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1. July 2017
Boots made for walking...

Caring for hiking boots – a guide

There is nothing better than a pair of well-fitting and good hiking boots. Enjoying them for a long time to come is only made possible if they are well cared for. We explain how.

Hiking boots need care!

Nothing flatters a hikers foot more than a pair of well-trod hiking boots..Anyone who has ever gone through the tedious task of breaking in a pair, knows that once they are worn in, you want to wear them forever! Forever is an awfully long time, but with proper care, hiking boots can be worn for many a trip to come. Caring for hiking boots? Ugh, that sounds like work! With the following tips, it’s not as bad as it seems and will extend the life of a good hiking boot considerably:

1. Clean hiking boots immediately after a hiking tour and allow to dry!

Mud and moisture from the outside, sweat from the inside: Hiking boots aren’t protected from the elements. Regardless of the material, a quick clean after every intensive use is important. Use a brush to remove the dirt, even going under the laces and repeat if necessary with a damp sponge. Practical tip: Throw a small brush into your backpack to use before getting back into a car or public transportation – you’ll be making fellow passengers or the driver of the car happy!

With proper care, you will have continued enjoyment with your hiking boots! | Photo: Meindl / Thomas Grüner
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With proper care, you will have continued enjoyment with your hiking boots! | Photo: Meindl / Thomas Grüner

When at home remove the insole and open the lacing as far back as possible. This enables the inner soles to dry completely. Avoid drying directly on a heater or oven as leather shoes especially may become brittle!

2. Correct treatment of material!

Time and time again in our retail stores we hear “Why use a leather care product, my shoe is Gore-Tex?” No it’s not! It may have at most a waterproof Gore-Tex lining or other membrane, but the overwhelming majority of hiking boots are made mostly of leather. This is due to the fact that high-quality leather is extremely durable, long-lasting. Secondly, it adapts like no other material to the foot. Synthetic materials are also available – more on that later.

Leather can take on a variety of surfaces: anywhere from smooth and scarred to a fine, brushed nubuck leather – similar to a micro-fibre. The function is always the same, namely to support and protect. With each step, the leather in your hiking boot is working. It forms soft creases in the points of where the foot naturally rolls and with time, the leather becomes softer in those places where it moves and creases. To prevent the leather from drying out and remain pliable, it must be maintained accordingly. The magic word is: wax. Unlike oil or leather fat, the leather  keeps its form but won’t become too soft. As wax can darken the leather somewhat and sometimes make it look spotty, there are different products for various types of leather.

3. Proper Leather Care with wax

Granger’s G-Wax for example, is perfect for smooth leather shoes. It is applied directly, best by hand and thoroughly rubbed in. It’s easier to use when the otherwise dense mass is melted a little in the palm of your hand, making it then also easier to rub into the stitching or eyelets. It is important not to use too much wax. When the pores are clogged, the boot will respond with a rubber-boot like climate. Applying very thin layers is especially preferable for footwear worn often and in a cross section of weather. Meindl Sportwax works basically the same way.

Although suede or nubuck leather shoes may theoretically be treated in a similar fashion, it should be noted however that the leather will definelty become smoother and lose the suede optic. If you would like to maintain the nubuck look, then we suggest firstly using a suede cleaning brush or suede eraser to remove dirt and mud, keeping in mind that you need to brush it in the direction of the fibres rather than going back and forth. Finally, you can brush over the suede with a nylon brush to help lift the nap.

4. How often should I care for my Hiking shoes?

As required or each time the hiking boot feels dry. As with hand cream or lip balm, if your skin is already cracking, it’s a little too late! Experience has shown that a treatment is needed every five to eight hiking tours. You can’t damage a boot by over-caring for it – more often rather than too seldom is a good rule of thumb!

Hiking shoes not only come made of leather, there are also the synthetic type that we mentioned earlier in the article. Most of these are frequently found as a hybrid mixed-form insert made from mesh or textile material. This ensures greater breathability and less weight. These inserts should be treated with a waterproof spray after cleaning from time to time, such as Toko Eco-Proof & Care Eco, so that they do not immediately absorb rain, snow and slush.

5. Outer appearances are not all that count: Don’t forget the value of what’s inside!

The inside of a hiking boot shouldn’t be forgotten when cleaning either. This can (ideally sport detergent) be done with a sponge and a mild detergent solution. Especially soft shoes with high textile content are easy to clean: a saturated sponge with cleaning solution is placed into the shoe and pressed towards the outer part of the shoe – even the pores are flushed thoroughly with this process. Rinse thoroughly and let it dry carefully, Done!
Note: Removable insoles are parts that wear out. They absorb most of all perspiration and are exposed to the greatest stress. Therefore, they should be replaced periodically.

Caring for hiking boots will give you a boot with longivity… and your feet will undoubtedly thank you for it too!

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Bela Elbich

... is textile consultant at Bergzeit Outdoor Center in Tegernsee, Germany. Whether trekking, cycling, kayaking or climbing - Bela is passionately active outdoors. Armed with camera and notepad, he is always on the hunt for new stories. Pfeil All articles by Bela Elbich