Save Money – Make Shoes Last

iStock_000021999641SmallShoes are expensive. Although kids will need new pairs each year, most adults have stopped growing and could keep their good pairs for multiple years. If you can make your shoes last longer, you can tuck away the savings in that rainy day fund.

Growing up in the 1950’s, people judged you by the state of your shoes. If they were scuffed, with run down heels or holes in the soles, folks thought you were poor. Employers looked at your shoes to peek into your character…. were you a person who took care of things or were you slovenly and unkempt? If your shoes were dirty, scuffed and dull with run down heels, they thought twice about offering you that job.

Back then, there was a shoe repair shoe in every town. It was a common occurrence to go get new heels put on your shoes (and to protect those heels with taps), and to have leather shoes re-soled multiple times. Sometimes folks were so poor that they had to line the inside of the bottoms of their shoes with cardboard because there was a hole in their sole!

Shoes were re-dyed, re-heeled, re-soled, fixed and worn as long as possible. People also took care of their shoes.

Here is how they took care of their shoes and how you can too.


If you have suede or canvas or other water permeable shoes, spray them with a waterproofing agent about once a quarter. This protects them from water and salt damage.


Wipe leather shoes down with a clean damp rag (add vinegar if there are salt stains) when they get dusty or muddy. Wipe the shoes dry after walking in rain or snow. This helps the leather last longer. Don’t use a hair dryer to dry them out as this can damage the leather.

We used to wash our canvas shoes in the washer or the sink with detergent (and then put that liquid white shoe polish on our white ones!). Today’s athletic shoes could also be washed in the washer (with a load of towels) but I never do. They come in such bright colors, I’m afraid they would fade or stain the towels.

Instead, remove the shoe strings and insoles. Brush the outside and inside of the shoe with a stiff brush to remove loose dirt, then rinse the shoe. Following that, use your brush with soap and water to scrub all parts of the shoe. If there are stubborn stains, try one of those magic eraser cleaners. Rinse well, stuff loose with white paper towels or white cotton (so the shoe will hold its shape) and then air dry. It will take quite awhile to dry. If you dry them in the sun, it will help brighten the light colors and do some disinfecting.

Remove scuff marks.

On plain leather shoes, scuff marks can usually be rubbed out with a damp cloth (and possibly a tiny bit of cleanser). If the scuff went through the dye, you need to re-color at least part of the shoe with matching color. Sometimes this can be done with shoe polish, but you may need to buy some leather dye.

Try a dab of Vaseline on patent leather shoes.

You might be able to ‘erase’ minor scuffs from suede shoes with a gum (not a colored) eraser.

As noted above, try the magic eraser on athletic shoe scuff marks.

Store properly.

People used to use wooden shoe forms to insert into shoes when they weren’t being worn. Some still do, especially on those expensive men’s dress shoes. It helps them keep their shape and stay fresh looking.

Don’t pile your good shoes on top of each other, make sure each has it’s own storage spot, preferably one that covers the shoe and maintains its shape.

Additional maintenance can make shoes last longer.

Polish smooth leather shoes after cleaning. This used to be my ‘job’ when I was a kid – once a week I had to polish Dad’s shoes. Polished shoes often look nearly new again.

Have the heels protected with metal or rubber ‘taps‘ if you are prone to wearing down one side of the heel before the rest goes (and think about getting your doctor to check out the way you walk as you may be damaging your body as well).

Replace heels when needed. Women’s high heel shoes tend to lose the heel pretty quickly, there are kits you can buy to replace them yourself. You can also replace the heels on men’s shoes or take them to the shoe repair shop.

Replace the leather sole or have it replaced when it gets too worn. Some folks even have a rubber sole added over the top of the leather one right after they buy shoes – to protect the leather.

Keep shoe strings clean and replace when needed to avoid a frayed look.

Wear the right shoe for the right occasion. I throw a pair of hiking boots in my car to have just in case, since women’s shoes aren’t all good for walking – especially on uneven terrain.

Don’t wear the same shoe every day. Give it time to breathe and loose the odors our feet naturally exude.

Cycle your shoes as they age. I wore a pair of slip on leather shoes to work for multiple years, now they are the shoes I slide into for a quick run into the yard. I wear new althletic shoes first for casual social occasions, then, after they are a bit worn, for daily aerobics and finally, when they are too worn to support all that bouncing, they become my outdoor walking shoes (for shorter walks, I use hiking boots on the longer ones and in the winter).

What tips do you have on keeping shoe expenses in check?


Save Money – Make Shoes Last — 8 Comments

  1. My husband wears extremely expensive dress shoes for work and we’ve had the heels and bottoms replaced numerous times. It’s crazy but they always look new after we get it done.

  2. I have such issues wearing shoes out! I think my problem is that I never have enough to rotate. Bucking stereotypes, I’m a woman that usually only ever has 2 pair at a time. One casual, one business. They wear out so quickly, though. I love how you have the hiking boots in the car…may have to do something like that to reduce wear in my business ones.

    • I put the boots in the car in case the car breaks down – that way I don’t have to walk miles in dress shoes.

  3. Buying a new pair of good quality shoes is quiet expensive nowadays. The tips you suggested here are very helpful and I will try them out so I won’t have to spend on new shoes soon.

  4. I have three pairs of shoes that vary in use based upon their age. My newest shoes are my running shoes. Once they hit the magical mileage (about 500 miles of running) where they lose the support I need for running they become my every day shoes. After about a year my every day shoes become my lawn mowing shoes because it turns them all green. When I buy a new pair of running shoes, everybody moves down the line, and the lawn mowing shoes get tossed.

    • I do the very same thing, only I first use mine for aerobics, then walking, then yard work.

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