How to Maintain Your Dress Shoes

Maintaining your dress shoes.
Maintaining your dress shoes.

The surest barometer of a man’s style is his shoes.  Any investment of time, money, and care taken in dressing the body is squandered by the man who neglects his feet.  Sure, you may be wearing a Savile Row suit, but if your shoes are worn and stained, it ruins everything.  The impression on any well-polished, Aldo price-ranged dress shoes will always be more profound and better than those unkept, ill-cared Prada price-ranged ones. Well-made dress shoes can always last for decades if good care is being carried out.

So, we show you how to take care of: one of the most important aspects of a man’s outfit…his dress shoes.


basic tools

Buffing cloth or old white t-shirt

Soft Bristled Shoe Brush (or large horsehair brushes)

Cedar Shoe Trees

“It is important to insert shoe trees into the shoes because they are meant to keep men’s dress shoes in shape for many years. They re-awaken the shoe’s natural structural memory and prevent the leather from wrinkling and cracking. They are preferably made of cedar which is good at absorbing moisture and also gives out a nice scent.  They can also extend the life of your leather shoes up to 3 times their expected life span.  Avoid overstretching the men’s dress shoe with extended shoe trees to prevent the dress shoes from going out of shape over time. Generally, lace-up dress shoes require lesser pressure from the shoe trees than the loafers due to the firmer leather with lace-ups than loafers. So when you are not wearing your shoes, make sure they have the trees in.  This is one of the most fundamental instruments in men’s dress shoes care.”

Cedar Shoe Trees

Shoe Cream & Conditioner

“These two help to clean up any difficult spots and scuffs. It also protects and prevents moisture from getting in as well as possible sun damage. As a rule of thumb, polish at least once every three to four wearings.”

Kiwi Polish

“Unpolished leather looks sloppy and immature, and will also fray and crack. It takes only 10 or 15 minutes to clean and polish a pair of shoes and less than 60 seconds each morning to brush the dirt out of the cracks and run a rag across the tops.  Make sure to match the colour of your polish to your shoe as closely as possible and not to use too much.  A little goes a long way.”

Kiwi Black Polish

step 1

Place the shoe tree in the shoes.

step 2

Use the buffing brush to remove any dirt, grime, or dust from shoes.

step 3

Clean the leather with the shoe cream & conditioner. This prevents layers of polish from accumulating into gunk, and also helps to preserve the leather.

step 4

Use polish applicator to apply polish around the sole and on the shoe.

step 5

Use buffing brush to remove excess polish from the shoes.

step 6

Use your fingertips to place a small amount of water on the shoe.  Use the buffing cloth or an old t-shirt and buff shoes to a high gloss.  Going left and right emerging with the same degree of shine.


  • Try not to wear the same pair of dress shoes consecutively two days in a row.  You need to air the shoe to dry the perspiration being absorbed into the leather when worn.  It is best to allow the dress shoes to air for more than 24 hours after each wearing, this will prevent possible slow rot from the inside out as well as feet odour.
  • When putting shoes on, always use a shoe horn to prevent creasing the leather around the heel.  Commonly men tap the tip of the dress shoes against the floor so that their heels will slip into the shoe. Another typical action is using the fingers to stretch the top edge of the heels to slip the heels in.  These two bad habits damage the front tip of the dress shoes as well as the top edge of the heels. Always use shoe horns when putting on your shoes as a proper habit in men’s dress shoes care.  In case there is no shoe horn in hand, try slipping your heel by sliding it down a handkerchief after unlacing your dress shoes completely. The process of the handkerchief or shoe horn is to allow smooth entry of the heels into the shoe.
  • What to do when your dress shoes become wet after a heavy rain?  First thing not to do is putting them to dry on a radiator or near a heat source. These actions will cause the leather to be brittle and crack in the future.  You need to wipe them dry and leave them at room temperature to dry.  If the shoes are very wet, then insert newspapers into the shoes to soak up any excess moisture.  Remember to insert the shoe trees after a few hours to sustain the shape of the shoes.  Do not attempt to polish men’s dress shoes when it is wet.  If it is only the soles of the dress shoes that are wet, simply lay them on their sides including those shoe trees inserted.
  • If you need to care for suede shoes: this is a lot simpler than leather dress shoes.  The nap of suede shoes can easily be renewed by brushing them with soft-bristled brushes.  It just takes regular brushing and polishing with shoe cream to the edges of the leather soles to maintain suede shoes.  Men’s dress shoes care had never been easier with suede, especially for those men who do not like polishing their dress shoes.

salt stains

Considering that our winters last up to 6 months at a time, one of the major damages on any leather men’s dress shoes would be the salt used to melt ice and snow. The salt leave not only stains on dress shoes but also allows moisture to sip into the leather. Excess moisture leads to brittle leather and it is possible to crack over time.  The correct men’s dress shoes care method to clear this problem is to remove any salt residue on the shoe with a salt stain remover (usually a solution of white vinegar and water) and then dry the shoes in room temperature. Remember to add in your shoe trees to hold up the shape of the shoes.  About one hour later of airing the dress shoes at room temperature, use a damp cloth to wipe the exterior of the shoes with clean water to remove any excess salt. Apply shoe cream or wax thereafter at slightly more amount to let it work into the leather.  After one hour, wipe away any excess shoe cream or wax and this will further remove remaining salt on the leather men dress shoes. Then buff up the leather surface to re-coat it for prevention of moisture again.


Side note: there are certain times when your dress shoes will need professional help (whether it be the leather tearing or the sole needs repair).  One of the best (if not the best) leather repair shops in Toronto is a small shop named: Kaner’sPrada, Dior, Holt Renfrew, Gucci…just to name a few, have all entrusted Kaner’s for their own leather goods and shoe repairs in Toronto.  They are experts of anything and everything to do with leather.  Located on the concourse level of 110 Bloor Street West (underneath Nike Town and Winner’s), if you need to repair your leather shoes (or even sneakers), Kaner’s is the best of the best.

Kaner’s Handbags & Shoes
110 Bloor Street West
(416) 920-9982

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