Sole Care

Start Off On the Right Foot with a Shine

When your shoes shine, so do you – at least, according to the famous KIWI® shoe polish slogan. Being able to shine dress shoes is a great skill to have in your back pocket, as it lengthens a shoe’s lifespan while moisturizing and waterproofing the leather. Not to mention, a pair of neatly shined shoes can make all the difference at that important job interview or first date with your future spouse.   

But if your father didn’t teach you growing up, chances are, you might not know how to shine your own shoes. Fortunately, this how-to guide covers the shoe-shining basics that will help you put your best foot forward.


By Mary Beth Wallace

What You’ll Need

  Old Newspaper

  100% Horsehair Shine Brush

  Tin of Polish

You have two options for polish, wax and cream, and each has a different strength. Cream polishes add moisture while polishing the leather, while wax polishes produce a more desirable shine and a more protective coating. Ideally, you would use both: following step 3 with cream, then following step 5 with wax. But, whether you choose to use one or both types, make sure that the color of the polish matches your shoes.

  Small Applicator Brush

  Dry, Soft Cloth

An old t-shirt works great – just tear it up into strips!

  Heel and Sole Edge Dressing

The Process

Step 1

Start by laying down sheets of newspaper over your work space – shoe polish is notorious for leaving a mess. Gather your tools and your leather shoes. You may want to remove the laces to avoid getting polish on them.

Step 2

Your shoes should always be clean and dry before a polishing. Remove any dust or dirt with the horsehair brush or a soft, dampened cloth, and then allow them to dry (if needed) before moving to the next step.

Step 3

Carefully and evenly apply your polish with the small applicator brush. Start with a nickel-sized dab – remember that in this case, less is more. Work your way around the shoe from toe to heel, rubbing the polish in small circles; the shoes will have a matte finish once they’re covered. At this point, the polish needs to dry as it nourishes the leather. This can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes.

Step 4

When the polish is dried, use your horsehair brush and vigorously buff the shoes using a side-to-side swiping motion; this will help remove excess polish and create your shine.

Step 5

To achieve an extra level of shine, take a cloth and dip it into water; the cloth should be damp, but not dripping. Then dampen the shoe with the cloth and apply another, very thin, layer of polish. Work both the water and the polish into the shoe with a circular motion, repeating as needed until the leather has reached your preferred level of shininess.

Step 6

An optional step is applying dressing to the heels and edges of your shoe’s soles, which will restore color and provide that perfect finish. Simply follow the application instructions on the bottle, and your shoes will appear brand new in no time.

How Often Should You Shine Your Shoes?

The frequency with which you should shine your shoes depends on a number of factors: how often you wear them, what activities you’re performing in them, the quality of the leather, and even the weather. As a general rule, dress shoes worn three or more times a week can benefit from a shining weekly or every two weeks. If the shoes are worn once a week or less, polishing them once a month will help keep the leather hydrated and protected. And of course, if your shoes look scuffed or dull, or they’ve been soiled after a day’s work, they’re probably in need of a cleaning. SG    

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