How to Make Your Shoes Last – Q&A with David M. of Leather Spa

leatherspa_stylebook_interviewWhen you find the perfect pair of shoes – you know, the shoes that make every outfit and that are even comfortable – you want to make them last! Learn how to extend the life of your favorite boots and ballet flats with these super-easy tips from David Mesquita, owner of Leather Spa shoe repair in NYC. Leather Spa’s staff are experts in giving your shoes the ideal fit, improving their longevity, and repairing damage.

SB: Women who live in cities often wear stylish flats because they walk a lot – some have been known to wear them out within a month. Are there any alterations or qualities to look for that can make ballet flats last longer?

LS: For ballet flats, the smartest thing you can do is to add a rubber protective sole, like the one we call a Sole Guard. It’s a very thin piece of rubber that is built into the existing sole. It’s done as a half-sole, which means it doesn’t cover the whole portion of the sole – just the forefront. And it comes in different colors, like black, beige, brown, etc. These can be added to leather sole flats, which are very delicate. Rubber is the best thing you can do to increase the longevity of your flats.

SB: If you trip and scrape the toe of a leather shoe, can it be saved? 

LS: Yes, it can be saved! If you have polish at home, you can put polish into the flesh of the leather. When it’s scratched and you see a lighter color, that is just the flesh of the leather. You can fill it in with some polish. The polish doesn’t have much pigment, but a good trick is to let it sit on the shoe for at least 10 minutes to let the color seep into the flesh and then brush it with a soft horsehair brush.

SB: Leather pumps and boots come in a wide variety of colors, but I often only see brown, black, and neutral polish at the store. How do I make my pink or navy shoes look fresh?

LS: Leather Spa has over 26 colors of creams so you have options. In the local drug store, you’ll only find black or brown.

SB: Sometimes the upper part of a shoe is still intact, but the heel has become worn, especially block heels that are scraped on the side or leather heels that get torn. Can these shoes be saved? Is there such a thing as a full heel replacement? 

LS: The heels on boots that look like stacked wood are usually actually leather (we call it stack leather). It’s just leather that is wrapped around the heel, which is usually plastic. That stacked wrap can be replaced. If you have the stacked leather replaced, it can look brand new.

SB: Soft leather shoes sometimes become shapeless if worn too much. Do boot and shoe trees really help shoes last longer? 

LS: Try not to wear them as frequently. Shoe trees are great and they help keep the shape, but it’s the wearing of the shoe that really makes the shape change. Although one trick you can do is to add a pair of innersoles, which can take up a little bit of space in the shoe and help them fit more snuggly.

SB: If you’re unintentionally caught in a rain storm wearing leather shoes, is there anything that can be done to save them? 

LS: When you get home, take them off and stuff them with paper, newspaper, anything to absorb moisture. It also helps retain the shape of the item. When you stuff it with paper, you want to stuff it to the shape of the item. You don’t want to overstuff it because when it dries, any bulging will change shape of shoes. When leather dries after being wet, it shrinks a bit, which is why we recommend that you stuff the shoe. If they’re really, really wet and you stuff it with paper, and the paper is wet after a few hours, change the paper. Once they’re dry, bring them in and we can do conditioning and repair, including salt stains. Once they’re dry, you can bring them in and we can do a treatment to fully condition and clean the leather. We can clean up the salt stains from snow or rain very well.

SB: Sometimes each foot is a slightly different size. Can a shoe be altered if just one is a little too tight?

LS: If one shoe is too tight, it can be stretched to make them a little bit more accommodating to the foot. If there is a shoe that is too big, you can add a cushion or a little bit of padding to make it fit better. When a customer comes in, we work with them to see if they need one pad or two pads so they get the right fit. Then that padding can be put under the inner sole of the shoe so you don’t have to worry about it coming out every time you put the shoes on. It gives more of a natural look, and it will never pop out.

SB: If someone has wide or narrow calves, can anything be done to alter a tall boot so it fits better? 

LS: Those things can all be altered. We can always do a stretching of the calf. If it’s going to require more than an inch, we can do an alteration to the calf, open it and either insert an elastic, leather or suede of the same color.

SB: How can you tell if a shoe can be repaired or needs to be replaced? 

LS: You can only replace the soles a limited number of times. You can replace them one time, two times, maybe three times, but that’s it. If they’ve added the rubber sole, then they can get away with the shoe lasting longer because that adds longevity to the shoe.

SB: How do you spot quality flats and boots that will last? 

LS: It’s all about wearing the right footwear for the right weather. Don’t wear satin ballerina flats on a day when it’s going to snow. For shoes to last a long time, you need to wear the right footwear for the right weather. Rubber sole guards help prevent the leather outsole from absorbing water, but it all depends on the weather. If you’re stuck in a snowstorm, they’re going to get wet no matter what – even if you have the rubber sole. If it’s a little drizzle, you’ll be safe to get through the day.

leatherspa_stylebook_interview8SB: What should people do seasonally to preserve their favorite leather shoes?

LS: Thin rubber soles are very important. For suede, we recommend a suede brush. Suede is hair, fiber, so it’s good when you wear them at the end of the day to give them a good brushing, brushing off any dirt or dust that’s accumulated over the day. If you let it sit for a few days, it penetrates into the suede and it doesn’t brush out. Then you’ll have to have it professionally cleaned. Water and stain-repellent sprays are great. It has a nano-technology, you can’t spray too much, it won’t seal the pores. Our sprays are repellents, not waterproof. If you waterproof, it limits the breathability of the leather. It’s also good to have a leather conditioner for cold weather. The skin on your shoes is no different from the skin on your body. Dry weather causes it to crack and moisturizer helps.

Visit to order their shoe maintenance supplies or to have your shoes repaired by Leather Spa by mail!

  1. I have a pair of shoes that I’ve been trying to make last, so thanks for sharing this. I like your point about how you can fill any scrapes and scuffs with polish. I’ll have to find a location that has polish that closely matches the original leather.

    • I’m glad to hear that! Leather Spa sells a lot of different polish colors on their website!

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