How to Clean and Maintain Hiking Boots

There comes a time in every hiker’s journey when they finally decide to invest in a pair of quality hiking boots. Once they are worn in and fit comfortably, you want to be able to keep them as long as possible. We’ll go over how to clean your hiking boots after each adventure as well as longer-term maintenance that will extend the life of your favorite hikers.

How Often Should I Clean My Hiking Boots

Keeping your hiking boots clean will improve their lifespan and ensure a safe and comfortable hike every time you hit the trail. There are different considerations for cleaning the soles versus the rest of the boot. It is a good idea to clean the tops of your hiking boots any time they get dirty. Dirt and debris can deteriorate the waterproofing of the material and lead the boots to degrade faster. Cleaning the bottoms of your boots after every hike is not necessary; however, you will want to get the muck out when it starts impacting your hike.

Why You Should Clean Your Hiking Boots after Every Hike

Although it may be tedious, you really should give your hiking boots a cleaning every time you get mud or dirt on them. You especially want to look out for debris near the laces. Every seam in your hikers – notably in the tongue and the eyelets for the laces – is susceptible to getting small particles of dirt stuck in there. 

As you continue hiking with dirty boots, the debris rubs on the material and breaks it down. This will first affect the boots’ waterproofing, but over time, you may see the material break down or tear. To ensure your boots will last as long as possible, you need to take care to clean them frequently. Especially if you are hiking in muddy terrain, be sure to give your hiking boots a deep clean when you get home. 

Why You Should Clean the Soles of Hiking Boots Between Hikes

The bottoms of your hikers are very durable, and caked-on mud won’t impact the material. However, there are two instances in which you will want to get the dirt out and have clean boots. First, if there is a lot of dried mud in your hikers, they will not have proper traction. When they start getting slippery or uncomfortable to walk on, you will know it’s time to clean that dirt out. 

Second, if you are hiking in different locations, it is important not to track in mud. Microscopic invasive species can live in the soil or muck on your boots, and you don’t want to spread these dangerous species around different areas. Cleaning your boots between hikes can protect the land and make sure you leave no trace on your hike

Photo by Liisa Tervinen

How to Deep Clean Hiking Boots

Giving your hiking boots a deep clean doesn’t need to take more than an hour. This simple process is well worth it in the long run to keep your hikers in good shape and save you money on replacements. The first step is to take the laces off and remove the insole. You can wash these separately with some dish soap and warm water. 

Cleaning the material of your hiking boots will require a brush, maybe an old toothbrush, to get rid of dirt and get into the nooks and crannies of the material. Especially for nubuck leather, do not scrub too hard as you can damage the material. 

If you do not have a special shoe-cleaning solution, you can use dishwashing soap. Do not use detergent or bar soap, as additives in these products can be harmful to the boots. You will need to thoroughly rinse the boots off after cleaning. Some materials can be submerged in water, while others (nubuck and some synthetics) can only get damp. In these cases, sponging the material with warm water will be best.

How to Prepare Your Hiking Boots for the Season

Once a year, it is a good idea to give your boots a deep clean and re-apply waterproofing treatment and/or conditioner to the material. Before you start, it is important to know what material your boots are made from. 

What Are the Different Materials of Hiking Boots

There are three main materials used for hiking boots, and maintenance varies for each type. Mostly any quality pair of hiking boots will be from one of these three materials as they are the best for providing waterproofing and durability.

The three main materials for hiking boots are leather, full-grain or nubuck, and synthetic. Nubuck leather is sort of like suede and generally has similar care instructions to synthetic materials. The main difference in caring for nubuck leather is that it should not be submerged in water, only damp. 

If you don’t know what kind of hikers you have, you can look up the brand online and find out. If you have a care guide for your hiking boots, you should refer to that. Always be sure to test a new cleaning product on a small, inconspicuous part of your boots before applying it fully. 

How to Waterproof Hiking Boots

Waterproofing your boots at least once a year will keep your feet cozy and dry and ensure the boots stay in shape longer. Waterproofing hiking boots does not take as long as you might think. After a thorough cleaning, you can generally apply waterproofing treatments while the boots are still wet. Read up on how to waterproof hiking boots for more details on caring for boots of different materials.

Conditioning Leather Hiking Boots

If you have full-grain leather boots, you do not need to apply a waterproofing treatment as full-grain leather is naturally waterproof. Instead, you just need to condition the material once a year to keep it looking its best and functioning properly. This will keep the boots from drying out and cracking, which will ruin their waterproofing and generally require replacements sooner. When conditioning leather, be sure to follow the instructions exactly. Using too much conditioner can cause the leather to be too soft, which will impact the boots’ sturdiness. 

Photo by Ali Kazal on Unsplash

How to Get Your Hiking Boots Dry

Once you’ve given your boots a deep clean, you need to let them dry thoroughly before wearing them again. First, take the insoles out to dry separately. Next, you can use a fan if you need to dry your boots a little quicker, but do not leave them too close to a heater or a campfire. Extremely high heat can break down the waterproofing agents and prematurely age leather. You also do not want to leave them exposed to high sun, as this can also discolor and age leather. 

Because it does take time for hikers to dry all the way, be sure to plan ahead! Don’t save your boot maintenance until the day before your big trip. Finally, it is especially important to ensure your hikers are all the way dry before storing them for the season. Store them in a dry location (maybe not the basement) to protect them from mold forming. If your boots do smell moldy, a simple concoction of four parts water and one part vinegar will do the trick.

