Caring for Shoes Naturally


 
Pumpsdress, both thrifted

My first trips to Paris were podiatric disasters. Shoes I'd proudly worn ten years disintegrated as I realized how sedentary Cleveland life was. Turns out, pillows made of marshmallow clouds and rainbows hurt after walking here to Chateau-Rouge in them. Figuring out what shoes worked best in the city took a lot of trial and error, limping around the flat, and wasted money, but now it's down to a science and will hopefully spare you harried shopping trips and hallux abducto valgus deformities. Note: These tips are for leather shoes. Sorry not sorry, I don't have any synthetics. Leather breathes, keeps feet cool, and softens with every wear. After a few uses, leather soles have great traction.

Natural waterproofing

Brush a small amount of beeswax and a few drops of lanolin, jojoba, or olive oil onto shoes to make them water and stain repellent. Olive oil is often shredded by internet trolls, but leather experts recommend it. It's an ingredient in many shoe creams and won't breed mold when used properly. Buff with a soft, lint-free cloth (like a flour sack towel).

Cleaning and deodorizing leather and suede

White vinegar removes salt stains, dirt, and grime from all types of shoes. Use one part water and one part white vinegar to discourage mold. To restore suede, apply vinegar-water solution using a natural bristle brush (any clean scrubber will do). Gently brush suede in various directions to scrub dirt from fibers. Use a piece of bread or art gum eraser to remove stains. Wipe insoles lightly with white vinegar and dry (preferably in the sun) to deodorize. Alternately, leave orange peels, clove buds, or baking soda in shoes overnight.

Breaking in new shoes

Paris shops heat-stretch their own shoes (even secondhand pairs) for free. Rub beeswax around the insides to soften and lessen their bite. It sounds counterintuitive, but stockings and low-cut socks enhance comfort and prevent blisters. I wear Swedish Stockings; one French option is Cervin, which are plastic-free but not vegan- 100% silk, produced in Sumène, readily available secondhand in Paris (they boil the worms). During colder months, I wear no-show socks over stockings. They keep feet dry and are invisible in heels.

Maintain your investment

After a month of use, a competent cobbler can attach half-soles and rubber toe pads without ruining the original leather. I like Cordonnerie des Belles Feuilles. Resole shoes when necessary, before they wear out. Polish with beeswax and sweet almond oil- according to Brian Atwood, "You just want the protection and to bring the luster back; you don’t want polish to add any color. It’s like moisturizing your skin.”

Proper storage

Store shoes in dust bags in their original boxes. Some boxes come with polaroids stuck on them, which is demeaning. If you need a photo to remind you what's inside, you have too many shoes. Plastic shoe trees and boxes encourage mildew and mold; unvarnished cedar shoe trees absorb moisture and prevent leather from cracking. The prettiest are 36€ at BHV (BHV is the worst, but cordonneries tend to carry ugly, expensive embauchoirs). For shoes worth over $200, get the kind with ventilation slots and brass knobs. For shoes worth over $700, use lasted shoe trees.

 

Paris to Go

12 comments:

