How long do dress shoes last?
I am sure you have found yourself asking that same question when thinking about buying a new pair of shoes.
The reason so many of us ask that question is because we want to get the most bang for our buck.
Thus, in this post, we are going to answer this commonly asked question and a few more. We will take a look at how to pick out a high-quality dress shoe, one that on its own will last for many years to come and we will even cover some easy tips on how to make those shoes last even longer.
How Long Do Dress Shoes Last?
There are so many factors that come into play when trying to figure out how long a pair of shoes will last. For example: How often do you wear the shoes? Do you wear them inside only or do you wear them outside? Do you walk on concrete? How many hours a day are you on your feet? How often do you clean your shoes? How often do you polish your shoes?
And that’s just the beginning. Don’t forget to consider the shoe itself: What material(s) are the shoes made from? Were high-quality materials used or was it a mix of high quality and low quality? Where were the shoes manufactured?
As you can see, to pinpoint the exact amount of time that your shoes will last would be next to impossible to determine based on all of these different determinants. For that reason, the answer to this question is that ‘it really depends’ on a variety of different factors.
However, I imagine, ‘it depends’ is not the answer you were looking for. When shopping for shoes we want a number. We want to have an idea of how many years a given pair of shoes is going to last.
So to do that, to give you a number to answer the question “How long do dress shoes last?” would be anywhere between 2 and 20 years. Once again, I know that might not be the satisfying answer you were looking for, but bear with me. I want to help you and can help you make a reasonable determination of how long a particular pair will last. Still with me? OK great, let’s get into it then.
The most important factor in determining how long your dress shoes will last is the quality of the shoe.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some tips that will help you pick out a dress shoe that will last not just 6 months, or a year, but many years to come.
How To Pick Out A Quality Dress Shoe That Will Last
Price. The first indicator of a quality shoe is the price. Now I’m not saying you can’t find an excellent quality shoe at a reasonable price, but high-quality materials that are designed to be durable and last for years are generally quite expensive, thus a good quality shoe is going come with a high price tag.
Now don’t let that factor discourage you from buying them.
Remember a good pair of high-quality shoes that last 10+ years is better than several pairs of low-end shoes that only last 6 months to a year. Or worse yet, cause even greater problems like foot pain or swelling due to the poor construction.
So, if you are in a shoe store and you see a nice looking pair of dress shoes that are ridiculously cheap, chances are it is too good to be true. Now I am not discouraging you from buying affordable shoes.
Hey, I am always looking for a bargain whenever I go shopping, but if you are looking for shoes that will last a long time, don’t settle for the cheap ones.
And if for some reason you come across that once in a lifetime deal, where you happen to find high quality at a low price, grab them!
Construction. Another important factor to take into consideration is the construction of the shoe. To be more specific, we are talking about how the sole is attached to the upper. The sole of the shoe is what takes the biggest beating. If a shoe is going to fall apart, chances are it will fall apart at the seams between the sole and the upper.
This is closely related to the price. Obviously, a better-constructed shoe is going to come at a higher price. Let’s briefly talk about the different ways dress shoes are constructed and talk about which one is going to last you the longest.
Cementing. This is probably the cheapest and fastest way to attach the sole to the upper. Basically, they use a super strong glue or some sort of adhesive to attach the two. Of course, because it is quick and easy, a cemented shoe is going to be much cheaper than other options on the market.
However, dress shoes with a cemented sole cannot be resoled. Once the sole begins to separate from the upper, there is little that can be done to fix it. This can drastically reduce the lifespan of your shoes since a good dress shoe usually needs to be resoled several times throughout its lifespan as the durable upper will always outlast the sole.
For that reason, if you are looking for a long-lasting dress shoe, I would strongly recommend staying away from one that is cemented.
Blake Welting. Another method used to attach the shoe’s upper with the sole is called blake welting. Basically what this means is that a single stitch is used to attach the two, the top part of the shoe with the bottom part. However, this process is done from the inside of the shoe. You will not see stitches on the outside.
The good news is that, because a stitch it used, if the sole starts to fall apart, it can be replaced. However, because internal stitches are used, a specific machine is needed and thus it can be an expensive ordeal. Also, a common complaint with this method is that some people don’t like the feel of the stitches on the inside.
Because blake welting is a much better option than cementing, I would definitely recommend this technique over cementing when looking for a high-quality dress shoe.
Goodyear Welting. The most time-consuming, yet most durable method to attach the sole to the upper is called a goodyear welt. The reason it is so time-consuming is because it involves three different steps. First, a rib is created on the insole itself. Next, the outsole is stretched over and attached to the insole. Lastly, a lockstitch is used to attach the upper and the insole rib. In addition, a separate lockstitch is used to attach the welt to the outsole.
