Many people wear copper and believe it relieves arthritis - no
comment on this from me. They let the copper patina as it will and
live with the dark marks on their skin. The marks do wash off.
Copper can be polished and lacquered, but the lacquer will indeed
wear off and if the copper is bent at all, the lacquer will chip off.
Because copper is "bendy", lacquer is not a good option for most
pieces. If you have torched copper, you may have noticed that it
will take on a wonderful reddish finish. That finish can be lightly
buffed and is quite durable; however, it is not permanent and like
any coating, it will wear through.
I have had the best success with keeping the polished finish on
copper when it is soldered to another metal like silver or brass,
then buffed and given a coat of lacquer or wax. The backing metal
takes the abuse and protects the copper's surface... for a while.
In your shoes, I'd experiment with patinas (either from chemicals or
heat). Make the patina part of the design and desirable - sort of
making lemonade out of lemons. It will be interesting to see what
solutions are provided by our wonderful Orchid community,
Judy in Kansas