Caring for Minimal Footwear

If you've had your CEM minimal shoes for a few months now, it may be time for a little TLC. Let's take a look at how to take care of your minimal shoes in order to enhance their appearance and lastingness.


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How Long Do Minimal Shoes Last?

Why Don't They Last Even Longer?

General Maintenance

Fabric Care

Leather Care

Suede Care

When In Doubt


How Long Do Minimal Shoes Last?

Of course that depends on how often you wear them! A special events or activities shoe will of course see more years of use compared to a set of sneakers you wear everyday, or a pair of work shoes you wear all week.

Running shoes used regularly for running are usually the fastest to wear out as we demand more of them compared to the same shoe used for walking. Runners often replace a pair of their running shoes around once a year or even more frequently.

In general, we expect shoes used often for casual wear to last a few years, and the brands we carry have service policies reflecting this, such as 2 year protection against defects etc.


Why Don't They Last Even Longer?

Minimal shoes are made to move! Brands that offer decades of use with their models use materials that last a long time, but they don't enhance your movement, in fact they usually have firm inflexible soles that inhibit natural movement. Part of why some stiff soled shoes last so long is that there are layers in the sole made of wood or metal such as a shank. 

Shoes designed to be re-soled after a few years need more layers of material between your foot and the ground in order to be able to remove the sole and add a new one. Minimal shoes have as little between you and the ground as possible, and so unfortunately they are not candidates for re-soling in most cases. Vivo has a program called Revivo that is starting to remodel shoes but it is not yet available globally.

Furthermore, minimal shoes are made to be used up. A shoe you've worn frequently over two years will show your personal wear patterns based on the way you tend to move. Once you've worn down the sole enough, you are not going to be level with the ground anymore, and that will start to affect the way you move. At that point, it's a good time to replace them.

For more information on wear patterns, how they affect movement, and how long minimal shoes last, you can see Katy Bowman's excellent article here!


 Xero Denver men's water resistant and warm cold weather boot


General Maintenance

The best way to get your money's worth out of your minimal shoes is to take good care of them and use them for their intended purposes: a running shoe is not designed to be a winter boot and vice versa!

If you are someone who finds a model you like and sticks with it all year round for everything, that's perfectly fine too. You will just need to replace your favourites a little sooner.

General maintenance for the shoes we carry is simple:

  • By the door, keep a stiff brush for dried mud and a spray bottle and rag to spot clean or wipe off the soles. We recommend a dash of mild soap (like dish soap) and water for spot cleaning.
  • If your don't wear socks in your shoes or if they're smelling less than fresh, you can hand wash your insoles as often as once a month, or just as needed. Lay flat to dry. Avoid rubbing them to wash, patting is best for foam (or gently squeeze them, they're like a sponge).
  • Road salt is very drying and can damage almost any fabric or natural material. A bit of vinegar mixed with at least the same amount of water will remove road salt. Apply to a rag and wipe the salt off, or use a soft brush as needed.


Fabric Care



If your shoes are washable, we recommend hand washing them in cool water with mild detergent, and laying flat to dry. Once a year is plenty.

Machine washing is rougher on your shoes and it can break down glues used in production, but if you're in a tight spot it is possible. Minimize wear through washing by placing your fabric shoes in a laundry bag in the machine, and setting the machine on a cold gentle or handwashing cycle. Lay flat to dry.

Many of our fabric based footwear has a natural water resistance or has a product applied during manufacturing to enhance water resistance. Over time it's a good idea to apply a water resistance product to maintain these qualities. You can apply a water resistance product once every three months and more frequently in winter. Ask you shoe repair service, outdoor goods store, or hardware store for a recommendation.

Maintaining the water resistance will also help keep your shoes resistant to dirt and stains so they look neat and clean. Xero Shoes recommends the Scotchgard brand, or for a natural alternative, beeswax. Beeswax can change the finish however, and it does not work as well for keeping your shoes clean and tidy looking as dust may stick to it.


Leather Care



The minimum that we recommend to get the most out of your leather footwear is to remove road salt as often as possible as described above, and to use a leather conditioning and protecting product on them to restore moisture to the leather afterwards and keep it there. Keep your leather way from heat sources such as radiators, vents, etc as those are drying, too.

When it comes to choosing products, take a look at your footwear to see what it needs: the Weathered Umber Boulder Boots have an oiled finish, so oil based and other matte-leaning products will maintain the finish. The Shadow colourway for the same model however is shiny, so you may want a leather polishing product to maintain that finish instead.

Of course there is an art to maintaining leather, and you can definitely dig yourself in to the world with various tools and products such as the variety of available brushes, cloths, cleaners, conditioners, protectors, shine, mattifying, colour application etc.

A great tip for value is to find a tack shop in your area for leather care. Tack shops deal in goods for horseback riders, and thus carry leather care at bulk quantities and prices. They can walk you through how to use their products as well.

Other sources for leather care tools and products include shoe repair businesses and online. There's a wide range of products from fully synthetic to completely from nature and everything in between, so make sure you're comfortable with the ingredients before you purchase. You can usually find leather care items at regular shoe stores, but they are often priced at a premium. Lems recommends Otter Wax and Nikwax brands, and we've had success with Dr. Martens care products too.


Suede Care


 Lems Chukka in Sandstone Suede


Myth busting time: water is unlikely to stain your suede shoes! Mud, coffee, or wine may stain them but it's not the end of the world as suede cleaners exist to help in case of accidents and unplanned adventures.

Use a suede cleaner as directed, then use a suede brush to lift the fibers into their standing position, and finish up with a coat of suede protector spray. If you don't have a suede brush, a clean nail brush will do the trick.

We learned about suede care from historical shoemaker American Duchess. Though their shoes are not minimal, we love their step by step instructions for leather care with a video on leather and suede care. They also include product recommendations.


When in Doubt

If you're not sure what to use or where to get it, we're happy to help. Feel free to contact us by email. Our expertise in this area only goes so far, however, so you may want to consult an expert such as a shoe shining service, a shoe repair service, or a business that specializes in leather care. This way you can support a local business while getting recommendations from someone working in their wheelhouse.

Of course, if you are strapped for time but not for cash, they'll be happy to do your maintenance for you. It really does make a big difference to maintain your shoes, whether by hand or by hire, and we're certain you'll feel anticipation and excitement to wear your recently zhuzhed up footwear for your next outing.