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11 Genius Tricks to Make Your Shoes Last Longer

Updated: Mar. 16, 2023

How to keep your shoes looking as great as the day you bought them.

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Know where to put your money

While some classic staples and utility shoes are worth the investment, many others aren’t. In general, both men’s and women’s workout sneakers and leather boots, as well as men’s dress shoes, are worth putting money into. With the proper care, they’ll last a long time (though less so with sneakers) and you’ll reap the benefit of a more expensive pair in both comfort and appearance. Women can save on basic black and nude pumps, flats and sandals, and trendy shoes in odd colors and designs. The rigors of daily use will wear them down no matter how much they cost. Have two or three investment pairs that can go anywhere, but that you don’t wear everywhere. Instead, keep them aside for special nights out (not when you’re pounding the pavement from nine to five). These simple fashion upgrades can make you look expensive.

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istock/Ivan Bliznetsov

Waterproof your shoes immediately

An unexpected sun shower doesn’t have to ruin your leather shoes. Before taking a new pair out for a spin, hit them with a spray-on waterproofing compound. For men’s shoes, test the product on the part of the shoe’s tongue that is hidden by its laces, and for women’s heels and flats, test the back end of the shoe on the side that is closest to your big toe. Once you’re confident in the product, apply it according to the directions on the bottle. Repeat once a month.

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Don’t try to outsmart the weather

If it’s supposed to rain or snow, wear the appropriate footwear—even waterproofed shoes can only handle so much. If you do get caught in an unexpected downpour, remove excess moisture and keep the shape of your shoes by stuffing them with newspaper as soon as you take them off. Avoid putting the shoes near a radiator or heat source, which dries them out too quickly and increases the chance of the leather cracking.

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Stop your boots from wilting

Keep your boots’ shape by storing them with boot trees or stuffed newspaper, or by laying them down flat. Doing this will keep them from sagging and creasing at the ankles. Store other types of shoes on a shoe rack with enough space in between each shoe so they aren’t touching, which could lead to unwanted color transfer.

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Keep a rotation

Avoid wearing the same pair of shoes two days in a row. Just like bras and gym bags, they need time to air out and recover their shape.

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istock/Mikko Lemola

Don’t let them get dull

Keep leather shoes in top shape by polishing and conditioning them as soon as they start to look dull and worn. “Cream polish, in a neutral color, is best for shining shoes since wax can dry out leather,” Joe Rocco, owner of Jim’s Shoe Repair in New York City, told Woman’s Day. To conceal scratches, use a cream a shade lighter than the shoe. If the DIY process makes you uneasy, take the shoe to a cobbler. The job will likely cost $5 or less.

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Say goodbye to salt stains

If your leather boots become plagued by cloudy white salt stains, remove them with a solution that’s one part vinegar, three parts water. Dip a small cotton towel into the mixture and wipe over the surface of the shoe until the stains disappear. Let the shoe dry naturally (meaning, don’t use a hair dryer on them or sit them in front of a radiator).

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istock/Peter Hermus

Use baby powder on oil stains

Drop something greasy on a pair of shoes? Unless the shoe is made of suede, a sprinkle of baby powder will absorb the stain, according to Good Housekeeping.

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istock/Antonio Carlos Bezerra

Make them slip proof

While this trick won’t increase your shoe’s lifespan, it could prevent you from a world of embarrassment. Add traction by scraping the sole of your shoe across a rugged piece of sidewalk or sandpaper. A little texture goes a long way.

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istock/Peter Hermus

Employ your nail polish collection for a quick fix

To remove stains from the strip of rubber on the bottom of your sneakers, find some nail polish remover and a nail brush. First, try and take out the stain using a nail brush dipped in soap and water. If the stain needs more, dip the brush in nail polish remover and take a second pass. For small scrapes on patent leather shoes, conceal the mark with a dab of nail polish in a matching color.

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Bring the shoe to a professional

Your local cobbler can likely fix or advise on many of your shoe-repair woes. Most can fix a slippery sole, a broken heel or heel cap, stiff insoles, smelliness, dullness, strap length on sandals, and boot width on boots. Take your shoes and in ask if they can be made to look as good as new.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest