How to Fix Peeling Leather Shoes

It’s pretty easy to fix peeling leather shoes with a few items in your cupboards at home. Simply sand it down, color it in, and polish it off. 

Real leather is derived from animal skin and should be kept moisturized to prevent it from drying out. If not, the leather will eventually start to crack. 

Certain products contain solvents and chemicals which cause the leather to peel. Peeling leather usually indicates that the alleged material is either synthetic or faux leather. Let’s take a look at how to fix peeling leather shoes in easy steps.

Factors that make leather peel infographic

Types of Leather

Leather is derived from animal skins and hides treated and cured through tanning or chemicals to prevent decay. It’s a durable and robust material with various uses such as clothing, footwear, handbags, furniture, and sporting equipment.

Bonded leather is made by mixing scraps of leather fibers with bonding materials like natural rubber or store-bought adhesive. This mixture is then squeezed out onto a cloth or paper and decorated with a leather-like texture.

Faux or fake leather is made up of a plastic base treated with wax, polyurethane, or dye to imitate the color and texture of genuine leather. Synthetic leather differs from real leather in its useful life. It quickly loses its shine and peels and tears much more effortlessly than genuine leather.

What Makes Leather Peel?

Leather requires proper maintenance to prevent it from peeling. Genuine leather will crack and potentially peel if it’s left dry for too long. 

Material Used

Cheaper leathers like bonded or faux leather are more likely to peel over a short time frame. Genuine leather, if well taken care of, tends to look better with age. It usually forms a patina and improves the overall look of the shoe itself. 


For bonded leather and faux leather, cleaning processes and products are the leading causes of peeling. Using a rough brush will damage your shoe. Certain cleaning chemicals also erode the bonded or faux leather. Therefore, it’s essential to use the right cleaning product to avoid damaging your shoes. 

Excess Sunlight

It’s best to avoid storing leather products in direct sunlight for too long. Even for genuine leather, too much sun will cause it to dry and eventually crack. However, it’s essential to note that this happens faster for bonded or faux leather shoes. It’s best to store your shoes in a cool and dry place. 

Excess Moisture

Too much moisture can also damage your leather shoes. If you store your leather shoes in a wet area, they are likely to develop mold, which eats away at the leather. 

If not stopped early, the mold becomes impossible to eliminate, leaving stains or even ugly holes in your leather shoes. Therefore, when storing your shoes, make sure they’re completely dry to prevent mold from growing on them. 

Worn leather shoe

How to Fix Peeling Leather Shoes

What you’ll need:

  • Sandpaper.
  • Permanent marker.
  • Shoe polish.

Start by sanding off the loose pieces of leather until the surface is smooth. Do this in tight circles and apply enough pressure on the shoe, as this gets the flaking off and allows you to fix the peeled leather.

Then use your permanent marker (that matches your shoe color) to fill in the colorless marks. Finally, rub shoe polish over the repaired area and allow it to dry fully.

Another alternative to this is to use leather paint. Before starting any of these processes, getting rid of the flakes first for a smooth finish is important.

If the leather is cracked, see here on how to repair cracked leather boots.

Cleaning and Caring for Leather Shoes

The critical thing to note here is whether your shoe is made of real or faux leather. It’s rare for authentic leather to peel, so if your leather shoes begin to peel, it means it’s made of bonded or faux leather. However, you’ll still need to properly care for the shoe to prevent it from peeling or cracking.

You can fix peeling leather if the damage is not too much. If the shoe is damaged beyond repair, it may be better to buy a new pair instead. Shoes made with faux leather will almost always peel if not taken care of properly. Exposing your shoes to excess heat and humidity can cause them to peel before their designed shelf life.

If you have a hole in your shoes, check out our guide on how to repair leather shoes with torn leather.

Proper care and storage can help prevent your leather shoes from peeling. We advise that you clean and store your shoes properly to prevent them from peeling and cracking. 

To clean your leather shoes, always use a soft cloth to wipe them before storing them away. Avoid using a hard shoe brush for cleaning, as this wears the delicate upper layer (faux leather especially) and makes it easier for the shoe to peel. 

Make sure you always store your shoes in a cool, dry place. Allow enough space between your shoes to prevent scuffs that may result from friction with other shoes. It’s also a good idea to stuff your leather shoes with shoe trees or even balled-up cloth or paper to ensure that the shoes retain their shape.

Find out how to get paint off leather shoes and boots here.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to Fix Peeling Vinyl Boots

To fix peeling vinyl boots that aren’t excessively damaged, you should first sand the faux leather with soft sandpaper to create a smooth surface. You can then use a same-colored marker to cover any discoloration and make the color on the shoe even. 

Next, use a soft cloth to apply shoe polish and leave the shoe to dry overnight. 

How To Fix Peeling Shoe Lining

The process of fixing a peeling inner shoe lining is similar to improving the shoe’s outer surface. Sand the shoe and follow the same procedure stated above.

Can Peeling Leather Shoes Be Repaired?

Yes, if you’re wondering if and how to fix peeling leather shoes, you’ll be happy to know you can repair them. Our advice is to prevent the peeling by following the care procedure we have stated rather than waiting to fix the damage. So long as the damage is not too extensive, following the above steps will improve your peeled shoes.



Although genuine leather doesn’t peel, it is significantly costlier than faux leather. Taking proper care of your shoes will ensure that the leather stays intact, even if it’s fake. 

By dedicatedly and adequately cleaning your shoes and storing them nicely, you will enjoy the same classic look that authentic leather shoes have without breaking the bank.

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