Walking boots may be the biggest wardrobe investment that you make. Like any good investment, they provide far more value to you than what you paid for them. Good walking boots keep your feet warm and comfortable, protect you from slips and extend the walking season into the cold rainy months. Good walking boots don't just protect your feet; they boost your comfort and well-being, give you greater access to the outdoors and take you on wild adventures.
Protecting your boots with a regimen of cleaning and waterproofing can extend the life of your investment by many years. Properly maintained, walking boots can last a lifetime. That means keeping them clean and maintaining the leather after each use. With a little bit of water, cloth and a few modern cleaning products, it's easier than ever to keep your boots in good order.
After a Walk
So, you've been out having adventures in the countryside, or maybe just weeding the garden. The point is, you've been working yourself hard in the muck and now you're done and want your tea. It's tempting, or perhaps habit, to throw those boots in the closet and be done with it. Don't do that. Putting away dirty boots can result in cracked and rotted leather. In other words, it can drastically shorten the life of your boots.
Before you even come in the door, brush all the dirt and debris off your boots with a good stiff brush. Keep a boot brush by the door just to make this habit easy to maintain. Make sure you get all the dirt from along the seams and the nooks and crannies around the laces and tongue.
Now take off the boots and knock the soles together to get out any lingering dirt. Best to do this over a newspaper or straight into the garden so you don't dirty your house. Turn the boots upside down and shake out any dirt that's gotten inside.
Next, take out the laces and insole. If these aren't cleaned well, then the bits of dirt will rub into the fibres and wear them out. Wash these in a little bit of water with some Nikwax Tech Wash and the dirt will come right out. Squeeze out the excess water and hang the laces and insoles up to dry.
Cleaning the Boots
Once the worst of the dirt has been brushed off the boots, you can use a safe and mild cleanser like Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel to clean your boots. You'll want to do this to remove any bacteria, perspiration and soil that would discolour the leather or make it crack.
Wipe off the leather with a damp sponge and scrub hardened bits with a soft nylon brush. Then use a fresh sponge and the cleaning gel to work out any remaining dirt. Always finish by rinsing the cleanser off to remove the dirt and residue.
It is vitally important that your boots be dried properly. When leather is left wet it can rot and fall apart. If it becomes too dry or overheated then it will crack and harden too much. Let the boots dry slowly in a place that is warm but not excessively hot. Do not use a hair dryer, radiator, fire or any other kind of direct heat to dry your boots. Besides being bad for the leather, heat can also damage the soles of the boots, melt plastics and degrade the glue that holds the soles and uppers together.
If the insides of your boots are wet you'll need to draw the water out. Stuff the boots with clean, dry rags or newspaper. Don't put too much material in the boot; you want it to absorb moisture but not prevent air circulation.
Making Sure the Boot Stays Waterproof
Leather is only waterproof if a sealant is applied. When boots get used or become wet, the waterproof sealant gets worn away and needs to be reapplied. Boots need to be waterproofed regularly, especially if they have been soaked through.
There are many products that can be used to make boots waterproof. Nikwax waterproofing products are water-based. That means that if the boot is wet, the product will be able to mix with it and penetrate the leather.
Different types of leather need different treatments. Nikwax Aqueous Wax can be used to waterproof full grain leather boots and bring up a nice sheen. Simply blot the wax onto the boot with a sponge, let it sit for a few minutes and then use another cloth to wipe off the excess wax and buff the leather to a shine.
Waterproofing is especially important on nubuck and suede boots. This kind of leather has been sanded against the grain so that it has a soft nap. Many people shy away from buying suede because they believe it will be ruined by a rainy day. But Nikwax Nubuck and Suede Proof is easy to apply and will protect footwear on even the dampest days. Just spray it onto the clean boots; wait a few minutes and then wipe off any extra. Let the boots dry naturally and they will be safe for puddle jumping.
Boots that are made of both leather and fabric can be tricky. Nikwax Nubuck and Suede Proof can be applied to canvas, as well as leather. Being a spray, it gives a full and even coverage. The suede's nap is protected from being crushed because the proofing spray does not need to be rubbed into the leather.
If you're trekking in very wet places like along sea shores or through jungle river beds, all the waterproofing in the world is not going to stop your feet from getting wet when the trip is long. Choose boots that are well ventilated and not intended to be waterproof and wear woollen socks. That way moisture can wick away from your feet and air can circulate around the inside of your boot. Your feet will be far more comfortable.
Cleaning Inside the Boot
There's no bigger turn off than stinky feet. Moisture, bacteria and the minerals from perspiration can lead your boot to smell like the inside of a corn chip bag. If not cleaned, eventually these germs will damage the insoles and cause the inside of the boots to break down.
Wearing proper walking socks can cut down on boot odour because the natural fibres will wick moisture away from your feet and reduce swamp foot.
To clean out the insides of your boots, put the boots in a basin filled with water and a cleanser like Nikwax Tech Wash. Soak it for half an hour or so and then drain. This dissolves away any minerals and gets rid of the odour-causing germs. Be sure to dry the boots properly and waterproof them when you are done.
It's not practical to give your boots a soaking every time you wear them, especially if you just don't have time to wait around for your boots to dry. Between deep cleanings, use an anti-bacterial spray to keep the foot funk in check.
Whether you use your boots for adventuring though tropical jungles, trekking across the highlands or simply putting in an honest day's work, you get the most value out of your boots when they are well maintained and waterproof. Cutting down on wear and tear by removing dirt and debris, cleaning away the germs and proper drying all protect the integrity of the leather and keep it from cracking. Following up with a waterproofing treatment will keep your feet dry and your boots beautiful for many years to come.
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