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How To Stop Leather Shoes Squeaking

There is a life tip that you should always invest in the things that come between you and the ground. This is because those items, such as beds, carpets, tires, and shoes get by far the most wear and are the things most responsible for your day-to-day comfort. Investing in a decent pair of leather shoes can be one of the best decisions you will make. And one of the benefits of leather shoes is that, as a general rule, they are less likely to squeak than their synthetic counterparts. But what if they do start to squeak? Sometimes, yes, this can mean that there is a manufacturing defect or that they need replacing, but other times there can be a simple fix.

Let's take a look at why your leather shoes might be making a squeaking noise and what you can do to fix it.

Why Do Leather Shoes Squeak?

Squeaky shoes can have a wide variety of causes and one of the first things you will need to determine is where the squeak is coming from. Once you have figured that out, then you can come up with a plan to stop it from happening. For more learnings, you can also check out our article "How To Stop Leather Shoes From Creasing".

How To Stop Leather Shoes Squeaking

Locating The Squeak

Your leather shoe is made up of a variety of components and many of them could potentially be the cause of the squeaking noise. To figure out where the squeak is coming from, you will need to listen carefully while you walk back and forth. It can be a good idea to stand in one spot and rock forwards and backward and side to side. There will be a movement that creates the squeak and that can help you to find it.

It can be difficult to hear the squeak when you are wearing the shoes, so it can be a good idea to rope in a friend to help. Get them to crouch down on the floor while you move around in the shoes and they will be more likely to catch exactly where the squeak is coming from.

Why Do Leather Shoes Squeak?

What actually makes the squeaking noise usually boils down to either friction or moisture. These are almost opposing forces because the solution to squeaking caused by friction is to add lubrication whereas the solution to squeaking caused by moisture is to dry it out.

Because the method to stop the squeaking sound is so different for each cause, it is a good idea to do some investigating to see if you can pinpoint what is causing it before going in and trying to make it stop. For more information, we recommend checking out our post titled "Can You Dye Leather Shoes A Different Colour".

A Quick Guide To Shoe Anatomy

Sole - this is the part of the shoe between your foot and the ground

Outsole - this is the bottom part of the sole that touches the ground

Insole - this is the part of the sole that touches your foot

Upper - this is the main part of the shoe that runs along the edges of your foot

Tongue - this is part of the shoe that laces attach to and that runs on top of your foot

Collar - this is the part of the shoe behind your heel

If you have welt leather shoes, there will be an extra piece of leather along the front outer edge. Between this piece of leather and the leather of the rest of the shoe is a layer of cork. This on its own is quite effective at stopping leather shoes from squeaking because it moulds to the shape of your foot and creates a customised fit.

Squeaky Rubber Soles

We are all familiar with the chorus of squeaks that comes from sports halls and squash courts when people are exercising. These squeaks are because the rubber sole of the trainers creates friction with the smooth surface of the hall. And this is a good thing because it means that the shoes have a good grip.

If your leather boots or shoes have rubber soles and the shoe squeaks when you are walking or running on smooth surfaces, then this is probably the reason why.

What Should I Do?

There really isn't anything that you should do in this situation. The squeaking is due to the good grip on your shoes and you shouldn't do anything to interfere with that. If you reduce friction between your leather boots or shoes and the ground, then this will also mean that you will have less grip when you need it, like when you are walking on icy or wet surfaces.

If you do want to stop leather shoes from squeaking from the sole, you can attempt to lubricate them. First, clean the bottom of the shoe with a damp cloth. Either air dry or use a dry cloth to dry the sole before going in with a dryer sheet. A dryer sheet contains conditioners and lubricants so it is a simple way of adding a small amount of lubrication to the sole of your shoe (you wouldn't want to add too much!).

Rub the dryer sheet along every inch of the sole and this should add the lubrication you need to reduce the squeaking noises on smooth surfaces.

If, on the other hand, your sole is too slippery and the sliding is causing squeaking. You can lightly scrape the sole using fine sandpaper to add extra grip.

Squeaking From Insole

A common source of squeaky shoes is the insole - the part of your leather boots or shoes that is directly underneath your foot. In this case, there are solutions that you can try to stop leather shoes from squeaking.

If They Are New Shoes Or Squeak When Dry

If you have new leather shoes and they are squeaking from the insole, this is usually because of poor fit or a manufacturing defect. In this case, you should take the shoes back to the shop and get a new pair that fits or that doesn't have the defect.

Alternatively, if your leather shoes are too big you could always wear thicker socks. This will reduce friction coming from your shoe moving around in the shoe. And if your shoe is too small, you could try using a shoe stretcher to give your foot more room.

A layer of Moleskine can help to reduce friction. This is a smooth material that will act as a buffer between the insole and your foot.

If They Only Squeak When Wet

The insole can get wet both from the weather and from your sweat. If the squeaking noise only happens when the shoe is wet, then you need to find a way to remove the moisture.

