Given the expensive price of Doc Martens, it is quite disheartening to see a pair lose its luster. Sure, you can still do something with scuff marks and creases, but what about cracks? Can cracked Doc Martens still be restored or should you already store them in your closet for good?
The cracks in Doc Martens leather are by nature permanent. Whether or not it can be repaired depends on the type of damage. But most often, it can only be hidden through restoration or using leather filler. It is also suggested to use Wonder Balsam to make the leather soft and supple and prevent further cracking.
Repairing cracked Doc Martens is a bit complex. But in this guide, I'll try to share all the best ways to restore your Docs whether it has light or deep cracks. I'll also list the reasons for the cracking so you can prevent them. Go bookmark this page and share it on your socials to help other Doc Martens owners with the same problem!
Technically, all shoes that are made of leather, regardless of the brand, can crack if not given proper maintenance. One good example of this is if your shoes get soaked or wet all the time and you do not waterproof it. The water molecules can combine with the natural oil of the leather and when the water evaporates, so is the oil. This will make the leather brittle and prone to cracking.
Ideally, Docs are not supposed to crack because the processed leather used is high quality and it comes with natural oil. But if you won't maintain your Docs with leather conditioner while using it for work, traveling, and other day-to-day errands, it would definitely crack at some point. So you see, despite the hardiness and durability of Doc Martens, it would still depend on you if it will suffer from cracks a few months or years after it is purchased.
To better understand and prevent cracking in Docs, we should go deeper into the reasons why it happens in the first place. In this section, I'll detail two main reasons that most leather experts claim to crack the durable Doc Martens leather
Since leather is made of animal skin or hides, it will eventually get worn and damaged over time. During an animal's lifetime, its skin is naturally nourished with oils just like us, humans. But when the hides of the animals are transformed into leather, the natural moisture found in the skin is replaced by what is called tanning agents. It is then lubricated with oils and waxes to last for a long time.
If there is a lack of water or oil in your Doc Martens, the fibers that make up the leather will rub against one another when you move with your boots or shoes. This will make the fiber stiff and eventually there will be tension points in your Docs as well as cracks.
How, then, does this moisture dry up? It's pretty simple. By leaving your Docs in a dry environment or storing it in a very humid area, you are letting the moisture evaporate. Initially, you will see creases on your Docs, but give it a few weeks of exposure to humidity and it will really crack.
One major fault of natural leather sources is the fact that it has pores that make it porous. Because of this, your Docs trap irritants like dirt and unhealthy oils.
These so-called irritants are responsible for breaking the dye and texture of the upper of your shoes which eventually leads to discoloration and cracking.
You can expect this problem with Nubuck and Suede because they are highly porous. Meanwhile, Smooth leather is semi-porous so they don't crack that easily. Unless, of course, you expose them to too much humidity.
Now that you already know what causes cracks in Docs, preventing them would be easy. It is also much easier to prevent than deal with deep cracks later on.
The best thing to do to maintain the quality of your Docs is by keeping it away from direct sunlight or any source of heat. You should also refrain from storing it in dry or humid areas. Ideally, the humidity of the room should only be 40%. If you can't achieve this room temperature naturally, then use a humidifier.
Another thing that you can do to prevent cracks is through leather care. Apply enough leather conditioner so your Docs won't dry up and crack. You should also consider waterproofing your Docs, because as mentioned a while back, when your shoes absorb too much moisture, it will mix with the natural oil and both will evaporate in no time leaving your shoes dry and prone to cracks.
The last simple thing that you can do to prevent cracks is to use shoe trees. Shoe trees are great in preventing creases that later on leads to crack. You can buy affordable shoe trees on Amazon and trust me, they work wonders.
When someone tweeted Doc Martens regarding their cracked footwear, the only response of the brand was to apply Wonder Balsam to prevent the leather from further cracking. They also apologized because the Docs can no longer be repaired because of its deep cracks.
While cracks cannot really be repaired, there are some ways to restore it to a presentable appearance. Here, I have detailed how you can deal with both light and deep leather cracks.