One of the biggest advantages of having your dress shoes constructed with a goodyear welt is that they are designed to be extremely easy to resole. Yes, they are the more expensive option, nonetheless, in the long run, you are going to get the most from your shoes.
In addition, because of the extra layers involved (the upper stitch to the rib and the welt to the outsole) then tend to be more water-resistant and more supportive than your typical shoe.
As you can see, the construction of the shoe itself can greatly increase its longevity. If you are looking for the highest quality shoe construction out there, I would definitely recommend going with one that has a goodyear welt.
If you can’t afford a shoe in this price range, or just don’t want to spend the money, I would definitely recommend picking up a pair of dress shoes that at least feature a blake welt, as your investment won’t quickly go to waste since they can be resoled if need be in the future.
10 Tips To Ensure Your Dress Shoes Last 5, 10, 15 Or Even 20 Years
It goes without saying that to get the most out of your shoes is to treat them well. Think about it, you wouldn’t wear a high-end designer suit to change the oil in your car or to mow the lawn, would you?
Of course not!
If anything, you would take even greater care of it knowing it not only was an expensive purchase but has the potential to last a long, long time.
The same is true with your shoes. If you care for them like you would that designer suit, they can last you for decades (literally!)
On the other hand, if you go out and buy an expensive, well-constructed pair of dress shoes, but you don’t take care of them, they won’t last much longer than a cheap, glued together pair.
So now that we’ve established the importance of showing caring for your shoes, let’s take a look at 10 tips that every dress shoe owner should do to get the most out of his (or her) shoes.
Polish Your Shoes. One of the best things you can do to protect your shoes, and keep them looking good, is to give them a regular polish. Just how often should you polish your shoes?
Well, that depends on how often you wear them. That being said, with regular wear, I would recommend polishing them at least once a week. If you don’t wear them that often, you can get away with doing it once a month.
Now, it may sound silly to some to do it that often, but a nice polish once in a while will give your shoes a layer of protection, which in turn protects your investment.
Think about it this way.
The leather used to make your shoes came from a living animal, whose body at the time was naturally nourishing the skin (aka leather). As that leather is now a part of your shoes, it is no longer able to naturally care for itself. Thus it needs attention from time to time in order to maintain its durability. Without that care, the leather will surely break down.
Many times people mistakenly assume that polishing your shoes is limited to making them look good or making them shine. Remember that polishing your shoes is more than just making them look good. It is about conditioning the leather to protect it from the elements.
One such shoe polish that I would recommend is Kiwi Shoe Polish. It is one of the most popular polishes on the market and for good reason…it works.
In summary, the important thing to remember here though is whether you wear your dress shoes often or not, a good polish is necessary in order to keep them in great condition.
Think about using a water repellent
Water is enemy number one when it comes to making those dress shoes last a long time. This is because regular exposure to water can destroy your shoes and if it doesn’t damage them altogether, it will definitely reduce their life expectancy.
To protect your investment from water, it is always a good idea to use a water-repellent.
Yet, you may ask, “Doesn’t the shoe polish protect my shoes from water?” The answer is no.
A shoe polish is used to shine your shoes and condition the leather. A water-repellent or waterproofing spray is used to seal your shoes from allowing water to enter into them.
So despite the rumors, always use a repellent or waterproofing spray, otherwise, you will be sorry.
Avoid Snow. This may seem like a no-brainer to some, but it needs to be said. Don’t wear your dress shoes outside during the winter! Not only will exposure to snow and other elements affect your shoes, but you also have to think about salt.
Salt is a tricky one because you might think that you can just take a quick walk out to the car, come back inside and think everything is fine.
However, it is when your shoes dry that this enemy appears and those large, ugly white circles start to form on the top of your shoes. Not only are they ugly, but salt can quickly dry your shoes out, causing the leather to split, curl or even crack.
So be sure to keep this in mind during those winter months. And if you, unfortunately, had to learn this the hard way, don’t fret. Check out our post on how to treat salt stains in a previous article, here.
Stay away from heat. Now we may take great measures to avoid our shoes from getting wet, but let’s face it, accidents happen. It’s necessary to know though, that how you react to your shoes getting wet can have an effect on them.
The first thing many people do when their shoes get wet is to take them off and place them in front of a heater, fireplace or pull out the old blow dryer and frantically try to dry them before, (as they think) ‘more damage is done.’
This is the worse thing you can do to your shoes!
Wet leather shrinks when exposed to heat. This can, and more in likely will, cause them to curl, split or even crack over time.
If your shoes get wet, DO NOT place them in front of a heater or heat source for that matter. Rather, stuff them with tissue, towels, or even newspapers and allow them to air dry overnight.
