As you wear your shoes, they naturally crease and age over time. Any pair of shoes will eventually crease and wear out. However, there are ways to make your sneakers last longer, too, and prevent creases from forming early on.
If you’re planning to wear your shoes with any regularity, they will eventually crease or become threadbare. However, the things you can do to prevent this, how fast they’ll wear out, and where the creases will form varies by the shape, size, and material of the shoe. In the following sections, we’ll go over the reasons why shoes wrinkle, what you can expect from your shoes, and what you can do to keep creases at bay.
Why Do Shoes Crease?
Think about the anatomy of a foot. Your feet bend in many places, such as:
- The balls of your feet
- Your ankles
- Your toe joints
However, while the material of your shoes can stretch and bend, they’re not meant to flex repeatedly as your feet are. Over time, the fabric of your shoes can crease and break around high-stress areas.
Some materials are more flexible than others. Leather, for example, is an extraordinarily long-wearing and flexible material if cared for properly, but it tends to compress over time. When you bend your feet or toes repeatedly by walking in leather shoes, those areas tend to show wear.
However, different materials tend to react to this treatment differently. Cloth, for example, tends to fold rather than compress when you walk in it. As such, most cloth shoes won’t show creases and wrinkles until they begin to come apart at those stress zones.
Typically, leather shoes are the first to show creasing, but it all depends on the material of your shoes. If you know whether your shoes are prone to creasing or not, you can plan ahead to treat it!
How to Prevent Creasing in Shoes?
There’s a host of different things you can do to keep your shoes in tip-top, wrinkle-free shape. We’ll go over several methods for how to prevent creasing in shoes in the sections below.
It’s unavoidable that wearing your shoes will cause them to age (and crease). Unlike our skin, which is continually getting replaced by new cells, shoes have a finite lifetime. If you wear them, they will eventually crease and otherwise, wear out. However, you can prolong your sneakers’ lifetime by alternating them with a different pair.
By wearing several different pairs of shoes instead of the same one every day, your boots get time to air out between uses, and the materials get a chance to return to its original shape.
Believe it or not, storing your shoes the right way is just as important as wearing them correctly. Depending on how elaborate your footwear is, they may not be able to support themselves by their own weight. Think boots, high tops, and strappy sandals, for example.
Regardless of whether your shoes are tall, heavy, or otherwise, they can benefit from the use of a shoe tree. A shoe tree helps a boot to keep its shape in storage so that it doesn’t sag or collapse over time. If your shoes are big or tall, you may want extra supports for them, too.
The container in which you store your footwear matters, too. If your shoes are even slightly wet or sweaty when you put them into storage, for example, don’t put them in an airtight container! If you store a dampened object in a box or place that doesn’t breathe, you run the risk of mold forming on the object. This goes for both the exterior and the interior of shoes.
Even something as simple as storing shoes with sweaty soles in an airtight bag can prompt the formation of mold, bacteria, or even fungus. Additionally, some shoe materials, such as leather, should never be stored in an airtight container.
The environment in which your store your shoes can also make a difference in the life of the shoe. Freezing and hot temperatures, for example, can have varied (and harmful) effects on different shoe materials. Freezing temperatures tend to crack and shatter leather, for example, especially if it’s wet beforehand. Never leave leather or faux-leather shoes in a freezing building or vehicle!
In the same way, high heat can melt some of the parts of other shoes. Rubber-soled shoes, for example, are prone to burning at high temperatures, and some other materials and adhesives can actually melt. The best place to store your shoes is a regulated, room-temperature environment such as your home.
Clean Your Shoes
Cleaning your shoes properly is one of the best ways to prevent creasing and other damage in your shoes. When you don’t clean your shoes regularly, dirt and other particles can find their way in between seams, stitches, and other prone areas, leading to unnecessary wrinkling, wear, and aging. This is especially true for shoes that are especially prone to creases, such as leather or faux-leather shoes.
