How to Clean Hiking Shoes

Hiking Shoes Cleaning Guide

Published: Nov 25, 2020

Hiking shoes are built not only to protect your feet but also to take on muddy and gritty trails. Yes, it's built to be sturdy, but taking care of it and cleaning it every after hike can make a big difference to how long it can last.

Cleaning your hiking boots is vital if you want it to last for many years. To clean it thoroughly, wash it with water, brush off the dirt, use a mild soap to remove stubborn stains, then wash it again. Let it dry away from the sun at a natural temperature. Make sure to apply waterproofing and conditioning to ensure that it would still protect your feet on your next hiking trips.

In this article, we'll discuss how you can clean your hiking shoes and boots inside and out. After this, we'll talk about how you can dry your shoes, ways to properly store it if you're not going to use it, and tips to waterproof and condition your boots like it's brand new again.

Let's get started.

Cleaning Your Hiking Shoes

Cleaning your shoes does not mean that you need to wash them every time they're dirty. When you're still on your campsite, you can dust the dirt off by holding them on the ankles and bang them on a tree trunk. 


Why is it important to do this?


Ignoring the built-up dirt on your boots can:

  • Take away the moisture from the cloth or leather of your shoes which can speed up the aging process and make your boots dry.
  • Drying mud can grind away your shoes like sandpaper eating away a wood.


Items you'll need:

  • An old toothbrush, vegetable brush, or special boots brush.
  • A mild solution of a saddle or dishwashing soap, a specialized shoe cleaner, and water.
  • An old warm cloth.


After a Hike


Here's a step-by-step guide on how you can rinse your shoes a day after your hike:


  1. Remove the insole and laces. 


Insoles tend to collect moisture from your feet which results in odors. To clean the insoles, take them out of the shoe and put baking soda in it. Removing the laces can help you clean the metal hardware and lace holes easily. To clean the laces, wash them with dish soap and running water, then hand them to let them dry.


  1. Removing the accumulated dirt on the surface.


Typically, you can remove the excess dirt on the surface of your boots by using a brush. But if you have stubborn stains, you can soak the shoe in water and brush them with a mild solution soap or a boots cleaner of your choice.


  1. Removing the soap.


Once you're done scrubbing the stubborn stains, you can use a clean warm cloth and running water to remove the soap. Continue doing this until your shoes are all dry. 


Once you've removed all the dirt and soap from your boots, it's time to dry them.


Tips in Drying and Storing Your Hiking Shoes


Washing your shoes improperly does not only age it faster but having the mistake of drying and putting it in the wrong places can bring even more damage to it. Here are some tips from our expert campers to avoid these incidents.


Drying a Hiking Boots


Always remember that you shouldn't put the shoes under direct heat or in a drying machine because it can potentially ruin the entire material of the product. Here are some of the important things that you should consider:


  • Dry the boots under low humidity and at a normal temperature place.
  • Normal fans can dry your shoes faster and better.
  • Do not use any heat source like a heater, radiator, campfire, etc. because it can age the shoe faster and weakens any adhesives.
  • You can stuff some used newspapers inside and outside the boots to speed up the drying process. Frequently change the paper whenever it feels damped.
  • Never put your shoes under direct sunlight because it can cause discoloration and crack.


Where and How to Store a Hiking Boots


At the end of your preferred hiking season, it's important that you put your shoes in a safe and dry place to avoid getting them molded. Here is some advice from our co-hikers on how they store their shoes.


  • Completely clean off your hiking boots again to ensure that there are no sticky muds or pebbles on them.
  • Make sure that your shoes are completely dry before storing them.
  • Remove the laces and store both of them separately away from sunlight and moisture.
  • Do not put it inside any box or plastic.


Waterproofing and Conditioning a Hiking Shoe


Now that you're well aware of how to properly clean and dry off your boot, it's important that you maintain the quality and features that it has. You can do this by conditioning and waterproofing your shoe.


How to Waterproof Your Hiking Shoe


Most surface pores of any boots will open after you clean them with water. It's important that you close these surfaces to ensure that your shoe will still be protected from water and chemicals. 


  1. The first thing that you would want to do is to pick a waterproofing or a wax compound that is made specifically for shoes. 
  2. Spray your chosen product to your boots while they are still damp to ensure that these “open pores” will absorb them properly and will prevent them from absorbing water on your next travel.
  3. Spray the waterproofing or was material every time before you go hiking and after washing them.


How to Use a Conditioning Solution to a Hiking Shoe


You should use a conditioning solution to your hiking boot right after you do your waterproofing to retain its moisture within the surface. Most shoe materials have their specific care product so you should take note of this as well. 

Make sure that you put in the right amount, not too much and not too little, just to help reduce any cracks and wear and tear. It's advisable to put a conditioning solution to your shoes every after washing and waterproofing, but don't apply too much so that the outer layer of your boots won't get too soft.


If your boots have metal material for the boots' lace holes, you can use chrome polish to prevent and remove any rust. Just simply put in a little chrome polish on a dry cloth and apply it. Let it rest for a couple of minutes and remove any excess polish with the cloth.


How Often Should I Clean My Hiking Shoes?


Like what we've mentioned earlier, it's important that you clean your shoes every after hike. Here's a quick summary of why you should do this:

  • Built-up dirt can cause cracks and age your boots faster.
  • Particles of dirt can go deeper into your shoes' outer material which can eat it up like sandpaper brushed on a wood.
  • You'll end up buying hiking shoes more often than you actually need to.
  • Cleaning your shoes can help prevent transporting foreign invasive species from one area to another.


Final Thoughts


If you're like us who love our hiking shoes and would rather have only one pair, then it's vital that you follow the steps and precautions that we've mentioned earlier. Hiking shoes are made to protect your feet from dirt and prevent injuries which is why it's also important to take care of them as much as you can.

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