How to Extend the Life of Your Boots

Whether you are a sportsman, law enforcement officer, or member of the military, proper footwear is mission critical. This is the reason many of us spend hundreds of dollars on the best boots available, or at least the best we can afford. But how many of you have spent your last dollar on a pair of boots only to have them last for a surprisingly short period of time? Sometimes this is due to faulty manufacturing or even false advertising, but many times it is due to improper care on your part. Take care of your footwear, and you will be rewarded with an extended life and improved comfort as well.

Even the most expensive, well-designed footwear requires routine care. Sure, some can last a while without any attention, but eventually, every pair of boots will suffer if you ignore them. Far too many pairs are worn only a few times and ruined by being thrown in the corner to suffer a slow, painful death. Believe me, if this is how you care for your favorite footwear, you are shortening their life, and your investment, astronomically.

The good news is that, with proper care, a pair of quality boots can last many years, providing protection and comfort the entire time. I have personally worn some boots every day for 3-4 years without sacrificing protection or comfort, even more, if they could be resoled. Let me take this opportunity to provide some simple, easy-to-perform preventative maintenance tips to protect your favorite footwear.

PVC, Vinyl or Rubber

If your favorite footwear is designed for use in or around water, chances are it is made of PVC, vinyl, or a similar material. Such boots include muck boots, waders, swim booties, and even some camp sliders. Although many of these materials are impervious to water, they are not indestructible.

  • Rinse after each use. This is important as it removes contaminants, dirt, and other debris that can cause the construction material to become damaged.
  • Wash with mild soap and water if needed. Stubborn, hard to clean dirt, debris, or stains should be removed with mild soap, water, and a light brush if necessary.
  • Allow boots to dry. Whether you have washed your boots, or they were simply exposed to water, they should be allowed to dry naturally. Place them in a cool, dry location out of direct sunlight where there is good air circulation.
  • If the boots have a tongue and laces, open them up to allow for increased air circulation. Increased air will speed the drying process and reduce odor, as well as prevent damage to the lining.
  • Avoid storing in direct sunlight. Sunlight can cause many PVC-based materials to break down and fail prematurely.
  • Waders can be turned inside out if the inner surfaces are wet.
  • Regularly treat rubber footwear with a rubber conditioner.

Leather, both full grain & oiled

Most tactical boots are made of leather, which is extremely durable when properly cared for.

  • Brush loose dirt and debris from the surface after each use. Allowing dirt to build will eventually cause damage to leather and the threads.
  • Open the tongue and laces to allow for increased air circulation. Increased air will speed the drying process and reduce odor, as well as prevent damage to the lining.
  • Store in a cool, dry location away from direct heat or sunlight. Heat and sunlight are both the enemy of leather, much like it is to your own skin.
  • For stubborn dirt or stains, clean with mild soap and water. Leather rarely needs to be washed, but hard-to-remove dirt can be addressed by washing with mild soap and water. It is recommended you not submerge or soak your leather footwear, instead, use a wet cloth or soft brush. Once clean, let dry as instructed above
  • Condition regularly. If appropriate, applying a thin coating of polish or leather treatment does more than making your footwear look good, it also preserves the leather and increases its water-repellent ability.

Split Leather, Suede or Nubuck

If you’re wearing regulation tan or coyote boots, they will be made from some type of suede or rough-out leather. This type of leather is easier to take care of, but shouldn’t be treated like smooth leather.

  • Clean with a brush. Most of the time all you need is a stiff nylon brush and a little elbow grease for even the most stubborn, caked-on dirt.
  • NEVER wash. These materials, even if treated to resist water, should never be washed as it will increase the chances of rot.
  • Open the tongue and laces to allow for increased air circulation. Increased air will speed the drying process and reduce odor, as well as prevent damage to the lining.
  • Let dry naturally. Again, if your footwear does get wet, allow it to dry naturally, away from direct heat sources or sunlight.
  • Apply a silicone waterproofing product. Applying a silicone waterproofing product periodically, especially after wet footwear dries, will increase its lifespan and ability to repel water and snow.

Cordura Nylon

You’ll frequently find nylon on the uppers of tactical boots, as well as in running shoes and casual shoes. Its strength is why it’s so popular, but it has a weakness – dirt.

  • Clean frequently. Periodic cleaning with a damp cloth is important, as trapped dirt is like sandpaper and will cause fibers to break down.
  • Soap and water is again the answer. For stubborn stains, caked-on mud or other substances, all you need is your trusty mild soap and water.
  • Dry at room temperature. As with leather, heat and sunlight are never the answer. Allow your nylon footwear to dry at room temperature in a cool, dry location.
  • Do not brush. As stated earlier, trapped dirt can break down nylon fibers, and brushing can embed such dirt.
  • Open the tongue and laces to allow for increased air circulation. Increased air will speed the drying process and reduce odor, as well as prevent damage to the lining.
  • Leather trim should be treated as listed above.

As always, follow any special instructions the manufacturer has provided to prevent unintentionally voiding any warranty. It is also recommended that you regularly remove the laces and clean the tongue area as well. Avoid unnecessary exposure to chemicals and, if exposed, clean them as soon as possible following the directions above.

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.

Tom Burrell

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell
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