No matter how stylish your leather shoes are, without a great shine, you’re not showing them off to their full potential. Whether you’re refreshing those leather boots you’ve had stored away in the back of your wardrobe since last spring,  or you simply want to improve the look of your everyday shoes, a buff, shine and polish can give the illusion of a brand new shoe.

When dressing for any occasion, particularly a formal one, a shiny shoe is a must.  Not only does a shiny shoe gives you a more polished, sophisticated look, but polishing your shoes also expands their lifespan.

Just like anything, a little care goes a long way. Whether you’re a fan of oxfords or brogue shoes, we’re on hand with a step-by-step guide on how to polish your shoes the right way, making sure your formal shoes are on point with a classic shine. 

Essential supplies for polishing your shoes: 

  1. Shoe polish 

When it comes to shoe polish, you have two choices: wax or a cream.

A cream polish:
Opt for a cream polish if want less of a striking shine but still want to moisturise the leather as it is absorbed. (If you chose a cream polish, be careful to not affect the leather colour.) 

A wax polish:
A wax polish will add a dazzling shine, cover scuffs and protect the leather. Be careful when choosing your wax polish, as it’s best to try and match the colour of your shoes to the colour of the wax as much as possible. However, don’t stress if you can’t find an exact match, as you can always play it safe with an uncoloured polish. Just bare in mind it will only add shine and not enhance colour.

2. A polishing cloth
A good polishing cloth can make all the difference in getting the right shine. While an old T-shirt or rag can do the trick, we recommend a polishing cloth, as you can purchase specific ones to suit your shoe types.

3. A clean rag
Once you’ve polished your shoes, you’ll need a clean rag at hand for cleaning your shoe or wiping any access polish.

4. A horsehair buffing brush
Horsehair brushes make a great shoe shining brush as, despite their sturdy nature, they are just soft enough to not scratch your leather. Not only that, horsehair brushes help raise fibres of the leather which makes a great shiny surface. 

5. Welt brush
A small brush or a toothbrush can do the trick here, as it allows you to scrub the dirt out of the welt strip, as well as those small hard to reach areas.

6. A cup of water

Lastly, a simple cup of water can help with the last steps of achieving a shiny finish.

 How to polish your shoes 

Step 1. Prepare your space 

First, gather your materials together and cover the surface you’ll be working on with an old towel or newspaper, as the shoe-shining process can get a bit messy.

Step 2. Remove laces (if you have them) from your shoes 

Next, removing the shoelaces from your shoes to prevent getting polish on them.

Step 3. Stuff your shoe with paper 

Stuffing your shoe with paper can give you a firmer surface to work on, while protecting the inside of your shoe. 

Step 4. Use a dry brush to clean of dust and dirt 

Use a brush to remove excess dirt. If you’re struggling to get into small spaces,  use the welt brush with a touch of water. If your shoes have absorbed some salt from the winter, add a teaspoon of white vinegar into a cup of warm water and use a cloth to dab away any salt or stains before shining. (Remember to clean your welt brush and allow your shoes to dry after this step.) 

Pause and check 

Give your shoes a good inspection before moving onto the next step as any remaining dirt can scratch your leather when shining. We recommend a thorough wipe with a clean dry rag. 

Step 5. Apply polish

Next, add a small amount of your prefered polish to your polishing cloth. We recommend applying a small test patch to a discrete area of the shoe first. When you are happy with the polish, using circular movements, apply light pressure and spread the polish evenly over your shoe. Continue with this until your shoe looks fully covered. Use the welt brush (or toothbrush) to apply polish to the heel, welt or other smaller surfaces areas.

Step 6. Allow the polish to dry for 10 minutes

Before wiping your polish off, allow it to dry on your shoes for approximately 10 minutes.

Step 7. Buff your shoes 

After 10 minutes, use your horsehair buffing brush to buff your shoe with side to side movement. This is when you should start to see the shine coming through.

Step 8. Wipe off excess wax 

Take your rag and evenly wipe off any excess wax. Wait another 10 minutes before moving onto the next step. 

Step 9: Spit-shine

An optional step is a signature ‘spit shine’ finish. Use your finger to place a droplet of water on your shoe and rub in fast small circles to create a high shine. 

Step 10: Dry and re-lace 

Allow your shoes to dry for 15-20 minutes. Once they are completely dry, re-lace your shoes and you are good to go!                        


  • If you wear your shoes on a regular basis, we recommend polishing them once a week. If you only wear your shoes occasionally (at formal events, for example) we suggest polishing them once a month or the night before you wear them. 
  • Applying water and stain protectors on a regular basis can further protect your shoe shine. 
  • If your leather shoes have really died out or are damaged or scuffed, you can try a shoe conditioner to nurse them back to health. 

Shoe care 

Once you’ve found the perfect pair of high-quality shoes, you’re going to want to keep good care of them. The best shoe care routine involves more than just regularly cleaning your shoes – read on to brush up on your shoe care knowledge and the best tips for keeping your shoes in tip-top condition.

Putting shoes on and taking shoes off 

This may seem like a simple task, however, a careless approach to the removal of your shoes can damage your shoes and diminish their lifespan. A careless approach comes in the form of removing shoes by dipping your toe of one of the shoes into the heel of the other and forcing your feet free. This damages the stability of the shoe and the formation of the heel seam and results in a worn-out shaft.

Premium shoes deserve premium care, the best way to take your shoes on and off and prevent this damage is loosening your laces as much as possible then using a shoehorn to remove the shoe from your foot. Shoehorns are available in metal, wood or synthetic material, whichever you choose is totally up to personal preference. When choosing a shoehorn you need take note of stability, ergonomic shape and a lack of sharp edges.

Breaks from wear

Over the course of the day moisture build-up, warmth and general wear tear cause your shoe to lose its form. While we all have a favourite pair of shoes we are tempted to wear again and again, breaks between wear can allow your shoes to air out and refresh. Constant wear can result in loss of stability, stretches and tears. Sounds like the perfect excuse for more shoes to us! 

Caring for your shoes 

Proper shoe care replenishes the oils and fats to the leather and protects and nourishes your shoes. Although you should brush off access dirt after each wear, to preserve a sophisticated appearance, it is recommended to clean your men’s shoes once every two or three weeks. Nevertheless, if your shoes have been subject to bad weather (damp or cold), they could be suffering from strain and therefore need to be cleaned and polished more often. 

Here at Moda in Pelle, our shoes arrive in immaculate condition and we want to help you keep them this way. Caring for your men’s shoes with these simple steps can go a long way in maintaining super shiny and sophisticated men’s shoes ready for any occasion.     

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