KuelLife Logo home 1000

Taking Care Of Your Shoes: Almost As Important As Taking Care Of Your Feet!

Lisa Schmitz November 2020

Shoe Kuel Category Expert: Lisa Loyet Schmitz

As the season changes, so does our wardrobe. For many of us, this means sandals take a back seat to booties. Don’t just change your shoes out for the season, give them the lovin’ they deserve!

There are a number of things we can do to breathe new life into our favorite footwear. People don’t just look at our clothing, they take it all in, and your shoes can make or break your look. Here are few tips to keep your kicks looking their best!

White Bottom Sneakers:

Many women tell me that while they love the look of a white bottom sneaker, they shy away from them because the bottoms get dirty and dingy looking and there is no way to clean them. Wrong!

Grab yourself a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and this should do the trick! (If you have some super stubborn areas, a toothbrush and toothpaste work beautifully).

Shoe Care  

Dirty Bottoms!                         Mr. Clean Magic Eraser                              Clean as New!

Shoe Horns: (yes, they are still a thing)

Many times, we only associate the use of a shoehorn with trying shoes on at the shoe store, but that shouldn’t be the case. Using a shoehorn is beneficial for a couple of reasons.

Pushing and wiggling your foot into a shoe breaks down the back of the shoe – or what we call it in the industry – the counter. The heel counter is a small, somewhat stiff piece of material (often times plastic) that the shoe manufacturer builds into the shoe to reinforce the heel cup and increase support. It controls pronation and provides stability for the foot, but also gives longevity to the shoe.

When our foot doesn’t easily slide into a shoe, we often times push down on the back part of the shoe and wiggle around until our foot goes in. This breaks down the counter over time, causing the shoe to lose its shape and reduces the support to the foot.

This is preventable by using a shoehorn. My personal preference is one with a long handle such this one by Comfy Clothiers. In addition to saving your shoes, by using a long handled shoehorn, putting your shoes on becomes virtually effortless. For those of you who may have back, hip or knee problems, this will be a game-changer!

Shoe horn for shoe care

Several years ago, at Walking Cradles we gave away long handled shoehorns as a gift with purchase. To this day, we have retailers and customers asking if we still have them available!

Give Your Shoes A Day Off Now And Again:

Shoes need a day off. If you want your shoes to last longer, don’t wear them consecutive days. Also, it’s good for your feet to switch up your shoes. If you wear a heel one day, pull out a pair of flats the next. It’s good for your feet, knees, hips and back! For the guys, even just the slightest change in the heel/sole is advantageous!

UH OH – My Shoes Got Wet!

DO NOT put them in a clothes dryer or on a heat vent or radiator.”

It happens, but it isn’t the end-all (usually). The first thing you should do is pat them dry with a soft towel – don’t rub. Then, if needed or possible, remove any laces or insoles. If not possible, don’t worry, there is still hope.

Here’s what NOT to do: DO NOT put them in a clothes dryer or on a heat vent or radiator. High heat will literally cook the shoe. Especially leather, which will become stiff, dry, and brittle.

If the insides are wet, get out your hair dryer and set it on low heat. Moving the dryer around, gently blow the heat into the shoe for several minutes. The air flow will help speed the process. Then, keep them as opened up as possible and in an area with good air circulation. In front of a fan with the air at room temp (70-75ºF) is good. Now just be patient.

Do not put them away while wet to avoid mold and mildew from setting in.

Material Maintenance:

Smooth Leather:

Use leather cleaner to get grime off the surface.  NEVER us a cleaner that contains acid or a detergent as these will damage the leather. Saddle soap is a good choice. After you clean the leather it’s time to condition it, using a leather conditioner that will replace the natural oils. Simply use a soft rag to apply, let dry, then buff with a clean part of the rag. Finally, if the color has faded or scratched off, you will want to polish them. While those liquid shoe polishes with the sponge top applicator are easy to apply, they aren’t the best choice. They put a fast shine on shoes but cause the leather to dry and crack over time. My personal preference is Meltonian Cream Polish. Apply with an old sock (you know, the mate to the one the dryer ate, but you saved anyway). After applying, let it dry for about 10 minutes and then buff with either a soft, clean cloth or a horse-hair brush.

