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How to Properly Dry Leather Hiking Boots

This video covers the proper way to dry your leather hiking boots to prolong the life of their uppers and soles.

How to Properly Dry Leather Hiking Boots

Outdoor retailers often hear complaints from customers about the uppers of their hiking footwear falling apart; most of the time this is not manufacturer defect, but poor maintenance, no maintenance, or, most often, a lack of drying the boot correctly. The following how-to discusses the proper way to dry your footwear when it’s wet to aid in longevity.


First, there are some things that you don’t want to do to dry hiking boots or shoes (especially those made of full leather):


  1. Do not dry your boot with direct heat sources such as woodstoves, heaters, campfires, or blow dryers. Although all of these heat sources seem like a great idea for drying quickly, they are going to be harsh to the leather on the outside of your boots, as well as to the glues that are used to hold the layers of the outsole together and attach it to the upper of the boot itself.


  1. So, we know you will still put your boots by the campfire during a backpacking trip because it’s really tempting after a long day of hiking in the rain. Just try to remember to keep them at a respectable distance from the fire; don’t set them on the hot rocks around the fire ring or expose them directly to that heat source, as they could be damaged by either intense heat or direct burns from embers.


The best way to dry your boots is to let them air dry slowly over time. Sunshine does a good job at this if you’ve got a porch or yard you can safely set them out in to dry after you come home from a wet trip. Be sure to remove the insoles, which might be wet or dry, clean any grit off of them and set them aside or tuck them loosely in the boot so you don’t lose them.


To get the boot itself to dry, the best thing you can do is take some newspaper, roll it up into a ball and tuck it down inside the toe of the boot. Newspaper is extremely absorbent. You might need a couple of sheets, and you can tuck some in the top of the boot, as well, to aid in drying. You’ll have to change the newspaper in your boots over the course of drying; changing it out once per hour is a good goal. Remove the wet sheets and put some dry ones in until they stop absorbing the moisture. This drying method is a bit labor intensive, but it is an effective way to dry your footwear without damaging the upper and materials on the outside of the boot. Usually within 24 hours you can get most of the moisture absorbed out of a wet shoe.