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Boot care tips for walkers

Boot care tips for walkers

As a walker, your boots are your most important piece of kit. Your boots will help to protect and support your ankles and feet over the tough ground. Bad boots will hurt your feet, damage your toes and can make it more likely that you will suffer breaks or sprains.

When you buy walking boots, it can take a bit of time for the boots to adjust to fit your feet properly. Ease them in by going on lots of shorter walks. Caring for them properly will help to prevent them from losing their shape and will prolong the lifespan of the product. These tips should help you to keep using your favourite walking boots for as long as possible.

Clean them

Once you have taken your boots off, you should clean them as soon as possible. Mud and other substances are normally slightly acidic or alkaline (rather than being a neutral pH), and this will affect the boots over time if the mud is not removed. The effects can be exacerbated if you have walked over any farmland which has been treated with chemical fertilisers or if you have stepped in any manure. Road salt and grit can also degrade shoes more quickly.

Dried mud can normally be flaked off or brushed away easily, but stubborn mud and grit can take a little more effort. Use warm water and a semi-stiff brush to help to get rid of these tougher marks. Be careful when brushing softer shoe fabrics to avoid unnecessary wear and tear. Use common sense to avoid overworking more delicate areas; for example tough soles can take more scrubbing, whereas boot linings need to be treated with far more care. Do not use detergents or chemical cleaners, unless they have been designed for your style of boots, because inappropriate cleaners will actually harm the technical fabrics.

Dry carefully

Try not to use too much water during the cleaning process, because the scrubbing action could enable water to penetrate the boot materials more easily. Dry the boots carefully, but do not be tempted to leave them next to a direct heat source, such as an open fire, Aga or radiator. This type of heat can actually damage the boots by increasing the risk of shape loss or affecting the waterproof material. It is best to dry them in a well-ventilated, warm area. Adequate ventilation should help to prevent the room from becoming damp, which should reduce the risk of mould growth which could also damage the boots.

Absorb excess moisture

If your boots are excessively wet, either because of the washing process or because of the terrain that you were walking on, you should use a type of thin paper to help to absorb the excess moisture. Although newspaper is ideal for this purpose, the newsprint may transfer to the inside of the boots. If you have packing paper available, you should use this instead.

Scrunch the paper up into balls and then pack them loosely into the boots. Change the paper after a couple of hours, so that you do not leave damp paper sitting in your boots. Remove the paper altogether once all of the moisture has been removed from the boots. It is also possible to buy special pieces of equipment which are designed to remove moisture quickly and which can be reused.


When you buy a new pair of boots, make sure that you ask the sellers whether they need additional waterproofing before use. Some manufacturers recommend users add an extra layer of proofer once the boots have started to shape to the owner’s feet. Before applying any proofer, you should always check that the type that you are using is suitable for your particular boots.

Proofing treatments vary between different materials, so using the wrong type of proofer can actually be counterproductive. Reproof your boots according to the schedule described by the proofing brand that you are using. This will help to keep your feet dry and protect your boots from unnecessary wear and tear.

Inspections for wear and tear

You should regularly inspect your boots to check for any wear and tear. Spotting problem areas can sometimes allow you to take action which might help you to save the boots. Boots which have cracking soles can be re-soled up to a point, but the damage to the soles may start to cause damage to the uppers if it is left too long. Alternatively, minor damage to the lacing area can be fixed easily if it is spotted in time.

Spotting any damage early may mean that you won’t have to buy a new pair of boots. This will save you the time and effort of having to “walk in” the new boots, as well as saving you from the higher costs.

Buying walking boots

Buying walking boots

If you plan on walking for pleasure, it is a good idea to invest in some good quality walking boots. Good boots are vital for protecting your feet and ankles whilst you are out walking. Wearing the wrong type of footwear on a long walk can put your feet and joints at risk.

Although there are hundreds of specialist outdoor shops in Britain where you can ask for advice about new boots, it is a good idea to consider some of the following things before you buy.

What do you need your boots for?

There are actually a number of different types of walking boots available to purchase, which tend to be made with specific environments in mind. When you are choosing your new footwear, you must start by considering where and when you plan on doing most of your walking. Lightweight trainer type shoes with a higher degree of flexibility are ideal if you plan on walking a lot in low-lying areas or on well-trodden footpaths. The flexibility of the shoes will help your foot to move naturally and will help to enhance comfort levels.

On the other hand, if you are planning on walking on uneven ground, over rocks or away from established footpaths then you are advised to choose a more rigid style of boot. Good ankle support is essential if you plan on walking over any uneven or unsteady ground. Rigid boots with stiff soles help to prevent your foot from being forced into harmful positions by the terrain that you are walking over.

Alternatively, if you plan on doing winter walking, you may need to buy boots which you are able to wear crampons with. Many summer style boots are not designed to be worn with crampons or other winter safety devices, and are therefore unsuitable for wearing in snowy weather.

It is also possible to buy walking sandals if you plan on going walking in very warm climes. These sandals are designed to keep your feet cool whilst also giving you an appropriate level of foot support.


In days gone by, all walking boots were previously made of stiff leather; however synthetic materials are now used more often. Synthetic boots are normally lighter, more flexible and require less breaking in than leather boots do.

On the other hand, well-made leather boots are more durable and are easier to care for than synthetic options. The material that you choose for your walking boots is likely to come down to personal preference. Some vegetarians prefer synthetic materials over leather ones, because leather is an animal product.

Getting the right fit

It is important that you take the time to find boots that offer the right fit. The boot seller may want to measure the size and shape of your feet, as well as assessing the arch of your foot. Some boot manufacturers are known for making wider fitting shoes, whereas other manufacturers are known for producing a narrower fit of boot. An experienced salesperson will be able to point the best brands for your fit out to you straight away.

Buying walking boots
Buying walking boots

Once you try on a boot, you should do some basic tests to check the fit. Whilst the boot is still unlaced, shuffle your foot right to the front of the boot. You should be able to fit your finger snugly into the back of the boot. If you need to force your finger in, then it is likely that the boot is too short for you. On the other hand, if your finger moves around freely, then the boots are too large for you.

Once the boots are laced up, you should feel even pressure across the top of the shoe. The boot should feel firm without feeling restrictive. Try standing up to see whether the feel of the boot changes at all. Your foot naturally changes shape when you are standing, so the boot may suddenly become restrictive. Feet tend to elongate in this position, so make sure that your toes still have enough room.

Walk around the shop in the boots. Most boot shops will have a testing ramp which will allow you to check out how the boots feel when you are going up and down hills. This will help you to assess whether there are any restrictive points in the boots when they are worn in lots of different scenarios.

You should also check the flex points of the shoes. These points are areas where you will need a lot of flexibility because of the movement of your foot. The flex point is over the ball of your foot. If the boot does not fit right, there may be discomfort around the flex points when you move your feet.

Once you have bought your boots, you may need to spend a while breaking them in by going on lots of shorter walks or wearing them around the house.