Problem 1: Your suede shoes are all scuffed up or stained.
“Steam is a great way to refresh suede and make it not look so tired,” says Alison Freer, costume designer and author of How to Get Dressed. She also suggests investing in a suede brush if those shoes are some of your favorites. Try letting your shoes sit in the bathroom while you take a shower before brushing—the steam will loosen the grime, says Freer.
Problem 2: The toes of your sandals or flats have really taken a beating.
It might seem odd that your toes get so scuffed up, but Freer says she actually sees this often. “The leather sole starts to wear down, and the toe gets closer to the ground as the sole gets worn down.” To fix this, you need to head to a shoe repairperson—he or she will put “dance rubber” on the bottom of the shoes to protect the existing sole and lift it up from being too close to the ground. Then, if the shoe is leather, you can polish it with some shoe polish and an old t-shirt.
Problem 3: Your favorite leather boots are water-stained.
“When I wear really expensive boots, I carry an old t-shirt in my bag,” says Freer. “When I walk inside, I give my shoes a little wipe down.” This is a good preventive measure—you should always wipe boots off quickly after being outside and once at the end of the day. But if you’ve spent the day running around and your boots are soaked, Freer suggests stuffing the toes of the shoe with newspaper to dry overnight and suck the water out of the shoes. You’ll probably notice marks where salt from the road has stained your shoe, too. The fix? Freer takes a damp rag with a bit of vinegar to wipe off salted areas of the boot.
Problem 4: The strap of your sandal is really digging into your foot.
There’s nothing worse than buying a new pair of shoes only to find they’re extremely uncomfortable. While plenty of products exist to prevent rubbing or blisters, Freer swears by self-adhesive moleskin—it solves “a million problems,” says Freer, including rubbing, chaffing, or that sensation that the strap is literally cutting into your foot. Just stick it onto the irritating area of your shoe, and you’ll be able to walk in peace.
Problem 5: Your stiletto heel is totally worn down.
If you’ve noticed the nail spike in your heel is exposed, you need to get a heel cap. According to Freer, you’ll probably have to replace that heel cap at a shoe repair shop once every two seasons, depending on how often you wear the shoe. If you’re walking around in stilettos often, you might want to invest in clear heel guards, which provide a wider base for tiny heels and protect them from subway grates, sidewalk cracks, and muddy grass.
Problem 6: Your sneakers have a disgusting odor that’s stinking up your entire closet.
This problem is usually preventable—“Make sure that the socks you’re wearing are either 100 percent cotton or of a very high cotton content,” says Freer. “I find that socks that have nylon or polyester are the perfect environment for sweat.” For shoes that already stink, you can make your own sachet out of tube socks. Fill them with baking soda and put them inside your shoes after a workout. To clean sneakers in the washing machine, secure them inside a pillowcase and wash on a delicate cycle—but don’t dry. Instead, stuff with newspaper, and let them dry in front of a fan.
Problem 7: Studs have fallen off of your favorite dress shoe, and you don’t know how to refasten them.
Freer has a secret weapon when it comes to studded shoes: Shoe Goo. This adhesive allows for flexibility, compared to regular glue, which is rigid once dry. One piece of advice: Make sure you let the glue cure for a full 24 hours before attempting to walk out the door, she says.