Caring for Hiking Boots

Caring for Hiking BootsYour boots are a key element of your hiking equipment, and represent a serious investment in your comfort while on the trail. Proper care of your boots can extend their life, keep you comfortable and protect your feet.


Difficulty: Easy

Step 1
Boots should be stored in a dry, airy place if they're not being worn. If you're storing them (not wearing them at least once a week), take them out for a routine wipe-down and thorough drying at least once every 2 weeks to prevent mold from growing on the leather.
Step 2
You can use an old toothbrush and a mild soap with cool water to scrub the soles, taking care to clean out all the crevices and cracks in the rubber. Wipe down the leather and the insides of the shoes with a damp cloth, using a chemical-free or mild soap if necessary. Remove the laces and clean around the tongue of the boot with the cloth; laces can be washed in the washing machine or soaked in soapy water for a few minutes, then rinsed and air-dried.
Step 3
If you have waterproof boots, don't spray with sealant of any kind--this can damage the mesh areas that provide breathability for your feet. However, if your boots don't have waterproofing material, an application of a sealant like silicone can help keep your feet dry.
Step 4
Most boots with leather materials will need to be conditioned to keep the material soft and supple, and to prevent cracking. Most outfitters, shoe stores and general stores carry a leather conditioner. This should be used sparingly, so as not to damage the shoe, and should be applied only to the leather portion of the boot--not to waterproofed or mesh areas. Conditioning your boots four times per year--assuming they're well-used through the cooler months--should keep them in great shape.
Step 5
When you're back from a hike or an overnight trip, make sure to let your boots air out for a few days. Outdoors in partial shade is best for ventilation; some sunlight will help the boots dry out quickly, preventing mold, while not damaging the leather. Some stores carry an antibacterial spray to eliminate germs and other bacteria that build up on the boots. This can be a helpful product, but make sure to read the label carefully and do a spot-test on a non-visible piece of the material before spraying. Some chemicals can cause fading, bleaching or holes in the materials used in your boot.

Article Written By Emily Elder

Emily works as a Greenway coordinator and parks project manager in her local community, and has been hiking, camping, fishing and riding all over the mountains of western North Carolina. She enjoys being outside with her family, especially her two children, Creedence and Mason, and her husband, James, and lives on a small farm surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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