How to Clean and Care for your Walking Boots

All great walking boots are build with durability and longevity in mind, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need a little top up and TLC every once in a while!

In this guide, we’ll walk you through step by step how to clean and care for your walking shoes or boots in order to maximise their lifespan and keep you exploring for years to come!

We’ll explore not only excellent cleaning technique, but will also provide some top tips to ensure dry feet and long-lasting use.

Regular Cleaning Tips

Walking boots often get a much harder job than your average trainer! From mud to water to snow to rocky outcrops, most walking boots are designed to be accustomed to almost anything your adventure throws at you.

As such, they do take quite the pounding and so it is important to take the time after every outing to give your boots a good clean after use.

In order to remove any clinging dirt, mud or grit, firstly we’d recommend using warm water and a semi-stiff brush to remove mud and grit from the boots. Too soft and the brush will likely clog with dirt itself, too tough and you risk scratching or marking the boot.

Top Tip! Don’t forget to fill the boot up with water and rinse out the inside also – Regular cleaning presents the perfect opportunity to inspect your boots and their soles for wear and damage. If you find that your boot is heavily leaking from the soles, you might have a hole or crack in your sole.

Careful Drying

This is something that is often heavily overlooked, but the way in which your shoes dry is just as important as how they’re washed!

At all costs…Avoid forceful or rapid drying.

The reason this matters is because walking boots are typically constructed of heat-sensitive glues that can be affected by drying your boots in front of a fire, with a hair dryer or atop a radiator.

Likewise, if your walking boots or shoes are made of leather, force drying can dry the leather out resulting in cracks, splits and ultimately…a pretty poorly shoe! Always allow your boots to air naturally in a warm room of the house or outdoors.

There are softer ways you can accelerate the drying process by removing the footbeds and using scrunched up newspaper to absorb moisture within the boot.


Now that your boots are nicely cleaned and dried, it’s time to get them prepared for your next outing! How you reproof your walking boots largely depends on what materials they are made from.

For Smooth Leather

Smooth leather is one of the most common materials used for walking boots and it’s an interesting material because it’s important to nourish the leather with regular waxing and conditioning to keep the leather soft and supple.

Waxing your leather boots has the added benefit of not only restoring the water resistant properties of the material, but it also makes the boot easier to clean in the future.

  • Ensure your leather boots or shoes are clean and dry before re-waxing your boots
  • Apply a small amount of wax using a brush or cloth. Ensure you’re applying an even amount of wax to the leather components of the boot avoiding and rubber, plastic or foam components of the boot or shoe. We carry a variety of waxes from Hanwag, Meindl, Altberg and Scarpa.
  • Allow the boot or shoe to sit in a warm dry place for an hour. This will allow the wax to soak into the leather. Avoid forced drying.
  • Buff the leather using a second cloth or brush. This will remove any excess wax and leave you with a smooth finish.

Leather conditioners are available for boots that have been left long periods of time without waxing. Conditioners have the added benefit of greater penetration into the leather so if you’re starting to see cracks in the surface of your leather boots, consider using a leather conditioner to re-moisturise the materials.

For Suede / Nubuck

Other materials such as Suede and Nubuck are a little more sensitive to polishing than leather, as such it’s important to use an outdoor footwear-specific proofing spray to restore the water repellency on your walking boots or shoes.

Pro Tip: Remove the laces from your walking boots or shoes so you can easily apply wax to the tongue.

  • Ensure your nubuck / suede boots or  shoes are clean and dry before reproofing.
  • Holding the spray bottle around 5cm from the material, apply an even coating all over the boot / shoe.
  • Allow the boot or shoe to sit in a warm dry place. Avoid forced drying.
  • Use a nubuck / suede footwear brush to resort the soft-textured finish to your walking boots or shoes.
Restore water repellency to your walking boots with a proofer spray like
Granger’s Footwear Repel.

Whilst applying a wax to a nubuck or suede will alter the finish of the boot, you can ‘convert’ a nubuck walking boot or shoe by applying a wax to take advantage of the added water resistance offered by a wax.

For Mixed Fabric

For boots constructed of mixed fabrics, the same approach can be taken as nubuck and suede boots using an outdoor footwear-specific spray, however care needs to be taken to ensure they are adequately cleaned and dried before application.

Dirt particles left in tightly-woven fabrics can lead to premature wear and decay of the materials reducing the overall lifespan of your walking boots or shoes. Use a small nail brush or a toothbrush to remove dirt and debris from the stitching, seams and hard-to-reach places on the boot.

Final Inspections

A final note on looking after your boots relates to use and wear.

Outdoor walking boots and shoes are designed for use on a variety of different surfaces and employ softer rubber compounds in the outsole to provide sufficient grip.

Sustained use on roads and hard paved surfaces will result in faster wear than everyday shoes and an overall shorter lifespan. Consider limiting the amount of time spent walking on roads or sourcing outdoor footwear with a harder rubber compound in the outsole.

If you have any questions on looking after your walking boots or shoes, we’d be only too happy to provide assistance. You can visit us in person at our Footwear Department on Green Street, Cambridge, or contact us by calling, emailing or using LiveChat.

Thanks for reading!

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