Caring for Leather Walking Boots

Leather walking boots need more maintenance than fabric or synthetic ones, so to feel their full benefit it’s important that you take good care of them. Hiking over rough ground, through mud, dust and grass has the effect of wearing away at the surface of the leather, creating weak points until it splits or cracks. Mud also acts to suck moisture from leather, leaving it looking and feeling dry and tired. Thankfully when this happens all is not lost: follow this simple guide and your leather boots will retain their ruggedness, performance and looks for years to come!

Here are our four easy steps to restore your boots to health after rigorous use:

Step 1: Clean

•    Remove the laces and insoles from your boots.

•    Clean off the outside with a gentle brush to get rid of any mud and grime. Make sure the brush is soft and gentle – harsh bristle or wire brushes will damage the leather.

•    If you frequently use your boots, rinse out the inside of the boots every couple of weeks and give the insole a clean too. This can help prevent your boots’ waterproof lining (if they have one) from failing due to dirt rubbing into it through wear. It’s best to use warm water when cleaning, but cold is a good second best.

•    Don’t be tempted to use household cleaners like washing up liquid or soap, as they leave residues that attract water and lead to the accumulation of dirt. Webtogs recommend Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel for cleaning all types of outdoor footwear safely.

Step 2: Dry

•    It is best not to use a direct heat source to dry your footwear, as this will weaken and dry out the leather uppers and any adhesives used. That means no airing cupboards, radiators, campfires or hairdryers!

•    Leave your boots to dry naturally with insoles removed.

•    If you need to dry them quickly, the old method of stuffing them with newspaper works best. Be sure to change the paper every couple of hours to minimise dry time.

•    Store your boots at room temperature once they’re dry.

Step 3: Reproof

Usually, the above steps will be sufficient to restore your boots to good working order. Sometimes however, your boots require a little more TLC. If the leather uppers are not repelling water properly, and droplets are soaking in rather than ‘beading up’ and running off, then your boots require reproofing. As always with outdoor kit, Nikwax is the best solution! A word of warning: never attempt to reproof your boots without cleaning them first, as this will just rub the dirt back into the leather, with the risk of degrading performance and condition.

Here’s how to go about reproofing with Nikwax Footwear Reproofing Products:

•    Leather boots generally take on reproofers best when wet, although Nikwax state that their products can be applied to both wet and dry leather – wet just does a better job! Accordingly it’s best to reproof having just cleaned your boots.

•    Apply liberally and work the reproofer into all welts and seams – these need special attention as these are your boots’ weak points most prone to splits.

•    Leave for 2 minutes after application, then remove any surplus with a cloth and allow to dry naturally before use.

Step 4: Condition

As time goes on, the leather of your boots will start to lose some of the moisture that it naturally has within it. After cleaning and reproofing you may notice that the leather feels dry, or may even be starting to crack, with some discoloration. If left in this condition, long-term damage can be caused. At this point you need to condition your boots, to restore moisture to the leather. Yet again, we would recommend Nikwax Conditioner for Leather, which not only restores condition, water repellency and breathability, but also is also environmentally friendly. Here’s how to condition your boots:

•    The conditioning treatment works best with wet leather so make sure you have followed step 1 to clean above.

•    Apply liberally and work into all welts and seams.

•    Leave for 2 minutes after application, then remove any surplus with a cloth and allow to dry naturally before use.

If followed correctly, these treatments will ensure that your leather walking boots will keep you happy in the hills for many years to come, even if you thought they may have been past it!