How to Take Care of Hiking Boots

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If you’ve recently bought a pair of expensive hiking boots, you’re probably wondering how you can enhance their overall lifespan to get the most out of your investment.

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 failure if you were to splurge on expensive hiking boots only to fail to care for them properly.

The last thing you want is a pair of boots that start to fall apart when you’re halfway through a harsh trail.

Luckily, learning how to take care of hiking boots is not rocket science, nor does it require specialized equipment.

Just a few minutes of your time, the right cleaning supplies, pro cleaning and maintenance tips, and you’re good to go.

Hiking Boots Care: Best Practices to Follow

Hiking boots are made of different materials, so you must follow the user’s care guide to the letter.

Failing to do so can accomplish the exact thing you’re trying to prevent and ruin your expensive hiking boots.

Then again, we’re confident that these tips and tricks from seasoned hikers will prove helpful to you.

After all, before learning how to care for your hiking boots, you should first be aware of how to use them properly.

1. Allow Your Boots Enough Break-in Time

In order to take care of your hiking boots, you have to think about their safety.

In this way, you can keep your hiking boots in perfect shape.

For instance, if what you have is a pair of hiking boots made of leather, don’t be in a hurry to break them in.

Wear your new boots less often and let them take shape over time.

This allows them to adjust to the distinctive structural features of your feet.

For this purpose, start by wearing them around your home and then gradually work up to wearing your new leather boots on a short hike.

2. Keep Your Boots Dry and Clean

Whether you have leather or synthetic boots, make sure to keep them out of the water and mud.

In fact, mud is the biggest enemy of your hiking boots.

In case getting in contact with mud is inevitable, learn how to clean your boots thoroughly.

You can do this by using a small brush.

Dampen the brush in water and remove the mud by rubbing it with the brush.

After that, try to air dry them in a warm room.

When drying your boots, avoid putting them in front of a heater.

Too much heat may destroy the flexibility of the leather.

3. Remove the Insoles After Taking off Your Hiking Boots

Removing the insoles after every hike is a good practice to enhance the lifespan of your hiking boots.

The insoles are the part of a shoe that holds the most moisture.

As a result, when you keep them in your shoes, it will affect the durability and comfort level of the leather.

For instance, the tanned leather used by a variety of manufacturers may start to get mushy and soft if you don’t remove the insoles.

4. Keep Your Boots Laced While Wearing Them

To keep your hiking boots in perfect shape, make sure not to wear them without being laced.

The laces keep your boots in their ideal shape, and wearing them without tying the laces could damage their overall shape.

How to Take Care of Hiking Boots

Although the sturdy composition of most hiking boots lets them shrug off the grit and mud from your wilderness adventure, they still need a little TLC.

It’s unwise to toss them into a closet after a successful mud trudging hike up a mountain.

It helps to clean your boots thoroughly, as doing so ensures that you will have many successful hikes together for the years to come.

Here are our expert advice when it comes to taking care of hiking boots:

Pro Tip #1: Clean Them After Every Hike

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.

As a result, it causes them to grind away like sandpaper, eating away at the boots.

Also, as the coated mud on the surface dries up, it sucks away moisture from the boot’s leather surfaces.

This, then, speeds up the aging process since it makes the leather less pliable.

Pro Tip #2: Follow Proper Cleaning Procedure

It’s not enough that you just clean your boots; you have to learn how to do it the right way, too.

Obviously, this would depend on the recommendations of the manufacturer and the materials your hiking boots are made of.

In general, though, here is a step-by-step guide you can follow:

Step 1: Gather your cleaning tools.

First and foremost, you’d need to ensure that you have everything you’d need at arm’s reach.

Of course, you would need a cleaning brush.

You can find a special boot toothbrush, but even an old toothbrush can suffice.

You should then prepare a mixture of mild dishwashing soap and water.

If you don’t want to use dishwashing soap, you can opt for specialty boot cleaner or saddle soap.

Step 2: Remove the shoelaces.

Brush them gently with the brush to remove any clinging grit, dust, and dirt.

If that doesn’t cut it, give the shoelaces a thorough wash in a water and soap solution.

Then, hang them out to dry in an airy place.

Step 3: 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 tend to leave your boot smelly.

To prevent this, wash the insoles using a soapy solution and hang them out to dry, as well.

how to take care of hiking boots

Step 4: Brush off any debris from the sides and 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.

Step 5: Use a soft cloth to wipe the interior surface of the boot.

In case wiping it down doesn’t cut it, you can always go a step further and deep clean your boots.

For deep cleaning, you can pour a solution of mild dishwashing soap and water into the boot and scrub the insides with a soft brush.

Once you’re sure that you’ve cleaned every inch, rinse with plenty of clean water.

Step 6: Clean the upper parts.

Dip a cloth into the solution of mild dishwashing soap and water and use it 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; they may contain additives that can harm the leather or the waterproof membrane of your boots.

Step 7: Clean the hard-to-reach places.

Again, never put your hiking boots in a washing machine as that damages them.

Instead, use a soft brush or a toothbrush to clean the hard-to-reach places.

Step 8: Put them out to dry, preferably under direct sunlight.

Never dry your boots using a heat source such as a campfire, a stove, or a radiator.

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.

Pro Tip #3: Waterproof Your Hiking Boots

Another expert advice we recommend you follow is to waterproof your hiking boots.

To do this, you can consult the manufacturer’s guide for the proper waterproofing products for the type of boot you have.

We recommend that you use high-quality products from reliable brands when waterproofing your boots.

Although there are conflicting thoughts about using such products, you can choose the one that works well for your type of hiking boots.

If your boots are made of leather, you can use reliable waxes and oil-based products to preserve the material.

Ideally, you should waterproof the shoes only 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 lets you get the wax into the tight spots.

Pro Tip #4: Learn How to Combat 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 since it kills bacteria effectively.

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.

Doing this gives the hiking boots a fresh scent.

Pro Tip #5: Store Your Hiking Boots Correctly

If you are a seasonal hiker who breaks out the boots when the weather is fine, be careful where you store them.

It would be appropriate to store them in a room that is neither too hot nor too cold.

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.

Also, make sure to wear them for a while after a month or so.

Doing this will help to maintain their overall shape.


If you love hiking and regularly go out in the mountains, it is possible that you already take good care of your hiking boots.

By taking into account the tips mentioned above, you can keep your boots in perfect condition.

To summarize, here are the things you should do to keep your hiking boots looking as good as new:

  • Don’t forget to clean your boots after every hike, as this will help to keep the leather in perfect shape.
  • If your boots are made of any material other than leather, make sure to remove the dirt after hiking.
  • Keep your boots away from direct heat. Avoid putting them in direct sunlight, which may damage the leather or make them shrink or stiffen up.
  • On the other hand, sunlight proves to be a perfect deodorizer. Remove the insoles and put them under sunlight for some time to curb the build-up of odors.
  • Make sure to place your hiking boots in a dry and clean place and avoid storing them in a plastic bag.

What your boots need is gentle care and attention.

Thankfully, the market is also full of high-quality products that you can use to help prevent regular wear and tear of your hiking boots.

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