How To Maintain Hiking Boots


Whenever the sun appears from behind the clouds, we all want to hit the track and enjoy a beautiful, colourful autumn hike. Oh, the hills and mountains in autumn with all possible shades of red and orange! Unfortunately the dream autumn trek can be easily ruined by soaked boots. It goes without saying that a comfortable hike depends on having dry feet! Even the most technical hiking boots can fail you over time if not properly maintained and cared for. Here are a few tips on how to care for your boots so you can enjoy your hike in the autumn and throughout the winter.

Modern leather waterproof boots are usually equipped with special membranes which prevent water getting in and keep your feet dry by transferring any moisture out. However, these properties decline over time without proper boot maintenance, so protecting them with products specifically designed for the purpose can help you to enjoy your favourite pair of boots for longer.

The first step, before applying any wax or liquid, is to properly clean and dry your boots. No matter how dirty your boots are, don’t wash them in a washing machine and do not apply a hard brush to the leather. First, take off the shoelaces and insoles and wash them separately. Try to clean the boots whilst they’re dry with a soft brush, and the next step is to clean them with a soft, smooth sponge and hot water (not too hot though!) If the boots are really dirty or even stained, use natural odourless soap without any softeners or fragrances to clean them. You can also use a special liquid from brands such as Nikwax that are designed specifically for cleaning leather boots. You can then use a hard brush to clean the sole of the boot.

One of the most common mistakes is to dry leather boots either near or in direct contact with a heat source such as a radiator or a fireplace. This will lead not only to the destruction of the upper but can also cause cracking seams or weaken the effect of the adhesive which can contribute to the detachment of the sole. Leave your washed boots in a well-ventilated room and stuff them with old newspapers which will help to absorb excess moisture.

You can warm up next to the fire, but dry your boots out away from heat sources in a well-ventilated room.
You can warm up next to the fire, but dry your boots out away from heat sources in a well-ventilated room.

Only attempt to treat clean and dry boots with a wax lotion or spray. Which product is better for your boots depends on the type of leather. In the case of leather boots, I recommend wax, cream or lotion. Do not use regular shoe polish for your boots with membrane – special bees’ wax will be more efficient. It is an excellent product both for moisturising the boots and maintaining them too. Apply the wax with a soft cloth and use a hairdryer to melt it – whilst it is in a liquid state it will penetrate deeper into the leather. After the wax has soaked into the leather, repeat the process twice more to create three layers of wax. After a couple of hours when you are sure that the wax has soaked deep into the leather, polish your boots with a soft brush or cloth. Make sure you reach all the corners of the boots, seams and any areas damaged or dried out in particular. If the upper is a combination of leather and synthetic fabrics, be careful not to cover the synthetic patches with wax.

If your favourite pair of boots is made of nubuck, you should treat it with sprays, which should be applied from a distance of 20cm, or with a lotion and sponge applicator. As with the waxing process for leather boots, apply three layers of waterproofing spray, waiting until one layer has fully absorbed before applying the next. Do not cover nubuck with wax as it causes the darkening of the material and changes its texture. Whilst some people prefer the extra waterproofing that wax provides and are prepared to compromise the appearance to increase the waterproofing, this will be against the manufacturer’s recommendations and may void any warranties.


If you properly care for and maintain your hiking boots, not only can you ensure that your favourite boots last longer but they will also help to keep your feet dry during your hike. This means you can enjoy your hike on wet and/or muddy paths this autumn and right through the winter too! At Decathlon you can find all of the products you need to care for your boots, including this convenient leather care kit.

Happy Hiking!

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