But I feel like even doing that you are doing more harm than good. I think our conversation began when you said you disagreed with my statement that wax doesn't need to be stripped. I still agree with that providing you are conditioning the vamp of your shoes and not keeping a high shine with wax polish over the vamp.
If I had any evidence that my process was doing more harm than good I would have stopped doing it decades ago, but I have dozens of pairs of shoes in my collection that I can show you pictures of with a shiny vamp and no signs of damage. In fact I have never gotten rid of a pair of shoes, in my 40 years as an adult, because of cracks in the vamp.
You have no basis for your assumption that my process does more harm than good, other than your belief than cleaning wax from a shoe on a relatively frequent basis is bad for the shoe. You could just as easily say brushing a shoe too often is bad for a shoe. You have no evidence, just assumption in either case.
Part of the issue may be simply related to semantics: When I refer to taking wax off of a shoe I refer to it as cleaning the shoe, not stripping the shoe.
When I remove wax from a shoe I use Lexol leather cleaner which is a glycerin rich, pH balanced leather cleaner. This cleaner removes wax and is not harmful to the leather (according to Lexol, and direct experience).
I have tried RenoMat for cleaning, but it is just too strong, and results in actually stripping the wax down to the finish of the leather. I don’t know the ingredients of RenoMat because they are not listed (although Kirby might be able to find out), but I would suspect something like a small percentage of acetone or something similar. If I wanted to “strip” a pair of shoes I would use RenoMat.
I don’t believe that it is harmful to strip a pair of shoe of all wax, every once in a while, but I wouldn’t suggest doing it frequently. In fact just a few of my posts ago (#2990), in this thread, I stated “I would caution against cleaning shoes to this degree (using cleaners like Renomat) too frequently.”.
Leather is pretty resilient if properly cared for, The most critical factor in caring for leather is along the lines that you promote, which is keeping the leather conditioned.
Leather is made up of a tangle of fibers resembling a pad of steel wool. These fibers are held together with protein bonds. In the tanning process, hides are soaked in chemicals to prevent the fibers and their bonds from decomposing. Then fats and oils are tumbled with the hides to keep the protein bonds from drying out and to make the leather supple.
Keeping those protein bonds lubricated and supple is a key to long-lasting leather. If those bonds dry out completely, they shrink, become brittle and break. Once broken, they can't be mended. The leather is permanently weakened.
Stripping a shoe to the finish does not dry out the protein bonds to any large degree (an expert like Ron Rider could probably tell us to what degree, since he does this sort of thing frequently when refinishing shoes), unless you saturate the leather in acetone repeatedly without replacing the oils and simply let it dry out. You would have to purposely be trying to damage the shoe to do this.
My disagreement with you is your statement that “If you want your shoes to last you shouldn't maintain a ‘shine’ on the vamp of your shoe.". Not only do I not believe that, I have decades of results that say it is not true. I do agree with you that stripping a shoe just to condition it is worse than just keeping a low shine on your shoes. However, those are not the only two options (and they are not even diametrically opposed).
My regiment of cleaning a shoe, conditioning, and polishing on a relatively frequent basis has worked very well for me over the years, and sits somewhere between stripping a shoe just to condition it, and only adding conditioner without ever removing wax.