How to Keep Shoes from Dry Rotting: 8 Simple Tips

How to Keep Shoes from Dry Rotting

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Have you ever had a pair of shoes you absolutely loved, but then they started falling apart? Maybe the soles cracked, or the leather started to peel. If so, you may have experienced dry rot.

Dry rot is a type of fungus that can grow on leather and other materials, causing them to become brittle and crack. It’s a common problem for shoes, especially if they’re not properly cared for.

But the good news is that you can do a few simple things to prevent dry rot and keep your shoes looking and feeling their best for longer.

In this blog post, I’m going to share eight tips on how to keep shoes from dry rotting. But before we start, let’s talk about what dry rot is and why it happens.

What Is Dry Rot In Shoes?

Dry rot in shoes is a common problem that can be super frustrating. It’s like your shoes are silently rebelling against you! Let me break it down for you. 

Dry rot is the deterioration of the materials in your shoes, typically caused by a lack of moisture, exposure to extreme temperatures, or even the passage of time.

Imagine your shoes as a living, breathing thing. When they’re exposed to harsh conditions or stored in a dry, hot place for too long, the materials, like leather or rubber, start to break down. 

They become brittle, crack, and lose their flexibility. It’s as if your shoes are aging prematurely, and that’s not a good look or feel.

The result? Uncomfortable shoes, decreased durability, and sometimes even an unpleasant odor. Nobody wants that, right?

What Are The Causes Of Dry Rot In Shoes?

Shoes dry rot because they’re made of various materials, like leather, rubber, or synthetic compounds, that can deteriorate over time due to a combination of factors. 

Here’s why it happens:

Moisture Loss

One of the primary culprits is the loss of moisture. Many shoe materials, especially leather, need a certain level of moisture to remain supple and flexible. They become dry and brittle when they lose this moisture, leading to cracks and deterioration.


The exposure to oxygen in the air can trigger a chemical reaction that causes materials to break down over time. This process, called oxidation, contributes to the aging and degradation of the shoe’s components.

Heat and UV Exposure

Extreme temperatures and exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation can accelerate the deterioration of shoe materials. Prolonged exposure to heat can dry out the shoe’s components, while UV rays can weaken and discolor them.


Mold and mildew can thrive in damp conditions, and when shoes are stored in a humid or poorly ventilated environment, these microorganisms can grow on the materials, accelerating their decay.


Even if you take great care of your shoes, the simple passage of time can lead to the breakdown of the materials. All materials have a natural lifespan, and with each wear, they come closer to the end of that lifespan.

Poor Quality Materials

The quality of the materials used in your shoes plays a significant role. Cheaper or lower-quality materials are more prone to dry rot, as they may lack durability and resistance to environmental factors.

Signs That Your Shoes Are Dry Rotting

Signs that Your Shoes Are Dry Rotting

Detecting dry rot in your shoes early on is crucial to extend their lifespan and prevent further damage. 

Here are some common signs to watch out for:

  • Cracking and Peeling: The most obvious sign of dry rot is visible cracks or peeling in the shoe’s upper material, particularly in leather or synthetic materials. These cracks can appear on the surface or along the seams.
  • Stiffness: Dry rot causes the materials in your shoes to lose their flexibility. If your shoes have become stiff and less pliable, it’s a sign that they may be dry rotting.
  • Brittleness: Dry rotted shoes will feel brittle to the touch. Gently flex or bend your shoes, and if they seem unusually rigid or if you hear cracking sounds, it’s a red flag.
  • Discoloration: The colors of your shoes may change, becoming faded or discolored due to the deterioration of the materials. Look for areas that don’t match the shoe’s original color.
  • Foul Odor: Dry rot can promote the growth of mold and mildew, which can produce an unpleasant, musty odor. If your shoes smell moldy, it’s a sign of moisture-related damage.
  • Loss of Cushioning: In athletic or running shoes, the midsole cushioning can degrade due to dry rot, leading to shock absorption and support loss. This can lead to discomfort and potential foot problems.
  • Visible Mold or Mildew: If you see visible mold or mildew on your shoes, it’s a clear sign that they are suffering from moisture-related damage, which can contribute to dry rot.
  • Degradation of Soles: The soles of your shoes can also show signs of dry rot. Watch for cracks, separation from the upper, or loss of traction and tread depth.
  • Loose or Detached Components: Any parts of the shoe, like eyelets, logos, or stitching, that have become loose or detached can be indicative of dry rot, as the underlying materials may have weakened.
  • Insole Wear: Excessive wear or damage to the insole can indicate the overall deteriorating condition of the shoe.

