Learn When To Update Your Hiking Boots Or Keep Them

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Learn how you can know when the time is right to update your hiking boots as well as how you can make your gear last longer.

Do you get rid of your hiking boots or repair them? That's a question you'll inevitably face after you use a pair for many seasons. In order to answer this question in its many variations, we tapped the brain of Matt Menely and his professional expertise. He's owned Mountain Soles & Outdoor Threads for nearly 20 years, which is a company that repairs footwear and outdoor gear.

Menely has patched up numerous shoes for many businesses over his career. When it hit its peak, Mountains Soles was breathing new life to as many as six hundred rock climbing shoes each year, along with hiking boots and other various pieces of outdoor footwear.

At the time of writing, Menely repairs Patagonia footwear and high-end Rapha cycling apparel.

His substantial experience has helped us list out the most frequent problems and issues hiking boots might suffer, as well as which ones can be managed or not.


Why This Happens

Honestly, this just happens because boots were made for hiking and walking. When you do a lot of that, wear and tear are inevitable. Menely's recommendation is checking the bottoms of the soles regularly.

If it looks like things are starting to thin, particularly in the ball of the foot or the heel, you might think you're about to wear down to the underneath material layers. If so, it's time to think about whether or not resoling is a possibility.

How You Can Fix It

This isn't one you can try at home, unfortunately. Many modern outdoor shoes have molded-on soles, instead of stitched, which makes the resole process a lot harder. So, really all you can do is see if the boot manufacturer claims their boots can be resoled.

Otherwise, you might could also send pictures to specialty retailers for a consultation. Many companies don't even keep soles in stock, which can mean a resole is still impossible even if theoretically feasible. If it can, expect it to take anywhere from a week to over a month, depending on the season. If you can pull it off, resoles are typically good as new.

When You Should Toss It

When you check out your soles, be sure to assess the entire boot. If other parts or sections need repair, it becomes a numbers game. Much like driving an old car, you might decide a repair job isn't worth it if the whole vehicle needs a lot of work.


Why This Happens

Outdoor shoes are primarily made out of polyurethane foam or EVA midsoles. EVA packs down when enough time passes, especially based on how many miles have been travelled, which eventually stomps out any capacity it has to provide your feet cushioning.

Menely points out that EVA foam in midsoles are typically shot by 1000 miles, and sometimes less. Polyurethane midsoles do tend to bounce back, but they'll still break down over time, even if not used. Hiking boots that sit in a closet for 10 years with EVA midsoles might be as good as if they were brand new, but polyurethane midsoles will lose their spring in the same decade, even if they don't get used.

Many hikers know their midsoles are shot by feeling it in their back and feet. Even if you don't get a jarring sensation in every step, you'll feel it after your hike.

How You Can Fix It

In terms of spent midsoles, the prognosis isn't good. Then again, consult your cobbler. A skilled professional can replace a midsole, but that involved cutting out what's left of the dead one before gluing in the fresh one. That alone gives most boot owners pause, especially considering how it typically costs more than what boots are worth.

When You Should Toss It

In most cases, dead midsoles just mean dead boots. Cost alone typically outweighs any benefits of putting new midsoles into an old boot. Also, after hundreds of miles of use, it's likely that the rest of the boots aren't worth keeping either.


Why This Happens

Hooks and eyelets can get blown out for quite a few different reasons. Rusting is typically caused by sweat or saltwater, and that's one common reason. The other predominant reason is banging on rocks. Eyelets also get loose from just the routine wear and tear of laces being pulled on over time.

How You Can Fix It

Replacing hardware like this requires skills that most novices don't have, but Menely says prevention is key to successfully stopping damage from first happening. When you tighten your laces, don't be too hard on your laces.

Prevent corrosion by cleaning your boots after they come in contact with saltwater. If you happen to be near or in the ocean, be sure your boots take a following hit of actual fresh water. Don't neglect the interior either, since sweat buildup is also saltwater. Fortunately, damage like this is sometimes covered under company warranties

When You Should Toss It

You usually shouldn't hang up your boots just due to one blown eyelet. However, if you've had multiple hooks or eyelets go out on you, then your boots are probably past the point of salvation.


Why This Happens

Stitching can get undone from general use and abrasion over time. As with hardware, constant banging up against roots and rocks is going to take a gradual toll on stitching. As the upper gets repeatedly flexed while you put your boots on and take them off, it'll eventually get stretched out.

How You Can Fix It

A proactive approach is smart, as you can be mindful of how much stitching there is in the first place. Less stitching means a failure in it less likely. Uppers made of bigger leather pieces might be preferable to ones made out of smaller fabric pieces that got pieced together.

It's key to catch frayed stitching early, and a common place for failure is if there's stitching present where your feet flex. If you see any stitches that look they might be starting to unbraid, consider an application of Gear Aid Aquaseal. If you really want to establish a nice layer of abrasion-resistance, apply Aquaseal the very day you first buy your boots.

When You Should Toss It

Fortunately, in cases of boots which are waterproof, repair professionals can easily fix stitching. On the other hand, waterproof boots have to be restitched using specialised machinery that won't pierce the membranes. If the boot material is typically solid and it's only the stitching failing, repairs are typically possible.

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