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.
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.
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.