A Quick Guide on How to Clean Hiking Boots

If your hiking boots are as clean as a whistle, without a scuff or a scratch or a hint of dirt to be seen, then you’re doing it wrong.

Hiking boots should only look pristine when they are brand new and have never once been worn on the trail. After that, every scrape and stain on those boots is a badge of honor. While it’s fine for your hiking boots to look worn, it’s not OK for them to actually be dirty, at least not after each trek has ended. Leaving boots damp, soiled with mud, or caked in dirt can lead to damage over time — the type of damage that goes beyond cosmetics and can impact performance and longevity.

There’s no reason to break out the shoeshine kit. However, you do need to learn how to clean your hiking boots.

First, Get the Mud Off

If there are globs of mud all over your boots, get them off, man! Use a damp cloth or paper towel and wipe down the boots, taking care to work around and under the laces and to wipe off the eyelets and the hooks on the upper. Go ahead and scrape mud out of the treads with a stiff brush or slender rod. You should remove as much mud, dirt, and bits of leaves and brambles as soon as possible, because the longer that stuff sits there, the longer it will keep the boots damp.

Start with the Insides

The dampness your feet produce, along with any moisture that go in there from snow, fog, or rain, can all damage the inside of your boots (salty sweat and salt water are the worst for this). Pull out the insoles, wipe them down or launder them, then use a damp, clean rag to wipe out the inside of your boots. Do this step before any more extensive cleaning of the exterior, because once you get the insides dry, you want them to stay that way.

Dry the Boots

Unless you are in a fabulously damp location, it’s best to let boots dry as naturally as possible. Using the breeze and the sun is perfect, as is setting them a few feet from a fire or heater. Using a hair dryer is not so wise, as it can lead to cracking and damage. You may want to stuff the boots with dry balls of paper, socks, or anything else that’s nice and absorbent. Remove and/or replace the stuffing within an hour or so, because by that that time it will have done as much as it can. Getting your boots as dry as possible may take a day or longer.

Bang the Dirt Off and Wipe the Rest

At this point, there’s probably still some dirt or mud clinging onto your boots somewhere. Go ahead and slam those boots together repeatedly or whack them over a rock — don’t worry, they can take it. Get off as much of that now-dried dirt as you can using brute force, then switch to a good, stiff brush. An old toothbrush is a good choice here (a current toothbrush is a much worse choice). Now turn to a cloth dampened with only water and wipe away the rest of the dirt and dust.

Use a Boot Cleaner or a Bit of Detergent

To really get those boots clean, you should next wipe at them using either a dedicated boot (or shoe) cleaning solution or else a blend of water with a few squirts of basic dish detergent. There’s no need to soak your boots in cleaning solution. Just wipe at them until they look clean because. Next, get those boots nice and dry again, using the approach(s) we discussed above.

If you have boots made primarily out of FORE-TEX or some other synthetic material, you’re done. Go have a beer. If they are made from good ol’ leather or suede, you might want to take further steps to waterproof and condition them. Don’t worry, we’ve got an article all about leather and suede care too.

Article originally published April 6, 2017.

Outdoors

6 Men’s Adventure Jackets for Surviving the Worst Weather

A good jacket is an absolute requirement for any adventure. Winter or spring, mountain or rainforest, jackets are your home away from home.
Auto

All the Presidents’ (Coolest) Cars: A Look at How the POTUS Rolls

The presidential state car serves as a reflection of technological progress, the style of the time, and the stark realities of safety and security concerns.
Food & Drink

What Is Caviar? The Most Common Questions Answered

Surprisingly, this garnish can be enjoyed for as little as $20 and is a rock-star condiment.
Auto

Cake’s Newest Electric Motorcycle Prepares for Its Street Debut

Built as a fully street-legal electric motorcycle, the Kalk& (yes, that's the name) furthers the Swedish company’s minimalistic design and engineering aesthetic.
Outdoors

Check Out This Guide to 71 Natural Hot Springs Across the U.S.

America is home to 1,161 known hot springs, and thanks to a new guide from CarRentals, you can now easily find your way to 71 of those.
Fashion & Style

Save Up to 30 Percent Off Winter Ski Apparel from the Stio End-of-Season Sale

The Wyoming-based brand offers a variety of winter gear to keep you storm-ready and right now.
Outdoors

Outdoor Retailer Snow Show 2019: First Look at the Coolest Upcoming Gear

Here are the coolest gear pieces and insane technologies that we saw at Outdoor Retailer. These products are a sneak peek at what will be available to the public in the next few years.
Outdoors

How to Survive a Bear Attack: Brown Bears, Black Bears, Polar Bears, Oh My

The chances of encountering a bear in the wild are slim, but you should always be prepared for the worst.
Outdoors

Tips for Camping in the Rain You Should Read Before You Get Soaked

There are several pieces of gear, a few techniques, and some clever hacks that will make your sodden outdoor experience a pleasure despite the drizzle or downpour.
Travel

The Best Travel and Adventure Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

If you're reading this, you're staring at a screen. Wouldn't you rather be exploring a different part of the world than the Internet?
Outdoors

4 of the Most Dangerous Hikes in the World

You'll need a healthy dose of fear and a desire to push your self to the edge — just not over it.
Outdoors

6 Most Scenic Day Hikes in U.S. National Parks

It’s no wonder that some of the best views in the country are located within national parks.
Outdoors

4 of the Most Challenging Day Hikes in the U.S.

These trails are not for the faint of heart, but if you possess the necessary skills and are in above-average shape, they can be knocked out in one day.
Outdoors

Camp, Eat, and Have a Beer Underwater with the Ocean Space Habitat ‘Tent’

Imagine playing poker and sharing a bottle of bourbon with your buddies underwater.