Care for Hiking Boots

While all footwear eventually wears down, you can increase the chances of your hiking boots lasting longer with proper care, especially higher quality boots. Many hikers outlay a good sum of money for a decent pair of hiking boots, so it makes good sense to prolong their life and to ensure that they remain comfortable, waterproof or resistant, and supporting.

Caring for hiking boots is a circular activity that begins with breaking them in initially, and then requires care both while wearing and after each hike.


  1. Break in your new hiking boots. When you first purchase a pair of hiking boots, wear them around the house and for short local walks initially, to help break them in. Hopefully you wore your usual Choose Hiking Clothes when purchasing on, so be sure to wear these when breaking them in too. Your hiking expedition will be a lot more enjoyable if the new boots already have some give and slight wear to them; otherwise, you may discover that you're focused solely on how much they're hurting you instead of enjoying the hike!
    • If you can't break in your boots on Be Local, only attempt a leisurely hike at first.
  2. Before heading out for your Prepare For a Hiking Trip, do a once-over of your hiking boots to check that they're in top condition. A lot of problems with hiking boots can be warded off at the start, including breaking them in, waterproofing them, and checking that the boot is not in need of any repairs.
    • If they need waterproofing, do so before leaving home. It's much easier in the comfort of your home than trying to fiddle with this process out in the wilds. The type of waterproofing agent you should use will depend on the make and material of your hiking boot; it's recommended that you ask at your retailer for advice on the correct product or read the instructions from the manufacturer either online or in any literature accompanying the boots. Usually the waterproofing product will be oil-based for leather boots and silicone-based for fabric based boots. Follow the instructions on the product for waterproofing.
    • Check the shoelaces. Are they in good condition or is one or both of them close to breaking from wear? Are the aiglets (aglets) in good shape? If it's time to change the shoelaces, do so, as it won't be enjoyable to break a lace while you're out hiking.
    • Check for loose eyelets or D-rings, any Maintain Leather Shoes or other material, loose soles, loose inner soles, dirt, seeds, and other debris inside the shoes, and loose stitching anywhere. Attend to anything you see that might break, loosen, or cease to work when out hiking – better now than in the middle of a rainstorm in deep mud!
  3. Be prepared to clean your boots regularly during the hiking trip. The type of cleaning that you'll be able to do while out hiking won't be anywhere as thorough as the clean post-hike, but it does help to perform some basic cleaning tasks that help care for your hiking boots as you're on the go:
    • Remove the debris from your boots after the day's hike has ended and you're at camp or your cabin. Simply tip the boots upside down over an area away from the tent or cabin and bang them to loosen any dirt, seeds, and other debris that has accumulated in them during the day's hike.
    • Tap the pair of boots together firmly to remove loose dirt from the outside of the boots.
    • Using a stick, pocket knife, or other sharp instrument, dig the mud out of the soles of the boots, one at a time.
    • Allow Fix Hiking Shoes for Safe and Comfortable Hiking time to dry overnight. If you can, stuff newspaper or a warm cloth inside them to help them keep their shape. Leave them at the door of your tent or cabin or hang them up outside if there is no likelihood of rain overnight. Don't dry leather boots in the direct sunlight, in front of a heater or before the campfire because the heat will crack them.
    • If hiking in a Avoid Heat Stress While Exercising, take several changes of socks and rotate these during the day to remove the wet socks and add dry ones. Doing this should help to reduce the wetness of your boots. Overnight, be sure to hang the socks up to dry – do not stuff them into your boots!
    • If Prepare for a Winter Hike, don't leave your boots out of the tent or they can freeze and crack. Place them inside a sleeping bag or use them as a headrest.
    • Repeat these daily cleaning tasks for the duration of your hiking trip. And before putting your boots on every morning, shake them upside down to remove biting or other visitors.
  4. Clean the boots upon your return from the hiking trip. This clean will be a thorough clean, the one you do prior to storage.
    • Remove all mud and dirt from the boots. As explained above, tip them upside down and shake them, then bang them together firmly to release all loose dirt and mud. Then use a stick or sharp tool to dig dirt out of the Mend the Curved Part of a Rubber Sole of the boots. Use a hard-bristled brush to remove remaining mud and dirt that has been caked on.
    • Wipe the inside of the boot to remove salt from perspiration. Use warm water to wash off salt and perspiration stains.
    • Wash the hiking boots in warm, mild soapy water to remove all traces of mud and dirt; you can use a rag to wipe over the boots. Or, use a proprietary cleaner recommended by the manufacturer – always be sure to read the manufacturer's warnings about what you can and cannot use to clean the boots with.
    • Allow to dry away from heat or direct sunlight sources.
    • Waterproof the boots. This job is best done after cleaning rather than waiting until your next hiking trip. As explained earlier, the waterproofing method you use will depend on the make and material of the boot. Oil-based waterproofers usually require two to three applications by hand, while silicone-based products can often be sprayed, rubbed, or wiped on using a tool that comes with the product. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions concerning application and drying times.
  5. Check the overall condition of the boots. Before putting the boots away, check the same basics that you checked before taking the boots hiking. In particular, replace fraying laces, loose eyelets or D-rings, and worn inner soles. At the very least, put replacement items down on your "must-buys" for the next visit to the hiking boot retailer so that you'll have the items before your next hike.
  6. Use a leather conditioner regularly to stop leather hiking boots from drying out. Some waterproofers may have conditioners in them but don't assume that they all do. Pay particular attention to creases in the leather as these can crack when dry.
  7. Store your hiking boots. Since hiking boots don't tend to be used all year around by most people, find a suitable storage place that is out of the way but still easily accessible when needed. Avoid humid storage or you may have problems with mildew growth. A shoe tree is the best means for storing them long-term.
    • Do not store hiking boots in plastic bags; this prevents them from breathing.


  • When buying new hiking boots, bear in mind that your feet will swell when hiking. However, don't get them too large as any movement during hiking will end up in causing pain through lack of support and friction.
  • If the boot is starting to separate from the sole, use rubber glue, not super glue (super glue will shatter) to glue them back together.
  • It's always advisable to carry spare shoelaces when hiking.
  • Always knock your shoes upside down before putting them on. Animals like spiders and scorpions love to hide out in boots.
  • If unsure as to what products to use on your boots, check with the boot manufacturer or the retailer.
  • After applying a waterproofer, use a hair dryer on very low heat to melt the wax and help it sink in. Be sure to wipe excess off after doing this and see "Warnings" concerning this method.


  • Do not use mink oil to treat boots. It will over soften the leather and the boot will lose its support.
  • Don't ever apply an outside heat source, like a hair dryer or a room heater, to your boots for a prolonged period of time. The leather can warp. To accelerate drying stuff the boots with dry paper and let it absorb the moisture.
  • Do not over-oil or over-wax hiking boots; doing so will cause the leather to begin decomposing. Too much oil will also prevent boots from retaining heat.

Things You'll Need

  • Suitable waterproofer
  • Warm water and soap
  • Stick or pocket knife
  • Bristle brush
  • Shoe tree

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Sources and Citations

  • Paul Tawrell, Camping & Wilderness Survival, p. 56, (2006), ISBN 978-0-9740820-2-8 – research source
  • Peter G Drake, The Campcraft Handbook: A Guide to Outdoor Living Skills, p. 53, ISBN 978-1-84543-294-2 – research source