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How To Care for Walking Boots & Shoes

How to Care for Walking Boots & Shoes

Looking after your footwear will not only keep them looking good, but will maintain their comfort, keep them working at their best and make them last longer.

The most important thing is to keep your walking boots and shoes clean, but they will also benefit from the regular application of a reproofing product. Full grain leather footwear should also be treated occasionally with a leather conditioner. We recommend the use of Nikwax water based products.

Cleaning your Walking Boots

This is probably the most important part of caring for your boots. Dirt particles can work their way into the leather or fabric, and into the seams, cutting and causing fatigue. It can also help the growth of microorganisms that could lead to decay of the leather.

After a walk you should always rinse off all mud and dirt with cold water. If necessary, use a nylon brush. Clean off any remaining dirt and stains with footwear cleaning gel. Shake off any excess water and then apply the gel straight onto the boot. Scrub with a nylon brush and then rinse in cold water.

Sweat is very high in salt and this salt will build up over time in the lining of your boots. We therefore recommend that you occasionally fill your boots with water and leave them soaking overnight. The next day empty them out and give the inside a good rinse. Keeping the inside of your boots clean will also help reduce the risk of fungal infections, like athletes foot.

Waterproofing your Walking Boots

We are often asked how often boots should be reproofed. This is dependant on how often they are worn and for how long, and what sort of state they are in after the walk. If you have just been on a 30-minute walk in dry and clean conditions there is no need to reproof them. However, if you have just got in from a 2 hour hike in wet and muddy conditions, then it would be better to clean them as above, reproof them, and then leave them to dry.

The advantage of Nikwax water based proofing products is that there is no risk of over-treatment. Also they can be applied whether the boots are wet or dry. In fact, they work better when the boots are wet. This is because they will be drawn deeper into the fabric and leather.

To reproof your boots, simply apply the appropriate product evenly over the surface, wipe away any excess, and then leave them to dry.


Footwear made from full grain leather will benefit from the occasional application of a leather conditioner. This will soften the leather, making it more supple and flexible. A water based conditioner is recommended, because this will maintain the breathability. Also, traditional treatments using oils and grease, if over-applied, can soften the leather excessively. This will lead to a lack of support and will also accelerate the ageing of the leather.

A good conditioner can be used to help break in a new pair of leather boots, and can be used to revive the leather if it has been allowed to become dried out and brittle.

Drying your Walking Boots

When you have cleaned your boots, and have applied any necessary reproofing or conditioning, they need to be left to dry. First, dry off any metal parts like lace hooks and eyes to prevent rusting. Stuff the boots with paper and leave them in a warm (not hot) place to dry out. If the paper becomes saturated, replace it.

Never leave your boots on a radiator, on the boiler, or anywhere that is too warm. This could cause the leather to crack, and it could cause bonded soles to peel away.

For more information about caring for your footwear and for details about all their products, visit the Nikwax main site. We always recommend Nikwax water based products for care of your footwear.

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