If your leather shoes have removable insoles, remove them. Liberally apply talcum powder or baby powder over the entire surface of the footbed, or onto the insole if you can't remove it. This will absorb moisture quite effectively and prevent the sliding around that causes the squeaking. Of course, you will need to keep applying baby powder or talcum powder periodically.

For a longer-term solution than baby powder or talcum powder, a microfiber cloth can work well to stop shoes from squeaking. Remove the insoles if you can and place a microfiber cloth onto the footbed, or the insole if it isn't removable. This thin layer of very absorbent dry cloth will prevent moisture from creating a squeaky noise when you walk.

If the moisture is coming from your foot sweating, you can also try to prevent this using a foot antiperspirant spray as well as anti-sweat insertable insoles.

Squeaking From The Upper Shoe

It is rarer for leather shoes to squeak from the upper, tongue, collar, and other areas but it does happen. Again, there are two potential opposing reasons for this: the leather is wet or the leather is too dry and it is causing friction.

If The Leather Shoes Squeak When They Are Wet

The upper parts of leather shoes are also susceptible to squeaking when wet. Rather than being related to your foot sweating, wet shoes on the outside is often due to walking in rainy weather (and we do get a lot of that!).

The important thing for the upper is that if your leather boots or shoes do get wet, you should make sure that they are dried properly. Stuffing the shoe with newspaper or a cotton ball can help to absorb the moisture while keeping the shoe's shape. Shoe trees are also a good solution. They will allow air to get to every crevice in your leather shoes, which will help them to dry properly, and they will keep the shoes' shape and prevent cracks in the leather.

Shoe polish is a tried and tested method that will stop shoes from getting too wet. The polish is effective at cleaning the leather, replenishing oils and fats that are lost, and preventing the leather from being saturated with moisture. Use a shoe brush to apply the polish in circular motions, being careful to cover the entire surface of the shoe.


If The Leather Shoes Squeak When They Are Dry

To stop leather boots and shoes from squeaking because the upper is too dry, you need to care for the leather. Leather can dry out quite easily which makes it less supple. This stiffness is what causes the squeaking sound and if left untreated the leather can eventually crack.

There are two ways to approach this problem: adding extra lubrication and treating the leather.

Lubricating Your Leather Shoes

To add lubrication, applying saddle soap is a common method. This is usually used to lubricate horse saddles, as the name suggests, but it can also work well on leather shoes. Take the laces out of the shoes and liberally apply the saddle soap to every inch, including inside the shoe tongue.

While saddle soap is a specialist product, you can get similar results from using petroleum jelly. You can apply petroleum jelly the same way that you apply saddle soap. Petroleum jelly will also have a waterproofing effect, which saddle soap will not, but the latter does have a slight softening effect on the leather.

You should never use oil-based products like saddle soap and petroleum jelly on suede shoes as it will ruin the finish. 

Conditioning Your Leather Shoes

To condition the leather and make it more supple, your best bet is to use a specially designed-leather conditioner. To apply the conditioning oil, first, use a damp cloth to clean the leather's surface. Then use a dry soft cloth, such as a microfiber cloth, to rub in a small amount of leather conditioner, working it deep into the leather. Use small amounts at a time and add more if needed so you don't oversaturate the leather.

If you don't have a specialist leather conditioner, many people swear by coconut oil. Use the same method to apply the coconut oil as you would for the leather conditioner.

If you have suede leather shoes, then you will need to use a specific suede leather conditioner so as not to damage the suede finish.

High-Heeled Leather Shoes

There are extra forces at play with high-heeled leather shoes. If the heel is not attached properly or there is a poor fit, the leather that connects the heel to the shoe can stretch more than it should and this can cause squeaking. In this case, you should get your shoes looked at by a professional.

High Heeled Leather Shoes

Taking Your Leather Shoes To A Shoe Repair Shop

If you still have squeaky shoes and you have tried all of the methods from baby powder to saddle soap, it can be worth getting your shoes looked at by a professional. They will be able to tell if the leather needs extra conditioning, if there is a defect, or if the fit needs altering. And they will be able to do any repairs that will stop your leather shoes from squeaking. If you're interested in learning more, feel free to check our article on "How To Tell If Leather Is Real"

Shoe Care

Taking care of your new shoe or new boots is the best way to stop squeaking before it even starts. Many of the above methods are standard shoe care and you should employ these regularly with every new pair of shoes whether they are currently squeaking or not.

  • Dry the shoes properly whenever they get wet using a shoe tree or something similar
  • Regularly use conditioning oil to keep the leather supple and replenish the oils
  • Clean the leather whenever it gets dirty using a damp cloth
  • Use polish to keep the shoes waterproofed, especially in the winter months

The Bottom Line

Squeaky boots or squeaky shoes are both irritating and embarrassing. And while leather is less prone to squeaking than other materials, it can still happen. To stop leather boots from squeaking, you can employ a variety of the methods we have outlined above and none of them necessarily have to be expensive. But, most importantly, the best way to stop shoes from squeaking is to regularly care for your new shoes from the very beginning.

While you are here why not dive into our blog section and read up on our post on how to repair a tear in leather.

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