Cleaning your shoes is easy, but you will always want to base your cleaning methods on the type of shoe that you’re working with. Some cloth and synthetic shoes, for example, are sturdy and safe enough to put through your clothes washer. Other, more fragile shoes, such as leather and dress shoes, should never get this type of treatment.
Some other methods you can use to clean your shoes are:
- Spot cleaning with vinegar and water
- Scrubbing with mild dish soap or detergent
- A commercial shoe-cleaning spray
- A simple deodorization with disinfectant or baking soda
Shoes that are clean, dry, and well cared for tend to hold up to the elements better. If you have a favorite pair that you’d like to get many years of use out of, you should plan to clean them whenever they start to show soilage.
Protect Your Shoes
Protecting your shoes from creasing is not only possible but advised. There’s no way to hold off creasing and aging forever unless you don’t plan to wear your sneakers, but there are ways to hold off the onset of wrinkling and chafing. One method of doing this is to invest in a shoe-protecting spray or wax.
Many different solutions exist on the market today that will protect your shoes from both internal damage and the outside elements. For leather shoes, in particular, it’s common to invest in a shoe polish or shoe wax to help water bead up and slide off of the shoes. A leather conditioner also helps to keep leather shoes supple and flexible, delaying the onset of any wrinkles or tears.
For cloth and other materials, your options for how to prevent creasing in shoes are a bit more limited, but you still have several options to choose from. Wax is okay to use on several types of cloth to prevent water penetration, and manufacturers also sell different sprays and creams that can protect cloth materials from wear and tear.
There are some varieties of shoe tools that you can use to help your shoes maintain their shape and integrity longer. Shoehorns, for example, are a small, slide-like tool used to help get your boot on without denting the heel. A shoehorn is excellent for getting your shoes on when you’re in a rush, or for shoes that fit just a little too tightly, as it will prevent the shoe heel from getting crushed as you put the footwear on.
“Sneaker Shields” is another option for those who are concerned about shoe creasing, especially in the toe area. Sneakers, as the name implies, are especially vulnerable to creasing here, and Sneaker Shields (and similar products) were thus created to solve this problem.
These inventions work by fortifying the toe area of the sneakers where creases tend to form most readily. You cut them to fit your feet (and your shoe), insert them into your sneakers, and the shields will do the rest. The vast majority of them prevent this part of your boot from bending, so while you may have to walk a bit differently, your beloved sneakers will look no worse for the wear.
Sneaker Shields aren’t just for sneakers, either, although sneakers are some of the shoes most commonly affected by toe wrinkles. Sneaker shields also exist for other footwear, such as:
- Athletic shoes
- Hiking boots
- Winter boots
Sneaker Shields come in several different shapes, sizes, and rigidities, too, so there is an option out there for just about every shoe that needs extra toe protection.
The way your shoe fit affects the way that they crease, too. When your shoes fit your feet properly, for example, your shoes will crease in places that they are meant to crease. However, if you purchase shoes that are too large or too small for your feet, you may end up putting stress on areas of your shoes that are not prepared to handle that stress. This can result in excessive and unsightly creasing.
Whenever possible, do your best to purchase and wear shoes that fit your feet well. When this isn’t possible, you may need to invest in some other methods of reinforcing your footwear, such as the Sneaker Shields we mentioned above.
Read Also: How to Make Big Shoes Fit
Breaking in Shoes
Certain shoe materials require a short break-in period before they will conform to your feet properly. Leather is a notorious example of this, but some more rigid cloth shoes may be culprits as well. This break-in period is a time when shoes are particularly vulnerable to creasing.
For leather shoes, keeping the leather well-oiled and conditioned during this break-in period is essential. However, for cloth and synthetic shoes, you may not have any options for conditioning them. A supportive insert can help protect your footwear from ever breaking in in problem areas, or you can try to get the wrinkles out later on.
Treating Wrinkles in Shoes
When you can’t prevent wrinkles in shoes, the next best thing is to treat them after they happen. While this isn’t possible for every type of shoe, some types of shoes are particularly accommodating to wrinkle removal. Leather is one of these types, while cloth can be much more difficult.
