Here’s the deal. I’m tired of seeing my dress shoes ruined every winter. They get wet, they get salt stains, they just get ruined. What can I do to protect these shoes that won’t take a lot of time?
That is a great question, Phil. If there is one thing that is going to be ruined by inclement weather it’s shoes because they are in constant contact with it.
Real damage is done to a shoe when the upper leather is saturated by water. That usually happens when the leather sole gets water logged and stays that way long enough for the water to creep into the shoe leather. While a sole can be replaced the upper leather cannot. Upper leather can be re-crafted or polished but not usually after water damage. If the upper shoe is damaged by water then your shoe will never be the same.
If you are purist and must have leathered soled shoes without putting a zip sole or cat’s paw rubber piece on the front, bottom half of the shoe then you need to avoid prolonged exposure to water & give your shoe more time to dry out between wearings. Attaching the rubber to the bottom helps keep water from penetrating the sole.
In looking at this from a cost perspective, the zip sole is $30-$40, will last about as long as the leather, and can be replaced at the same cost. Leather soles are $50-$100 and may or may not be replaceable depending on the construction of the shoe.
Another option is to buy shoes with the rubber already attached to the leather so you still have a leather sole but the performance of the rubber pad. One of my pairs of Ferragamo shoes (The Ticket, now discontinued) came this way ten years ago, and it is even more common today (i.e. Denton or Milford from Allen Edmonds). Some rubber soled shoes look like leather from the top. Allen Edmonds has done a good job with this in some of their business casual shoes (i.e. Perry or Warren). Since I’m on an Allen Edmonds kick here I might as well mention their most durable sole, the lugged, full rubber outsoles as found on shoes like the Westwood & Merano.
The thing to stay clear of is a shoe with a sole visibly thicker than a 1/4″. Those are reserved for 20-somethings playing dress up. Those soles should be left to those in the military.
In addition to proper shoe rotation and letting a shoe breathe externally, it should be dried internally. You do that by inserting shoe trees each time you are done wearing them. It will help absorb the moisture and help keep your shoe’s natural shape. Buy a new pair of cedar shoe trees with your new shoes. To achieve a proper rotation have at least six pairs of shoes you wear. If you want to keep it simple then go with two each of brown, black, and burgundy. Split that between lace up and slip ons. If you don’t wear burgundy then go three & three and have fun with a boot, monk strap, or perhaps a suede.
Jeff Collins answers your fashion questions every month. Got a question for Jeff? Send it in to firstname.lastname@example.org.