A high-quality, well-made pair of hiking boots will probably cost you much more than your sleeping bag and almost as much as your tent.
Having laid out all that cash, you’ll probably want the boots to last for a few years and that is certainly possible with a little TLC. If you’ve cared for the uppers, good quality boots can be re-soled to get you back on the trail for much less than a new pair of boots.
Hiking boots come in various qualities and price ranges. The real low-end sneaker type are probably okay for walking the dog around town, but for real work, spend more time and money making your choice. Good boots for hiking are available in all leather or leather and Gore-Tex. Both are good choices, so cost and fit may help you make the decision.
All new boots come with manufacturer’s instructions for care and maintenance. Following these instructions will make the boots last and keep intact any warranty that came with them.
One of the common causes of boot problems is not keeping them clean; dirt in the stitches, folds and interior causes friction, which can damage the stitches/seams, causing the boots to leak and start to come apart. At the end of each day, shake out any dirt inside the boot and under the laces and tongue folds. Scrape off mud, sand and gravel and clean out the ridges and knobs on the sole. The boots are heavy and stiff enough without also carrying a pound or two of debris stuck on the boot.
Where possible, make some effort to try to get your boots dry each evening. An extra pair of light shoes for around camp will allow more time for boot drying. Don’t dry your boots next to the fire as the leather can dry out and crack or the Gore-Tex can be damaged by the high temperature. If you’re in a camp with a wood-stove, hang the boots up high where a moderate amount of heat can get to them. Stuffing them with newspaper will draw moisture out. At home or anywhere electricity is available, use a boot dryer or electric fan with the laces removed, or at least with boots propped open.
When you get home after a trek, clean your boots thoroughly with warm water and a soft brush to remove dirt particles in the pores of the leather. Also rinse out the inside of the boot with warm water and allow to dry thoroughly.
Read and follow the manufacturers suggestions regarding gels or conditioners to apply. Some of our old stand-by boot conditioners and waterproofing waxes just aren’t as good as some new ones. Leather boots each need different care and conditioning compared to Gore-Tex and leather boots. Something good for leather may ruin or at least clog the pores in a Gore-Tex membrane.
Properly cared for, the most expensive footwear you’ll ever own will last many years and your feet will thank you for caring.