Buying a good pair of dress shoes is an investment, so you'll want them to last, especially if they're expensive. One question that often gets asked is: “How long should dress shoes last?” We all have our own expectations of the longevity of the shoes when we buy them.
We’ve already established that the key to getting long lasting dress shoes is to buy quality. Footwear should be designed and manufactured to be durable. It's also essential to ensure that you and your cobbler regularly look after the maintenance of your shoes so they'll remain in optimum condition.
You wouldn’t buy an expensive car and then leave it on your driveway to rust, never cleaning it, ignoring the warning signs when it was ready for service. Similarly, if you want dress shoes that last, then you need to have the same conscientious attitude towards looking after them.
Statistics from the Shoe Service Institute of America reported that in the 1930s, when classic leather shoes and elegant style were very much at their hey-day, there were over 100,000 shoe repair shops. Fast forward to today when there are just 4,300. Is that because the cobbling industry is out of fashion and no longer required? Or could it be that cheap dress shoes are abundant enough these days that many don't bother with the expense of getting them repaired or re-soled? Are quality shoes no longer seen as a viable investment, and have they become more disposable with the prevalence of Asian imports and the growth of online purchases?
When Are Shoes Worn Out?
There's one thing for sure, if you buy quality footwear, it will last, and your cost per wear will be reflected in that outlay as you continue to get years of wear and dependability from your dress shoes. You will occasionally need to hand them over to a professional for shoe maintenance to keep them in tip-top condition. To ensure they'll last, seek out quality shoe construction and design, use of durable natural shoe making materials like leather as opposed to vinyl and synthetics, and also ensure that you have the right fit. By that, we mean to have your feet accurately measured and consider the importance of length, breadth as well as your instep.
What Factors Affect How Long Do Shoes Last?
There's a range of factors that you'll need to take into consideration when trying to determine how long your dress shoes will last. Some of these factors include the following:
- How much and how far you walk in your shoes each day
- How you walk
- How often you rotate your shoes
- The surfaces on which you walk
- If you use a shoehorn
- If you clean and polish your shoes
- What type or brand of polish you use on your shoes
- If your shoes are frequently in contact with rain and for how long
Even if you consider all of these factors and more to determine the average lifespan of a particular pair of footwear, life is filled with unexpected circumstances. You might estimate that your shoes should last at least a year and then tear your shoe against a sharp object tomorrow.
You get caught in a rainstorm and soak your shoes and not have a chance to dry them out properly for an entire week, which could leave them damaged. These examples illustrate there's not always a realistic way to determine how long should dress shoes last.
Primarily, it's going to depend on how often you wear the shoes, as well as how well you look after them. In some cases, people can get a high-quality pair of dress shoes to last for years by taking reasonable care of them and not wearing them every day. There are so many variables to consider, so the life of your shoes can vary.
How Long Can I Expect a Pair of Dress Shoes to Last?
Leather Dress Shoes
It’s not an exaggeration to say that well maintained; quality leather shoes can last for years, so what might have initially felt like a cost, is actually an investment. In 2008, archaeologists discovered recognizably still intact, a 5,500-year-old pair of bespoke hand-stitched leather shoes. Now, how about that for wearability and durability?
The quality of leather and their price will often govern how long your favorite shoes are likely to last. Anything costing less than $100 is unlikely to be made from genuine leather and is designed to be worn out after six months to a year.
If you want to invest in a good pair of leather dress shoes, it’s best to avoid the cheaper options. If you're spending between $100 and $180 on a pair of leather shoes, you can expect one of two outcomes: Bad and overpriced shoes that will fall apart quickly or a decent pair of entry-level leather shoes.
Either way, shoes in this price range are unlikely to be made from top quality leather. You can expect genuine leather, although it might be top-grain or corrected grain leather. Depending on how the soles are attached, you can expect anywhere from 6 months to 2 years until they wear out.
In the price range of $180 to $300, you can expect good quality leather shoes. This range often offers leather soles too, which increases their longevity. The upper part of the shoe will also be made from higher quality leather, which is known to be more durable and breathable.
This means your feet will sweat less, preserving the inner lining of the shoe. You can expect between 1 to 5 years until these shoes wear out. If you can afford to invest more than $350 on a pair of expensive dress shoes, you'll be getting the best quality, handcrafted shoes. Shoes in this price range are likely to last between 2 to 10 years, provided they're cared for properly.
