How to Clean Your Walking Boots
Written By: SportsShoes
Our feet are our most precious tool when we are walking and hiking. Bad footwear choices inevitably lead to blisters and unhappy feet, which is a sure way of stopping a hike in its tracks. It’s always worth investing the time and money to find the right pair of hiking boots and the technologies and development that goes into footwear these days is remarkable.
However, getting them covered in mud and filthy is inevitable, in fact it’s important! (Have you even been for a good hike if your boots stay clean?!) Therefore, boot care and proper maintenance is essential if you want your boots to last longer, stay fresh and serve your feet well. We’ve teamed up with Salomon ambassador, adventurer and big mountain climber Squash Falconer to teach you how to take perfect care of your walking boots.
Why do you need to clean your walking boots?
Just a short cleaning routine can give your boots a longer, healthier lifespan by preserving the waterproofness and materials. The main issues arise with dampness mud and dirt. Damp boots can lead to mould, awful smells and material rotting, mud sucks the moisture from the leather speeding up the ageing process and dirt particles have an action like sandpaper when your movement causes friction and can lead the leather and fabric to breakdown.
Drying your walking boots
After a long day on the hill it’s pretty standard to remove your boots at the trail head, put them in a plastic bag and get your feet into dry, more comfortable shoes. It’s lethal to leave them in there though! Left damp, mould will quickly set in, material will start to breakdown and the smell can be dreadful. As soon as you are back to base get into the routine of drying your boots.
How to dry your walking boots:
- Remove the laces and insoles
- Dry insoles separately and only put them back in when boot and insole are both completely dry
- Stuff each boot with newspaper
- Do not place boots in direct heat, including fireplaces. This can damage the leather/material and weaken adhesives
- Low humidity is key. Speed up the drying process using a fan or boot dryer
- Store boots in a well-ventilated area. Avoid damp or hot places
Cleaning your walking boots
Mud and dirt are an inevitable part of most hikes however it is really important to clean this off each time you get them dirty. If you’re really tired, the day after your hike is okay. But don’t leave them any longer.
When it comes to cleaning your boots, it’s good to have a small brush to hand (an old toothbrush or washing up brush works ideally for this). It’s best to use specific shoe cleaner and avoid using bar soap or stronger detergents as they may contain harmful additives that can damage the leather and affect how waterproof the material is.
How to clean your walking boots
- Remove the laces and insoles
- Bang the boots together or against a hard surface to remove excess dirt, mud and stones lodged in treads and caked around the boot
- If the boots are dry, use a hoover on the inside and out to remove the finer dirt/sand particles
- Rinse them with water or a damp cloth (depending on how dirty they are) and use the brush with your boot cleaner to scrub away all remaining dirt
- Rinse with clean water
- Use the same process for the boot insoles
If you are cleaning mould off your boots or they smell, use a mixture of 20 percent water and 20 percent vinegar and rinse thoroughly with clean water afterwards.
Never put your boots in a washing machine as that accelerates the aging process and can cause a lot of damage. Once clean dry your boots using the process recommended above.
General care of your walking boots
Leather boots will last longer and age better if you treat and condition them. Once clean and dry simply use a cloth and a leather conditioner. Apply the conditioner to the leather, removing any excess and buff to polish.
You can expect walking boots to last between 500-1000 miles. It really depends on the surfaces you walk on and the conditions you expose them to. It’s good to give you’re boots a once over every now and then; checking for cracks, frays and worn treads and if you’re feet start to hurt or get hot spots and blisters it’s likely time for a new pair.