Few things are worse for footwear than the salt — those white salt marks aren’t only ugly, they eat the leather away, drying it, cracking it, and damaging it. But it’s not only the salt put down to de-ice winter sidewalks and roadways that’s the problem. Rex Streno, owner of Ullrich’s Shoe Repair, explains:
Salt doesn’t come from the road. Salt comes from the leather itself. The leather is tanned with salt. When it gets soaking wet, the salt rises to the top of the shoe. That’s how you get the salt stains. The salt is in the lining, and it’s in the leather.
(In that article, Streno gives general tips for shoe care and repair — but again I remind you to please consult a shoe repair person experienced in vintage shoes before you agree to any services.)
Because tanning methods, ancient and modern, used salt, it’s likely your vintage leather shoes were tanned with salt. And ‘weather’ or not you fear winter’s salt or the salt already in your shoes which will be brought out from snow (or rain) — or if your town uses sand for traction rather than salt to melt away ice, your vintage shoes and boots are also at risk as sand grinds it’s way into soles, seams, and uppers — it is time to think about how to protect your shoes.
The best way to protect your footwear is to not wear it outside and tempt the fates and weather systems. Slip off those vintage darlings and slip your feet into some cold weather boots. Not only will you avoid salt damages to your shoes and keep your tootsies warm, but you’ll avoid slipping on wet and/or icy pavement, which puts your safety at risk and increases the potential to damage vintage shoes with scuffs, tears, broken heels, etc.
I know we fashionistas tend to resist real cold weather boots (I myself bought only fancy leather boots with heels for years), but the best way to save our pretty babies is to wear those less than fancy boots. And since modern made boots can be more properly prepared to brave the elements, restored or even replaced when problems occur, it only makes sense to wear them not only in bad weather but in seasons where bad weather is more likely — or just left around on the ground, ready to trip you up.
Maybe you can save your vintage shoes for free — and save some money to invest in more vintage shoes *wink*