  1. Hi Ariana, I love your blog! You are the inspiratbehind my finally getting a decent coat. After years of shivering in chilly weather with never the right combination of clothes, and trying to make outfits work by juggling different jackets that were never quite right, I finally got a really good quality, vintage trench coat with a detachable wool lining. It looks fabulously chic and I find I no longer have any need for the multitude of ill-fitting, never-warm-enough coats and jackets I had previously. This one works with everything! I throw it on over everything, it looks great and I feel incredibly comfy and cosy. It was reading about how you manage every occasion with only two coats that made me just go ahead and g the coat and I'm so glad I did! I have two questions: the first about the coat and the second about shoes. 1) I roll the trench coat sleeves up at the moment because it is warmer weather, and I don't know which is better for the fabric, to roll them back down after every wear or to keep them rolled up until the weather demands I unroll them again. I don't want to put unnecessary stress on the fabric and I don't know which is worse. Come autumn I will want the sleeves down and I will want them to look good. I also want the coat to last as long as possible. I seem to remember reading that you roll your Louis Vuitton coat sleeves up so I thought you might have an opinion on this. 2) I just bought my first pair of shoes with leather soles and I don't know how to care for them. Would you put your beeswax/olive oil mixture on the soles as well as the uppers? Als I read advice on the Internet to get leather soles covered with vi ram if you are going to be walking on wet or uneven surfaces. It rains a lot where I live and the streets are cobbled, so I don't know what to do. I figured you must have rain and uneven surfaces in Paris so maybe you have experience of this? Hope you don't mind my bombarding you with questions but you seem to have picked up quite a lot of know-how in caring for your clothes. Lease keep up your blog! I find it very inspirational both as regards wardrobe and reducing waste. Also it is always lovely to read about life in Paris ;) thanks

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    1. Hi Sarah! Thank you so much for your nice comment! What is your trench coat made of? I keep my sleeves rolled all the time. It's been years now! I know that with some cotton and linen fabrics, holes form where creases are so a coat like that, I imagine, needs to be unrolled and ironed periodically. My coat is waxed cotton and reinforced where I roll them so it doesn't seem to be a problem.

      I put beeswax on the soles but not olive oil. I only have one pair with vibrams on it and they only put them on recently and I was kind of mad that they did it. I brought the shoes in (not to my usual cobbler, who was on vacation) to have the heel tips replaced and they added the Vibram which makes it less comfortable, covered up an already perfectly nice leather sole, and according to the manufacturer and my regular cobbler, shortens their life span. Ferragamo says to never put Vibrams on their shoes for the same reason :( I have leather soles on my other shoes and they are perfect for rain and cobbled streets, I actually prefer them to the Vibram for uneven surfaces because they mold to the feet better and once they get scratched, the soles have better traction.

      Thank you again for your sweet comment! I'm writing a few more posts for next week at the moment. Things are so busy at work because everybody's getting ready to go on vacation and we have so much to finish! But I will post soon!

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    2. Hi Ariana, thanks for replying so quickly. The trench coat is an old Aquascutum, 55% cotton and 45%polyester (I could have done without the polyester, but there it is). The fabric is pretty heavy.
      Thanks for the advice regarding the shoes. I shall look forward to reading your new posts!

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    3. You are so nice :) Ah ok, I think it should be okay. Polyester is pretty durable. Sounds like a fabulous coat!

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    4. It is! Cranberry red and full skirted. I love it. Thanks.

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  2. Apologies for all the type-o's; I was tapping in a hurry on my iPad so not great accuracy!

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  3. An informative post definitely. Ty !!

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  4. Hi Ariana,

    You're blog has been inspirational. You made me realize that one person can change the world by starting with him/herself. Since you're the first blogger of zero-waste that I came across with, some of your practices are still foreign to me. And I try to incorporate the easiest ones to start with. I just bought my first leather shoes (ankle boots) ever and since it's a big investment for me I want to take good care of it to make it last as long as possible. You mentioned that after a month's use, half-soles and rubber toe pads can be attached by a competent cobbler. May I ask what they are and what are their purposes? Thank you very much.

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    1. Hi! Thank you so much! So usually the rubber pads and soles are called Vibram (or Topy in France) and they protect the sole from wearing out too quickly or from wet streets. On some shoes, though, it's not recommended to add them. This is a very great article on rubber soles:

      https://touniversewithlove.com/2016/05/27/shoe-wisdom-should-i-add-rubber-soles/

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    2. Thank you! This will be my weekend reading. :D

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  5. Can you explain the details of waterproofing? Do you melt the beeswax and oil together first?

    Thanks,
    Olivia

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    1. Hi Olivia! This is the tutorial I use:
      http://www.instructables.com/id/Waterproof-boots-with-beeswax/
      But I use it with candelilla wax instead :)

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