How to take care of your hiking boots
Washing & Cleaning your boots for walking
Oh, I wish I’d looked after me boots!
Written by Gillian Duggan
We all know that walking is one of the best ways to stay healthy so we should take care of our feet, after all, they bear the brunt of all this movement.
Both feet (combined) make up for 25% of the body’s bones, 18% of joints and 6% of the muscles.
If your feet aren’t comfortable, the motion and pressure will not only leave your feet sore but can also affect your knees, hips and entire spine over time.
Do you give your feet the attention and care they deserve?
Let’s start with your walking boots, they really are an important piece of your kit and should be respected. A little boot TLC will go a long way!
Best types of boots for walking in Ireland:
For walking in Ireland, generally speaking, we suggest three types of boots ie Suede or Nubuck, full grain leather or fabric, usually Gore-Tex.
My preference has always been for Suede/Nubuck boots on the basis that I thought Gore-Tex boots couldn’t cope with Irish bogs. Yet my best friend prefers a pair of lightweight Salomon Gore-Tex fabric boots which she swears are still waterproof but then she cares for them religiously.
How to take care of your hiking boots
Clean your boots after your Irish hike
When you purchase your boots, it is worth taking note of the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning and water proofing.
Whichever style you choose, cleaning your boots should be done regularly because maintaining the integrity of your boots is common sense after spending so much on them.
Irish bogs are beautiful but acidic and wet peat left on your boots will slowly but surely weaken the fabric/leather and eat the stitching.
After you clean them, you should water proof them every couple of wears. If you notice water is no longer beading on your boots, it is time to proof them again.
And after you proof them, you let them dry naturally.
How to Clean your Hiking Boots.
Rinse your boots under a tap, using an old washing up brush (or similar) to get the dirt and dust out from all the creases and crevices including the sole. Once you have the ‘heavy dirt’ off as my mother used to say, you can use good old fashioned Saddle Soap or Nikwax/Grainger’s leather cleaner spray as detergent. For the Gore-Tex fabric boots, use manufacturers recommended product.
When the boots are washed and rinsed, pat dry with some kitchen towel.
How to take care of your Hiking Boots.
How to Water Proof your Walking Boots.
Waterproofing is always applied to clean, damp boots except for full grain leather which have to be dry.
For leather, some hikers use traditional Dubbin which is a solid waxy polish like substance. It is rubbed into the leather with a brush and any surplus wiped off with an old cloth.
It has a proven track record, conditioning and proofing your leather boots at the same time. You won’t see cracks in a pair of Dubbin treated boots!
Dubbin can be used on Suede/Nubuck but will darken the colour and smooth out the surface.
For Suede/Nubuck, Nikwax/Grainger’s & Meindl have a Nubuck proofer which is dabbed/sprayed onto the surface and left to dry naturally.
For Gore-Tex, try Nikwax Fabric & Leather Proofer easily sponged onto the clean, damp boots and left to dry naturally.
When we say ‘Leave the boots to dry naturally’ – that doesn’t mean on top of a radiator or by the kitchen range, stove or boiler. It means leave them to dry in a warm, airy place away from direct sunlight. If you have to speed up the process, you can always stuff them with some newspaper/kitchen paper or socks filled with clean cat litter which is super absorbent.
How To Care for Your Walking Boots after Washing and Proofing.
There are a few other things you can do to prevent the premature aging of your walking boots.
Make sure to get your boots professionally fitted. Too small/tight and you will get blisters and black toenails. Too wide and you will have creases where you shouldn’t have creases and therefore more areas to crack. And don’t forget your feet swell during exercise so a half size bigger is necessary.
Walking boots don’t like tarmac and the soles will wear down very quickly. When the soles wear down, you slip and slide on wet surfaces causing injuries. I have two pairs of boots, one older (& cheaper) pair for road walking and a newer pair for the mountains only.
Top Tip: Buy your new boots a few months before you are finished with your old ones and, in the meantime, break them in gently. The transition from old to new will be blissfully blister free!
If walking boots don’t like tarmac, they certainly don’t like salt water. The salty sea will rust and rot your boots quicker than the bog. Take off your boots, your feet and boots will thank you.
If you get water in over the top of your boots, take out the insoles and rinse out the inside along with the insoles, when you get home to prevent unpleasant odours building up. Oh, and let them dry naturally!
Happy feet mean happy hikers!