The 10 Best Shoe Polish Kits
This wiki has been updated 24 times since it was first published in February of 2017. They say you can judge a person by their shoes and, if that's true, you can leave everyone you meet duly impressed, thanks to one of these polish kits. They are available with everything you need to make your footwear shine, including paste, brushes, daubers, and more. Some are easy to stash in a suitcase for business trips, as well, so you'll be sure to start meetings off on the right foot. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
September 04, 2020:
Our latest update saw the removal of a few selections due to availability and quality issues. When we said goodbye to the Sethjcsy Care, we wanted to supplant it with another portable option and so brought on the Bickmore Travel Care, which is ideal for those who have a relatively low-maintenance polishing routine. It's also great for maintaining most leather goods, whether they be bags, jackets, or pieces of furniture.
The same goes for the Moneysworth & Best Instant, a handy item ideal for people who have the occasional special event to go to. This one is compact and easy to store away when not in use, and available in an impressive variety of colors that go beyond the usual brown, black, and neutral to include navy, burgundy, white, and more.
We're also aware of the draw charming old-school valet boxes have, which led us to add another selection that included one in the Kiwi Select Valet. Because most kits of this nature tend to be high-quality and intended for serious shoe lovers, they are priced accordingly, but the Kiwi selection manages to maintain solid quality at a more affordable cost. One thing to mention with the Kiwi kit and the FootFitter Classic is that their shine boxes have pedestals that are traditionally designed for men's dress shoes. While that doesn't mean they can't accommodate some women's styles, they aren't really fit for most heels, something to bear in mind for the ladies looking for a polish kit.
July 01, 2019:
With one of these great polish kits, you'll never again have to choose between costly shines and walking around with unsightly shoes. For the refined gentlemen who religiously maintain their shoes, we recommend the Footfitter Valet Refill, as it is one of the most comprehensive kits. It includes four colors of polish and very high-quality brushes and applicators. The FootFitter Classic is also a comprehensive kit, even more so than the Valet Refill actually, but its high price makes it more suited to someone who shines shoes for work.
The Sethjcsy Care, Kiwi Select, Maximilian Deluxe, and Stone & Clark 12PC are all perfect for men who shine their shoes on a somewhat regular basis and don't want to have to buy more polish anytime soon. They all come with at least two colors, which may be black and brown or black and neutral. If you plan on taking your polish kit along when you travel, check out the Sethjcsy Care, Stone & Clark 12PC, Kiwi Select, Marz Deluxe, and Moneysworth & Best Military. The latter two are the smallest of the bunch, but also the lowest in quality.
For those who want to take a proactive role in protecting their shoes, rather than simply making them look good after the fact, we recommend Otter Wax Standard Essentials. It is a four-part system that cleans, conditions, shines, and polishes. It may take longer than some other options, since you have to work through all four steps, but the long-lasting results are worth it. You'll have to buy brushes separately, though.
Dapper Lane Luxury Shoe Care Kit This luxury kit comes from a company that sells custom-made shoes, and you can rest assured they also know a thing or two about taking care of them. It is one of the few options that actually includes a navy polish, rather than forcing you to use a neutral one on blue shoes, and a suede protector. The various components allow you to do everything from covering scratches to renewing color. dapperlane.com
Saphir Herring Valet Box While it is pricey, this is a premium offering that includes four polishes, a neutral conditioning creme, a renovating cream, black saddle soap, multiple leather and suede brushes, and more. Essentially it contains everything you could dream of to bring some luster back to your shoes, and all of the components store in its beautiful red walnut box. herringshoes.co.uk
Wolf Blake Kit Offered in three stylish colorblocked options, Blake features an elegant box that sports top grain leathers, chrome accents, ultrasuede lining, and a snap closure. It contains everything necessary to keep shoes looking brilliant, including two polish applicator brushes, two shine brushes, two cotton flannel polishing cloths, and Mr. Wolf's shoe shine in both black and brown. wolf1834.com
Putting Your Best Foot Forward
There are primary brushes, which are responsible for the majority of the buffing you'll do.
According to science, you have about one-tenth of a second to impress someone new when you first meet them. Once that time is up, their judgment of you has been formed and etched forever in their minds. While that's quite an intimidating prospect, you'd do well to remember that you have a secret weapon against split-second assessments — a pristine pair of shoes.
