Let's face it, properly fitting boots are one of the best pieces of equipment you can have for the outdoors. They protect your feet from cold, rain and rough terrain, biting and stinging critters — all while offering support to your ankles and the arches of your feet. In many instances, you get what you pay for when it comes to boots, and in my opinion they're worth paying for. To make sure you get the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to boots, here are some accessories to prolong their life and get the most out of your investment
|If you're getting your boots dirty a lot, you might want to invest in a brush-style boot cleaner you can leave at the door.|
Perhaps the most overlooked components of owning a pair of boots is regular cleaning. It's important to keep boots clean to ensure they function properly. For example, leaving mud caked on leather boots will actually draw away moisture from the boot as it dries.
This will reduce the strength of your boots and in extreme cases, can lead to the leather cracking in some cases. Cracked leather will not be a good shield against water.
If you're wearing boots all the time and getting them dirty, you might want to invest in a brush-style boot cleaner you can leave at the door. This device lets you remove mud and stones from the treads as well as clean the sides of your boots. This is a quick way to keep boots relatively clean in between more thorough washings.
For a comprehensive cleaning, use products recommended for your boot's materials. Don't forget to clean the laces and occasionally wipe down the inside of the boot as well. Also, if you're using a pair of hiking boots for urban, winter walking, regularly wipe them down with a damp towel to remove salt, which will quickly dry out and weaken leather.
Treatments include applying oils or other moisturizers to leather boots as well as waterproofing products. Again, match the treatment produce to the material, whether leather or synthetic, as recommended by the manufacturer. Follow directions carefully, as some products must go on dry boots while others require the boots to be damp for the product to soak in to the material. Treatments will rejuvenate your boots, not only cosmetically, but also in terms of their overall functionality. For example, a properly treated leather boot will bend and repel water better than one that has not been treated for several months.
|Boot dryers can make short work of drying boots and can also work on drying gloves and mittens.|
When properly treated, many hiking and hunting boots will last hours in the rain before getting thoroughly soaked — yet how you dry boots is important. Leather should be dried at room temperature and not placed too close to heat sources (like a wood stove) as this can quickly dry out the leather and treatment product.
However, you can speed the drying process up. One trick is to remove the insoles of wet boots and stuff them with newspaper or absorbent towels to quickly soak up some of the water. If getting boots wet happens regularly, consider purchasing a boot dryer. These units can be extremely handy and will make short work of soaked boots. Some boot dryers are even portable, while other ones have extensions available for drying wader or gloves and mittens.
Add an Insole
Getting the right fit out of any footwear can be tricky. At times boots can be just shy of a perfect fit. Sometimes the solution is a matter of adding and aftermarket insole. Insoles can provide cushioning to a boot and make it fit a little snugger. Some insoles also boast orthotic capabilities, providing proper arch support and reducing joint pain. Another feature of some insoles is added warmth. Great for cold weather activities, these insoles will provide extra cushioning to distance your feet from the cold ground and their insulating fibers keep heat in. Foot warmers packets are also another option to warm-up cold feet.
Not matter how well boots fit, you're at a major disadvantage if you're not matching them with quality socks. Proper socks provide cushioning, have moisture-wicking properties, and add to overall comfort. Cotton socks will not wick moisture, which can lead to blisters and cold feet in low temperatures. Hiking socks might seem pricey in relation to bargain-bin, cotton whites, but if you take care of them, hikers will last you for several years. I've got a few pairs of light-hiker socks that are going on their fifth year.
|Proper socks provide cushioning, have moisture-wicking properties, and add to overall comfort.|
It's a good habit to carry a spare pair of laces with you on outings. Although little more than simple string, laces are a critical component to boots, but are overlooked when it comes to bringing spares. If anything, spare laces should at the top of your packing list. They're inexpensive, lightweight, not bulky, and will really pay off if you break a lace several miles from home.
Whether you call them grippers, grabbers or cleats, these accessories are worth every penny when walking in icy conditions. It doesn't matter if you're on a sidewalk or crossing a lake that looks like an ice rink, these devices will increase your on-ice stability and confidence. They fit over the bottom of your boots and feature metal cleats or studs to bite into the ice, increasing your traction. Not only will they reduce falls, but you'll be able to walk at a normal speed and not be slowed down by slippery ground.
Whether in your mud room, cottage entrance way, or outside the door of your tent, a mat is a great accessory to keep dirty boots in their place and things organized. Plastic mats will hold slush as it melts away from winter boots and keep mud contained. A boot jack is another handy item to keep near a mat. This gadget makes taking boots off a lot easier, especially if you've got a lot of bulky clothes on.
Taking care of your boot investment is easy if you follow the recommended treatment schedule and keep them clean. The above-noted accessories are great add-ons related to boots. Boots are the cushion and the protection between us and the earth and are an important component of outdoor gear. If you need convincing, just try and walk your favorite trail bare foot.