Quick Tip: Caring for aging dance shoes

You know, no matter how many pairs of shoes I try on, drool over, and sometimes buy, I still tend to go back to my oldest pair of dance shoes. They’re worn, they’re scuffed up, their soles are coming apart, the heel tips are worn way down, they lost their shine long ago and the once flesh-toned satin is now looking more like a dull greyish beige, but they’re still the first pair I reach for whenever I go out. Why? Because after all these years, they fit like a glove, they don’t pinch or rub my toes, and I can dance in them for hours without foot pain. That, my friends, is the beauty of the perfect pair of dance shoes – they get better with age, and you will want to wear them until the last bit of suede is disintegrated by a stiff gust of wind.

In honour of my favourite shoes, this week’s Quick Tip is all about extending the life of your dance shoes:

  1. Dance shoes are for the dance floor. Wearing your dance shoes off the dance floor is the quickest way to ruin them. Dirt, liquids, gum and the uneven surface of a normal street all break down the suede and the thin sole of a dance shoe, so save your good shoes for good floors.
  2. Brush your soles regularly to keep the suede in good shape, but don’t over-brush. Regular brushing not only revives the nap, it also gets dirt and dust off your soles, which keeps them in good condition. However, over-brushing your soles will make the suede wear out faster than normal, so try to find a good balance.
  3. Clean and maintain your shoes regularly. Every month or so, give your shoes some TLC. For shoes with leather uppers, take a bit of hand cream and a buff it into the leather with a soft cloth – this will both clean and condition the leather. Satin is trickier, as are most fabric uppers, but you can find a few good options here – whichever one you choose, always use water/cleaners in moderation, and clean gently, respecting the weave of the fabric. For patent leather, glass cleaner works wonders – spray some on a soft cloth, rub any spots that need cleaning, then wipe the whole shoe with a clean cloth.
  4. Shoe deodorizer. Just trust me on this one. Keep one in your shoe bag or wherever your store your shoes. Your nose will thank you.
  5. Check your heels regularly, and replace heel tips as needed. In theory, our heels aren’t really meant to be touching the ground much when we’re dancing, but in reality, heel tips get worn out over time. On top of that, some of us tend to step on one side of our heels, wearing them down unevenly. Check your heel tips and if they look like they’ve seen better days, take them to any shoe repair shop; they’ll be able to replace your heel tips fairly inexpensively.
  6. Find a good shoe-repair shop for bigger repairs. Sometimes, suede soles wear out from years of dancing and brushing, or get destroyed by stepping in spilled beer, and you need replacement soles. Other times, parts of your shoes might come unglued over the years and will need to be put back together, or a strap might give up on life and break off and need to be sewn back on. None of these things need to mark the death of your shoes – a good shoe wizard will be able to fix these hiccups with his/her magical shoe surgery skills. (Yes, I’m quite in awe of my shoe repair guy, who rescued some of my worst injured footwear over the years.) Unfortunately, shoe repair places that have no experience dealing with the particular construction of dance shoes can make things worse instead of making them better, but finding a cobbler who knows dance shoes can significantly extend the life of your shoes. I recommend Merhi Quality Shoe Repair, located in the 240 Sparks Street mall.
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