Good hiking boots protect your feet and provide support in difficult terrain, particularly when you are carrying a heavy load. This is why a good quality boot costs quite a bit of money. In order to be sure that your boots will last as long as possible, it is important that you care for them properly. What to do:
Never put your boots on a heater or in a drying cabinet to dry them quickly. Let them rest at room temperature, preferably stuffed with newspaper. Be careful if you are drying them close to an open fire or a wood-burning stove. The high temperature can ruin the glue holding the soles in place and dry out the leather.
It is best to clean your boots after every excursion, and particularly before you treat them. Remove the shoelaces, insoles and any stones, etc., that are stuck in the sole. Use lukewarm water and a brush. Clean the inside of the boot if it is made from textiles, since salt crystals and bacteria can cause bad odours. Dirt and salt also impair breathability if your boots have a waterproof Gore-Tex membrane (and having a closed membrane is more or less the same as wrapping a plastic bag around your foot).
The best treatment for leather boots is wax or oil. Many people believe that it does not matter which is applied, but wax remains on the surface, building a layer that withstands moisture, while oil penetrates deep into the leather and both fills it out and keeps it soft. Even boots with a Gore-Tex membrane must be treated to maintain their waterproofness. The membrane is always on the inside of the leather, which means that breathability is impaired if the leather gets wet.
It is best to apply wax by hand. Rub it in using a circular motion so the heat from your fingers softens it up. Apply an appropriately thick layer - there should not be any yellow residue left on the boot. Liquid wax is applied with a sponge or rag. Pay particular attention to seams and do not forget the tongue. Coat the eyelets as well since the wax can prevent rust. Please note that all types of leather become slightly darker after treatment.
Leather that has a roughened surface to look like suede is called nubuck leather. If you want to keep this texture, use a nubuck or suede impregnation. This will protect the boot from moisture and dirt, but it will not keep the material soft. If you want to maximise the life span of your boots, you should at some point wax or oil them.
Boots made from both leather and synthetics should be treated with either wax or oil on the leather and sprayed with some kind of textile impregnation, e.g. Armour. You can also use Armour or fabric/leather impregnation on the entire boot.
Rubber boots should be washed with water and soap. Soap contains glycerine, which helps keep rubber smooth and pliable. You can also treat rubber with a care product that contains silicon oil.
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