After being cooped up indoors for months, you’re now gearing up for a nice socially-distanced trek along one of the hundreds of hiking trails in St. Louis. However, once you have dressed up and are prepared to head out, you find that the soles of your hiking footwear have come apart. Now, you’re all dressed up with nowhere to go.
When it comes to proper hiking footwear, you’re likely to have made a big investment. Boots can cost anywhere from $135 to almost $300. Depending on the material they’re made of, the best hiking boots are meant to last you many years and many miles. However, no matter how excellent the quality is, you need to diligently clean and care for them because they are exposed to many outdoor elements.
If you’ve recently bought your first pair of hiking boots and want to make sure they last, here are several do’s and don’ts of hiking footwear care that you should keep in mind:
Break in your boots
Most hiking footwear is made from either suede or nubuck leather. Your shoes will feel stiff and uncomfortable at first, but over time, the leather will soften just enough to have a firm hold around your foot. You can break into them gently by wearing them for short periods around the house as you do chores, for example.
Wipe them down after every use
As soon as you get home from a hike, kick off your boots in a bucket or tray and clean your boots with a washcloth and soapy water. Scrub down the rubber outsoles and get any mud and dirt off the crevices. Then, allow your shoes to completely dry before using them again. If you live in an area that doesn’t get enough direct sun, you may want to consider using a boot dryer that can dry them faster and remove unpleasant odor.
Condition the leather
Many mid-market shoes are made from suede or nubuck, and these don’t require conditioning. However, if you’re using a full-grain leather boot, it’s best to apply a leather conditioner that can help protect the surface of your shoes and prolong their life. Using a lint-free cloth, apply the conditioner in a circular motion slowly, a little bit at a time. Buff the surface after conditioning and allow to air dry for at least half a day before using your shoes again.
Treat them with waterproofing
You’ll most probably traipse through streams and puddles, so you need to protect the leather from absorbing too much water. There are some waterproof hiking boots that are specifically designed for dunking in water. Some are outfitted with a special membrane that keeps even the tiniest droplets of water out of your shoes. If your shoes aren’t yet equipped with such, there are available waterproofing waxes and creams in the market that you can apply to the surfaces. Rub liberally on the boot, wipe off any excess, and allow them to dry for the recommended time before use.
Let mud cake on them
By cleaning your shoes regularly after each use, you prevent the buildup of mud and dirt that eventually hardens and discolors the surface beneath. The thicker the mud, the harder it will be to remove. Caked-up mud can also interfere with the traction on the bottom of your shoes and cause you to slip. Use a stiff brush or old toothbrush to work the dirt out of your soles and seams.
Let your insoles sit in them
Your boots come with removable insoles that absorb most of the moisture from your perspiration; make sure to remove them after every use. Leave them to dry in the sun outdoors or in a warm place. Wash them thoroughly with warm and soapy water every few uses or depending on how soiled they get.
Expose them to saltwater
If you’re hiking in an area that runs along saltwater rivers and streams, avoid getting your footwear wet in them. The salt will damage the metal eyelets where your shoelaces pass, which could result in the formation of rust.
Store shoes in a humid, moist area
With constant exposure to plants and roughage outside, spores will inevitably find their way onto your shoes. Combined with a buildup of moisture, these spores can cause mold to grow on your shoes. Keep in mind that mold thrives in a moist, wet environment. This is why you should find a suitable, dry area to store them, preferably next to a dehumidifier.
Good hiking footwear is essential to enjoying your time outdoors. A well-fitted and well-cared-for boot can be your best companion on every hike. Follow the tips mentioned above, and you can rest assured that your boots will be able to last for years.
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