There are several methods out there you can use to treat existing wrinkles in shoes, such as:
- Ironing (or other heat sources, such as a hairdryer or heat gun)
- Shoe shapers
- Conditioning oil
- Rubbing alcohol
Perhaps you brought home a pair of well-worn leather shoes from the thrift store, or maybe you forgot to wear your supportive inserts in your sneakers for a day. Whatever the case may be, with a little luck, you should be able to remove (or at least lessen) these wrinkles with these strategies.
Steam Your Shoes
Steaming your shoes is the classic (and most effective) way to get wrinkles out of them. Steaming works for many varieties of shoes, including leather and cloth. However, the addition of heat through ironing is an even more effective method of decreasing your footwear.
Steaming your shoes is quite easy. If you have a real steamer with an appropriately-sized attachment, that will work best for steaming your footwear, but a tea kettle can also create enough steam in a pinch.
In all situations – whether using an iron, a steamer, or a tea kettle – make sure to first stuff your shoes with a filler material until they’ve stretched to their original shape. They will need this internal support as the steam relaxes the fibers of the shoe.
Once your shoes are stuffed and ready to go, use your preferred steaming method. For iron, you will want to first cover the wrinkled area of the shoe with a damp cloth to protect it from the heat of the metal itself, and keep the heat on low. For steamers and tea kettles, simply direct the steam towards the wrinkly areas until they seem to disappear.
Once you finish this step, stuff your shoes with even more filler material, if you can. This will stretch the creased fibers of your shoes while they’re relaxed, and as they dry, your boots should retain their new shape.
Be aware that some materials will react to this method of wrinkle removal differently than others. While leather tends to respond to steaming very well, you must also be careful both not to saturate your shoes and not to damage them with the heat, for example.
Use Shoe Shapers
Shoe shapers are extremely useful for removing (and preventing) wrinkles in your shoes. The Sneaker Shields we talked about before is a type of shoe shaper, and shoe trees are another type. Shoe shapers work wonders during the actual drying process of steamed shoes, and they’re excellent for passively removing wrinkles, too.
If you leave a pair of shoe shapers inside of your shoes after wearing them, they will help the shoes return to the shape they held before being used. Since the fibers in your boots will reform themselves as they sit after you’ve worn them, it’s best to have a mold in place to make sure your shoes rebuild correctly.
Conditioning Your Shoes
Certain shoe materials, like leather, do well with routine conditioning that keeps them in tip-top shape. Since genuine leather is made from animal skins, it tends to dehydrate over time without any way to self-regulate. As such, just adding a bit of leather conditioner to a pair of cracked, wrinkled leather shoes can work wonders on them.
While working with a shoe conditioner, make sure to thoroughly massage it into the material of the shoe as you work. This will both loosen up the fibers of the leather or cloth and get the conditioner deeper inside. When you finish, let your shoes sit with shoe trees or another filler material stuffed inside of them. This will make it so as your shoes’ fibers reform, they will do so in the shape you’re looking for.
Rubbing alcohol can be used to much the same effect on a pair of leather shoes, but only turn to it in emergencies! Rubbing alcohol is very drying to leather shoes, and while it will cause the fibers of your shoes to relax and reform, it will dry them out in the process, too. As such, after using rubbing alcohol on your shoes’ wrinkles, make sure to go over them with a suitable leather conditioner, also.
In the end, knowing how to prevent creasing in shoes is all about knowing how you walk, what your shoes are made of, and how to care for your shoes. Different materials require different kinds of care to keep them un-wrinkled. Some materials withstand wrinkling well with proper care, while others you can’t do much about.
Any pair of shoes will eventually form wrinkles, peels, and other imperfections that show the age of the shoe. However, when those imperfections form is based on two things: the material of your shoes, and how you care for those shoes. As long as you have reasonable expectations and a firm grasp of how to bring the best out of your shoes, they will surely provide you with years of good use before they wear out!