We share practical tips on caring for trekking boots: how to handle new shoes properly so that they last longer, and that will help old boots regain lost properties. To begin, we recommend remembering 4 useful rules:
- Clean your boots from the dirt after every outing. Brush and water will help.
- After hiking, remove the insoles – so the shoes will dry out better inside and ventilate.
- Keep your shoes away from heat. It is best to store them at room temperature.
- Learn how to apply a water-repellent soak before starting to clean your shoes and be sure to treat them after.
Care for New Trekking Shoes
To extend the life of trekking shoes, you need to start looking after them when they are still new. Read the shoe care instructions and always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. As a rule, new shoes are already covered with a water-repellent layer and do not require additional funds. Do not go on long trips with new boots. Make short attacks until the shoes sit on your foot. To improve the mobility of the shoes in the lifting area, you can use a special conditioner to soften the skin, but before that, play with lacing or a wedge under the heel.
Trekking shoes require cleaning after each trip. Take this seriously. If you are very tired after the trip, you can postpone this cleaning for tomorrow, but be sure to do it the very next day.
Why so much concern?
With each trip, dirt, sand or small pebbles will clog deeper and deeper into the pores of the outer material of the shoes and will start acting like sandpaper, so wash it faster. In addition, dirt, when dried, can take moisture from the skin. The skin at the same time becomes zealous and the wear of the product also accelerates.
Insoles also need to be taken care of. In most cases, they can be washed in a washing machine. Before doing this, check the care instructions.
Also, it is recommended to never wash trekking shoes in washing machines unless and until the care instruction says so.
Let’s Start Cleaning Trekking Shoes
Carefully remove dirt and dust from the shoes with a special brush, if there is none, you can take a toothbrush. For convenience, first, pull out the laces. Part of the pollution can be brought down by a stream of water.
For washing, use special detergents, in extreme cases, you can use a gentle detergent used for washing dishes.
Do not use lump soap or other detergents. Typically, such products contain surfactants that dry the skin. Also, detergents may contain bleach, which, when dried, remains on the surface of the shoe as a precipitate.
If mould appears on the shoes, remove it with a composition of water (80%) and vinegar (20%).
Be sure to clean the sole. Dip the shoe with the sole in the water to soak the dirt, then remove the stuck pebbles with a brush with hard bristles. Then rinse off the dirt. Try not to wet the boot itself again, only the sole should be in the water.
- Take out the insoles and dry them separately.
- Never place boots near heat sources (bonfire, fireplace, stove, heater or window sill flooded with the sun). Shoes should dry at room temperature. Accelerated drying with additional heat sources for trekking shoes is harmful, especially for leather. High temperatures weaken the glue used in the manufacture of shoes and brittle skin.
- With excessive heating, the skin dries out and the shoes lose their shape, which leads to a decrease in the volume of the boot. This can be especially felt in the toe of the boot, where nylon is often used for reinforcement. Trekking boots may become less comfortable.
- To dry the trekking boots faster without harming them, remove the insoles and place them under the fan.
- To speed up the drying, insert a crumpled newspaper into each boot. Newsprint absorbs moisture perfectly. Change the paper every hour.
- Shoes will dry faster if they are turned upside down.
You can also check our blog post to know more about drying your hiking shoes.
Care for Trekking Boots after Prolonged Use
After prolonged use, simply cleaning the shoes will not be enough. They require additional impregnation of the exterior material for the return of old water repellency. Naturally, before applying a water-repellent, the outer surface of the boot must be cleaned of dirt and dust.
To soften dry skin, you can use a special conditioner. It is also used for faster posting of new shoes. Apply conditioner within reasonable limits. Healthy skin (like human skin) looks and functions well when it is fully saturated with moisture. However, excess conditioner can make the skin too soft. In this case, the trekking boots will not support the legs efficiently enough, which can be felt on a broken stone path.
Do not use oils or other compounds that are not suitable for the treatment of shoes. This can have a negative effect on the skin. Oil also “clogs” the pores of the membrane, preventing it from fully absorbing moisture.
