In addition to rucksacks, tents and sleeping bags, hiking boots are another investment of time and money towards any good collection of kit. Buy the right pair and regularly maintain them, and they will last years. However, with the different fabric technologies and leathers available on the market in today’s boot collections, knowing the proper method for caring for hiking boots can be difficult to discern. Listed below are some helpful instructions and tips to properly care for your boots and ensure they will last for walks to come.
Before doing anything else, make sure you remove any excess dirt or clumps from the boots. Once any large clumps are gone, lightly wash down the outside of the boots and use a cleaner to begin scrubbing the dirt off. Make sure you choose a cleaner that is specifically made for hiking boots; household products contain harsh chemicals that can deteriorate the technical manmade fabric of a boot.
After you have finished cleaning the boots, put them in a cool, dark place to dry. DO NOT place them somewhere warm, like near a fireplace or radiator; the heat emitted from these will melt the glue that attaches the sole to the rest of the boot. If the inside of your boot is wet, stuff some newspaper inside the boots – this will help draw the moisture out from the inside.
Once they have thoroughly dried, leather boots will need to be moisturised. This part of the cleaning process is often overlooked, yet it is one of the most important parts. If the leather is not regularly moisturised, it will dry up, turn rigid and crack, leaving your boots with holes that no amount of waterproofing products or Gore-Text can fix. Not only this, but many boot designers add leather detailing to the sides of the boots to offer additional support around the arch of the foot.
After the polish or beeswax has been soaked into the leather of the boot, it is time to add a water resistant product to the boot. Even if your boot contains Gore-Tex, it is recommended to use a waterproofing agent; in some countries, like Britain, the water can very acidic and over time damage the adhesive or fabric of the hiking boot. Simply spray or wipe the agent over the shoe, and give it time to dry before wearing outside so it can effectively bond itself to the shoe.
Like moisturising the leather of the boot, the cleaning of the inside of the boot is arguably one of the most important aspects of maintaining hiking shoes, but is almost always overlooked.
After cleaning the outside of the boot, turn it upside down and knock any excess grit out of the boot. Make sure you thoroughly clean the creases between the sole, even if you need to use a vacuum, as this is the largest problem area. Grit collects in the seam of the toe box and insole, and when the boots are worn, rubs against the Gore-Tex membrane and gradually causes holes to appear, effectively eliminating the waterproofing capability of the boots.
Every once in awhile, use a hiking boot-specific cleaning product, mixed with water to clean the inside of the boot. Simply tip the mixture inside the boot and give it a good shake. Afterwards pour the mixture out and stuff with newspaper to help the water evaporate from the inside more effectively. This helps improve the breathability of the boots by cleaning the excess sweat and dirt residue from the lining and Gore-Tex membrane.
Do you have any maintenance or boot care tips? Drop them in a comment below!