Without a good pair of leather boots, no hiker will ever get far. As indispensable as they may be, we all know that with constant traipsing on the hills and trails, degradation is inevitable. To care for leather boots, a little regular maintenance goes a long way. From cleaning and waterproofing, to ensuring the insoles don’t wear, there’s a lot you can do to ensure your boots last you for many years to come.

What cleaner should be used to care for leather boots?

To clean your boots, you’ll want to use a cleaner and then apply a waterproofing treatment. Depending on the material your boots are made from — full-grain leather or rough leather — different products will be required. Always consult the recommended options for your particular boots.

Full-leather boots will require a cleaner and a conditioner, which also doubles as a water repellant finish. Rough leather, on the other hand, only requires simple cleaning followed by the application of a waterproofing layer.

For those who have Gore-Tex boots or another membrane of a similar type, there’s no need to re-apply a waterproofing layer. A thorough cleaning is all that’s required.

How to clean leather boots

The first thing to do is to remove any caked-on mud or dirt. Before beginning, remove the laces, and then with a soft brush, proceed to clean the boot as best you can. Any dirt or dust on the boot will negatively affect how well any finish you apply will take to the boot surface.

When cleaning the boot, apply some water and then begin to work the cleaner into the boot with a nylon brush. Scrub firmly in a circular motion and work your way around the entire boot before rinsing off the cleaner with some water. Wetting the boot is important as the conditioning and waterproofing procedures work best on boots that are clean yet slightly damp.

Applying a waterproof layer to leather boots

With the boots damp and the water thoroughly soaked into the leather, you should apply the conditioner or waterproof treatments straight away. Spread the solution over the entire boot, and ensure you apply it to every exposed part of the leather. After 3 minutes, the leather will have soaked up the solution, and the excess can be wiped off.

Allow the boots to dry in a place where they’re not exposed to high temperature. Resist the temptation to use a heat source for quicker drying. Humidity should be low and the temperature normal. To hasten the process, a fan can be used to increase air circulation around the boots.

Where to store leather boots

Your boots should be stored in a dry space that’s well ventilated. The temperature should be neither too cold nor too warm, with room temperature being ideal. Those who use their boots infrequently should use a shoe tree to help maintain the shape of the boot.

What if your boots are damaged?

Let’s face it, with heavy use, even the most expensive pair of boots will eventually show some signs of wear and tear. Cleaning and re-waterproofing should form a part of general boot maintenance, but what else can go wrong?

  • Worn out or torn boot laces are commonplace. Laces should be replaced with new ones that match the length of the original set once you detect they’ve become weak.
  • If you notice a gash or a hole in your boots, then it’s advisable to take them to a cobbler for repair. While many are often tempted to fill in the holes with some form of glue, doing so will only lead to further degradation of the leather. When it comes to exterior damage on the boots, by acting sooner rather than later, you’ll prolong their life.
  • If eye or hooks become damaged, they should be replaced to ensure your boots can be properly laced. Comfort and safety can be compromised on rough terrain if your boots are not laced firmly.
  • With heavy use, insoles can become worn which leads to discomfort. They should be replaced as soon as possible to ensure maximum comfort and sufficient ankle support.
  • Those who find themselves slipping when out on steeper trails should evaluate the condition of the boot sole. With increased use, comes increased wear, and a worn sole will always lead to suboptimal grip. To avoid the dangers associated, consider replacing the sole.
Care for leather boots in winter

Winter can be exceptionally hard on leather boots. With lower humidity, the leather can often become dried out and begin to crack. Be mindful of such problems during the winter months and be prepared to clean and apply some moisture if you do notice any signs of degradation in the leather.

At Decathlon we stock a wide range of leather boots and shoes. From hiking boots to the simple walking shoe, and from horse riding boots to dancing shoes, we stock the very best of each. The same principles of care apply to each, and equipped with this information, you’ll be sure to get the best out of them for many years to come!