If you notice any of these signs, addressing the issue promptly is a good idea. Depending on the severity of the dry rot, you may be able to salvage your shoes with proper cleaning, conditioning, or repairs, or it may be time to consider replacing them. 

Regular maintenance and proper storage can help prevent dry rot in the future.

How To Keep Shoes From Dry Rotting?

Nobody wants their favorite shoes falling apart, right? So, here are some practical tips on How to Keep Shoes from Dry Rotting:

1. Choose High-Quality Shoes

When it comes to your shoe collection, there’s a simple rule to live by and that is quality over quantity. 

Seriously, investing in high-quality shoes is like a secret weapon for keeping your feet happy and your style on point.

These top-notch shoes are made with superior materials. I’m talking about genuine leather and sturdy rubber soles that look fantastic and stand up against moisture and nasty fungal attacks. So, you’re not just buying shoes but investing in long-term style and comfort.

Some examples of high quality shoes could be Barker Shoes, Johnston & Murphy, Lugz Shoes, and KURU Shoes. On the flip-side, some lower quality shoe brands are Bruno Marc Shoes and many of the Tinstree Shoe styles. I’m not suggesting that you should never buy lower quality shoes. I’m just pointing out that lower quality shoes are more prone to dry rot.

Sure, I get it; high-quality shoes might hit your wallet a bit harder upfront, but trust me, it’s worth it in the long run. 

You won’t have to deal with the headache of dry rot, and your feet will thank you for that extra comfort. 

2. Keep Your Shoes Dry

Moisture is the arch-enemy of dry rot, so you want to make sure your shoes stay as dry as a desert. 

Here are some practical tips to help you achieve that:

First, after a rainy day or a wet stroll, take a moment to wipe your shoes down with a clean, dry cloth. It might sound simple, but this step removes surface moisture and prevents it from seeping into your precious footwear.

For those times when your shoes are soaked from the inside out, especially your trusty athletic shoes or anything prone to getting sweaty, consider investing in a shoe dryer. It’s a nifty device that can work wonders in getting rid of that pesky moisture hiding in the nooks and crannies of your shoes.

Related Reading: Can I Put My Shoes In The Dryer?

If you find your shoes are damp on the inside, don’t despair. An old-school trick that still works like a charm is to stuff them with newspaper. The newspaper acts as a moisture magnet, sucking up the dampness. Just remember to change the newspaper regularly until your shoes are completely dry.

3. Store Shoes Properly

How you store your shoes can make or break their longevity.

Shoe Trees Help Prevent Shoe Rot

First up, let’s talk about shoe trees. These little wonders help your shoes maintain their shape and work as moisture and odor absorbers. They’re like the guardians of your shoe collection, preventing misshapen disasters and keeping your shoes smelling fresh. A win-win, right?

When it comes to storage, remember to avoid putting your shoes directly on the floor, especially if your floors are cold or damp. Using shoe racks or shelves is the way to go. These handy organizers provide the proper ventilation your shoes need and keep them elevated, far away from any moisture lurking below.

Lastly, think about where you’re storing your precious shoes. Find a cool, dry place that doesn’t get direct sunlight or suffer from extreme temperature swings. 

Those factors can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to dry rot. So, choose your shoe storage spot wisely, and you’ll be well on your way to maintaining a stylish and long-lasting collection.

4. Regularly Clean Your Shoes

Regular shoe cleaning is not just about keeping your kicks looking fresh; it’s also a significant step in preventing the dreaded dry rot. You can learn how to wash shoes in the washing machine on our blog, although I don’t really like doing that.

