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Gear School 2009: Boots

Soaked, scuffed, and beat up? We'll show you how to get your trusty footwear back to trail-ready.
Gear School 09 Boot illo 445x260Gear School 09 Boot illo 445x260

Fast Fixes … At Home
Problem Toxic odors
Solution Wet, dirty insoles are often the culprit. "After each trip, clean them with a toothbrush and water," says repair expert Dave Page. Still smelly? Wipe the interior with a 3:1 solution of water and white vinegar. Loosely pack with newspaper to absorb moisture and turn upside-down. Change daily until dry.

Problem Caked-on grime
Solution Dirt and salt are like Brillo. "Scrub muddy boots with a veggie brush," advises Page.

Problem Dried-out leather
Solution Condition boots when they get stiff or light in color, says Komito Boots owner Steve Komito. Our favorite treatments are water-based (Nikwax Conditioner for Leather; $8, nikwax.com) or silicone (Aquaseal Leather Waterproofing; $6, aquaseal.com) because they don’t inhibit breathability. When that’s not an issue (e.g., snow boots), wax conditioners (Sno-Seal; $6, atsko.com) last longer. Read labels to ensure the goop is right for your boot’s leather.

Problem Scuffed toes
Solution Make your own toe cap. Clean the area with an alcohol pad, let dry, then apply masking tape to create an edge. Rough the toe with sandpaper, then buff with alcohol twice. Apply a smooth coat of Freesole ($6, mcnett.com); wait 45 minutes to peel off tape.

Fast Fixes … In the Field
Problem Soaked boots
Solution "Never subject boots to extreme heat, such as a campfire," says Page. "Not only can you shrink them a size, you might melt adhesives or burn the upper." To dry them, remove the insoles, open the laces, and put chemical warming packs inside. No artificial heat? Stash your boots at the bottom of your bag overnight, or turn them upside-down on trekking poles.

Problem Flapping sole or heel
Solution Reattach it with Freesole ($6, mcnett.com). Wrap duct tape around the area and let glue dry overnight, inserting a pen to increase pressure.

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