So many people are scared to buy suede shoes in fear that they will not wear as well or last as long. We are here to debunk those fears and help those who love the look of suede to walk confidently.
We all love a beautiful pair of suede shoes. Smooth leather is nice, but sometimes the soft matte look and softness of a suede or nubuck shoe cannot be competed with. However, when it comes to buying a new pair of boots, the consensus tends to run that smooth leather is better because "it is easier to take care of". We are here to share the truth: suede and nubuck are just as easy to care for as smoother surfaces and wear just as well when taken care of. How do you take care of suede? 4 inexpensive products will have you thinking twice before rejecting a pair of suede boots.
Protecting Your Shoes Right Away
Leather Spray, All-protector spray, Waterproofing spray. All of these products are the same and are a lifesaver for any pair of shoes regardless of them being suede, nubuck, or smooth leather. Any brand will usually do well for this. However, we recommend Angelus Mink Oil Spray as the mink oil helps with hydration as well as protection. The way these miracle products work is by creating an invisible protective barrier between the shoe and the elements it is exposed to. This can help with preventing sun bleaching, dirt getting caked into the leather pores, road salt stains, and it even waterproofs the shoe slightly. Sprays are a great way to help the leather last longer, colour stay vibrant, and makes cleaning a breeze. Many brands recommend spraying your leather shoes of all kinds at least once a month. This is a pain and nobody does that. Instead, we recommend to spray your boots once every few months or when you remember too after a day of being in harsher elements. An even easier way to remember is to make a habit of spraying all your footwear at the turn of every season. It won't hurt your shoes and it is easier to remember.
The most common product associated with suede and nubuck care is the suede brush. Because the leather we are dealing with is more fibrous and rough than a smooth leather, it is important to rough it up occasionally. Suede brushes are inexpensive and easy to use to buck off loose dirt, and agitate the surface making the colour come back to the shoes and returning them back to their soft-looking state. It is not unlike using a brush to detangle long hair. Just like long hair gets dull and matted without proper brushing, suede gets dull and flatted giving a "dirty" appearance when it is not brushed. If you are unsure about investing in a suede brush right away, a toothbrush should do the trick with a little extra effort. There are many suede brushes on the market. However, we recommend finding one with a bristle side, a plastic "nubuck" brush side, and a spatula-like piece on the side (like the one in the photo below) as the nubuck side can also work on bucking off dirt from suede, and the spatula piece really gets into crevice's and seams. In other words, it is an amazing multitool to get the job done fast.
We admit, sometimes a suede brush won't do the trick. Occasionally, a deeper clean is necessary in order to get your shoes to look like new. Unlike smooth leathers, you cannot use a mink oil paste or shoe polish to get your suede boots looking good and new. Instead, the product to use is a foam cleaner or suede cleaner. These products are often foam consistency products that give a deeper clean to leathers. There are many different variations of these products on the market and it is important to do a test patch on your footwear to ensure no darkening occurs. The product we usually recommend is Ralyn Athletic Shoe Cleaner as it is good for suede, nubuck, and fabrics. We find that this product in particular is not as stripping of moisture as others and is easy to use. Pro tip: if you do not have a suede cleaner on hand, some white vinegar and a suede brush (or toothbrush) will do the trick in the short term.
Everyone is worried about staining suede. In reality, it is not as big of a deal as some make it out to be. Working in a shoe store, this product is our secret to getting almost anything out of a new suede shoe that was accidentally put there. A suede eraser or suede bar (they are essentially the same) are solid eraser-like or pumice-like blocks that work wonders on getting harsh stains out of suede or nubuck. I have personally not yet come across a suede stain they could not erase or at least help make less noticeable. They work on all colours too! Many different brands make a variation of these wonder bricks. However, some range on being more "plastic" to more "crumbly". We prefer the ones that are more textured like a hard pumice and that lean on the side of crumbly as they appear to have the best success in riding shoes of hard to erase stains. RedWing roughout bars are my personal favorite as they seem to be the most reliable. Brands such as Tana and Woly also make some amazing ones too.
Suede and nubuck are amazing materials that can make boots and shoes feel softer. Break in periods are nearly non-existent with suede shoes and they tend to hug the feet amazingly. However, many people shy away from the material for their reputation of being hard to upkeep. The rumours about suede being a hard material to own are not quite as true anymore with the right products. Just like smooth leather, suede has care instructions that are easy to follow preventing problems with wear and tear. A leather spray, a suede brush, a foam cleaner, and a suede eraser are the only products you need to keep suede looking new and are very cost effective to have in your shoe care toolbox. The bottom line is: don't let the thought of caring for your shoes be the thing that turns you off of a suede shoe you love.