Friday, 02 May 2014 22:09

MyOutdoors Guide to boot care

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Despite all the latest high-tech, ultra-lightweight kit filling today's outdoor shops there's no doubt that footwear is by far the most important piece of kit in any outdood enthusiast's wardrobe. You're going to spend pretty much every waking minute of every day in the hills wearing your boots and their performance can make the difference between a great day out and an epic nightmare.

Obviously the first task is choosing the right boots, both for their intended use and equally importantly for your own individual foot shape. The standard advice is to wear as many pairs of boots in the shop as you have time for before selecting your boots, taking time to walk around the store for a good 10 - 20 minutes and utilising any in-store ramps for each potential purchase. With so much time and money invested in selecting the correct footwear it would be almost criminal to then neglect them by not taking proper care of them - but boots rarely come with the full information needed to keep your boots in top condition for years.

Hillmaster Gtx

Drying your boots:

Boots should be allowed to dry as slowly and naturally as practicalities allow, preferably at room temperature. The traditional method of stuffing boots with scrunched up newspaper is tradition for a reason - it works! Leather, whether the traditional style or the modern Nubuck, is a living breathing material that dries out and cracks if it gets to hot and dry. Never, under any circumstances, dry your footwear by placing it on a heater - and try and resist drying them in front of a fire which will dry the leather out internally along with potentially damaging the glue.

Cleaning your boots.

Cleaning your boots is far more than just appearance, it's an integral part of getting the fabric to perform at its best. Dirt, mud and grit not only leave your boots looking neglected but also prevent the fabric from breathing properly - blocking the pores within the fabric that allow the movement of air and compromising flexibility. Always, without exception, clean your boots prior to any maintenance treatment. When cleaning footwear do it properly, remembering how much they cost you, and remove the laces and insoles and opening up the bellows tongue where applicable. Warm water and a brush is all you need to clean the outside surfaces, but remember to clean the inside too. First remove any stones and grit from the inside by turning the boots upside down and shaking them vigourously. With the free particles removed it's time to turn to a toothbrush and warm water to remove embedded particles and deal with the salt and bacteria that build up internally through use. Both salt and bacteria can reduce the breathability of the fabric - particularly important with GoreTex lined boots, along with causing bad odours. Warm water will help by dissolving the salts whilst rubbing with a soft toothbrush will help dislodge embedded particles both in the liner and where the upper meets the sole.

 

Treating your boots

Nikwax%20product%20rangeThere's a massive range of footwear treatments available on the market and you can pick up a bottle of Nikwax or Graingers treatments at pretty much any outdoors shop - but you need to choose the right type and make sure your boots are clean and dry before application. Traditional products like Dubbin and wax still have a place in the hi-tech 21st century, working as well on leather faced boots as they always have. Wax based products form an inpenetrable layer on the surface of leather that will keep water at bay for years of use whilst the less common fat based products penetrate deep into the leather and keep it soft and flexible.

When using wax or fat based products on leather use a slow circular motion to rub the treatment deep into the fabric, using the friction of constant rubbing to warm the wax if using a solid treatment. With liquid based products you'll need to use a sponge or cloth but the principle is the same - work the treatment into the leather, not forgetting to pay particular attention to stitching, tongue and seams. Don't forget to give eyelets and hooks special treatment - the wax forms a protective layer around them preventing rust from getting a foothold.

With Nubuck boots it's easy to forget that the fabric is still a form of leather - basically reversed with the rough side on the outside. This is where products from Nikwax and Graingers comes into its own as they're designed to impregnate the leather and protect against both moisture and dirt working their way into the fabric. Follow the instructions on the label of the product carefully, remembering that taking the time to carry out a proper treatment will prolong the life of your valuable investment as well as giving better performance on the hill.

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