First, grab a soft brush and give your shoes a good once-over to remove any dirt or dust clinging to them. Pay extra attention to those sneaky seams and crevices where dirt loves to hide. A little brushing can go a long way in keeping moisture-attracting grime at bay.

Next, for those stubborn stains and any lingering dirt, get a damp, clean cloth. Gently wipe your shoes down, making sure to use a mild soap if necessary. This step not only keeps your shoes looking pristine but also prevents that dirt from trapping moisture, which is a one-way ticket to dry rot.

Finally, let your shoes dry naturally after you are clean and refreshed. Avoid using direct heat sources like hairdryers or radiators, as they can harm the materials. Instead, give your shoes the time they need to air dry properly.

Related Reading: How To Clean Leather Shoes and How To Clean Suede Shoes

5. Rotate Your Shoes

Wearing the same pair of shoes day in and day out might feel comfy, but it’s a recipe for excessive moisture buildup, thanks to the good old sweat factor. 

Rotating your shoes allows each pair to get some much-needed downtime, giving them a chance to air out and dry thoroughly between wears. 

This not only keeps your feet fresh and your shoes smelling pleasant, but it’s also a powerful defense against persistent dry rot. By reducing the moisture levels inside your shoes, you’re essentially extending their lifespan and reducing wear and tear.

6. Apply Protective Products

Alright, we’ve covered quite a bit about how to keep shoes from dry rotting, but there’s one more thing you can do to take your shoe game to the next level, and that is applying protective products

These little heroes create an invisible shield for your shoes, defending them against the sneaky duo of moisture and fungal growth. 

Here’s what you need to know about these handy products:

First up, there’s the trusty waterproof spray. These sprays work wonders in creating a protective barrier on the surface of your shoes. They’re like a force field against water and moisture, and they come in various formulations to suit different shoe materials, whether it’s leather, suede, canvas, or whatever you’ve got.

Now, if you’re rocking some stylish leather shoes, consider getting yourself a good leather conditioner. This magical elixir keeps the leather supple and resilient, preventing it from cracking and drying out. In other words, it’s your knight in shining armor against dry rot, helping maintain the integrity of the leather.

And don’t forget about shoe creams and polishes. They’re not just for show; these products enhance the appearance of your shoes and provide an extra layer of protection against moisture and fungal attacks. 

7. Check Your Shoe Closet Regularly

Regular shoe closet check-ups are another secret weapon.

Make it a habit to give your shoe closet or storage area a once-over every few months check-up. It doesn’t have to be a huge production, just a quick scan. Look for telltale signs of dry rot, like cracks, peeling, or that unmistakable unpleasant odor. Catching these issues early can be a game-changer.

If you do happen to spot any problems, don’t panic and address them promptly. Sometimes, it’s a simple fix, like applying a bit more protective product or cleaning. 

But in more severe cases, it might be best to consult a professional cobbler who can work their magic and breathe new life into your beloved shoes.

8. Wear Shoes Appropriate for the Occasion

And last but certainly not least is wearing the right shoes for the right occasion. 

This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s a crucial piece of the puzzle. Here’s why:

When you wear your shoes in conditions they’re not designed for, you’re basically setting them up for premature wear and tear. For instance, it’s best to avoid those elegant leather dress shoes when you’re facing heavy rain or inclement weather. Similarly, those trusty athletic shoes are fantastic for your workouts, but they’re not the best choice for formal settings.

By using your shoes appropriately, you’re doing yourself and your footwear a massive favor. It significantly reduces the likelihood of moisture exposure and fungal growth. Plus, it’s a way to show some love and respect for the craftsmanship and style of your shoes.

Keeping Shoes From Dry Rotting: My Final Thoughts 

Taking care of your shoes and preventing dry rot is essential for maintaining their quality and prolonging their lifespan. You can keep your shoes looking and feeling their best by following the eight simple tips on how to keep shoes from dry rotting. 

Remember, investing in high-quality shoes and taking the time to care for them will save you money in the long run and ensure you always put your best foot forward, no matter the occasion. 

So, go ahead and show your shoes some love – they’ll thank you for staying stylish and comfortable for years to come.

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