Walking on a daily basis around a city with rough sidewalks (plus being on the clumsier side) has led many of my shoes to suffer the same fate. The toes usually end up scuffed or shredded after just a few wears, looking almost as decrepit as Nick’s gardening sneakers.
I decided to try my hand at a DIY repair, and it came out better than expected costing less than $10! The trickiest part was finding a good color match online, but if you have black shoes in need of polishing up, this should be a no brainer.
Find the right product & color
To start, choose the right product for your repair needs. After watching countless cobbler videos on YouTube, it seems there are 3 common routes depending on the fix that you need:
- For surface scratches or leather that looks dull or faded: a colored leather cream is designed to condition and restore leather, while enhancing the natural color of the item. You typically buff it in a circular motion over the affected area or entire item and it won’t alter the original color much. This can also be a good option for rejuvenating an old leather handbag, just remember that if you’re in between color choices, it’s easier to start with a lighter shade rather than darker!
- For deep cuts or nicks in the leather that need to be filled in: Saphir leather renovating cream seems to be a top choice of cobblers as a filler agent. Several coats of this are applied and dried in between until the groove is filled. See how the cream is used in this video on womens shoes and this video on mens shoes (4 min mark).
- For pigmented color coverage: Angelus leather paint is the most popular option for recoloring leather goods from shoes to furniture. I was in awe at many of the before & afters in the Amazon customer reviews! Also see the brand’s video on do’s and don’ts for shoes, furniture, purses etc.
I went with option #1, a colored shoe cream, since I found a really close color match to try. But for the amount of damage seen on my sandals in this example, shoe cream typically may not be opaque or thick enough, so one of the other options might work best!
Note: There’s tons of brands to choose from for shoe cream and the only reason I went with M&B shoe cream (color: Scotch) is because it was the best color match for my sandals. In the past I’ve also liked Cadillac leather products for my handbags and boots.
Clean the area you’ll be repairing on the shoe with a soft cloth. I usually cut up an old cotton tee into smaller pieces.
Use small scissors to carefully trim off any flapping little leather pieces. If the torn pieces are bigger, you can try using some shoe glue to adhere the pieces back down. Don’t worry if the glued down results don’t look great since it will be covered with shoe cream or paint.
If necessary, use a fine nail file or fine sand paper to gently sand the torn surface area a bit. This may sound harsh but it’s what I’ve observed cobblers do for repairs like this in order to prep a smooth area before re-coloring or polishing.
Apply just a tiny bit of the repair product (use a cotton rag or fingers for cream; brush for leather paint) onto the torn area. I let this dry fully and did three coats for the amount of coverage I needed. With shoe cream or renovating cream, some online reviews did mention having to redo this process again in the future when the color wore down again.
As an optional step at the end, cobblers will then buff a layer of shoe cream or polish on in a circular motion over the larger area around the repaired section.
PS – I also applied a little clear nail polish on top of the re-colored area to help seal it in, lightly patting the edges with a cotton rag to help blend the clear polish out. While it works for me, I’m not exactly advising this because it will add a little sheen to where the polish gets applied, and professionals will probably balk at this thought!