It's important to note some designer brands that have a higher price tag may not always provide the best quality since their focus is on design rather than their durability. Expect them to last as long as a pair of shoes in the price range below.
How to Care for Your Shoes to Ensure Longevity
Caring for your shoes will significantly affect how long they last, regardless of price or quality. Thus, it's advised that you invest in a more expensive pair of leather dress shoes and learn how to care for them. This will not only save you money in the long run but will also save you the time and effort of shopping to replace them every six months. They'll also look a lot better and more fashionable.
How to maintain leather shoes
While you might think that a shoe tree is a bit of a novelty, think again, because looking after your shoes by retaining their proper form and shape will help them last far longer. So, before you buy cheap shoes, consider the long term investment and years of wear you can enjoy if you invest some time into looking after your shoes.
There are many ways that you can look after leather shoes to ensure they'll last as long as possible. Here are a few leather shoe care maintenance tips to help you:
Best Way To Polish Shoes Properly
Be sure to polish your dress shoes regularly. This act alone can significantly increase the lifespan of your shoes. The more you wear your shoes, clearly the more they're going to flex, and it’s that flexing of the leather than can expose your shoes to moisture from the elements and other harsh environmental and chemical compounds. So just the very act of polishing them creates a protective coating that does help.
Not only does polish keep your shoes looking sharp and shining, but regular polishing can also repair any damage your shoes get from day-to-day wear. Besides, the polish also nourishes the leather, extending the shoes’ lifespan by keeping them healthy and flexible.
If you aren't sure about what kind of shoe polish to use, you can always consider asking a professional. Someone who works at a shoe store, particularly one that caters to leather shoes, will have a good idea of the polish that'll work best for your shoes. Otherwise, online resources can help you find the perfect solution to take the best care of your shoes.
Make use of water repellent for shoes
Before wearing your shoes for the first time and regularly afterward, apply a water repellent. This will ensure that excess water doesn't affect the leather’s elasticity and will prevent any stretching.
Good water-based water repellent will protect leather shoes from too much moisture while keeping them from drying out too much. It's a great product to have for just about any pair of footwear, but especially for your high-quality leather shoes. It's essential to make sure you get the right brand for your specific shoe type to ensure the best results.
Retain the leather’s form with a good quality shoe stretcher
A good pair of cedarwood shoe trees will help extend the life of your leather shoes by filling them out when you're not wearing them. This prevents the leather from shrinking or creasing. Cedar is the most recommended material for shoe trees as it absorbs harmful moisture and odors.
It's also a good idea to make sure you use a quality shoe stretcher rather than one of the more experimental options out there. Methods like using a hairdryer or freezer may seem appealing because they claim to work more quickly, but they can easily do some severe damage to your shoes.
Use a shoe brush
Before using a polish, cleaning your shoes with a quality shoe brush can be a great idea. This helps to get any dirt, dust, or other debris off your shoes that could get caught in the polish. After using a brush, you'll be able to get much better results from your shoe polish.
Generally speaking, a horsehair shoe brush is a good option, but you'll want to make sure you get the right brush for your specific shoes. It can be a great tool to have around and is more important than many people might think!
Clean your shoes
One of the best ways to avoid wear and tear on your shoes is to clean them regularly. This keeps them looking great and keeps the material they're made from in good shape. There are a variety of cleaning methods depending on what your shoes are made out of.
For example, with leather shoes, in particular, you'll want to use the horsehair shoe brush to get rid of any surface dust or debris. Then follow that up by wiping the shoe down with a damp, warm cloth or sponge. After that, you'll want to use your waterproofing product. Shoe polish doesn't need to be applied every time if you clean your shoes fairly often, but you will want to use it about once a month to keep the leather in good shape.
Look after the soles
Leather soles need to be cared for just as you care for the leather upper. “Taps” can be fitted by a cobbler to protect your soles from constant contact with the ground, and the shock absorbed when walking.
Leather shoe sole replacement
Occasionally, you might need to replace the soles just as you would replace the tires on your car. The upper part of your dress shoes tends to last up to four times longer than the soles, so it will probably be necessary to replace the soles at some point. This is also going to help you to stay more comfortable while wearing them!