Of all the protective equipment officers wear day to day, it is your boots which are often thought of the least. A good pair of boots offers protection from water, mud and rough terrain only to be tossed to a slow death in a dark closet. Believe me, if this is how you take care of your boots, that you are unnecessarily shortening their life.
But, with proper care, a pair of quality boots can last for many years and provide protection and comfort day after day. I have boots I’ve worn every day last for several years – even longer if I could have them resoled. Of course, extending the life of even a quality pair of boots requires basic care. Without this simple but necessary care, you will find your wallet empty as you shop for a replacement far more often than necessary.
All boots need to be cleaned, brushed and air-dried after use. If your boots are a modern synthetic, such as Cordura, there is little additional care needed other than to store them in a dry location out of direct sunlight and occasionally applying a spray waterproofing treatment as needed. But, if you prefer leather, then you have a little more work to do.
Leather is skin and skin, whether yours or that of the animal used to make your favorite boots, requires regular cleaning, conditioning and protection. This means you need to treat your boots like a second skin and provide the same cleaning, conditioning and protection you would to your own. Damp leather deteriorates and that which is left un-cleaned eventually breaks down due to abrasion of its fibers and loss of the natural oils. The same goes for the threads used in stitching, so do not forget to clean all areas of your boots.
Boots caked with mud or other debris should be rinsed clean with water and a soft brush or soft cloth. Even if caked on mud is not present, you should still wipe the surface to ensure any dirt particles, oils or other foreign substances are removed. Once all dirt is removed, the boots should be placed in a dry, indoor location until completely dried both inside and out. If your boots have been saturated, say from stepping into deep water, you may need some additional heat to dry them quickly. If this is the case, do not place them next to a heater as the intense heat will do more damage than good. Instead, you should use an electric boot dryer if available or other source of low level heated air. If no additional heat source is available, open the boots as much as possible, removing the laces if necessary, and place in a warm area overnight.
Once your boots are dry, it is time to move onto protecting them for future use; how you do this will depend upon the specific finish of your boots. Nubuck or suede, easily recognized because of its rough or fluffed surface, should be brushed after dry then treated with a commercially available spray protection designed for these specific finishes. Finished leather, which is smooth rather than rough like suede, should be treated with a paste wax or natural oil applied with a soft cloth. And you thought polishing your boots was just so you could look good at morning muster.
The final stage of protection occurs during your days off. Avoid simply throwing your boots in a closet or a pile with your other shoes, as being crushed at the bottom of the pile for extended periods can also cause damage. Instead, try storing your boots in their original box or on a shelf rather than on the floor.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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