I have a pair of Dr. Marten's boots that have just worn-in in terms of starting to feel good on my feet. Structurally, I expect to get a few years of life out of them.

But, they're the patent leather, and the toes have suffered the normal "Dr. Marten's damage" that a work shoe usually gets. But the visual effect is pretty excruciating ... to my mother!

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What can I do to make these "Sunday appropriate"? Cuz they're not coming off of these feet until 2017 to fit my shoe budget.

  • My only thought is a very careful application of black duct tape. Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 4:19
  • I have a remarkably similar pair - with black duct tape :-)
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 9:23

2 Answers 2


This is a Looooooong answer ‘cuz it’s a loooooooong process.

This is a simple procedure but it’s not easy and will take some time to undo the damage already done to the boots. When you’re finished, you’ll have a mirror shine. This is the technique used for polishing boots for a military dress inspection.

You will require very fine sandpaper, clean polishing cloths (clean cotton dusting rag) or cotton balls/wool/etc., boot polish, a small bowl of water, a shoe brush, strong motivation, and a generous amount of elbow grease.

  • Remove the laces.

  • Carefully remove the material that has torn and lifted. Trim the edges near the surface without pulling off the enamel that still remains attached to the boot. A pair of small scissors may be helpful. Normally, one starts with boots in slightly better condition.

  • Smooth the rough edge with the sandpaper and try to make it as even as possible. Try not to remove much material when doing this. You want to make the surface look more normal than they do in your photos.

Now, you’re ready to start to rebuild the finish with polish.

  1. Brush off any dirt or dust on the boot, from heel to toe.

  2. Wrap the duster cloth around your index finger, making sure there are no wrinkles. Apply a medium layer of polish to the boot using the duster and your finger. Rub it in until a faint shine starts to show.

  3. Once the faint shine comes through and the polish has been worked into the boot, take your index finger and the cloth and dip it lightly into the water, and start rubbing it into the boot over the polish in small circles about an inch wide. Keep doing this until a greater shine comes through and the swirls start to disappear.

  4. Leave it to dry for a few minutes, and then once dry, take your index finger again and apply a thin layer of polish to the boot, start rubbing it in until an even better shine comes through, then apply the water to it using the method in Step 3. Leave to dry again.

  5. Take the damp index finger and apply a tiny dot of polish to the boot and work in till it shines. Make sure that the cloth is very damp but not dripping. Do the whole boot paying more attention to the damaged parts

  6. Repeat Step 5 until you get the desired level of shine. You should apply maybe about 8-9 layers as it gives best shine.

  7. Take the soft shoe brush and buff the boot all over until it starts to shine, then take the soft cloth and buff again until desired shine is obtained.

  8. Repeat until happy with results.


  • Use a Kiwi™ brand polish, as other brands will probably tarnish your boots and contain chemicals that will make them crack

  • The back of a teaspoon can be used to press normal polish into cracks in the boot before adding a coat of parade gloss to give the shine.

  • Apply the polish to the sole edges as well. Boots look much neater and greater if they are cleaned literally from ground to top.

  • To get a gleaming shine, use Kiwi™ Parade Gloss polish AFTER a base of Kiwi™ Shoe Polish as it contains silicone which makes the shoe/boot much shinier - BUT will make the boots crack IF it is used as the base layer.

  • Another point to think about is to melt the polish onto the boot/shoe - sit the polish tin in hot water to soften to a thin paste and rub in.

  • You can also use vinegar instead of warm water for improved results.

  • Use more water than polish.

More good boot shining tips from soldiers

  • First get a lot of polish on your boots and melt with heat do this repeatedly until you have a good base on it. Then buff. Next, take a small amount of polish and apply in small circles. Breathe (like you would into cold hands—hot breath). Then, do small circles. Repeat until you can no longer see the circles.

