Leather Hiking Boot Care Guide.


Man standing in hiking boots in the snow

New Zealand's braided rivers and towering mountains are mind-blowing but incredibly hard on hiking boots. Even the most rugged pair-of leather boots will eventually look a bit worse for wear. Leather boots are particularly susceptible to drying out and cracking. To solve this issue and keep them at their best, you need to clean and condition them regularly.  

How to choose the right boot care products?

Boot cleaning solutions are designed for smooth-leather or rough' leather (suedes are 'rough' leather). There are two types of products: a leather conditioner and shoe re-waterproofing. The leather conditioner works using a wax base, conditions the leather and restores the durable water repellency (DWR). It is designed to be used on smooth leather but can be used on rough leather (note: this converts the leather to a smooth waxy finish). For rough leathers or shoes with a combination of fabric and leather, a re-waterproofing treatment is the best choice.

NikWax LeatherProof Bottle
Nikwax Fabric and Leather Proof Spray.

Make sure your boots are clean and damp before you start any kind of treatment - any mud or dirt will get in the way and may not allow the product to soak in fully. 


3 tips for cleaning your hiking boots: 

1. Make sure the laces are removed (if they're super dirty too you can hand wash them in warm water with a little bit of detergent).

2. Using a soft brush or cloth, make sure to remove any little bits of the trail you have brought home on your boots. 

3. If they need a heavy-duty clean that a soft brush isn't going to fix, then using a specific boot cleaner and water is your best bet (always make sure to follow the instructions on the product).


How to apply your boot treatment.

The leather needs to be wet before you apply the treatment (after cleaning the boots works well for this reason). Once you are sure the boots are wet all way through, you can apply whatever conditioning product you have selected. Make sure to pay special attention to areas with stitching or worn areas and always follow the instructions for the best results. 

Person Stuffing boots with newspaper
(Make sure you REMOVE the laces before cleaning, unlike me!)

How to dry your now clean boots.

Make sure when drying your boots, they are kept at room temperature and in the shade - do not put them in front of your heater or direct sunlight. If you stuff newspaper into the boots, that helps dry out the insides (just make sure you change the paper when it's wet). 

And they are ready to put on your shelf for your next adventure. 

Boots on the shelf ready for the next adventure
Clean and ready to go!

3 top tips to care for your leather boots:

  1. Make sure your boots are cleaned after use - using a soft brush for light dirt or a full wash for extra dirty shoes.
  2. Apply a conditioning product to keep the leather performing at its best. 
  3. Make sure your boots are fully dry (room temperature, out of direct sunlight and heat sources) before storing. 

If you enjoyed this blog, here's another one you may find useful: How to choose the best pack for hiking.

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