How To Care For (And Extend The Life Of) Your Hiking Boots

hiking boots on sand

You’ve gone through all the trouble of finding the perfect pair of hiking boots, so why not take good care of them and extend the life of those hiking boots so that you really get your money’s worth out of the purchase. Cause let’s face it, hiking boots aren’t cheap so extending their useful life is a great option for the budget conscious hiker, as well as the hiker who just love their current boots. Fortunately, hiking boot care and maintenance is a lot easier that you might think. So, if you want to extend the lifespan of your hiking boots, then let us help.

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Basic Hiking Boot Care Tips

Not matter how old or new the boots, there are some basic tips that everyone can follow to keep those shoes working for you on many more trails to come.

  • Never store your boots in the trunk of your car or anywhere else that will subject them to extreme heat. Room temperature is the ideal climate for them.
  • After every hike, give your boots a quick cleaning. You can easily do this with some water and a brush. (more tips on this below)
  • Help the whole boot dry after a hike by removing the insoles for 24 hours.
  • When you notice that water is no longer beading on the uppers of your boots, restore their water resistant properties with a basic waterproofing treatment.

Following these four steps goes a long way in extending the useful life of your hiking boots.

How To Care For New Hiking Boot

When your boots are new, their upkeep is super easy. There’s not a lot you have to do, but following these tips helps them last longer.

  • Don’t treat them with anything out of the box as they are pre-treated when you buy them.
  • Keep and follow the care instructions included with the new hiking boots.
  • You can, and should, apply conditioner to any flex point spots that are slow to break in. That makes the spot more pliable.
  • Properly break in your new boots before doing out on any long hikes or trips.

After-Hike Cleaning Tips

When you go on a hike, your boots take in dirt and grit, as well as moisture, all of which work together to shorten the life of your shoes. Those organic particles, if left there, grind away at the leather like sandpaper. And when mud is left to dry, it sucks moisture right out of the leather – this results in faster aging and less pliable leather.

  • Remove the laces before cleaning to do the most thorough job.
  • Use a soft brush to gently remove dust and dirt. I like to keep old toothbrushes for this purpose, but you can a vegetable brush or a boot brush.
  • Clean the exterior with a bit of water and a cleanser, such as a specially designed hiking boot cleaner, saddle soap, or mild soap like Dr Bronner’s soap. A mild dish soap can be used, but it is not ideal.
  • Use a mixture of 80% water and 20% vinegar if you have mold build up on the boots.
  • Clean your outsole, too, if you have mud or other buildup. For mud, place in a shallow pan of water to loosen it. Tread cleaner can help with other items stuck in the outsole.
  • Leave the boots in a room temperature setting to dry naturally. Never put them near a heat source to speed up the drying.
  • Remove the insoles so that they can air dry on their own.
  • If your boots have a removable sock liner, it may be machine washable.
  • Never put your entire boot in the washing machine!
  • To speed-dry your hiking boots, place them upside down. You can also place them in front of a fan or stuff with newspapers to hasten the process. If using newspapers, change them hourly for the best results.

Caring for Used Hiking Boots

When it comes to caring for your worn hiking boots, you’ve got a three-point action plan to keep up.

  1. Clean
  2. Condition
  3. Waterproof

A special boot cleaner is something that should really only be used every now and then. So, when you notice some stubborn build up, you have boots that are exceptionally dirty after a hike, or you’re getting ready to waterproof them – that’s when you should use a special cleaner.

Conditioner is something that is designed for full-grain leather boots, and it is used when they look dry or like they are cracking. A less common use is to break in new boots. When you condition your leather hiking boots, take care to not use too much. If you do, they will get too soft and offer less support. Use just enough that the leather looks moisturized.

As previously mentioned, you should apply a waterproof treatment when you notice that water is no longer beading on the shoes uppers. The frequency for this application will vary by hiker, with those who do a lot of wet weather hiking needing to apply it several times each year.

By following these tips, you can help your boots last you for a good, long time. That means more time spent on the trails and less time shopping for new boots.

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