There they are, those unbelievably expensive walking boots. That’s right, the ones that had looked so nice and clean in the shop not so long ago are now covered in mud and grime. Admittedly, it was a smashing time splashing around in all of those puddles of mud like a child, but in the long run, such behaviour is not at all good for the shoes, let alone the leather!
In order for these costly shoes to continue to do the job even after rigorous use, we need to care for them properly. These tips will help you to get the most out of your precious walking boots!
Caring for walking boots: it’s best to do it by hand
One thing can be said straight away: No matter how dirty your boots are, never, ever, ever wash them in the washing machine! Now, you’re left with only two alternatives: Either wait for winter and go on an extensive trekking tour in the snow or literally take matters into your own hands. If you decided in favour of number 2, then you should proceed as follows:
Before you begin, remove the insoles and laces from your boots. Then clean off the outside using a gentle brush and lukewarm water to get rid of any dirt. To clean the inside, rinse it out with water and a drop of washing-up liquid. Do not clean the interior with a brush, as this could damage the lining.
The best solution is to leave the boots in a dry place to dry naturally at room temperature for 2-3 days. It is advisable not to use a direct heat source to dry your boots, as this could damage both the leather and any adhesives. To speed up the process, the tried and tested method of stuffing them with newspaper works great. However, change the paper regularly so that mildew doesn’t form in the boot.
In order for the leather to get the “nutrients” it needs, you can use either traditional shoe wax, like the Hanwag Shoe Wax, or a liquid product, such as the Fibertec Green Guard Leather. Don’t use leather grease, as it clogs the pores and can dissolve any adhesives.
The wax is usually applied with a cloth or a gentle brush, whilst the liquid is sprayed on or applied using a sponge. Both replenish the leather and help it to retain its water-repellent properties. If you blow-dry the boots (not too hot!), the product can be better absorbed by the leather. Be careful: don’t let the wax come into contact with the mesh panels, as this would only clog the pores and greatly reduce – if not eliminate – their breathability.
You can protect the hooks and eyelets from corrosion by applying a bit of Vaseline or wax. As for the upper leather, conventional moisturiser is used, whilst for full leather boots, leather milk is used, which can be applied to the boot’s interior every once in a while. GORE-TEX liners do not require care. If you would like to know how to care for GORE-TEX shoes properly, take a look at this.
If you use wax on the leather, it will look somewhat darker and greasy afterwards. Fortunately, it only looks that way – it won’t at all affect the performance of the boot. Still, if you’d prefer it not look like that, you can gently brush the leather using a wire brush or special suede leather brush to freshen up the leather. If you’re looking to get rid of any unwanted odours, your best bet would be to use a shoe deodoriser, such as Granger’s G-Max Odour Eliminator.
Cleaning your walking boots on the trails
But, what if you’re on a multi-day trip and haven’t got a complete walking boot cleaning kit? It’s always a good idea to air them out at night. To do this, simply loosen the laces and remove the insoles. And, remember: don’t leave them directly in front of the fireplace or another heat source. Instead, leave them out to dry at room temperature.
All the dirt and grime on the surface can be washed off in a brook, or you could use a bowl of lukewarm water if you happen to have one with you. Those of you who’d still like to give the leather a little TLC should get a small tube of wax and pack it in your rucksack for your next trip.
Caring for synthetic walking boots
If you haven’t got any leather on your feet, you can clean your boots as described in steps 1 and 2. Synthetic material doesn’t require any special treatment. All you need to do is apply a waterproofing spray so that the water-repellent properties of the boots’ upper are maintained and the breathability is not impeded.
Storing your walking boots
There’s not much to be said here, either. It is best to store your boots in a shoe box in a dry, well-aired place. As mentioned above, you should keep them away from heat sources, which means you should keep them out of the boot of the car as well. Using a shoetree or newspaper will help the boots preserve their shape.
And what else can go wrong?
This may sound familiar to some of the more avid hill walkers out there: you purchase a spanking new pair of walking boots, spend all that time breaking them in and wear them for many subsequent years because they fit so well only to discover that the soles have been completely worn down. Fortunately, you can resole most boots. The only thing you have to consider here is that the soles must have stitching around the entire perimeter of the boot in order for them to be repairable. You can either go to the cobbler of your choice or contact the dealer you bought the boots from directly. The latter would then post the boots to the manufacturer who would replace the soles – usually at cost price – within a few weeks. Even the little bits, such as eyelets, can usually be replaced quickly and easily.
Do I really have to follow all these instructions?
Let’s keep this brief: your walking boots will thank you for it. You have to keep in mind that the leather really goes through a lot on the trails and thus needs a little TLC every now and again – just like us! Plus, if the shoes are properly cleaned and taken care of, they’ll be just like new and will last for years to come!