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Backpacker Magazine – September 2008

The Specialist: How to Make Your Boots Last

4 sole-saving tips from a veteran boot doctor

by: Lora Shinn

Dave Page (Photo by Lora Shinn)
Dave 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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READERS COMMENTS

Vince MountainSport
May 03, 2012

If you only waterproof your leather and boots a minimum of 4 times a year, that should do you for a number of hikes in all kinds of underbrush and soggy conditions. TOBR mountain wax is a hard wax without a carrier, (solvents, oils, fats), that rubs on your leather with friction and then buffs to a great shine and lasting protection. Has antiseptic qualities the prevents mold and rot. Will purchase again.

Vince MountainSport
May 03, 2012

If you only waterproof your leather and boots a minimum of 4 times a year, that should do you for a number of hikes in all kinds of underbrush and soggy conditions. TOBR mountain wax is a hard wax without a carrier, (solvents, oils, fats), that rubs on your leather with friction and then buffs to a great shine and lasting protection. Has antiseptic qualities the prevents mold and rot. Will purchase again.

Steve
Mar 29, 2012

Keeping your leather boots looking great and wearable for many years to come need an antibacterial wax without petrols or animal fats that will eventually rot the leather. TOBR Bergwachs (mountain wax) is such a product that is worth its weight in gold by employing an all natural wax base that has both antiseptic and antibacterial qualities with a natural waterproofing formula that is great for all hard working leathers. Developed for mountain extremes, TOBR is the answer when it comes to mountainproofing your gear.

Joe C.
Oct 29, 2008

I work at an outdoor retailer and am the "Shoe Guy"...I too agree with the fact that waterproofing should be done on an "as needed" basis. I live in Maine and I couldn't even imagine waxing my boots once a year. That being said..I'm not completely sold on nikwax products. They are water based. Good ol' Sno-seal works just fine for me even for year 'round use.

John N.
Oct 29, 2008

I've hiked all over the country and the most important tip about boots is to keep them clean I think. Some places, the Adirondacks ESPECIALLY, have such acidic soil that your boots will rot off your feet quickly if any of that peat soil remains on them!

Bill C
Oct 17, 2008

and an interesting item to clutter your laundry room when not in use.

Apparently Tom H is not married....good idea tho

Rob Sharman
Oct 12, 2008

The frequency of cleaning and of the application of wax depends on the frequency of use! My father was a shoe manufacturer for 43 years, and the day he died he had three pairs of shoes each of which he had worn twice weekly for 25 years, and they were still very serviceable, having been cleaned carefully after every use, and occasionally re-soled. Whenever they got wet, he dried them with an old towel, then stuffed newspaper in them, and the leather never cracked. Change the newspaper every couple of hours.

Rick
Oct 10, 2008

I waterproof once, the day I bring them home. It may be because of the dry climate in Colorado though. By the time the soles are shot, and need a retread, the uppers are usually worn also, so no need for a cobbler retread, just a trash can.

Ziggy T
Oct 10, 2008

You can't buy a new pair of new feet nor even a few toes. Keep your feet dry first. Let the cobler worry about the two minutes it takes to say, "no can do". You needed new boots when you got those.

Diarmaid Harmon
Oct 09, 2008

In the Pacific North West if you only waterproof once a year then you are only going on one hike. With our wet underbrush I have had boots give up the ghost in hours not days. I have waterproofed often and never had a cobbler tell me he couldn't resole my boots.

Dave H
Oct 09, 2008

I would add boot trees to the list, especially if you have steel shanks-as leather dries it can bend the sole of your boot, causing the toes to curl and will ruin boots by changing the fit. I was once told by a boot maker in Colorado to never use newsprint in a wet boot.

Norine
Oct 09, 2008

I agree with waterproofing WAY more than once a year ! Maybe the very first year when they were brand new they only needed to be done once, but after that, it is an "as needed" kind of thing !

Mike
Oct 09, 2008

"Waterproof sparingly" ?? This might make the cobbler's job easier, but I didn't buy these boots for his convenience. I'll do what it takes to keep the leather clean, healthy, soft, and water resistant. And that will include more than one single application of wax per year.

robert
Oct 09, 2008

why does applying waterproofing build up onto the sole as mentioned causing a problem making "them impossible to repair"? Without weatherproofing often, I will have problems keeping dry!

Tom H
Oct 09, 2008

I've discovered that forced-air dries even faster and just as safely as the newspaper trick. Build an "antler" of PVC fittings hooked to the outlet of a cheap bathroom ceiling fan. You'll have a drying rack that will accomodate several pair of ootwear at a time and dry your boots in an hour or so, and an interesting item to clutter your laundry room when not in use.

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