The ultimate guide to dealing with scuffed shoes

March 21, 2023

The ultimate guide to dealing with scuffed shoes

It’s an experience we’ve all dreaded and which comes to seemingly everyone eventually: You have a favorite pair of shoes that you adore completely. You find yourself, if able, wearing them more often while other footwear accrues dust. 

Then, sudden tragedy strikes: One day, you notice a scuff that’s larger than a scratch and easily noticeable. From here, there are two main options when it comes to ways of dealing with these.

The first option is to simply bear it. After all, it’s just a scuff, and it may not be all that noticeable. However, this is not an article about ignoring scuffs on your shoes and going about your daily life.

Below, we are going to be exploring a variety of ways to care for scuffed shoes of different materials. 

Part 1: Preventive measures

The first step in fixing scuffed shoes is to take preventive measures to stop them from getting scuffed initially. Scuff prevention is mainly a concern with leather products, given their longevity and care process. Some steps involved in leather care are added bonuses, whereas others are essential in keeping your footwear gorgeous.

To start, use a leather cleaner on your shoes. Dab gently, and test it out beforehand so that you don’t end up adding scuffs of your own. From there, you can use a leather conditioner to soften and enhance the glisten of your footwear. 

Take a rag and use it to apply a like-colored shoe polish on your pieces, rubbing in small, gentle circular motions. If you’d like, this can be your final step in prevention. If you want something more extensive, you can introduce shoe wax. 

Wax is applied similarly to polish, the difference being that it is a faster process. Waxing is always going to be your last step. While polish can restore its appearance, waxing your shoes is the last layer of protection against future damage. 

Nubuck and suede are both sensitive materials and can benefit from protective sprays. These won’t waterproof them fully, but they can at least bolster their resistance.

With upper materials like canvas, mesh, or other fabrics, scuff protection isn’t necessary. However, it is still essential to know how to eliminate them and other stains when they occur. 

Part 2: Identifying the damage

The first step is checking your shoes overall. While dealing with scuff marks, it may be smart to clean them in general. Additionally, while trying any new method of cleaning shoes, it’s critical to test them first. 

Knowing the type of damage is also important. A scuff is different from discoloration or damage caused by water. In the case of leathers, water damage happens when water binds to oil molecules in the shoe

These oils start to evaporate when the water they are contacted with evaporates. The end result, over time, is leather that slowly becomes dry and cracked. When this happens, special creams can be applied in a bid to restore the appearance of the shoe. Sometimes, water damage can become irreversible, especially if not treated quickly. 

When it comes to scuffs, there are both major and minor ones to be dealt with. Minor scuffs are tiny discolorations, small black streaks, and other easily solved problems. When we discuss major scuffs, we begin to enter a world where greater measures need to be taken. 

We’ll cover those later, but for now, gather your shoes. Feel free to take your laces off to ensure a better clean. Or, if you choose laceless shoes like Kiziks, just slip them off — totally hands-free. 

Part 3a: Restoring your canvas or fabric shoes

Canvas and fabric aren’t as sensitive when it comes to the application of various scuff treatments. 

The baking soda method

One of the fastest treatments involves a cloth, some baking soda, and a little bit of warm water. To start, pour a small amount of baking soda, a tablespoon or so, into a small glass of water. Stir until the soda dissolves and begins to coagulate slightly within the water.

Once the concoction is complete, apply a small amount to scuff marks. Then, rub the spot with a clean cloth to remove the baking soda. The reason baking soda cleans so well comes down to its chemical yet gentle abrasive properties.

The eraser method

Another method that’s faster but requires something outside regular household products is to use an eraser. White erasers specifically have the ability to remove scuffs without leaving as much visible matter behind. Simply run it lightly over scuffs and markings, and see if they disappear. 

 If neither of these methods appears to be working at all, you could also attempt to wash your shoes. This can help get rid not only of scuffs but of general dirt and grime built up from regular use. Even formerly white shoes can potentially be restored with a thorough washing. 

If you choose to handwash your shoes, put a little bit of mild detergent in a cup of water. Then, dip a brush — even an old toothbrush will do — and rub it over your shoes. 

Some footwear is machine washable, but if you take this route, be careful. Small decorations on shoes can be vulnerable, and there are also risks with heat and certain detergents. Overall though, restoring canvas and fabric shoes is easy to do at home. 

Part 3b: Restoring your leather shoes

Restoring leather goods can prove to be more challenging, owing to the risks involved. If improperly done, you can wind up doing more harm than good to your piece. Whatever you do or the method you choose to employ, try to err on the side of caution. 

First, we’ll highlight how to deal with light scuffs on leather shoes. To begin, as if you were doing a standard cleaning, apply the leather cleaner to the shoe. 

From here, although somewhat unconventional, you’ll want to apply some heat to your shoes. Consider a hair drier or a warm, dry cloth. You want to introduce a little bit of warmth without scalding your shoes. 

Just as heat expands pores, it also makes the leather material of your footwear easier to work with. From here, you’ll want to rub in circles to try and make the uniform with the rest of the shoe.

If the scuff is still present, then leather balm can be applied. Balm is a type of conditioner specifically made to help restore damaged leather. You don’t want to use it unless you have to, but it can bring new life to shoes. 

Once this step has been completed, apply your favorite polish and wax to protect the work you’ve just done.

Part 3c: Protecting suede in case of emergencies

Suede is the most delicate material on this list. This comes from its material: the nap of suede is made from a variety of minute, hair-like fibers. They are numerous but quite fragile. Even rubbing suede too hard can cause permanent damage.

When the bristles are exposed to water, they become brittle and easily broken. Suddenly, a scuff turns into a permanent stain on your shoes. In order to treat suede, you should have a suede brush. Suede repair kits also often come with some form of a rubber eraser. 

First, run the brush over the scuff mark, and we cannot emphasize this enough - gently. Especially if the suede gets wet and then drys out, it’ll be more fragile than before.

A side note: If your suede does get wet, try your best to dry it. Dab gently at the wet spot (but do not rub), and stick newspapers in your shoes. These steps will passively, but not aggressively, reduce the damage to your suede. 

The goal is to restore the suede until you reach a point where the nap appears to be uniform. If the brush does not do the job, then you can gently rub the eraser over the mark. With luck, it will be restored to its former beauty. 

Suede is protected through sprays rather than the creams and conditioners of leather footwear. However, even these can accidentally saturate your suede. For optimal protection, don’t linger with it. Keep the spray constantly in motion so that the shoe is lightly spritzed.

Part 4: Enjoying your newly restored shoes

Once your footwear is renewed and protected from future mishaps, there’s nothing left to do but wear them out. Balancing preventive and curative measures is important. When it comes to more fragile materials, repeated treatments will eventually leave them worn out. To keep your shoes truly looking their best, use protectants regularly, but only spot-clean as needed.

Now that you know how to manage the most common types of footwear fabrics, you can care for any footwear. At Kizik, this means enjoying everything from our environmentally-friendly Madrid Eco-Knit to our sleek, leather Vegas. Don’t dread a new scuff–be confident in knowing exactly what to do. 


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Written By: Chris Fry

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