For light leather cracks, applying conditioner can help blend the fibers of your Docs and hide it. The cracks would no longer look ridiculous, but more like a natural imperfection of the leather.
Here's what you'll need:
Here are the simple steps you should follow in dealing with light leather cracks:
Step 1: Using a soft cloth or brush, clean the crack and its surrounding leather. After this, apply some mild soap and use a fine-bristled brush to clean the cracks better. This will help make the leather a bit softer and more flexible.
Step 2: Apply the cream, oil, or conditioner to the crack. You may use a spoon or your finger. Just make sure that you put enough so the cracks become less pronounced. Remove the excess conditioner and let the leather absorb the product overnight. This will deeply rehydrate the leather.
Step 3: If the leather still appears super dry and the light crack still looks too pronounced, better re-apply. But avoid putting too much conditioner or oil as it can also collapse the structure of your Doc Martens. To continuously prevent cracks, apply leather conditioner every month.
For more deep-seated damage on your Docs, putting conditioner won't be enough. Luckily, there are two methods that work wonders— applying leather crack fillers and using leather dye.
Here are the materials needed for this method:
Here's how this method works:
Step 1: First things first, clean the cracks with a mild soap or a leather cleaner. Make sure that you test the soap first on a part of your Docs that doesn't have a crack.
Step 2: Let your Doc Martens dry overnight. This ensures that your shoes are really dry because if not, the moisture will prevent the leather filler from settling on the cracks of your Docs. Use a dry cloth and tap it to the area you cleaned so it dries faster.
Step 3: Using super-fine sandpaper, gently smooth the cracks of your Docs. Avoid harsh types of sandpaper because they can do more damage than good. Gradually apply pressure until the cracks already feel smooth. Once done, remove the dust with a dry cloth.
Step 4: Using a palette knife, apply the leather filler to the cracks of your Doc Martens. Brush it after so the filler really enters and fills the cracks.
Step 5: Also use the palette knife to remove excess paste. Keep doing this until there is no more overspill.
Step 6: To make the filler set and solidify, leave it for six hours in a well-ventilated room. Preferably, put your Docs in an area where air passes through. Do not dry your Docs in the direct sunlight or in a very humid area because the crack would only worsen.
Here are the materials to prepare for this method:
Here's how this method works:
Step 1: If the crack is really deep, you would need to combine leather fillers and leather dye. Thus, follow the steps above in applying fillers. If the inside of the crack is only lighter in color, you can skip applying leather dye.
Step 2: Using ultra-fine sandpaper, smoothen the cracks. Afterwhich, wipe the excess dust as too much dust residue can affect the absorption of the leather coloring.
Step 3: Apply the leather dye that has the same color as the leather of your Docs. Use an applicator pad or a sponge to spread it on the cracks. Make sure it is only a thin coat. Once done, rub the cracks so the color is spread evenly.
Step 4: Dry the dye using a hair blower for two minutes. Set it in a low setting and move the dyer across the cracks so you won't dry the leather and further crack it to an irreparable state.
Step 5: Depending on the severity of the crack, you may need to apply some dye four or five times and blend it. Make sure that you directly dab the coloring to the crack and that you use a blow dryer to dry it each time.
Step 6: To help retain the filler and the colorant, spray it with some leather sealer. Put some sealer on the sponge or cloth and then rub it into the cracks. You may need to do this twice. And just like what you did for the colorant, use the blow dryer to dry the affected area.
Doc Martens can last for more than 20 years if you do your best to take care of it and address scuff marks, creases, or light cracks right away. Of course, factors such as how often you use it or where you use it will also affect the lifetime of your Docs, but generally, the upper will remain sealed to the AirWair soles for a very very long time.
While leather naturally cracks because it is made of natural materials, this shouldn't be a problem with your Doc Martens if you give it the proper care and you do not let it dry up. Again, whether or not your Docs will exhibit creases or cracks depends on how you maintain it. So go ahead and buy that expensive and high-quality leather conditioner and waterproofing agent. Your Doc Martens deserve it!