Restore their life and save some cash.

Worn-looking shoesAfter the wettest March on record in Seattle, my shoes look just terrible. Time to pull out my shoeshine kit and give them a second life.

I am not one of those women that lives for shoes. I tend to buy only a few pair of high quality and classic style every few years. Admittedly, my shoes are leather. Though I haven’t eaten beef in over three decades, I haven’t found a substitute for leather when it comes to shoes. I justify it, by knowing that I will wear them forever—just another way I do things in moderation.

Wooden shoeshine box with cleaning supplies

To make them last, I take good care of them. That means treating them with waterproofing when they’re new, and restoring them with a good cleaning and polishing when they look worn. It’s just one of my spring-cleaning chores.

I’ve been caring for my shoes in this way since I was a girl. For years, I used my dad’s shoe brush from his WWII Navy days. I’ve since retired that brush to my memory box and bought both a new one, along with a buffer. I found this wonderful shoeshine box at a neighbor’s garage sale. It definitely makes the job easier. Shoeshine supplies are available in most supermarkets and, of course, online. Here’s a list of the basics to have on hand:

• Newspapers (to protect your work surface)

• Soft cloth (100% cotton like from an old T-shirt works great)

• Old toothbrush (to apply the paste or wax)

• Paste wax or cream polish (Kiwi or Meltonian are my favorites)

• Shoe brush

Rather than reinvent the wheel, I scoured the web for some good tutorials for the shoeshine novice. Kiwi polish offers some greats facts and tips on how to care for your shoes. And gives very detailed instructions if you want to go full out. I don’t usually treat the soles, but it’s probably a great idea. I also found these instructions for natural polish using banana peels from Organic Authority. I’ll have to try that one!

Surprisingly, they were most abundant on sites for men like Esquire and GQ magazines. It seems that even the internet has bought into the idea that women buy a vast quantity of shoes that get worn only a few times, so they would rarely need to clean them. I for one would like to see that attitude change.

Shined ShoesI have nothing against cute shoes for that night on the town, or those that match a specialty outfit like a prom dress. If it’s in your budget, go for it. But for your everyday work and run-around-town shoes, consider a pair that will last with a little bit of care. This pair of Naot clogs carried my daughter all over Rome in 2008…and I took them over when she grew out of them a year later. I wear them at least four times a week and they still polish up to look almost new. My best buy was a pair of Mephisto walking sandals that I wore for over 10 years! Even at $200, it ended up costing me just $20 a year—about the price of a cheap pair, and far more comfortable.