Final Thoughts

With these simple steps, you can ensure your boots will last longer and keep your feet protected from the elements. Getting a quality pair of hiking boots can be costly, but if you take care of your investment, you can make sure to get your money’s worth. Happy hiking!

What is Trail Running and How Do I Get Started? 

If you are looking for an exciting way to up your cardio workouts, you should consider trail running. As opposed to jogging on a treadmill or running the same boring loop around town, trail running is a great mix of workout and outdoor exploration. We’ll cover what trail running is, what trail running gear you need, and how to start trail running.

What Is Trail Running?

It’s pretty self-explanatory: imagine going for a hike, but running instead of walking. You may be wondering how you can do this without injury. Trail running is much more dynamic than running on a flat surface. But with the right shoes and technique, you can open the doors to so many more interesting locations to exercise. 

What Shoes are Best for Trail Running?

Is it better to wear hiking boots because you’re on a trail or sneakers because you’re going for a run? Neither. Actually, the best thing to do is invest in a pair of trail running shoes. Trail running shoes are the perfect compromise between hikers and sneakers. They provide more rigidity than typical running shoes and have thicker soles to protect your feet from any rocks or sticks you run over. Trail runners are also lighter and more breathable than your average hiking boots. 

They will not be as rugged as many hiking boots, but there are plenty of waterproof trail running shoes on the market. Trail runners are a great way to keep the lightweight and flexible design of running shoes with a little more support and protection. If you are running on anything other than pavement, it’s a good idea to choose trail runners over normal tennis shoes. They’re great for muddy conditions as well as gravel or rocky paths.

What Gear to Pack

In addition to your basic exercise clothes (no cotton!) and a good pair of trail runners, what other gear should you bring to get started trail running? I always like to bring an extra pair of socks on all outdoor excursions. Driving home with wet feet is unpleasant, and if your trail runners are waterproof, they won’t be as breathable to help sweat dry. Keeping a towel and dry pairs of socks and shoes in the car is always a good idea. 

Depending on the length of your run, you may not bring much. You will want water, and a hydration pack is a great way to carry a decent amount without really feeling the weight. If you go on a longer run, you may also consider a snack for energy like a granola or protein bar. 

Pay attention to the weather before you leave for your trail run. It’s a good idea to bring a waterproof rain shell, and a compact one weighs hardly anything. On the opposite side of the weather spectrum, apply sunscreen before you start and maybe bring the bottle if it’s not sweatproof.

Finally, there are a few must-haves for every outdoor trip. You hope to not need them, but if you are trail running in unfamiliar terrain, it’s a good idea to be prepared. First, bring a light source. A headlamp is a compact, inexpensive way to ensure that you can hike home safely if you find yourself on the trail a little later than planned. Next, a first aid kit is always a good idea. If you want to make your own, my essential trail running first aid kit includes an ace bandage, blister treatment, bandaids, an ice pack, and ibuprofen. 

The last necessary item for any outdoor adventure is a map. Always, always have some form of navigation. Print a trail map before you leave or, at the very least, if you only have your phone, take a picture of the map at the trailhead. There is a chance your phone will lose service, and a map can be a lifesaver.

How to Train for Trail Running

In terms of cardio training, you can prepare for trail running the same as training for any other distance running. Just don’t beat yourself up when you can put in more miles on the sidewalk than on a trail. Running on more difficult terrain is more of a workout for your core, your brain, and your lungs. Work on longer hikes and longer sidewalk (or treadmill) runs, and then build miles on the trails as you get used to the feeling.

Three Helpful Trail Running Technique

The biggest thing to keep in mind for trail running is shorter strides. Unlike running on a sidewalk or treadmill, you want to keep your feet closer to your body. This helps with balance on uneven surfaces and helps prevent injury from overextension.

Similar to running on a city sidewalk, you need to look out for obstacles. Keep your eyes peeled and scan two to three body lengths in front of you. This way, you can gauge the terrain, find the best spots for your feet, and avoid tough spots. Don’t just look at the ground, though! You also want to look at eye level so you don’t get a branch in the face. Unlike zoning out on a treadmill, trail running is very engaging for the senses. While it may seem like a lot to manage at once, it also allows you to appreciate nature and your surroundings more.

The third tip for trail-running newbies is how to run on hills. When running uphill, don’t lean forward too much. It is tempting, especially when you’re tired, but staying upright keeps your lungs open so you can get in more air. When running downhill, be careful not to lean back. While it feels safer for your balance, it also increases the risk of injury, especially in the knees. There is no shame in slowing down or walking on tricky terrain.

How to Choose Your First Trail

If you are looking for a good place to get started on your trail running journey, here are a couple of things to keep in mind. It is a good idea to begin your journey on easier trails, nothing too dangerous or steep. You also don’t want to pick a trail that is too crowded, as it will only increase the number of obstacles on your route. 

As noted above, give yourself more time for the same mileage as you would run on a flat road, and start with small elevation gains before going for big routes. It’s always better to have a little gas left in the tank than to be miles from your car and completely exhausted.

Where to Trail Run near Colorado Springs

You can find great running trails at your local city and state parks. Consider picking up a guidebook or signing up with a local running club to get started. Colorado Springs is chock-full of beautiful areas with well-maintained trails. Once you have the basics of the sport of trail running down, you can identify if your favorite hiking trail is a good candidate to become your favorite trail running trail. This sport is gaining in popularity, and it’s no wonder why. Explore this new way to interact with nature, and you’ll surely fall in love with it, too.