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Backpacker Magazine – April 2009

Gear School 2009: Boots

Soaked, scuffed, and beat up? We'll show you how to get your trusty footwear back to trail-ready.

by: The Backpacker Editors

PAGE 1 2

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, or silicone (Aquaseal Leather Waterproofing; $6, because they don't inhibit breathability. When that's not an issue (e.g., snow boots), wax conditioners (Sno-Seal; $6, 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,; 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, Wrap duct tape around the area and let glue dry overnight, inserting a pen to increase pressure.

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Reader Rating: -


Sep 30, 2010

After every backpacking trip or week long foray into the muddy, summertime, Adirondacks I always scrub my boots with an old tootbrush and dish-soapy water. After they dry, the look nice again and won't break down from the caked on mud and who knows what else. Now, if I could only keep the soles from wearing down!

Aug 23, 2010

Hi Dyan,

I had a similar problem and patched the opening with Mcnett Freesol. Redid the toe and some nicks in the sole with the same tube of goo!

Aug 23, 2010

Hi Dyan,

I had a similar problem and patched the opening with Mcnett Freesol. Redid the toe and some nicks in the sole with the same tube of goo!

Jerry W Doyle
Aug 20, 2010

I wear leather boots. Upon returning home I polish my boots after each outing, putting several coats of polish on the leather. Besides restoring the leather, the polish also serves as a degree of protectorate for the boots when I go back out into the wilderness.

For day hikers, and even backpackers who get their boots wet on the inside, use of paper towels stuff inside the boots overnight will absorb all moisture into the paper towels, drawing moisture from the soles of the boots and all other areas. A roll of paper towels is no weight to carry extra on backpacking trips and the towels can come in handy for possible other uses.

Aug 18, 2010

Haha sorry to hear about the two holes Dyan. Go to Wal-mart or CVS and get some shoe goo. Follow the instructions and you'll patch that right up for a few dollars!

Dyan Luper
Aug 17, 2010

My boots are nearly 10 years old and have always been very comfortable, though heavy. A strange thing happened to them.....the Asolo brand on the side of each boot crumbled and fell out....leaving a hole directly into the lining of the boot! I took a picture but can't attach it here. Is duct tape (or new boots) my only solution?


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