The 6 Best Shoe Polishes in 2024

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If you're like us and can't remember the last time you saw an operating shoe shine booth, it's worth investing in the best shoe polish in order to keep your leather shoes looking sharp and presentable. Leather dress shoes can easily run you for $400, but you can justify the splurge by taking proper care of them with a ritual shoe shine. OEM Dress Boot Man

The 6 Best Shoe Polishes in 2024

The three categories of shoe polishes covered in this guide are cream polish, wax polish, and conditioner. I spoke to Tony Pecorella, the owner of Manhattan's Modern Leather Goods, a storied leather care and repair business with history dating back to the 1940s, who explained to me what each product does to make the best leather dress boots last. He advises that the highest shine comes from wax polish, which also works best for covering scuffs and scratches. For more on our conversation, see the FAQ section below.  Our top recommendation is the Saphir Renovateur, which is a rich conditioning shoe cream that effectively moisturizes leather and is available in either a mink or macadamia oil formula. Meanwhile, a cream polish leaves a thin layer of cream that helps blend scratches and scuffs and gives the shoe a medium shine. For a more affordable option that manages this, we recommend the Leather Spa Leather Cream.  

Best conditioner: Saphir Renovateur - See at Amazon Saphir Renovateur revitalizes shoe leather. It comes with a premium price tag, but is well worth the money. 

Best wax: Saphir Medaille d'Or Pate de Luxe - See at Amazon Saphir Medaille d'Or Pate de Luxe instantly revives the color of your shoes and provides a high shine with little work. 

Best color: Tarrago Cream Polish - See at Amazon Tarrago Cream Polish has a huge range of colors, provides excellent coverage, and gives a medium shine. 

Best budget: Moneysworth & Best Cream Polish - See at Amazon Moneysworth & Best Shoe Cream provides a light shine, comes in a good range of colors, and is a great value. 

Best self-shining: Tarrago Self-Shine Kit - See at Amazon The Tarrago Self-Shining Kit is perfect for reviving your shoes in a hurry while also helping to nourish the leather. 

Best cream: Leather Spa Leather Cream - See at Leather Spa Leather Spa's Cream Polish nourishes leather, ably hides the scrapes and scuffs of everyday wear, and provides a medium shine. 

Sizing options: 75 mL and 250 mL

Modern Leather Goods almost exclusively uses Saphir products, and they're not alone. Of the many guides I've read on shoe care by various industry professionals, nearly all of them list Saphir as the top leather product company and the brand's Renovateur as the best conditioner. I put it to the test on a pair of old cowboy boots I've had for 20 years that have seen a lot of wear and tear, and much less care. The leather greedily soaked in the Renovateur and I could see the results quickly. The leather had a more regular color, a light shine, and took on a richer brown. 

According to a company rep, Saphir, a French company founded in 1920, continues to manufacture its products in the same way it did when it was first founded. The ingredient list (and the smell, which is quite pleasant) is closer to what you might find in a skincare product than what you'd expect to rub on your shoes. The list includes lanolin, beeswax, and mink oil.  

While more expensive at around $29 for 75 mL jar, a little goes a long way and it doesn't need to be applied that often, perhaps once a month. If you've invested a chunk of change in your leather footwear, the Renovateur is worth the cost to help keep your shoes and boots looking their best. 

Sizing options: 50 mL and 100 mL

Saphir is a hard brand to beat and this is especially true with its wax polish, the Medaille d'Or Pate de Luxe. I used it on a pair of dress shoes I haven't worn in a long while that was desperately in need of some TLC. The color had faded so badly I thought I might need to use shoe dye. I applied the Pate de Luxe as directed and the polish immediately revitalized the faded color, and didn't require a large amount of product to achieve coverage. Saphir uses a higher concentration of pigment in the Pate de Luxe and it shows, making it a top choice for the best shoe polish.

According to the company, you can achieve a high gloss or mirror gloss with the Pate de Luxe and can be used with the Renovateur and a cream polish. Like the Renovateur, the ingredients list mostly reads like a high-end face cream — jojoba, almond, and macadamia oils — plus beeswax, and natural solvents like turpentine oil. I was able to buff the shoe to a high shine with little effort. 

I tried it against Leather Spa's Luxury Wax Polish, finding it had better coverage and didn't require as much product to achieve similar results at about the same price. You can buy a 50 mL tin of the Pate de Luxe for about $15 on Amazon, depending on which of the 12 colors you need. 

Tarrago is a Spanish brand that's been around since 1940 and was the first company to offer water-based polishes back in the 1960s. (It's now owned by the same parent company that owns Saphir, Alma FRC.) The brand offers a range of nearly 100 colors in the cream polish. The wax polish comes in seven color choices. 

I used the Tarrago cream polish on a pair of gray leather sneakers that were badly scuffed. The thick cream quickly soaked into the leather and easily covered the various scuff marks. After it dried, I buffed it to a medium shine. If you're looking for a high shine for your colored shoes, your best bet is to use the Tarrago Cream Polish, followed by a neutral wax polish that can achieve a higher shine.

Moneysworth & Best is a family-owned Canadian company that started out as a Toronto shoe repair shop in the 1980s. The Shoe Cream is made in Spain from all-natural ingredients, including lanolin, and various oils, waxes, and pigments. The product comes in more than 30 colors.  

I used this on two different pairs of beat-up vintage boots. The shoe cream had decent coverage, but it wasn't able to hide some staining. The product has a creamy consistency and soaked into the leather quickly. After buffing, I was able to get a light shine. While it didn't completely cover the issues on the boots, it did give the leather a more even, smoother appearance and definitely made me feel comfortable wearing the boots in public again. That said, I'd recommend this product for shoes or boots that are still in good condition and don't require a lot of pigment. 