If on the surface of the boots in wet weather the water does not collect in “dewdrops” and does not drain “like water off a goose”, then it is time to apply a water-repellent layer so that the external material does not absorb moisture. Experienced tourists spending a lot of time on hikes apply a protective layer several times a year.
How to Apply Water Repellent?
First, clean your shoes from dirt and dust. Then, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, apply the product. Nikwax and Granger’s recommend applying a protective layer to wet shoes, especially leather shoes. It is better to wet the skin to its full thickness, then a water-repellent agent will soak it through through water. If only the surface of the skin is moistened, then the applied product will dry out when drying the shoes and will not bring the desired result.
To wet dry shoes, before applying the DWR impregnation, wet the towel strongly and wrap it around the shoes that are put in the drain pan. Leave for two hours. If you simply substitute the shoes under a stream of water, it will slide down, and the skin will not have time to absorb enough moisture. You will be surprised how long it takes for your skin to get completely wet.
After applying the product, leave the shoes to dry at room temperature for as long as written in the instructions. Remove excess material with a rag.
Sometimes the manufacturer recommends applying a second coat. However, experienced people believe that if the first layer is applied well, then re-apply of the product is not necessary.
The instructions for individual products, for example, in the Nikwax line, indicate the same application efficiency on both dry and wet surfaces, however, we are inclined to the second method.
Frequently Asked Questions About Shoe Care
This information is collected based on the experience of experienced hikers and manufacturers’ recommendations.
My shoes are wet, will they leak?
In most cases, the answer is no. If water does not collect on the surface of the shoes and does not drain, then the properties of water-repellent impregnation have deteriorated under the influence of water, dirt and the sun. When this happens, moisture begins to penetrate the top layer, making the shoes heavy and wet in appearance. But in order for the boot to begin to leak, first, its upper layer must be completely saturated with moisture.
My Gore-Tex membrane boots look raw. Did membrane stop working?
Membrane shoes will not get wet unless the integrity of the membrane is compromised. The membrane is located between the outer material and the lining and is responsible for dry legs. But DWR processing is responsible for the water-repellent properties of the external material – a thin layer of a special composition applied to the surface. In boots with a membrane, moisture may linger in the outer layer and remain there if the DWR layer has worn off during operation, but this does not mean that the boots get wet.
What is the difference between shoe impregnations?
At the moment, three types of DWR tools are most often found on the market:
- Wax-based product – used to treat full-grain leather.
- Water-soluble silicone emulsion – suitable for all types of nubuck, suede and synthetic fabrics.
- The agent in the form of an aerosol is also silicone-based, but contains a highly volatile organic solvent and is applied to a dry surface.
When it is necessary to restore the water-repellent properties of boots, and what means are better to use?
You need to choose depending on the material used in the boots and your preference for the brand of impregnation. Some manufacturers offer tools for various types of surfaces of trekking boots: coarse-grained leather, nubuck, suede, synthetic leather, or a combination of synthetic and natural.
The most famous manufacturers of trekking shoe care products are Nikwax, Granger’s and Tectron.
Nikwax, in particular, is recommended for the care of trekking shoes by such shoe manufacturers as Asolo, Burton, Merrell, Nike, Raichle, Salomon, Scarpa, and others. The second most popular is Granger’s.
Is it true that DWR impregnation softens the skin?
Nikwax has a special conditioner (Liquid Conditioner for Leather), which is designed for ageing (hardened, cracking) skin, it restores elasticity. This tool can also be applied to new boots for faster posting. In this case, gently apply the product in the right place, but not much so as not to make the shoes too soft.
Water repellents also contain tannins, which help maintain its natural elasticity and resist the growth of bacteria from moisture.
The shoe membrane, unfortunately, is practically out of service. If, when washing a membrane jacket, the membrane is cleaned of human waste products, then it is practically impossible to get to it with a boot. Clogged pores of the membrane do not allow it to function fully, which certainly shortens the life cycle of all properties attributed to it. This does not affect the strength characteristics of the boot.
Trekking shoes are a complex and technological product, but in order to find the perfect pair, you do not need to have encyclopedic knowledge. It is enough to understand why each element is needed, to assume conditions on the route and not to be shy to contact a consultant for help. You can also check this blog to know how to find perfect trekking shoes.