How to Care for Your Hiking Shoes

It’s all well and good to spend hours looking for the perfect pair of hiking boots, then save money to afford it. All this, to get back from his last hike of the season and put it away in a closet as is …

It is true that after a hike you get heavy legs, we rarely have the desire and the courage to take care of our shoes. After all, “it can wait until the next day” – and when you take out your shoes the next season, they are still in the same state!

The problem is that by doing this, the shoes deteriorate, age quickly, their performance decreases and they are more likely to fail on you while hiking.

This is pity, especially after so much time and effort to find the right pair!

To avoid this, it is important to take care of your shoes from time to time. And contrary to popular belief, maintenance is not just for leather shoes – even if they require a little more.

The first thing to do is to refer to the manufacturer’s advice – because some shoes require specific maintenance. Or ? On the little manual that you threw in the trash after unpacking your shoes. Do not worry, you can surely find this information on the website of the brand.

In the meantime, stay with me for some tips on maintaining your hiking shoes.

1 – Cleaning

This is not necessarily logical at first: why we clean our shoes while we are making them dirty in again? One might think that mud and dirt act as a protective layer.

Unfortunately, it is not the case. If you leave mud or dirt on your shoes or debris (sand, twigs …) stuck in, they will be damaged by abrasion.

Although it is important to take care of the outside, it does not hurt to maintain the interior from time to time.

Cleaning the outside

The easiest way to clean hiking shoes is to use a soft brush and cold or warm water – and add some elbow grease. Also remember to clean the outer sole.

There is no need to do this after each walk, but do it regularly – even if your shoes do not look too dirty. This allows you to get rid of small particles that degrade the material of your shoe.

Cleaning the interior

The inside of the shoes should also be cleaned from time to time. This is especially important for waterproof-breathable shoes so they do not lose their breathability. Cleaning the interior also helps to limit the development of bad smells – a plus for your teammates !

You can do this by filling the inside of your shoes with cold or warm water and rubbing lightly. Be aware that your shoes will take long enough to dry if you do this. Do not expect to reuse them the next day!

There are special cleaning products that are more effective than water alone, but they are not essential if you perform regular maintenance.

2 – Drying

If there is one essential step after each hike, that’s it! You have no excuse not to do it, it’s the simplest. To dry your shoes:

  • Remove the insole to aerate your shoes and dry faster.
  • Open wide your shoes by loosening the laces. The ideal would be to completely remove the laces, but I share your lack of motivation to do this after each hike.😉
  • Let them dry at room temperature . Do not expose them to a direct heat source (fire, heater, etc.) – this is one of the best ways to destroy your shoes quickly.
  • If your shoes are soaked, stuff them with newspaper to speed up drying.

3 – Treatment

Before applying any treatment, your shoes must be clean. Some treatments require that the shoes be dry, others that they are wet – refer to the instructions for use of the product. There are two main types of treatments:

Re-waterproofing products

It is possible to “re-waterproof” shoes with these products. I put the term in quotation marks because it is actually to give water repellency to the material (the water pearls and does not seep in) – although these products are called “waterproofing”.

A shoe that lacks water repellency absorbs water and does not breathe as well – the indoor air can no longer escape through pores filled with water, and the difference in humidity on each side is low.

It all depends on the frequency of use of the shoes, but on average I would recommend doing this once a year.

Be careful, because “waterproofing” products are specific to each material (leather, nubuck, suede, etc.) – do not use one for all. One last tip: follow the product application instructions correctly if you want a good result.

Protective creams

Protective creams are mainly used on leather to prevent it from drying and cracking. Often, the cream is applied with a cloth and then heated slightly with a hair dryer for better penetration. As with “waterproofing” products, be sure to use a product that fits the material of your shoes.

Avoid using grease on the leather of hiking boots, because they soften the leather too much and make it waterproof (it does not breathe anymore).

4 – Inspection and repairs

Inspect your shoes regularly and repair them as soon as possible. It’s better to do this after each hike than to have a bad surprise before leaving.

Do not wait for your sole to be half-peeled to repair it. As soon as some of your shoes are damaged, fix it. Sometimes just a drop of glue.

There are two reasons for this:

  • An early repair is often better.
  • An unsuccessful repair can ruin a hike or compromise your safety.

5 – Storage

Of course, before you put them away, your shoes must be dry (and ideally clean). Store them in a dry and ventilated place. Avoid leaving shoes near hot areas or exposed to sunlight.

If your shoes are not used for a long time , it’s best to stuff them with newspaper to keep them in shape – or use another system.


You have now no excuse to neglect the maintenance of your hiking shoes. With minimal effort, you can make sure you have durable, high-performance, comfortable shoes.

It would be a shame to deprive yourself.

In this article, I talked about cleaning products, maintenance and “waterproofers”. The best known and used are currently Nikwax brand.

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