A pair of hunting boots is an investment of a few hundred dollars, and like any good investment, you want it to keep performing for years to come. Due to our own negligence though, those boots might end up lasting just a few seasons. It doesn’t need to be that way – with just a few simple tips and about ten minutes of your post-hunt time, you can have a pair of boots last a decade of more.
Tips for Making Your Hunting Boots Last Longer
A Clean Boot is a Happy Boot
Do you get home from a hunting trip, kick off your boots and crash on the couch? If you just take a few minutes to clean the mud and grime from your boots before slipping into blissful post-hunt slumber they’ll last considerably longer. All of the debris and muck left on the boots robs the leather of moisture and acts as an abrasive that slowly wears down the material. A quick once over with a soft nylon brush and a damp cloth, after every use, can add years to the life of your boots.
Keep Them Dry
This is easily the most important thing you can do to give your boots a long and healthy life. Wet boots grow mildew, smell awful, and can crack after they dry out. Do what you can to prevent them from getting wet, but when they do, be sure to dry them out slowly. A pair of wet leather boots left out in the sun or cooked under a hairdryer is a recipe for disaster. Leather needs to dry out slowly with moderate humidity to prevent cracking.
This seems like the opposite of what I just said, doesn’t it? Leather boots need to be in the “Goldilocks Zone” when it comes to moisture. Leather is a natural material made from the skin of an animal, so it only makes sense that it needs a little bit of moisture, much like your own skin, in order to stay pliable and looking nice. The easiest way to maintain this correct level of moisture is to use a conditioner after cleaning your boots. The conditioner, made from natural oils and waxes or a synthetic replacement for them, keeps your boots in that Goldilocks zone while also providing a slightly waterproof coating.
Shoe Trees are the Best
Leather shrinks over time, especially after it gets wet and dries out. You can minimize that shrinkage by storing them with shoe trees inside. Yes, they look like something businessmen use to keep their loafers nice, but they work on your hunting boots just as well.
Salt is the Enemy
With winter weather usually comes salty sidewalks and streets. If you wear your hunting boots anywhere outside the wilderness in the winter, this is a problem you’ll need to deal with. Salt is both an abrasive and a moisture sucking chemical that will leave your boots cracked and ragged in short order. Pick a commercial salt stain remover (or make your own with a little water and vinegar) and be sure to remove any stains within a day of them appearing.
A pair of high-quality leather boots can last a lifetime, or close to it. The soles will need to be replaced periodically though, the rubber is just not designed to last more than a few years of frequent use. Take your hunting boots to your local shoe repair store and have them putting on a fresh sole every time you start to see some significant wear. Don’t wait until they have a hole in them though, this is both bad for your feet and the leather uppers that you’re trying so hard to protect.
Let Them Breathe
One of the biggest mistakes you can make with a pair of hunting boots involves improper storage. Boots need to breathe, so don’t store them in a plastic bag, airtight container, or anything else that inhibits proper air circulation. This will prevent mildew and smelly bacteria from growing.