Good hiking boots are a serious investment, and often the most expensive piece of kit for hikers. You want to take care of this investment, so you’ll get as many miles out of them as possible. A simple bit of regular TLC will help keep your boots waterproof, comfortable and supportive for years to come.
But this TLC doesn’t have to be restricted to home, after your hike. There are several things that you can do during a hike, particularly longer hikes and trips away, that will help keep your boots in peak condition for longer. Follow these tips and your boots, and your feet, will thank you.
Before you set off
It’s always a good idea to check your boots over before you set off. Carrying out repairs, re-waterproofing, and even something as simple as changing a pair of broken laces are far easier to do at home than out in the wilds. You want to ward off any problems at the start, so in particular, check for:
Loose eyelets or D-rings
Loose inner/outer soles
Cracks in the leather
Worn out shoelaces
Change those socks
If you’re going to be hiking in a humid environment, then make sure to take several changes of socks with you. It’s best to rotate these during the day, removing sweaty socks and replacing them with a dry pair. This will help to keep your boots feeling, and smelling, fresh, reducing the amount of drying time they’ll need later. Just make sure to hang up your socks at night – don’t stuff them into your boots!
Cleaning on the go
First up, you want to remove and loose dirt, mud and stones. In an area away from your camp, tip your boots upside down and give them a good shake, banging them together to get rid of caked on mud.
Take a pocketknife, stick, or other sharp tool and dig any mud and stones out of the sole tread. This ensures that your tread stays in peak condition and you retain as much traction as possible for your next day’s climbing.
Air out your boots and give them time to dry out properly overnight; there’s nothing worse then stepping into a pair of soggy boots the next day. Stuffing them with newspaper or an old cloth will help dry them out more quickly, while helping them retain their shape.
Provided that rain isn’t forecast overnight, and temperatures won’t drop below freezing, leave your boots at the door of your tent or hang them up outside to give them a good airing.
If you’re hiking in wintry conditions in leather boots, don’t leave them exposed to cold temperatures, as this can cause the leather to crack. In cold conditions, store inside your tent, but never inside a plastic bag, as you want your boots to be able to breathe.
Time for a new pair?
If you find, during your hike, that your boots are letting in water (despite re-waterproofing), that you’re losing traction, or that soles are thinning, making walking more uncomfortable, then even TLC isn’t going to save them. If you’re looking for a new pair, try shopping online for the best prices at specialist retailers like Blacks, where delivery is free on orders over £50.