. We’ve got the perfect guide to bringing back a pair of old shoes from the brink, and restoring their former glory so you can have even more smiles for miles in them.
Step One: address the sole situation
Obviously the most important part of any shoe is the sole. Good quality shoes always come with robust stitched leather or rubber soles and, while these materials are durable, they still have a shelf life. Fortunately, quality shoes (like Goodwin Smith for example) are easy to resole. The main weaknesses in a heavily-worn sole are the heel and the section below the ball of the foot. Depending on your walk, the in-step or out-step of the heel will be worn at an angle, so it’s worth getting this completely replaced.
Seen here on our ever-popular Ealing Oxford shoe, grippy TPR and stitched soles. Hard wearing and easy to replace when the time does eventually come.
Most good cobblers will replace the sole and heel for you for around £50 - and we recommend paying no less than this. A substandard job, using inferior materials, will only serve to make the process futile and there’ll be little longevity. It would be like putting budget tyres on a McLaren P1 - you just wouldn’t would you?
Top tip: when having your shoe resoled, ask yourself a question: where will you be wearing the shoes mostly? If they’re mainly for an office/indoor use, leather soles are best - but if you do a lot of walking outside, rubber would be a more grippy, comfortable and durable option.
Step Two: give the leather a lift
Now that the practical part of the shoe is sorted, the next part is the upper: the bit that everyone sees. It’s important that this looks its best, but older shoes tend to develop creases and wrinkles around the toes, and scuffing through general wear. It’s at this point you need to make a judgement call (in fact, do this before having them resoled) - are they worth restoring?
How bad is the scuffing, how deep are the marks? If there are deep gouges or splits in seams, then it might be worth biting the bullet and investing in a new pair of shoes. I once mourned a pair of my old, beyond-recoverable brogues for four days, but that’s another story.
The leather's luster of the Lindale Tan doesn't have to be enjoyed when new only. Invest in the right products to maintain the look.
If the scuffs are only minor then great news - a bit of shoe dye goes a long way. Buy a good quality dye, ideally darker than the original colour of the leather, and apply it in small areas across the shoe. Use a fine brush to do this, as the coverage will be more even. It may take a number of coats to achieve the finish you want, but the process is satisfying and rewarding. By the end of it, the shoe will look rejuvenated, so be sure to lock in the colour with a high quality polish.
Top tip: before applying any dyes, ensure the shoe is completely free of polish, soap, wax or oils (use a stripper product to do this), otherwise the new dye will not be properly absorbed.
Step Three: apply polish and a bit of elbow grease
Be it an old or new pair of shoes, one of the best things you can buy for them is a high quality leather conditioner. Don’t fall into the trap of neglecting your shoes due to busy schedules. Regularly polished leather will maintain its luster far longer, remaining more supple, and meaning those wear lines won’t appear as severely.
Get yourself a Famaco cloth and wrap it around around two of your fingers. Apply polish to the cloth and cover a small patch of the shoe at a time, working in a circular motion. Build up layers of polish, until you get a lustrous and even shine.
Top tip: remember, well looked after shoes will look after you. Before job interviews and first dates, always polish your shoes to show an extra level of detail. Employers and girls love attention to detail.
Mix up your look by giving your old shoes some new laces with a dash of colour.
Step four: finishing touches and storage
If you’ve followed steps one through three, you’ll have yourself a nice revitalized pair of your favourite shoes. But before you take them on a test drive, here’s a few housekeeping rules. Chances are they’ll need new laces, so why not shop our range of premium leather laces - they come in a variety of colours and will give your shoes that lift they deserve.
There are no secret tips to maintaining a healthy pair of shoes, yet many people tend to neglect the basics. Invest in quality shoe trees to keep their shape, always store them in shoe bags, and buy yourself a cleaning kit.
Top tip: always undo your laces when putting shoes on - and use a shoe horn if necessary. Shoving and stamping your feet into pre-tied shoes might save you 30 seconds in a morning, but it will also destroy your favourite wheels. It’s not worth it.
Written by Jon Clarke