To stop your walking or hiking boots looking old before their time, and ensuring they perform just as you need them to, it’s important you do your bit to maintain them and keep them clean. Here’s our advice on how to look after your walking boots so they’ll last you hike after hike.
How to clean your walking boots or shoes
After a busy day’s walking, there’s a good chance your boots may be covered in mud and dirt. While this may give them a rugged, worn-in look, it’s not great for their performance and longevity.
Dirt in the grooves of the sole could mean you have less grip so you could lose your footing, while the accumulation of mud and grime on the upper can affect the waterproofing and breathable nature of the boot.
Therefore, always make sure you give them a wash after heavy use. If it’s been raining, then you can splash them through a puddle to wipe through some wet grass to get some of the mud off.
Following that, use a medium-stiffness brush and warm water to get the rest of the dirt off. It’s best not to use detergents, however, as this can affect the material.
Scrape the rest of the mud off the bottom – just be careful if you’re using something sharp.
Remove the laces to really get into the harder to reach places, and you can give those a wash while you’re at it.
Once you’ve given them a good scrub and got all the dirt off, you need to leave them to dry. Don’t leave them next to a fire or radiator as this can cause leather walking boots to crack and warp, and it probably won’t do synthetic boots much good either.
Natural drying is much better for your boots – stuff them with newspaper to absorb moisture and leave them to dry naturally. Stuffing with newspaper will also help keep the boots’ shape.
3. Inside the boots
Every so often you’ll need to clean the inside of your boots as well, as the sweat from your feet can build up in the boot and affect their waterproofing and breathability and cause odour. To clean the inside of your walking boots, simply fill them with lukewarm water and leave for 12 hours. Then simply pour it away and dry as normal.
4. Conditioning & waterproofing
Pretty much all hiking boots have some form of waterproof membrane, coating or repellent applies, but that’s not always the case. After a period of time, this will slowly start to wear away, which is why you need to re-proof your walking boots or shoes with some of the fantastic waterproofing sprays/washes on the market.
It’s always a good idea to thoroughly clean your boots/shoes beforehand with a footwear cleaner so that you have a good base to work from to ensure the waterproofing coating will get into all areas of the boot.
If you have leather walking boots, then the leather will need conditioning to keep it soft and supple and prevent it from cracking, while all boots (leather and synthetic) will need an extra coating of waterproofing.
This can be applied when the boots are dry or slightly damp. Make sure the boots are clean before applying, and then once applied, wipe down with a clean, dry cloth to remove excess.
NOTE: You should always check the manufacturer’s recommendations before applying any kind of waterproofer or conditioners.
For example, GORE-TEX® say that any boots featuring their technology shouldn’t be treated further with any kind of sprays or conditioners because this affects the breathability – simply washing them will keep them waterproof.
How to clean walking boots
- Clean all dirt off outside of boots. Wipe through a puddle or wet grass if outside, then clean with lukewarm water and medium stiffness brush. Don’t use detergents.
- Remove dirt from bottom of boot.
- Dry naturally and fill boots with newspaper – don’t force dry with heat.
- To clean inside of boots, fill with warm water, leave overnight, pour away, dry naturally.
- Apply conditioner and waterproofer every so often to keep boots supple and maintain level of waterproofing.
Last modified: September 20, 2019