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Avoiding the Ruined Shoes Blues

August 20, 1993|JANICE L. JONES

"Well, you can knock me down, step in my face, slander my name all over the place; do anything that you want to do, but uh-uh, honey, lay off of my shoes; don't you step on my blue suede shoes."--Elvis Presley classic by Carl Lee Perkins You spotted them in the mall, all spiffy and new. You tried them on, and they fit perfectly, but doubts crept in over such an extravagant purchase. Finally, after days of rationalization and Angst , you gave in. But uh-oh, here comes a klutz, treading heavily upon your new shoes, leaving an unsightly scuff.

Damage to a new or favorite pair of shoes is enough to burst any shoe buff's bubble.Fortunately, an experienced repair shop such as Anthony's Custom Shoe Repair, in business in Orange County since 1946, can restore damaged shoes to practically new. But even Greg Sermabeikian, owner of the shop's 10 locations, admits that his skilled repairmen can't work miracles. Some shoes, especially those made of porous leathers such as nubuck or suede, can be permanently damaged by water, grease or klutzes.

"We love it when we are able to save someone's favorite shoes, but sometimes there's just no hope," said Sermabeikian, who offers these words of comfort and advice to shoe lovers.

Starting Off on the Right Foot * Invest in quality shoes: Don't feel guilty about spending extra for a good pair of shoes. Quality leather is more comfortable and lasts longer than imitation materials, which can't be repaired. * Protect new shoes before wearing: Apply spray-on stain-and-water protectant ($5.75) to repel moisture and stains that seep in and discolor shoe leather. * Use cedar shoe trees: Shoes absorb sweat and become damp even on dry days. After wearing, insert shoe tree ($17-$20) to absorb moisture, help shoes retain their shape and eliminate odors. Plastic ones are acceptable only for travel. * Protect from uneven wear: If you wear down your shoes faster on one side than another, have a shoe shop attach a protective plate ($2.50) on the area of the sole or heel that wears fastest. This can prolong the life of the shoe by several years. * Resole early: Don't throw out that favorite pair of shoes. Have it resoled ($25.25-$46.75) or get a new heel ($5-$7). But it's best not to wait until a hole appears. A small indentation that can be felt with the thumb through the bottom of the sole means it's time to resole before uneven wear interferes with the structure of the shoe.

Condition Shoes Regularly * Never polish dirty shoes: Wipe dirt off with a moist cloth and apply leather cleaner and conditioner before polishing ($5.75). There are different kinds of cleaners and conditioners formulated for natural and dyed leathers. * Keep the leather supple: Avoid polishes that contain wax, which coats the leather and interferes with its ability to breathe. Waxy polish will dry out leather over time. Sermabeikian recommends Meltonian Polish ($2.95).

Spit and Polish 1. Apply polish to one shoe with applicator brush. Let it soak while you apply polish to the other shoe. 2. Wrap corner of a clean cloth around your first and second fingers. Twist rest of the rag into a coil to tighten cloth around your fingers. Hold end of coil in the palm of your hand. 3. Dab coiled cloth along surface of the polish in the can. 4. Rub polish into the toe with a circular motion. When the cloth drags against the shoe, moisten the cloth with a few drops of water or saliva and rub the area again. (This is how the term "spit and polish" found its way into the dictionary and is often used to describe ceremonial formality and military precision.) Add more polish, a tiny bit at a time, to the rag, and spit-and-polish each section of the shoe. 5. Lightly buff polished shoe with brush. Don't scrub at it or you'll reduce the shine. 6. Rub each shoe briskly with a chamois leather or a clean, soft cloth.

Cleaning Suede Shoes Treat before first wearing with stain and water protectant. Routine cleaning will keep them looking new. For a quick spot treatment, try using a pumice-like stone ($7.95) to erase food or grease stains. If this fails, take them immediately to a shoe repair shop for professional attention. 1. Spray outside of shoes with suede cleaner ($5.75); it comes in a kit with a wire cleaning brush. 2. After cleaner dries to a powder, brush it off lightly with the cleaning brush, using circular motions from toe to heel to bring up the nap. 3. Apply fresh coat of protectant.

Reptile Boots and Shoes These tend to dry out quicker than leather, and the scales tend to flake, making your expensive country-line-dancing footwear appear frazzled before its time. Condition and clean regularly with Propert's spray ($6.75).

Patent Leather Shoes These can become dull but are easily rejuvenated. Patent leather cleaner and conditioner ($5.25 each) remove dirt, scuffs and film. Shiny surface bounces right back.

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