Use a shoe horn and a shoe tree. As we mentioned earlier, a goodyear welt is superior to a cemented bond or even a blake welt. Why? Because the soles can easily be replaced.
However, what good is a pair of dress shoes that have a great sole, but the uppers are all stretched out or have an ugly crease right in the middle of them? That’s right, they are no good at all.
For that reason, it is necessary to take excellent care of the uppers as well. To do that I am going to introduce you to two important tools. A shoe horn and a shoe tree.
As many of you know, a shoe horn is used to assist your foot into the shoe. “What does this have to do with keeping your shoes lasting a long time?”, you may ask.
Well, it helps prevent unnecessary strain on your shoes, which in turn, can cause severe stretching. A shoe horn will help relieve that strain and keep your shoes looking just as they did the day you bought them.
Another important tool that often times gets overlooked is a shoetree. A shoe tree is what you (should) put in your shoe when you are not wearing them. This helps them to maintain their shape and reduces creases. I would recommend using a cedar one, such as this one because cedar absorbs moisture and helps to keep odors at bay.
Untie your shoes. This one is self-explanatory. Didn’t your mom tell you to untie your shoes when you take them off? I know my mom did and there is a good reason behind it. It helps to keep your shoes in good shape.
Yes, slipping in and out of them may see to be the best option, at least when it comes to saving time, but this is terrible for the heel counter of the shoe. Each time you slip out of them you are slowly damaging the counter, one of the major support systems on any pair of shoes.
So the next time you think of slipping right out of those dress shoes, take the extra 10 seconds to untie them. Your shoes and feet will be thankful!
Break in your shoes the right way. There are so many different (and creative) ways to break in your shoes fast.
For example, some people claim that by placing bags in your shoes, filling them with water and then placing your shoes in the freezer you can break them in overnight. Others have broken in their shoes by bending them back and forth.
Yes, there are a number of different ways to break in your shoes, in fact, I wrote a previous post on some easy ways to do it. But just because you can do it fast, doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best for the shoe. This is especially true for those of us who are trying to preserve our shoes for the long haul.
What is the best and safest way to break in your shoes?
I say just give them time.
After you’ve made your purchase, wear your dress shoes around the house for a few hours a day the first week. After the first week, they should be comfortable enough to wear to work or on any other occasion.
Have an extra pair on hand. It just snowed last night and now you have to walk to work. What should you do?
Or it is raining outside and you need to go home. What should you do?
Carry an extra pair of shoes with you (I like to keep a spare pair in my trunk) or keep some in your office.
One of the best ways to protect your shoes from the harsh elements is not to expose them to the elements in the first place. This can be done by having a designated pair of snow boots for those harsh winter months or by having an extra pair of shoes on hand to wear to and from the house.
Even following a simple tip like this can add years to your dress shoes.
Be careful with sprays, polishes, and oils. Sure, we want our shoes to last a long time and there are a number of different sprays, polishes, and oils out there that can offer a measure of protection for our shoes.
However, caution is needed when using these different solutions on your shoes. No polish is designed to be used for each and every type of dress shoe out there.
In fact, using the wrong polish or the wrong oil can actually change the color of your shoes. With that being said, it is important to read the label before applying it to your shoes. Make sure that you can use it on those beloved loafers or heels.
And, while we are talking about reading the label, be sure to follow the instructions closely. Yes, no two polishes are alike, and there may be (big) differences in the way they need to be applied.
Also, don’t overdo it. Too much of anything is always a bad thing.
The same can be true when applying oils or polish. Soaking your shoes in oils with the hopes of making them last longer can actually have the reverse effect. It can discolor the shoes, causing you to toss them before they even hit their pre-teens.
Hence, it is always best to start with a little and use more if needed.
Proper storage. Lastly, just as important as it is to treat our shoes well when we are walking around in them, is it to treat them well when we are not using them.
Let’s go back to the designer suit example we mentioned in the beginning.
If you have a designer suit, where do you put it when you are not wearing it? Do you just throw it on the bed or on the floor after you’ve taken it off? No, you no doubt have a specific hanger and a specific place for it in your closet. A place where it won’t get damaged, but will stay in tip-top condition.
The same is true with your dress shoes. Don’t treat them like you would any other (cheap) shoe.
Have a specific place for them, a place where they won’t accidentally step on or your adorable dog won’t make them into a chew toy. Have a designated place for them, and be consistent with returning them to that place when they are not being used.
So, how long do dress shoes last? Well, it really depends on you. It depends on the quality of shoes that you buy, the construction of the shoe that you choose and lastly how well you treat the shoes.
However, by following the tips laid out in this post, I can assure you that a nice pair of dress shoes can last you as long as 10 if not 15 or 20 years.
Now it’s your turn to answer the question: How long should dress shoes last? Please feel free to do so in the comments below.