How to Waterproof Hiking Boots

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Waterproofing your Hiking boots

After giving your boots a thorough clean, waterproof them by spraying them over with a waterproofing compound or by applying wax or cream. To ensure their longevity, make sure to make a habit of cleaning and waterproofing them after every half-dozen hikes.

Brian Connelly
Brian Connelly
Last Updated: October 28, 2020

Want to know how to make your hiking boots last?

You’re in the right place! In this guide, we will be covering the following:

    • How to clean and maintain your hiking boots
    • The key to keeping your footwear waterproof
    • Extend your hiking boots’ suppleness and durability

After many miles, many treks, and many spectacular views enjoyed along the way, the unthinkable happens—your trusty, dearly cherished hiking boots start to seep water. So, what should you do?

Wet feet are a sure-fire way to end up with hot spots and blisters, turning your favorite boots into virtual instruments of torture. As such, ignoring the problem or suffering wet paws until you get around to buying a new pair isn’t an option. 

Boots are treated in such a way that enables them to resist all kinds of rough treatment, especially water penetration from rain, streams, and rivers. The more you wear your boots, however, the more that capacity to block out H20 will wear away. Regularly waterproofing your boots, though, will help keep your feet dry and protect them from ailments like blisters, trench foot, or fungal infections like athlete’s foot.

In this article, we provide a step-by-step process demonstrating how you should go about waterproofing your hiking boots. If you follow the steps correctly, then you should expect a cleaner, sturdier, and longer-lasting pair of hiking boots.

Here’s What You Need…

  1. Newspaper (to dry inside your boots)
  2. Brush
  3. Cloth
  4. Mild soap
  5. Waterproofing product (spray, wax, or cream)
  6. A well-ventilated spot to let your boots dry out

How Often Should You Waterproof Your Boots?

If you want your boots to last for more than a couple of years, you should waterproof them regularly. How regularly, of course, will depend on how often you hike and your boots’ brand and materials.

Saying that, a good rule of thumb is to waterproof your boots after each time they get extremely dirty or when you notice that water is saturating the fabric instead of beading up on the surface.

Further reading: If your boots are past repair, consider choosing a new pair from our guide to the best hiking boots.

Step 1: Determine What Type of Boots You Have

The first step to waterproofing your boots is to know what materials they’re made with. This is an important step as each type of boots requires a different waterproofing treatment depending on the type of material used in their construction.

Full-Grain Leather

This is the boot material that instinctively pops into your mind whenever someone says “leather.” It is traditionally used in hiking boots as it’s very rugged, durable, and comfortable once broken in. Although naturally water-resistant, however, even the toughest leather boots will start to leak after regular and extended use.

Suede/Split-Grain Leather

Suede or split-grain leather is different from other types of leather as the inside part of the hide is actually used as the exterior surface. Compared to full-grain leather, it is thinner, lighter, softer, and has a velvety finish. Suede/split-grain leather isn’t as naturally waterproof as leather.

Nubuck Leather

Nubuck leather is similar to traditional leather. In the past, nubuck was made from buckskin, but nowadays most nubuck boots are made from calfskin. It is made by sanding the hide to create a napped finish.

Synthetic

Non-leather hiking boots, made with artificial uppers, are commonly known as synthetics. The materials used varies from brand to brand and its strong points are its light weight and superior breathability. These types of boots are commonly made from nylon and other synthetic materials that help to make them very supple and flexible compared to their “natural” counterparts.

Step 2: Clean Your Boots

After identifying the materials used in manufacturing your boots, it is time to give them a proper cleaning.

  1. Take off the insoles and laces and wash them using water and mild soap.
  2. Next, simply bang your leather boots together or against any hard surface to remove any loose mud or dirt stuck to the surface or sole. Use a stiff brush and gently brush away the remaining dirt.
  3. Turn your boots over and give the sole a good rinse. Make sure you dislodge any small stones using a screwdriver or twig.
  4. Using mild soap and water, brush away the dirt lodged in the boots’ upper. Be careful and apply just enough force to avoid scratching the material.
  5. Soak your boots as needed to help the waterproofing treatment settle into the leather, especially if you have full-grain leather boots. Running water probably won’t do the job as it takes a long time for water to fully soak into the leather.

Step 3: Waterproof Your Boots

After cleaning your boots, it’s now time to waterproof them. Before starting with the waterproofing process, make sure that the boots are damp to optimize the treatment.

Here’s how to apply each type of treatment:

Spray

Sprays are very versatile as they are made to suit all types of boots including those made with synthetic materials. They are also the easiest to apply, but are less durable than other treatments and so require frequent reapplication.

To use a waterproofing spray, hold the can about six inches away and spray a thin, even coat over the boots. Depending on the product you use, you may need to spray a second coat.

Wax

Wax suits leather and suede boots best and should be avoided for fabric or synthetic-based boots. It is more tedious to apply but also more durable and excellent at getting into and protecting your boots’ seams and corners.

Warm the wax up first by using a hair dryer or rubbing it in your hands and apply to your boots using a clean cloth. When done, remove any excess wax and buff the boots up to a shine.

Cream

Cream is the best option when it comes to waterproofing leather boots.

To apply, just rub the cream all over the boot’s surface and give it some time to settle nicely into the leather. Make sure to cover the entire boot including all the cracks and seams. When done, wipe away any excess cream.

Step 4: Dry Your Boots

Once you’ve done your cleaning and waterproofing, it is time to dry your boots.

First, however, be sure to wipe away any residual cream, wax, or spray from the surface of your boots.

To dry your boots, start by stuffing them with newspaper to absorb any moisture that is inside. Next, remove any excess moisture by wiping them down with a clean, dry cloth before putting the boots in a well-ventilated spot to dry off at room temperature.

Let Your Boots Take You a Little Further!

As outdoor enthusiasts, it is only right that we take good care of the very thing that we use to let us explore our favorite places. Following these steps to waterproof your boots will not only ensure that our boots last longer, but also that we have much happier feet while putting in all those extra miles we’ll be getting out of them.

So, what did you think of our article? Is there anything we missed out? If so, or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to share them with us in the comments box below.

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