How To Take Care Of Hiking Boots

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Take care of your hiking boots, and they will, in turn, take care of you, goes an adage that holds true. It would amount to a great fail if you were to splurge on expensive hiking boots only to fail to care for them properly. The last thing you want is pair of boots that are falling apart when you’re halfway through a harsh trail.

Luckily, taking care of your hiking boots is not rocket science, nor does it require specialized equipment. Just a few minutes of your time, and the right cleaning supplies and a brush, and you’re good to go. However, since hiking boots are made of different materials, you must follow the user’s guide to the letter. Failing to do so can accomplish the exact thing you’re trying to prevent and ruin your expensive hiking boots.

How To Take Care Of Hiking Boots

Although the sturdy composition of the hiking boots lets them shrug off the grit and mud from your wilderness adventure, they need a little TLC. It’s unwise to toss them into a closet after a successful mud trudging hike up a mountain range. It helps to clean your boots thoroughly as it ensures that you have many successful hikes together for the years to come.

Ideally, you should clean your boots after every hike, but in reality, you might be too tired to get around to it at the end of the day. If that happens, be sure to clean them the following day and not later. If you’re on a hiking bender, be sure to clean them first thing in the morning before heading out.

Really, isn’t that asking too much?

Actually, no. Failing to learn how to take care of hiking boots can lead to several problems:

  • Mud and grit tend to stick to the surface of your boot. If you don’t clean or brush them off, they tend to damage the materials. Since your shoe has to flex as part of the walking process, the flexing action forces these particles deep into the shoe’s leather and fabric. That causes them to grind away like sandpaper, eating away at the shoes.
  • As the coated mud on the surface dries up, it sucks away moisture from the boot’s leather surfaces. That speeds up the aging process since it makes the leather less pliable.

Hiking Boots Cleaning Supplies

  • A cleaning brush. You have the option of a special boot toothbrush, but even an old toothbrush can suffice.
  • Mild dishwashing soap and water solution but you can opt for specialty boot cleaner or saddle soap.

Cleaning Your Hiking Boots

  1. Remove the shoelaces. Brush them gently with the brush to remove any clinging grit, dust, and dirt. If that doesn’t cut it, give them a thorough wash in a water and soap solution. Hang them out to dry in an airy place.
  2. Remove the insole. Ideally, you should remove the hiking boot’s inner sole as soon as you’re done for the day to prevent odors. Sweat and bacteria build up on the insoles to leave your boot smelly. Wash the insoles with a soapy solution and hang them out to dry as well.
  3. Brush off any debris from the sides and hiking boot’s outsole. While a mud-caked sole won’t damage your hiking boots, brushing off the mud restores full traction to give you a solid footing. It also keeps you from acting as a host and transporting invasive species on your next hike.
  4. Use a soft cloth to wipe the interior surface of the boot. For deep cleaning, you can pour a solution of mild dishwashing soap and water into the booth and scrub with a soft brush. Rinse with plenty of clean water.
  5. Dip a cloth into the solution of mild dishwashing soap and water and use to wipe the upper parts of the boot. If using a cleaning solution, double-check that its safe for use on your particular type of hiking boot. Avoid bar soaps and detergents as they may contain additives that can harm the leather or the waterproof membrane.

Again, never put your hiking boots in a washing machine as that damages them. Use the soft brush or a toothbrush to clean the hard to reach places. Then put them out to dry, preferably in direct sunlight.

Never dry your boots using a heat source such as a campfire, a stove, or a radiator as this prematurely ages the leather and weakens the adhesives. If you must speed up the drying process, use a fan. Stuffing the boots with newspapers also speeds up the drying process.

Waterproofing Your Hiking Boots

Consult the manufacturer’s guide for the proper waterproofing products for the type of boot you have. Ideally, you should waterproof the shoes after you’ve broken them in. You have a choice of silicones, wax, and oil-based waterproofing products. Silicone-based products are ideal for synthetic boots, while the leather ones do well with oil and wax-based products. Apply a thin layer of the waterproofing compound, paying particular attention to where the boot and sole meet. A soft toothbrush or a Q-tip let you get the wax into the tight spots.

Combating Odors

Wet insoles can turn your precious hiking boots into smelly Petri dishes laden with bacteria. Removing the insoles overnight dries off any accumulated moisture while allowing the boot to breathe. Exposing the boots to sunshine helps to battle the odors as it kills bacteria. Stuffing the boot with crumpled newspapers and leaving them for 24 to 48 hours also helps to eliminate odor.

If that’s not enough, wipe the boot’s interior surface with cloth dipped in white vinegar and leave them out to dry. After the boots dry, you can stuff in fabric softener sheets and leave them overnight. That gives the hiking boots a fresh scent.

Storing Your Hiking Boots

If you’re a seasonal hiker who breaks out the boots when the weather is fine, be careful where you store them. Don’t stash them in a hot basement or a cold attic or any other unventilated spaces. Instead, store them in a place where temperatures are normal and stable. You don’t want the leather to dry out or for mold to form on the surface as that reduces the lifespan of the boots.

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