It's available for about $9 for a 1.55-ounce jar, and is one of the least expensive kinds of the best shoe polish. But be warned that the pricing varies, with some colors costing around $12 or more.

Tarrago's Self-Shining Kit provides a quick and easy way to revive your shoes with very little time or effort. It contains a sponge applicator on the top that you simply dip into the cream polish and apply to the leather. I used it on a pair of my wife's boots that were moderately scuffed and hadn't been shined in several months. One pass across the leather was all it took to bring them back to life. It easily covered the scuffs and scratches and produced a medium shine with no buffing. 

The product contains a high amount of carnauba wax, which provides the instant shine. The wax is derived from the leaves of a Brazilian palm tree. It's sustainably harvested as the trees aren't damaged during processing. 

While the Self-Shine kit doesn't come in nearly as many colors as the company's regular shoe cream (there are only about a dozen options), it's a great choice for the best shoe polish when you're in a hurry and need to get your shoes in order. I wish I would have used this before I headed through the TSA line all those years ago.

Leather Spa, the famous New York City-based leather care and repair business, also makes shoe care products, including a shoe cream. Leather Spa originates in France, where the company's shoe cream is produced using all-natural ingredients. It doesn't contain any silicone or petroleum products that can end up damaging leather over the long run. 

I used the cream polish on a pair of my wife's boots. The cream very quickly soaked into the leather, giving it a nice sheen. It had very good coverage, evening out the color, and hiding the scuffs. It didn't quite cover a small divot in the leather, but as Tony Pecorella stated, a wax polish is better at hiding those kinds of blemishes. I buffed the boots and was able to develop a medium shine. Leather Spa's Shoe Cream comes in 34 different colors, which is a major plus for matching shades other than the typical black or brown.

To narrow down the best shoe polishes, I did some testing at home with products that have gotten high marks from experts and customers. I used them on a single boot or shoe as a before-and-after snapshot to see what kind of coverage, shine, and conditioning power they had. Other considerations included price, ingredients, and range of colors. Note that these products are for smooth leather, not for cleaning suede or nubuck.

Other than conditioner and polish, there are a few basic tools you'll need to do the job right:

Before polishing your leather shoes, it's good practice to clean them with saddle soap, especially if they're stained or caked in dirt. This ensures that your polish will spread evenly. I recommend this formula from Fiebing's, which simultaneously cleans and conditions leather. 

A horsehair dauber brush, which typically has a round head that tapers down to the handle, is good for applying saddle soap to clean the shoes before polishing. Some people also use this type of brush to apply polish. Kiwi makes a durable one that's affordable and spreads polish and soap evenly. 

A horse hair brush is important for buffing your shoes once you've applied the polish and have let it dry. The brush helps bring out the shine. Kirby Allison makes an outstanding version.

Some people like to use a microfiber cloth for applying conditioner and polish and for a final buff for a higher shine. I personally use old cotton T-shirts cut into strips to apply polish, a trick I've seen professional shoe shiners use.

The best leather protectors add an extra layer of stain and waterproof coating, and storing shoes properly can help them last longer. Our recommended shoe organizer is described here in our full Container Store Drop Front Shoe Boxes review.

Especially if you're prone to sweaty feet, a cedar shoe tree can help extend the life of your leather shoes by absorbing moisture and preventing rot. They'll also help maintain the shape of the shoe.

Yes. You can take a damp cloth and wipe away any visible dirt. If they're very dirty or have stains, you can use saddle soap, like Fiebing's, that can be applied using a slightly damp dauber brush. Rub the brush in the soap until you get a light lather and then apply on the shoes. Wipe away with a dry cloth. Now you're ready to condition the shoes followed by shining them.

"That's the age old question," Pecorella said. "It differs by person and wear. If you wear the same shoes every day, once every two to six weeks. If you alternate shoes, maybe once a month to two months. It really is based on the eye test and nobody knows your shoes better than you do."

According to a Saphir rep I spoke with, cream polish is more for nourishing and recoloring, while wax polish is for creating a high shine. Wax is mainly for dress footwear where you want a high gloss.

Tony Pecorella warns that wax polish, unlike cream, doesn't moisturize the leather and can build up over time and dry the leather out. Cream polish won't harm the leather, even if used frequently. 

The obvious distinction between leather, suede, or nubuck is the shine factor. Leather is usually glossy, while suede and nubuck have more of a matte finish. Suede and nubuck are buffed in an abrasive process that makes them feel thinner and softer. Leather on the other hand is smooth, and thus more water resistant. For tips on maintaining your suede dress shoes instead, see our guide on how to clean suede shoes.

Preparing to put on a brand new pair of leather shoes doesn't warrant a full shoe shine. According to The Shoe Snob, conditioning them before the pores have had time to open can cause the leather to crack. If you're really intent on bringing out the shine on a new pair, try testing a small amount of conditioner on the inside heel. If it doesn't darken, then you can try adding a small amount of conditioner and wax polish to the heels and toes.

Firstly, it needs to be said that you're not going to to be able to speed up the drying process with a hairdryer, because the concentrated airflow will only spread the polish unevenly, and even low heat can dry the leather out. Give yourself ample time before you step out in a freshly polished pair. Once you've conditioned the leather, let the formula absorb for about 10-20 minutes before you apply the first coat of polish. Let this coat dry for another 10-20 minutes before you decide if it needs another thin layer. After another interval of 10-20 minutes of air drying, then you can use your horsehair brush to buff the leather and achieve an even shine.

The 6 Best Shoe Polishes in 2024

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