How To Clean Hiking Boots

March 12, 2024

How To Clean Hiking Boots

At Kizik, we understand that keeping your hiking boots in tip-top shape isn't just about looks. It’s about ensuring they're always ready for the next adventure. Think of it this way: each hike leaves a bit of the trail on your boots, from mud and dust to unseen wear and tear on the material. 

And let's be honest, nobody enjoys the post-hike ritual of cleaning, but it's crucial for keeping those trusty boots ready for miles of exploration. Our mission today? To walk you through the nitty-gritty of getting your hiking boots from grimy to gleaming. 

Whether you've trudged through muddy paths or dusty trails, we've got the know-how to bring your boots back to life. Consider this your go-to guide for banishing dirt and keeping your boots in prime condition, hike after hike.

Why is it important to clean your hiking boots?

You might wonder why a bit of even dirt matters. Well, much like a well-oiled machine, hiking boots need regular care to keep them functioning. 

Here's why a good clean is non-negotiable:

Material preservation

Dirt and grime aren't just ugly to look at. They can degrade the materials of your boots over time, leading to cracks and wear.

Odor control

Let's face it, boots can stink. Regular cleaning keeps unpleasant odors at bay, ensuring your boots (and your feet) stay fresh. (The people around you will thank you, too.)

Performance optimization

Mud-caked boots lose their grip and flexibility. Clean boots mean better traction and comfort on your hikes.

Foot health

Dirty boots can cause blisters and other foot problems. Keeping them clean reduces the risk of discomfort and injury.

What do you need to clean hiking boots?

Ready to tackle the challenge of cleaning your hiking boots? First, Let's be sure you've got all the right tools. Think of this as assembling your cleaning kit, like a first-aid kit for your boots. 

Here's what you'll need to breathe new life into those trusty companions:

  • A soft brush or an old toothbrush: Gently scrub away the dirt without damaging the material. Think of it like giving your boots a soft massage.
  • Mild soap or specialized boot cleaner: Harsh chemicals are a no-go. You want something gentle yet effective, like a shampoo.
  • Lukewarm water: Hot water is off-limits since it can warp the shape and mess with the adhesives. Only use room-temp water for mixing in with soap and rinsing.  
  • A clean cloth: Microfiber works wonders, but any clean rag will do the trick of wiping away grime and soap.
  • A soft towel: This will help apply a gentle touch when patting down the boots after cleaning.
  • Conditioner for leather boots (if applicable): If your boots are leather, a conditioner will keep them soft and supple, like a spa treatment for your footwear.
  • Newspaper or a shoe tree: This will help maintain the shape of the boots as they dry. It works like a pillow for your boots to rest on.

With this arsenal at your ready, you're well-prepared to tackle any level of dirt and grime your hiking boots collected.

Steps to clean hiking boots

Cleaning your hiking boots isn't just about splashing them with water and calling it a day. It's a meticulous process that, when done correctly, preserves the life and performance of your trusty trail companions. 

Before diving into the cleaning steps, always check the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure you use the right method and materials for your boots. This tailored approach guarantees the longevity and effectiveness of your boots and keeps them ready for your next adventure.

Step 1: Prepare your boots

First things first, you need to get your boots ready for a thorough cleaning. Start by removing the laces and insoles. This allows you to clean those parts separately and open up your boots to reach every nook and cranny. 

Loosen the tongue to expose the interior. You don’t want to leave any spot untouched. 

Step 2: Remove loose dirt and mud

With your boots prepped, it's time to tackle the loose dirt and mud. Gently brush away the grime using a soft brush or an old toothbrush. This step isn't about being rough; think of it as carefully dusting off a cherished item. 

Pay special attention to the soles. This is where dirt loves to hide. The goal here is to remove as much debris as possible without damaging the boot's material and to set the stage for a deeper clean.

Step 3: Clean with soap and water

After you've dusted off the loose dirt, it's time to dive into the deeper cleaning. Create a mild soap solution using either a specialized boot cleaner or a gentle soap. Remember, the key here is gentleness; harsh detergents can damage the boots. 

Dip a soft brush or cloth into the solution and gently scrub the exterior of the boots. If you're dealing with leather boots, be careful not to oversaturate the material. It’s like giving your boots a gentle bath, ensuring every part gets attention without getting overwhelmed by water.

Step 4: Rinse thoroughly

Once you've lovingly scrubbed your boots clean, it's time to rinse them. Do this carefully to avoid drenching your boots. You want to remove all soap residue without soaking the material. 

Use a damp cloth to wipe down the exterior, and if necessary, a lightly moistened brush to get rid of any soap trapped in the crevices. It's all about balance, ensuring your boots are clean but not waterlogged.

Step 5: Dry your boots properly

Drying your boots is crucial for maintaining their shape and material’s integrity. Start by placing them in a well-ventilated area away from direct heat sources like radiators or direct sunlight. Heat can warp and damage the material, especially leather. If you're in a hurry, resist the temptation to speed up the process artificially. Instead, stuff them with newspaper or a towel to absorb moisture and help maintain their shape. 

Change the stuffing periodically to ensure it's fresh and dry and facilitate an even drying process. It's like giving your boots a gentle, natural spa day to rejuvenate after their thorough cleanse.

Step 6: Recondition leather (if applicable)

For those with leather hiking boots, this step is a game-changer. Once your boots are dry, applying a leather conditioner will help keep the material supple and prevent it from drying out and cracking. 

Use a product designed for footwear and apply it sparingly with a soft cloth, working it into the leather in circular motions. This is akin to moisturizing your skin—it's about replenishment and protection, ensuring your leather boots remain durable and water-resistant. 

It's a crucial step for extending the life and enhancing the performance of your leather hiking boots.

Step 7: Waterproofing

Finally, consider reapplying a waterproofing treatment. This step is particularly important if you've noticed your boots have started to absorb rather than repel water. 

Select a waterproofing product suitable for your boot's material and follow the manufacturer's application instructions. This treatment acts as a shield, enhancing your boots' resilience against water and ensuring your feet stay dry on future hikes. 

Additional tips for hiking boot care

Even with the best cleaning routine, you can do a few extra things to keep your hiking boots in prime condition and extend their life even further. These tips are universal, whether you're lacing up a rugged trail boot or slipping into something more casual like our Kizik Toronto for a day in the city.

  • Regular inspection: After each hike, give your boots a quick once-over. Catching issues early, like separated soles or worn-down treads, can save you from bigger problems down the line.
  • Proper storage: When not in use, store your boots in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. This prevents the materials from degrading or the colors from fading.
  • Rotation: If possible, rotate between pairs of boots or shoes. This allows each pair to fully dry out and reduce wear and tear on any one pair.

Following these simple yet effective care steps can significantly extend the life of your hiking boots, keeping them comfortable, functional, and ready to tackle any trail you set your sights on.

The bottom line

Your hiking boots are an essential ally in your outdoor adventures, providing support, protection, and comfort through every step. 

At Kizik, we understand the importance of every footwear choice you make, from the trail-ready ruggedness of hiking boots to the effortless style and convenience of our hands-free Toronto. Proper maintenance and care of your hiking boots extend their life and enhance your overall hiking experience. 

By adopting these care practices, you ensure that your boots will be part of many more adventures to come. Here's to many trails ahead! 


Smarter: How to Stop Shoes From Smelling | Consumer Reports

Corns and Calluses: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments | Cleveland Clinic 

Thermoregulated natural leather using phase change materials | ScienceDirect

Does Rotating Your Shoes Reduce Your Risk of Running Injuries? | Runners Connect 

Written By: Chris Fry

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