Wandering the vast landscapes, ancient man had to endure hot sand, freezing snow and rugged terrain in order to search for food and other resources. Protecting bare feet from harsh elements made shoes an ingenious advancement. As time went on, shoes became more specialized and a variety of styles were created to tackle specific tasks that were to be undertaken. This led to the birth of the shoe fashion industry that created the demand for shoes that emphasized individuality, personal identity and social class.

It was not uncommon for an aristocratic woman in ancient Greece to have more than 20 pairs of shoes and a servant to care for them. This is no different than the stereotypical, shoe-obsessed Carrie Bradshaw character with over $40,000 worth of shoes but no place to live. British women spend over 1,000 pounds per year on shoes and 10% of British admit women to having at least 100 pairs of shoes. Even the obsessed realize that shoes are important to our health and survival.  They know that poorly maintained or shoes that don't fit well can cause pain, blisters and other serious conditions. 

There are many reasons to ignore the pressure to consider shoes a disposable product including:

* Saving money.
* Making a very expensive pair last longer.
* Preserving a favorite pair that is no longer made.
* Reusing a pair for a younger child.
* The opportunity to donate your shoes when you no longer wear them.
* Keeping shoes out of landfills.

The basics of maintaining the condition of shoes depends on the materials used to construct them.  Follow the guidelines below to keep your favorite pair of shoes in good condition.

1.  Leather is a very common, durable, and aesthetically pleasing material used in all kinds of shoes. If not taken care of properly, leather is known to dry out, crack, and fall apart. It is recommended that leather shoes be periodically polished to maintain a healthy level of moisture.  Polishing also provides a protective layer that repels water and dirt, keeping your leather shoes impeccably clean and presentable. Shoe polishing products are very easy to find, but if they are not within arms reach, petroleum jelly or castor oil are great buffers with castor oil providing more effective waterproofing.

2.  Suede and nubuck are very similar to leather in look and texture but they are incredibly delicate and easily damaged by water. To prevent suede and nubuck from becoming damaged waterproof them. When these shoes get dirty a soft bristled brush can be used to lightly lift away dirt. There are other products made to clean these materials such as a suede bar which is a product made of rubber used to rub out dirt marks like an eraser. But common household items like masking tape can be used in a similar fashion and are remarkably effective. Sometimes these materials get so dirty that the only way to clean them is to scrape away the top layer of the material.  Consider using a shoe repair shop for this type of maintenance.
 
3.  Shoes made of textile or canvas are not as hard to keep clean. These include your common sport shoes, tennis shoes, or casual walking shoes. These shoes are normally machine or hand washable which makes life very easy. Keeping your shoes clean in general will leave them in wearable condition making you less likely to throw them out. The only drawback to a textile or canvas shoe is that its durability is nowhere near leather. These shoes are produced with the intent of being a disposable product and they do not repair well. Taking care of them by interchanging them with other pairs of shoes will lower the wear and tear compared to a situation where they are used on a daily basis.

There are other generic methods of keeping your shoes in good shape. Using a shoe horn will allow you to avoid breaking down the collar of your shoe, which is the area that wraps around your foot above your heel. Also, a more expensive pair might make it worth the effort of finding a good repair shop.

Even those not obsessed with shoes can benefit by keeping them well maintained.  You can reduce the environmental impact by keeping shoes out of a landfill as long as possible, you will save money and you will be happy to know that your favorite pair of shoes that are no longer made can be worn for years. Your shoes are vitally important in your everyday life, so there is no shame in taking a little extra care of them. 

(c) 2008, Odd Shoe Finder.  Reprints welcomed so long as the article and by-line are not changed and all links are made live.

Kent Basson is the founder of OddShoeFinder.com an online website that helps people find mismatched or single shoes.  The site was created after Kent's sister suffered a foot injury that resulted in her having to buy two different sized shoes. After searching the web, he discovered the problem is far more common resulting in millions of unused, mismatched pairs of shoes that can now be given away, sold or purchased at http://www.oddshoefinder.com