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The Specialist: How to Make Your Boots Last

4 sole-saving tips from a veteran boot doctor
the specialist fix bootsDave Page (Photo by Lora Shinn)

Dave Page sees his share of beaten-up boots. Currently REI’s go-to guy for footwear repairs, the Seattle-based cobbler has revived thousands of pairs of shredded kicks in his 40 years on the job–Page says he has fixed boots that “looked like someone put dynamite in them.” Keep your footwear in good condition (and out of Page’s shop) by following the master shoe man’s advice.

Clean often
Make scouring your boots a regular post-hike habit. “Stick them under a spigot and scrub them with an old vegetable brush,” Page suggests. Be thorough: Leftover grime eats away at boot fibers.

Dry right
Air-dry boots upside-down in a cool place. To speed drying time, stuff crumpled newspaper inside the boots, changing the paper as needed. Never use a hairdryer, oven, or any other artificial heat source. Page receives ruined shoes every year after wearers “cooked the soles off their boots.”

Stop funk
Remove boot insoles during cleaning and storage. “Most cushions have a lot of plastic in them and can retain moisture for weeks,” Page says. Storing insoles separately halves drying time and reduces the growth of mold, fungus, and other sources of stink.

Waterproof sparingly
Since Page replaces the whole bottom unit when footwear needs resoling, he says that excessive coatings of waterproofing products make boots impossible to repair. Whether your hikers are made of leather, fabric, or both, he recommends applying one annual light layer of a waterproofing product, such as Nikwax or Granger’s, then placing the boots in the sun for two hours.

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