How to Clean Hiking Shoes So You Can Save And Extend Boot Life.

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Hiker with clean boots featured

Last Updated On July 20, 2021

How to Clean Hiking Shoes So You Can Save And Extend Boot Life.

Hiking gear can be costly to purchase and replace. This provides a great incentive to extend the life of your current equipment as long as possible. Hiking shoes, in particular, require extensive care to keep them in tip-top condition.

Why do Hiking Shoes Need to be Cleaned?

Muddy boots during a hike standing on log

Since it is not uncommon for people to never wash regular shoes, some individuals never consider cleaning their hiking shoes. The thought just never occurs, which is a shame because two good reasons exist for cleaning hiking shoes.


Even with regular shoes, feet sweat. Because of the activities connected with hiking boots, your feet are sure to sweat even more. Failing to clean hiking boots will result in a build-up of sweat that will develop its unique aroma. This will not make you very popular when eventually you remove the boots. Not taking action at this stage will leave you at risk of athlete’s foot and similar conditions.

Thinking about Safety

That awful smell is not the only reason to wash your hiking boots. Remember when you first bought them, probably one of the factors that influenced you was the grip on the boot’s sole. A failure to clean your boots will result in debris building up within that pattern and a reduction and a reduction in grip on slippery surfaces.

Cleaning Techniques

Clean boots hiker enjoying the view from the top

When it comes to your cleaning options for hiking boots, you can choose one of two options Machine Washing or Hand Washing.

Washing with a Machine

It is important to note that machine washing is only suitable for synthetic materials. Do not machine wash leather shoes. I would say hand washing is always preferable for safety reasons. Put your shoes inside the washing machine, then run your appliance on a gentle cycle. Just as with hand washing, ensure your detergent is mild. Do not use the dryer function on your washing machine. Dry the shoes by hand using the same methods listed above.

Hand Washing

Adventurer washing boots in puddle outdoors

Quite probably, the optimal way of cleaning hiking boots is to hand wash. There is far less possibility of damaging the boots this way, and the handwashing method is not complex. All that is required is a bucket, a mild detergent, some warmish water, and a sensitive-bristled brush.

Collect some water in the bucket

It is important to be aware that hot water can damage the shoe’s rubber elements, but cold water does not work, so look for that point between hot and cold. The purpose of this water is to help loosen some of the dirt on the soles and uppers. Add some gentle detergents to the water. Ensure that you do not use a harsh detergent, which will harm the rubber components, laces, and padding in the shoe.

Scrub the shoe using the soft bristle brush

Boot cleaner machine manual brushing

Scrub the uppers and interior of the shoe first. The soft bristles will not harm the uppers., so you can be quite fierce with the scrubbing. If you cannot find a suitable brush, a soft-bristled toothbrush serves well. Once you have completed the uppers, commence scrubbing the soles, ensuring that you dislodge all the caked-on dirt in the grip. Dip the whole shoe in the water occasionally to keep the sole wet.

Cleaning the interior of the hiking boot

The soapy water is an integral part of removing bacteria from the shoe’s inside and resolving the smell. Take care not to damage the rubber by over scrubbing. Finally, pour some water into the shoe and agitate it, so the water moves around. Once everywhere is wet, use your small, soft brush to scrub the interior.

The final touch

To finish, submerge the shoe. It is now time to rinse the exterior and interior of the shoe in clean water. Agitate the shoe in the water. If the water is dirty, replace it and continue.

Drying the Shoes

Once the wash is completed, it is best to try and remove excess water with a towel. Once this has been done, place the shoes in full sunlight to dry. The shoes must be absolutely dry before you wear them.

Keeping Hiking Boots Clean

Hking through backcountry in rugged boots

You can reduce the number of times that it becomes necessary to wash the shoes by taking specific steps to keep them clean as you use them.

Your Feet

Ok, without being too personal, the leading cause of odors in your hiking boots is sweat mixed in with dirt. Before you use the boots, wash your feet and dry them thoroughly. This will slow up the increase of foul odors. Ensure that you wear a sock. Going barefoot inside a hiking boot is a bad idea. The sock will distance your feet from the boot and protect your boots by absorbing any perspiration. This will keep the shoe interior dryer for much longer and prevent fungal infections.

Your Method of Storage

Rather than placing your Hiking Boots in dark storage cupboards, storing them on a shelf where they will receive light and airflow is better. Dark and damp places will result in the growth of bacteria. To avoid this.

Restrict Your Hiking Boots to when You are Hiking

Dirty muddy hiking shoes with wearers feet out resting

Keep your hiking boots for hiking. Avoid using them for other purposes. When you are no longer hiking, remove the shoes and give them time to breathe and dry out. This will most certainly reduce the amount of sweat that builds up in the shoes, thus reducing smells.

Using Air Freshener

The occasional burst of a spray air fresher into the boot will help to avoid bad smells. It may well be better to use specialist sprays designed for foot care since there is less chance of skin irritation from chemicals in the spray. It is even better to use custom deodorizing powders as they are even more effective at fighting sweat and fungus growth. Watch out that whatever air freshener you use is not causing skin irritation. Stop using the product immediately if you notice any adverse reactions.