Leather shoes can start peeling and cracking over time with wear and tear. The constant bending and creasing of the leather causes it to break down and split. Fortunately, there are several methods you can use to repair peeling leather shoes and restore them to look like new again.
First, examine the shoes to see how extensive the peeling and cracking is. Look to see if it is just a small section or the entire shoe. Peeling is often found around the toes and sides where the most bending occurs. Also check if the peeling has gone through all layers of leather or if it is just superficial on the top finish layer.
Clean and Condition
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Before repairing, clean the shoe thoroughly with saddle soap and water to remove any dirt and buildup. Then apply a leather conditioner to soften and rehydrate the leather. Massage it into the cracked areas. This will make the leather more pliable for the repair steps. Conditioner also prevents further peeling by keeping the leather supple.
For minor peeling, you can simply use a flexible leather or shoe adhesive. Look for one designed specifically for shoes and leather repair. Apply a thin layer into the cracked seam using a small spatula or brush. Press the edges back down smoothly. Clamp if needed to hold in place until the adhesive dries.
For deeper cracks and peeling areas, a filler material can rebuild the missing leather layers. Leather filler comes in compounds you mix and spreadable putties. Spread a thin coat over the entire crack and smooth off flush with the rest of the shoe. Let it fully cure overnight before wearing again. The filler creates a new base to adhere the peeling edges.
Seal and Paint
Once the adhesive or filler has dried, further seal and blend the repair by applying a matching shoe polish in light coats. Use fine grit sandpaper to gently buff the area smooth. Finish by applying polish sealer spray to protect the repair and give shoes a uniform appearance again.
Repair Peeling Soles
If the sole is peeling away from the upper leather, use rubber sole cement to re-bond it. Thoroughly clean and roughen the areas first to help the cement adhere. Apply cement to both surfaces and let dry slightly before pressing back together firmly for several minutes. Weight it down until the bond sets.
Prevent Further Damage
To help prevent future peeling and extend the life of leather shoes, use shoe trees to hold the shape when not worn. Rotate shoes between wears and avoid wearing the same pair two days in a row. Regularly clean and condition leather shoes to keep supple and conditioned. Store shoes away from direct heat and sunlight which can dry out and damage leather. With proper care and maintenance, quality leather shoes can last for years.