Few things are as exciting as getting a new pair of shoes. The smell of the leather that wafts out of the box. The clean and crisp look of a pair of shoes yet to be broken in. So fresh. So clean.
We're often asked what kind of shoe care is needed for new leather shoes. Do I need to condition right away? Polish? This article will dive into what you need to do and what you should avoid.
Lots of people are under the impression that new leather shoes are going to be a lot of work. That you need special product. Or that you need to do fancy things for the break in. That they need care out of the box. Almost none of this is true.
Let's start with the basics.
1) New shoes shouldn't need a heavy or painful break in period
Your new shoes should not need a heavy break in period... Period. This might go against what you've heard.
People online will lament, and brag, about their painful break-in for leather shoes. This is bad advice. This isn't a byproduct of new shoes. It is a byproduct of a poor fit.
Shoes that fit well should be comfortable from the very first time you put them on. Without stretching, aching, pinching, etc.
Does that mean well fitting shoes won't get better with time? That's not it either.
A great fitting pair of shoes should start out comfortable and get better over time. Moving from good to great. Not from terrible to tolerable. This is especially true for dress shoes. Leather dress shoes don't stretch that much.
If you have wide feet or a more difficult fit, you might expect mild discomfort. The key here is mild.
Finding a shoe brand, size, and last that work better for your feet is always a better option. These can be hard to find, and the search is worth it.
In the age old battle between a foot and a tight shoe, the shoe is the undisputed champion.
2) New shoes don't need moisturizing, conditioning, or shoe cream
We've written extensively on the importance of having hydrated leather. To summarize, It's very important.
Lots of people will claim that when you are getting a new pair of leather shoes, you don't know when they were made. This means your leather or suede could have been drying out for years before getting to you. That's fine.
Think of your shoes a bit like the clothes in your closet. Do you think storing them is what wears them down? Or is it from wearing, washing, and drying them?
Shoes will lose some of their moisture over time in a box, sure. Not large amounts though. The real beating a shoe takes is when they are on your feet. Regardless of the leather type. From patent leather to cordovan leather. The same is true for sneakers.
The heat, sweat, and force your shoes take while walking is substantial. This is what dries out your leather. Not sitting in the box.
If your shoes appear extremely dry, you can apply a small amount of leather conditioner on them. Less is more in this scenario. Regardless, you'll be fine without applying any until after you've worn them a few times.
3) New shoes don't need a full wax polish
If you want to put a mirror shine on your new shoes, go ahead. this can look very smart and helps show them off at the office or on the streets.
As always, though, we never recommend wax polish all over your shoes. You should only use it on the toe and/or the heel. Anywhere else, like the vamp or the side counter, and it can crack and break.
The wax polish, once cracked, looks ugly. You'll then have to clean your shoes down and start from scratch. Best avoided all together.
We also don't think you need shoe cream on a new shoe. Wear them a few times so a couple of wrinkles can start to develop and the leather can soften. It'll be more ready to take on the product.
4) New shoes don't need Saphir Renovateur
Yes! We said it. A new pair of shoes does not need a coat of Saphir Renovateur before wearing them. As we wrote in our article, Renovateur is great for maintenance and cleaning. You don't need it on new shoes.
As we also wrote, be mindful about applying Saphir Renovateur to crust leather. Or shoes that have a stain done by hand to achieve a certain look. Corthay comes to mind. The cleaning agent can be damaging to the finish.
They also don't need shoe polish. Wear them a few times first before applying any shoe polish. Saphir Medaille d'or Pommadier Cream polish is best used only after wearing a few times. Break in the shoe leather a bit first.
5) New shoes don't need cleaning
You don't need to strip your new shoes or anything fancy. No saddle soap, Saphir Reno'mat, or anything like that. You don't need to remove the factory shoe wax. New footwear shouldn't have dirt on them. Dust, perhaps.
We advise wiping new shoes with a soft cloth. It doesn't even need to be a damp cloth.
Give them a light brush with a horsehair brush. A little brushing will remove the dust and have them ready to wear. They should already have a nice shine.
Use a suede brush for suede shoes (or nubuck). Use a soft brush for a sneaker, or any shoe brush you prefer.
6) Use shoe care accessories
Shoe horns and shoe trees are still a must. Shoe trees should be in your shoes whenever your feet aren't. Any type will work and we prefer a cedar shoe tree. Read our post about why if you want more info.
In short the cedar absorbs excess moisture. They also smell great and last a life time.
Using the right shoe care accessories will make your shoes last longer. Look newer and better long. Age more gracefully. They are as important to proper shoe care as any shoe care product.
A shoe horn protects your finger from getting crush and the heel of your shoe at the same time.
7) Protect your new shoes
This is one care item we recommend for brand new shoes.
Saphir Medaille d'or Invulner spray is what comes to mind. A quick coat of this water repelling spray will help your shoes stay pristine a little longer.
Especially important on suede, nubuck, or sneakers. It works wonders for smooth leather too.
8) Protect your leather soles with a Topy
Getting a Topy sole has many benefits. The smooth leather of a leather soled shoe can be slippery. It also doesn't last as long in bad weather.
Getting a Topy applied solves a lot of those problems. We normally recommend it.
That said, a Topy won't stick to a new smooth leather sole as well as one that is scuffed up a bit. They are glued on. So a cobbler will rough up the soles a bit before applying them. It's like sanding before painting so the paint sticks better.
Because of this, it's better to wear the shoes a few times first. You'll soften the sole and get it scuffed up. It'll also give you time to fully decide whether you want the Topy.
5-10 wears is a sweet spot. After that point, you can get it done.
9) Wear them...then care
5-15 wears for new shoes is what we recommend. Then you can start using your favourite shoe care products on them. You can put them through your normal routine.
Before that it's a waste.
You want to break in the leather a bit. Allow it to soften. Allow a few of the creases to start to settle. In some cases, decide if you actually love them.
Then use your shoe polish. Apply your shine. Use your Renovateur.
When it comes to caring for new shoes, less is more. To summarize... wear them.
If they appear amazingly dry out of the box, a little conditioning will help. A quick wipe will remove dirt or dust.
Break them in a touch before moving onto applying all types of waxes and creams.
Don't forget to always use a shoe horn and shoe trees. New or not, shoes need them.
Most of all, enjoy them. Find cool outfit combinations for them. Plan out how you'll add them to the rotation. And then, of course, rinse and repeat.