Suede and Nubuck Leather: 

Before stepping out in those beautiful suede (or nubuck) shoes, be sure to spray them with a protectant, my favorite is the Kiwi Suede & Nubuck Waterproofer Spray, which can be found just about anywhere.

If your suede or nubuck shoes get dirty, you can gently clean them several ways: 1) a soft bristle toothbrush (dry); 2) a basic eraser or 3) a suede bar/brush. Be careful not to brush too hard or apply too much pressure or you could end up with a blemish that is worse than the dirt you’re trying to erase!

Patent Leather:

a small amount of petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) to the cloth and rub into the shoe”

We all love that high gloss shine of a beautiful patent leather, but it does dull when exposed to the elements. Patent care is easier than you might think, though. Using a very lightly dampened lint free (microfiber) cloth, gently rub the surface and remove any dust and dirt. Then, using another soft, dry cloth, apply a small amount of petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) to the cloth and rub into the shoe. This will return that beautiful shine and condition the leather.


While you might be tempted to throw fabric shoes (like Keds or Toms) into the washing machine – DON’T DO IT! This causes shoes to lose color and shape. Plus, those unseen areas like insoles, cushioning and linings hold in the dampness and could result in moldy shoes. Instead, squeeze some natural lemon juice onto a soft white rag and rub into the area. It will remove the dirt and won’t ruin the color. If it is a really stubborn stain, leave for 20-30 minutes and follow up with rubbing with some warm water. Repeat as necessary until clean. If this just isn’t working, you can try a very small amount of a laundry detergent worked into a damp cloth. Do not use too much or it becomes quite difficult to get the detergent off the material, which could end up leaving a noticeable mark when it dries.

Shoe Storage:

Finally, you’ve invested good money in your shoes, so make sure to store them properly. While it’s tempting, don’t just chuck them onto the floor of your closet.

This can be an expensive project (if you have a closet company come in and custom build something) or you can find many affordable types of storage solutions. Pinterest gives some really cute options, but be careful as some show shoes hanging on pegs, which will stretch the top line; or positioned toe-down on a shelf with a lip, which can damage the toes.

Those over the door wire hooks are popular for space saving but can also stretch the top line of a shoe, so if you use these, try to only hang your lightest weight shoes from them. The best way to store shoes is on the soles so no pressure is being placed on the toes, heels or sides of the shoes. Shoe bins or cubbies are ideal. Shoe shelving is also a good option. For your flats, sandals, and slip-ons you can consider one of those canvas vertical organizers that fastens to a curtain rod. Just be careful about stacking shoes on top of each other that will lose their shape. For instance, you can stack your flip-flops, but not your pumps! Don’t put shoes into airtight containers or plastic bags as this holds in any odors or dampness.

Shoes can last a few months or for decades”

Shoe Longevity:

Shoes can last a few months or for decades – much of the longevity depends on how well they are cared for!


Did you enjoy this article? Become a Kuel Life Member today to support our Community. Sign-up for our Sunday newsletter and get your content delivered straight to your inbox.

About the Author:

Lisa Schmitz is the Creative Director for Walking Cradles shoes – a women’s shoe company whose mission is to hit the perfect combo of fit, comfort and style for a wide range of women’s shoe sizes. Working in this women driven company, Lisa is able to combine her years of experience with marketing, advertising, graphic design and shoe modeling. Working closely with the shoe designer, Jamie Wells, Lisa is involved in many aspects of the research, development, fit-testing and marketing of the shoes. Lisa is honored to have been selected as a shoe-expert with Kuel Life and to have Walking Cradles shoes available for purchase in the Kuel Shop.

2 thoughts on “Taking Care Of Your Shoes: Almost As Important As Taking Care Of Your Feet!

  1. jodie filogomo says:

    This is so good. I’m terrible about storing my shoes because I try to get as many in my closet as I can.

Comments are closed.