The shoes you wear can tell others plenty about your individual style, from laid-back sneakers to no-nonsense oxfords, but how you care for them speaks volumes more about your personality. Since you're here perusing our list, it's safe to assume that keeping your kicks clean is important to you. However, there are a few key things you'll need to know before you commit to purchasing a polish kit.
When it comes to leather, it's smart to consider the health of your shoe in addition to giving it a mirror-like gleam. Some polish formulations cater to aesthetics and do nothing whatsoever to preserve the material, which is perfectly acceptable if you have a separate conditioning routine. If not, then over time, your coveted boots can become brittle, warped, and generally woebegone from exposure to water, dirt, and direct sunlight. For the best of both worlds, ensure that the polish you buy contains ingredients like beeswax, carnauba wax, and lanolin oil. These additions will moisturize and nourish your leather, plus protect it from further harm.
There are a few types of brushes that may come with a kit, and each one has a specific purpose. There are primary brushes, which are responsible for the majority of the buffing you'll do. They're often crafted with wood and dense horsehair bristles, are rectangular in shape, and boast varnished handles for a comfortable grip. Less common are finishing brushes, a smaller option with softer bristles used to dust your shoes off at the end of the day. Then, there are dauber brushes, slim wooden tools with circular heads that are perfect for applying creams and polishes to every inch of your shoe.
And it may seem non-essential, but a shoehorn is actually a pretty vital utensil that can help prolong the life of your sneakers and boots. A sturdy stainless steel option will help you guide your foot in with ease, saving the collar and counter from needless stretching.
If The Shoe Fits
So, now that you're up to speed on some general shoe-care points, the question remains — what should I look for in my kit? Naturally, you wouldn't want to shell out for a set that has all the bells and whistles when you're just looking to clean up for the occasional event. And conversely, those who don dress shoes for the office each day or who are simply obsessed with their new Chelsea boots don't want a kit that's lacking.
This helps to avoid color contamination when you work with polishes that come in various shades.
To start, you should consider how often you'll be using your kit. If you have a job interview, wedding, or other formal event coming up, opt for one that has the basics. A good cleaner or polish, a large brush, and a lint-free towel are all you'll require for the odd occasion. If you own multiple pairs or enjoy spiffing up your shoes on a consistent basis, look for a set that has two of each type of brush, each with either light or dark bristles. This helps to avoid color contamination when you work with polishes that come in various shades. Add a few microfiber towels, highly-pigmented creams, and a shoehorn, and you'll be well-prepared to preserve your treasured footwear.
Are you a sneakerhead? Then you'll want to keep your collectibles fresh for as long as possible to protect your investment. Of course, a typical shoe polish won't cut it — a high-end solution that will care for the medley of leather and synthetic materials your kicks consist of is best. A gentle foaming cleanser, ultra-soft cloth, and a wide horse or hog hair brush will most certainly do the trick. You might also consider a spray that prevents water damage and stains.
Polishing your shoes can be a rewarding activity, and many regard the process as an art. If you're looking to take your shine game to expert levels, then you'll want to use high-quality, handcrafted products akin to what the shoeblacks of yore used. There's no point in spending a small fortune on your footwear if you're not going to preserve and protect it, and the right kit will keep each pair healthy and attractive for years to come.
A Very Brief History Of The Shoeshine
To those unfamiliar with it, the art of shoeshining can seem incredibly Dickensian — a mere mention of the trade might conjure visions of 19th-century street urchins clutching filthy rags, vying for the attention of the upper crust during a frigid London winter. While it is true that young shoeshine boys, also called blackboots, were prevalent in the United Kingdom during the 1800s, the profession isn't limited to Europe, youngsters, or even the past.
A quality set of modern dress shoes isn't cheap, but 100 or so years ago the price was astronomical.
A quality set of modern dress shoes isn't cheap, but 100 or so years ago the price was astronomical. When a man got his hands on some fancy footwear, he'd take great care to maintain that investment for as long as feasible, possibly handing them down to his son if they were the same size.
Shoeshine creams didn't become widely available until the 20th century, so if you needed a good buffing, you'd enlist a bootblack or visit a barbershop. Using homemade formulas that consisted of ingredients like honey, grease, champagne, and oven soot, shoeshiners plied their trade all over the world. Once polishes were mass-produced and affordable, people could care for their shoes at home. However, if you wanted, you could still walk down a busy street or into a railway station and find someone willing to clean your boots for you.
Although shoeshining is a sunset industry in many parts of the world these days, you can still find blackboots in airports and highly populated cities.