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Boots provide comfort, support, and protection to your feet. Without boots, your feet will be exposed to a wide range of harmful and undesirable elements. But regardless of whether your boots are made of full-grain leather, faux leather, nubuck or suede, they will eventually wear out with time. However, you can prolong their lifetime and ensure you get value for your money, by taking care proper of them. Here are some care and maintenance tips for maximum lifespan.
Breaking in Your Boots
Your boots are designed to provide support, comfort, and protection. But when your boots are new, you will notice that they are not as comfortable as you might have expected. Boots, especially those made of thick, sturdy rubber, will take some time to get used to your feet. During the first few days, they might leave your feet with hotspots and blisters. The good news is that breaking into a pair of boots is not a complicated process, and anyone can do it. If you’ve recently purchased a pair of work boots, hiking boots, or mountaineering boots, here are some tips that will help you to break into them properly:
- Get the size right: You might have probably heard that leather boots will stretch naturally. Unfortunately, if the boots you purchased are too small, no amount of stretching or breaking in will make them comfortable for your feet. On the other hand, if they are too big, they might lead to blisters, due to the constant movement of your feet. If your feet are sliding around, you will never manage to break into those boots. It’s therefore important to ensure that you buy the right size. And if you are not sure about your actual shoe size, you can visit a local shoe store and have your feet measured using a Brannock device. If possible, you should try the boots when you are still in the store, and check whether they are the right fit for your feet. If you are buying your boots online, then you should read the reviews and check whether there are sizing issues. Also, most manufacturers provide a sizing chart for their shoes. Some brands are designed to go half a size up while others will fit best when you purchase half a size smaller. Once you’ve found the right size for your feet, you can now start to break them in.
- Walk around in them: Some boots will be comfortable right out of the box. But for some, you might not be so lucky. Therefore, you will have to walk around with them for a few days, so that they can conform to your feet. Leather is quite stiff when new. But as long as you purchased the right size for your feet, the leather will soften, stretch and conform to your feet’s biomechanics. Make sure you wear a thick pair of socks when walking around with them. Wearing your new boots with a thick pair of socks offers two main benefits. First, they will help to prevent blisters and hotspots. Second, the thick pair of socks will help in stretching them. Also, the heat generated by your feet will help the leather to mold to your feet.
- Give them a break: You might be tempted to wear your new boots every day, trying to speed up the breaking in process. However, it’s not advisable to do that. The sweat and perspiration emitted by your feet will take approximately 24 hours or more, to evaporate. Therefore, if you are wearing your boots every other day, you are not giving the moisture enough time to evaporate. And that can interfere with the breaking in process. If your boots are made of leather, give them a day or two. Apart from helping with the breaking in process, this approach will also minimize the build-up of unpleasant odors.
- Avoid exposure to direct heat: Some people will tell you that blowing your boots with a hairdryer or placing them close to the heater will help the leather to stretch and the boots will conform to your feet. However, you should never do that to leather boots. Exposure to too much heat might make the leather to crack, thus shortening the lifespan of your boots. If you must dry your boots, you should let them dry under natural conditions.
If you purchased the right size of boots, you’ve worn them for 100 hours or more and they are still not as comfortable as you would like them, then you should consider using a boot or shoe stretcher. Shoe stretchers are readily available in various online shops such as Amazon. There is also a high chance that your local shoe store has some shoe stretchers. You simply insert them into your boots and follow the instructions. You should moisturize your boots with a conditioner when using this approach. Apart from softening the leather, a conditioner will also protect the shoes against cracking. You can also try a different lacing combination, skip some eyelets, or loosen them a bit in some areas, especially around the ankles and instep. And if everything else fails to work, then you should take them to a cobbler. Cobblers have specialized tools that they can use to stretch or expand your shoes.
Clean Your Boots
Regardless of what your boots are made of or how you use them, they will eventually get dirty. And if you don’t clean your boots regularly, the mud, dirt, concrete and other elements, will destroy them and shorten their lifespan. Whether your boots cost $500 or $50, it’s important to learn how to clean them properly. The cleaning method you will apply will depend on the dirt or the stain you are removing. But first, make sure you remove their laces.
If you are shoes are full of mud, you should first allow it to dry on the surface, and then scrape it off using a brush. Once you’ve scraped the mu off, you should then wipe the remaining dirt, using a piece of cloth, soaked in water and mild dish detergent. If there is mud lodged in the sole, then you can use a toothpick or something similar to pick out the mud. A stiff toothbrush can also come in handy when removing lodged mud from the outsole.
You also need to clean their interior. When cleaning them inside, you should first remove the insoles and clean them separately. Wiping them repeatedly with the same piece of cloth will be enough to get rid of perspiration and unpleasant odors. Once you’ve finished cleaning them and the results are satisfactory, you should then allow your shoes to air dry. As noted earlier, excessive heat can damage leather. Therefore, don’t try to speed up the drying process by using an oven, heater, a hairdryer, or other similar methods. Also, make sure that you read and follow instructions whenever you are cleaning your shoes using a detergent or a cleaning solution.
Conditioning Your Boots
Your boots come across various elements every time you are wearing them. Whether they are work boots or hiking boots, they will encounter grease, dirt, water, grime and other harmful elements. If you want to extend the longevity of your leather boots, then you need to invest in a quality conditioner. As much as leather is a tough material, it can easily lose its moisture, crack, lose its appeal or get damaged in various ways. Conditioning your boots will help to prevent such issues. A quality leather conditioner will help to nourish your boots while restoring the flexibility of the leather fibers. On the other hand, if leather loses its moisture and natural oils, cracks will start to develop and it will eventually breakdown. And once that happens, you will have to replace them.
Most boots don’t come pre-conditioned. Therefore, before you wear your boots for the first time, you should apply a leather conditioner. Before applying the conditioner, make sure you have cleaned the shoes and they are completely dry. After that, you should then apply the conditioner sparingly. The frequency of conditioning will depend on the quality of the conditioner and the environmental conditions in your area. If you live in a snowy area, then you should condition your boots at least once per week. Also, the condition of the leather will also determine the conditioning frequency. For instance, older boots will need to be conditioned more often than newer boots.
Storing Your Boots
- Your boots need to be protected from moisture, dust, and excessive sunlight, to prevent fading, warping and other forms of damage. Proper storage is vital if you want your boots to serve you for many years. Whether you need long-term or short-term shoe storage, the following tips will help you to store your boots the right way:
- Use shoe trees: Humidity, gravity, and other elements can have a significant toll on your boots. After some time, your boots might start to fold or crease and eventually, those deformations will become permanent. Shoe trees will help your boots to maintain proper structure, thus preventing folding and creasing. Shoe trees should be used for short-term storage.
- Use Shoe horns: If you are planning to store your boots for several weeks or even months before you wear them again, then you should store them with a shoehorn. Shoe horns will help your boots to maintain shape and structure for a long period. However, you should ensure that you use the correct size, to prevent overstretching the boots. Adjustable shoe horns are also available, which you can customize according to your needs.
- Use acid-free paper: In case you don’t have a shoe tree or a shoehorn, you can still stuff your shoes with paper and prevent them from losing their shape. However, make sure you use acid-free paper instead of newsprint paper.
The footwear industry has experienced massive advancements over the years. But one thing that remains constant is that your boots or your shoes will need proper care and maintenance if you want them to remain in great shape. The above tips should help to add a few more years to your favorite pair of boots.