Removing boot insoles back at hunt camp.
There are a lot of things that can go wrong with gear. Gear can fail just before a hunt, during a hunt, or just as we reach the end of our hunt. Obviously, there are multiple reasons as to why this happens; however, one piece of gear that can last for a long time and only requires a little maintenance is our boots.
When folks stop by the showroom at GOHUNT headquarters or drop us an email and exchange hunt stories with us, boots usually come up as either a high or low spot. Either “These things made all the difference” or “This certain boot killed my feet, and I’m looking for a new pair.” I’m here to save you a little grief and money and share our experience with boot care. You probably spent some pretty pennies, so you should spend a little more time caring for your boots than you might already be doing.
Not everyone wears full-on "boots" on a hunt. Some hunters prefer lightweight hiking boots, low-top approach shoes, or even trail runners. Everyone has their own comfort preference; however, this article will focus on some helpful habits to maintain synthetic, hybrid (synthetic and leather), and leather boots between hunts or seasons — and these methods are actually beneficial for all footwear.
Boots have come a long way, and companies have introduced innovations to increase comfort, breathability, and durability, but that only lasts as long as we take care of our boots. So, despite the idea that they’re tough, boots shouldn’t be left covered in mud and tossed in the garage for months. Here are some simple methods for quick boot care after each hunt:
Removing the insoles allows the moisture inside our boots to dry out and breathe, reducing odors and preventing fungus or bacteria from developing. Warm, damp environments are not a good place for our feet. Next, remove your laces and set them in a shallow bowl with warm water and some non-aggressive detergent like Granger’s Wash & Repel Clothing 2 in 1. Finally, wipe your boots down to remove any debris, dust, mud or blood. When dust and dirt get into your laces, the laces can dry out and when you go to lace up your boots again — SNAP! The laces break.
Synthetic boots, like a Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite Mid GTX boots or Hanwag Friction II GTX, are lighter, more breathable, and more susceptible to splitting at high-wear areas around stitching and the toe box.
I recommend using an old toothbrush and the solution from your shallow bowl to brush any stitch lines in the boot, removing sediment that can create issues later. This tip is also useful on hybrid boots consisting of both synthetic and leather like nubuck. Sediments like sand and clay can work into threads and separate material, creating holes or blockages in waterproof liners like GORE-TEX. These issues could have been the reason if you’ve ever had a pair of “waterproof” boots that leaked or didn’t breathe well after one season or a few hunts.
Leather boots are the epitome of hunting footwear: tough and reliable. With these redeeming qualities, nubuck or full-grain leather boots require more attention and care between hunts. After returning from a hunt, start your boot care process of removing the insoles and laces and wiping your leather boots down with a damp cloth and a non-aggressive cleaner, preparing the leather for conditioning or at least applying some repellent like Hanwag Waterproofing, Kenetrek Waterproofing Boot Wax or Grangers Footwear Repel plus to revitalize the leather boots. These simple processes are a great way to maintain your boots between hunts because it doesn’t take long for a pair of leather boots to dry out, crack, shrink or delaminate from the outsole. Another great product is the Grangers Footwear Care Kit, with everything you need and a boot brush.
For some of us, this process of maintaining boots is second nature, but for others, we might only hunt in them once or twice a year and pay little attention to how we store our gear. Looking at the gear we use in any outdoor adventure, good footwear is the most critical.
Hunting boots aren’t cheap; if they are, remember that price point matches performance; even an inexpensive pair of boots deserves some care and conditioning. I hope this article helped provide you with some insight on being more boot care aware, but please reach out if you have any questions. Keep it simple and hunt safe!
Remove the insoles.
Remove the laces.
Wipe down your boots with a damp cloth.