by Diane Spicer
Hiking boot care - protect your investment, that's what I always say.
The best hiking gear costs money, and you will need to schedule some regular maintenance to extend its life.
Stop reading this if you'd prefer to buy inexpensive hiking footwear.
The following information is for folks who paid quite a chunk of hard earned money for sturdy, well constructed boots with thick tread and weather proofing features.
Case in point: the leather Zamberlans in the photo above, one of my favorite pairs of boots.
I can just imagine your joy.
You've found the perfect pair of boots. [If you haven't, read this.]
But wait! There's one more thing you should be plotting.
Hiking boot care.
Why should you be thinking about how to care for the boots before they have their first tiny bit of trail dirt on them?
Well, fair is fair.
Their end of the deal is to keep your feet injury free, dry, and stable regardless of terrain and weather conditions.
Your end of the deal?
Begin with water proofing. It's a fundamental principle of hiking boot care.
And it's fun! Here's how it goes:
Here's what I use, because it comes in a great storage can and can be tucked away in the gear locker between seasons.
You know what to do with Boot #2!
Allow both boots to sit in direct sun for at least an hour.
Be aware that any metal on the boots may be hot enough to burn you, so use caution when you go through the second round of applying SnoSeal...which you need to do next.
Allow your boots to cool off in the shade, then re-lace.
You're all set for whatever the weather can throw at you!
Who knew hiking boot care could be this easy?
Use NikWax to waterproof not only your leather boots, but the fabrics of your outdoor athletic gear.
It's water based, and I find that it wears off much faster than SnoSeal
But you don't
need a hot sunny day to apply it!
What should regular hiking boot care throughout a hiking season look like?
It depends on what you hike through, around, and over.
But one given: Get the grit off.
Here's what I've used to clean up my boots, and it works quite well.
If you're in a wet area (bogs, swamps, mud holes), be aware that drying out your boots properly will extend their lifespan.
Don't put them near a heat source, because they will dry in weird shapes and you will lose all of the foot-conformity you've programmed into them by hiking in them.
This habit of speeding up the drying process will also crack leather boots along the "fault lines" that form in the toe area.
If you're going to cross water above your ankles, consider using water shoes or sandals rather than subjecting your boots to all of that water.
It all comes down to safety - can you make it across without losing your footing wearing this lightweight foot protection?
FYI: It's important to know which types of water crossings are safe, and which you should walk away from.
I use water shoes like these.
Tip: Don't invest a lot of money into water shoes if your stream crossing are few and far between.
However, I've found that the super cheap kind fall apart after just a few uses.
And I can't live without my Teva sandals for summer hikes involving shallow, easy water crossings.
In truth, you will find them on my feet both on and off the trail.
They're sporty looking, that's for sure! Take a look here:
Grit, sand and dessicated conditions can really do a number on your leather boots.
Two best practices after a dirty hike:
Brush off the grit before storing your boots in your gear locker.
Check the soles for embedded rocks or other debris in the tread which robs you of traction.
Regardless of the type of hiking boots you wear, it's important to give them a once-over every so often.
You want to avoid the scenario of a boot failure miles away from the trail head.
Take a close look at the laces every season.
Unless you have the foresight to carry an extra pair, a broken lace can be a real pain.
Check the tread regularly, especially if you're planning to be hanging onto a trail by one boot width.
You want good grip regardless of what's under your feet, right?
Just don't overlook this safety item.
I've been on some pretty dicey footing, and it was my boot tread that gave me peace of mind.
Consider inexpensive sole inserts if your boots are beginning to give you tired feet.
It may be that your body weight has maxed out the original boot materials, and they need a bit of help distributing your body weight.
I buy the boot inserts that you have to take a pair of scissors to, trimming them to fit my particular boots.
And I don't feel badly when I throw them away at the end of a season (or a particularly wet hiking adventure), because of their low cost.
Don't keep hiking in boots that hurt your feet.
Believe me, I know it's painful to throw boots away, but it's also painful to hobble around after a hike.
To relieve yourself of poorly performing boots:
Before you give up on a pair of boots, play around with your hiking socks. It may be a bad combination that's playing havoc with the well being of your feet, not the boots alone.
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About the author
Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.
She’s been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for nearly five decades & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.
All rights reserved.
Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer except where noted.
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