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How Leather Shoes Can Become Damaged By Heat

Updated on December 15, 2010

Leather Shoes & Heat DON'T Mix

This lens gives you an informative insight into just why you should not be putting your leather shoes near artificial forms of heat.

RM Williams Stockmans Mens Buckle Australian Boot
RM Williams Stockmans Mens Buckle Australian Boot

What Happens to Leather When Exposed to Heat.

Unfortunately, many people are unaware of some of the damages that can occur to the leather soles of shoes or boots when exposed to heat. Most commonly, the damage occurs when the leather is wet, as people mistakenly place the shoes near a fire or radiator, with their soles exposed to the heat. Consequently, many leather soled shoes are ruined because of this.

Whilst the damage may not be apparent immediately as on the surface the soles may appear as normal, but this exposure to heat could have seriously reduced the life of your leather soled shoes. Not only are wet soles at risk of damage but footwear worn in normal dry conditions also contain enough moisture to become victim to the same mistreatment.

If your leather soled shoes do become damp, they should be placed in a well ventilated, airy place that is no warmer than the average room temperature. Heating your footwear beyond this point should be avoided at all costs, regardless of whether they are wet or dry.

A much safer way to assist in the drying out period of your footwear is to soak up the excess moisture by stuffing your shoes/boots with newspaper for several hours, or even overnight. Again, keep them out of the way of any excess heat, including hot pipes.

As most leather soles are made from vegetable-tanned leather, it makes them increasingly sensitive to heat. Increased heat causes water vapour or steam within the substance of the leather which can then attack the leather fibres, consequently destroying their character. The leather itself is then accordingly turned into a soft tarry mass which will become brittle and hard upon cooling.

It must be noted that the damage is not always visible on the surface, even after the leather has been badly burnt. This occurs because the heat exposure dries the outside of the leather rapidly, due to the vapour quickly evaporating from the surface. However, the steam within the leather cannot escape as quickly and subsequently has time to attack the fibres within the leather. Therefore, through continued wear when the outer surface of the leather is worn away, the inner affected part of the sole becomes exposed and rapidly disintegrates upon such exposure.

If the burning is of a less severe state, the damage could be left entirely unnoticed by the naked eye and may only be seen through a microscope. However, the durability properties of the leather will still have been severely affected.

It is burnt soles that are most frequently seen in sole wear complaints by customers and is unfortunately an unjustified one. The damage may also occur from less obvious heat damage exposure; e.g. the car heating blowers being focused on the floor of the vehicle.

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      jaw 18 months ago

      how about leaving my shoes inside its box and left it in the parked under the sun

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      Tea 2 years ago

      Is it still as bad if the shoe is leather but the sole is rubber?

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      ShoesGB 3 years ago

      @victoria-iarocci: I would suggest - don't have your floor heaters on for prolonged periods of time or have them on a high heat. Leather going from cold weather and then sudden heat will cause the leather to contract and expand - which will crack the leather. Hope this helps!

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      victoria-iarocci 3 years ago

      ShoesGB! Need your help with some leather boots! I came across your site, through figuring out today that my leather boots are being damaged from floor heaters in my car. Are you out there? Need some tips!!!