  • Careful not actually light the polish on fire when you heat it. Unless, of course, you want your boot to start flaking.
    The best thing I‘ve found is to just use ‘Kiwi™ Parade Gloss‘ instead of the regular black Kiwi™. get‘s ‘em shiny enough to pass an inspection.

  • The only way to get a really good (and durable) shine is to build up many thin layers. If you try to glob it on, or use some ‘trick‘, you may get an impressive shine, but it won‘t last and therefore, won‘t protect the leather. Of course you can‘t just take a new pair of boots out of the box and expect to get a good spit shine. I would suggest simply brush shining them while you break them in. Then after a few weeks you should have a good enough base to spit shine. Only spit shine the toe and heel (the hard non-flexible parts); if you spit shine the leather where it flexes, it will crack. Use cotton balls, a  little  bit of water and a  little  bit of kiwi, and make small, circular motions with very light pressure. After a few months, you‘ll find your boots require less work to get them looking good.

    Of course, if you‘re going into the field, your main concern is protecting and waterproofing the leather, so a good brush shine should be sufficient.

  • You need a good base coat applied thickly and brushed off.  After 20 or so of those then you spit shine with regular kiwi.  Many small applications.  If you apply it thickly it WILL crack and then you‘re stuck with bad boots.  A burn shine is a very risky gamble.  I‘ve seen it work and the result is impressive.  The other 99 out of 100 times the boots will be completely ruined.  

    So here it is:  Base coats. Then, many (4 per day is what I do for the first month) thin coats of regular Kiwi™--Parade Gloss is a gimmick.  After the first month, you have enough of a shine built up that you can actually slack off somewhat. Eventually, one quick shine will do it.

  • In order to reduce the chance for the boots to crack, you will always shine them once and then wear them for a bit.  Walk around.  Always wear them after shining, then shine them some more.

  • It IS possible to do a "burn shine" without actually involving an open flame... you only need the polish to melt, and it doesn‘t take that much heat to do it. You can achieve the desired effect using a hair dryer on a hot setting, or you can use a heat gun if you happen to have one. Using a lighter in close proximity to the boot, without burning the leather itself, also isn‘t that hard. Just hold the lighter close to the boot until the polish melts (about 0.5 seconds).

    Of course, all of this should be done as your final coat of polish after applying many, many base layers. I‘ve gotten really consistent results with it, probably because I put the time into those 3-4 coats each time I polish before the burn polish layer. If you‘re trying to find a quick, easy way, it won‘t work!!!

    I‘ve heard horror stories of cadets who use windex, turtle wax, candle wax, vaseline, and all sorts of other garbage on boots, but for the long-term, nothing wields a good result like a little elbow grease.

  • Melt the wax IN the can!  Light it up with a lighter, let the top melt, put the lid back on to put the flame out.  You will have a layer of liquid polish.  I found it easier to apply and fill any divots, scuffs, etc., with a small round boot brush.

    After applying a thin layer of this and allowing it to dry, I then buffed with the soft cloth, re-applied polish, and then buffed again.

  • For some reason I always had at least 30 minutes to work on my boots so I constantly buffed them using just Kiwi™ and horsehair brush. After a while, I needed just a quick buff and it was inspection ready.

  • This is excellent information. I'm sure to use this for reference later. Unfortunately for this pair, I went with the black duct tape. I expect the tape will peel and look horrible in less than a few months. So I'll need to start with adhesive solvent, goo-gone, and probably alcohol to get ready for step 1 here when that happens. There is also a small tear in the upper of one (now covered by tape), so I'll use something like "ShoeGlue" to seal that before adding polish. Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 15:41

Maybe you can refinish your boots.

Most likely, your boots were made with Leather Luster. This is a product that you paint on to the boot and allow to dry. It's a kind of enamel paint. This will give you an almost "instant" mirror finish with low maintenance. However, this finish will crack (as you've discovered) and will be next to impossible to remove. It should only be used on surfaces that will not bend.

If you remove the residual loose finish, you can get and reapply a new coat on the damaged parts of your boots.

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