How to Clean Hiking Boots and Not Damaging Them in the Process

Hiking is not as easy as people thought it would be. You’re even required to wear hiking boots for extra safety measures. Consequently, it’s almost certain that your hiking boots will get dirty. After all, you will pass muddy passages or dirt. And so, on this occasion, I shall tell you all of the necessary knowledge to keep your hiking boots clean. 

I can confidently tell you that your hiking boots will be two or three times dirtier than your average sneakers! Yep, I sometimes hike too. Hence, I know that cleaning your hiking shoes would require a lot more effort. Fortunately, hiking boots are far more durable and stronger than normal sneakers. Plus, most of them aren’t as valuable, seeing as their sole purpose is to be used for hiking and not for collecting!

Nevertheless, knowing how to clean your boots properly is an important part of the hiking hobby. So, here we go!

Types of Hiking Boots

There are a lot of differences when it comes to hiking shoes and their types. Generally, I group them based on their purpose. This way, you can use the boots that fit the purpose of your hiking (I shall discuss it more after this segment). Let’s run through the different types of hiking boots, as seen down below:

Day Hiking Boots

As the name states, day hiking boots are ideal for day hiking. Their shape and model resemble a normal shoe. However, they can protect your ankle better than your average sneakers. Plus, they also feel warm, which is always lovely, especially when you are out on the cold mountainous trail.

Any cool shoes will still have downsides as well. When you’re wearing day hiking boots, you’ll have to put up with their lack of mobility. Yep, I have to tell you that you’ll feel quite tired when using this type of boots as they’re heavy and less breathable. Plus, hiking shoes take more time to dry after an attempt to clean them.  

Backpacking Boots

Backpacking boots are so cool that they earn a cool nickname: “the Frankenstein of Boots”. They are typically bigger than regular shoes, hence the name Frankenstein. These shoes are made for those of you who love to travel heavily. That’s the reason why backpacking boots always feature solid ankle support! Their sturdy model also makes them more durable. 

Hiking Shoes 

Hiking shoes have lots of similarities compared to hiking boots. Perhaps, the most noticeable difference lies in their function. Yes, they can be used for hiking as they are tougher than sneakers and comfortable even on flat terrain. However, hiking shoes provide no ankle support, which will be risky, especially during a hike on tough terrain. 

Mountaineering Boots

Mountaineering boots are a type of footwear that is used during mountain climbing. They will be perfect for mountain hiking or climbing in a harsh environment with lots of challenges. Most mountaineering boots incorporate leather or synthetic materials like Kevlar!

I can attest to the toughness of mountaineering boots. Their strength makes them the perfect answer to support you when facing a tough mountain.

How to Choose Hiking Boots

hiking shoes cleaning

Now that I’ve told you a little bit about hiking boots and their types, it’s time to pick the right model. The answer to this problem can be a little bit tricky. Generally, I recommend choosing hiking boots that will fit the purpose of your activity. 

Before I go ahead and pick the right hiking boots for you, let’s talk about the different types of terrain that a hiker will normally face. I classify the terrains into three different types:

1. Easy trails

As the name states, this is going to be the easiest trail that a hiker will face. You won’t find challenging roads or obstacles here. Normally, you can find this type of terrain in a large and open space. 

2. Midweight or uneven trails

A midweight or uneven trail will be a little bit tougher than an easy trail. You will face a more challenging router here, so make sure to watch out for rocks, roots, and even mud. However, it might not be as hard as you imagine, so make sure to try it out!

3. Challenging trails or off-trails

Off-trails are the king of hiking routes. You’ll face some tough challenges here, like steep routes and unmarked trails. In some cases, you’ll even need to climb over obstacles. No hikers should be called an expert if they haven’t conquered this off-trail route. 

Picking the Right Hiking Boots

After learning about the types of terrain that a hiker might face, I shall tell you how to pick the right type of hiking boots to support your journey.

Naturally, a pair of lightweight and casual hiking boots will fit perfectly for easy trails. Wearing hiking shoes or sandals will be perfect for this situation. After all, hiking shoes or hiking sandals are light and comfortable to wear, making them the perfect solution for something in a less demanding environment. 

When you’re planning to hike on uneven trails, I do not recommend lightweight hiking shoes, as they won’t protect you well in case of an accident. Therefore, day hiking boots would be the perfect option.

However, you might want to consider wearing mountaineering boots or backpacking boots for off-trails, boots that probably will feel too heavy to wear for a more relaxing road. 

Although heavyweight boots like mountaineering or backpacking boots offer safety for your feet, they won’t be the right solution for an easy trail. After all, they will feel heavy and, in most cases, will tire you out. So, make sure that you choose the appropriate boots that you want to wear and know all the details regarding your activity. 

I believe that each type of boot has its advantages, and choosing the right one will provide you with the best hiking experience!

Gore-Tex vs. Waterproof Hiking Boots

When it comes to hiking boots, there are two main types of waterproofing technologies: Gore-Tex and other waterproof membranes. Here’s a breakdown of the differences between the two:

You probably often hear about Marell Gore-Tex boots. Gore-Tex is a brand name for a specific type of waterproof membrane. It is a highly breathable and durable material that allows moisture to escape while preventing water from getting in. Gore-Tex is known for its high-quality, long-lasting waterproofing capabilities and is often used in high-end hiking boots.

On the other hand, waterproof hiking boots typically use a different type of waterproof membrane or coating, such as eVent, H2O Proof, or similar technologies. While these materials are generally less expensive than Gore-Tex, they are still effective at keeping your feet dry during hikes.

So, which one is better?

It depends on your specific needs and preferences. Gore-Tex is a highly trusted and reliable technology that is well-suited for intense outdoor activities, such as mountaineering or backpacking in rugged terrain. However, it can be more expensive than other waterproofing technologies.

Waterproof hiking boots are a good choice for those who want reliable waterproofing capabilities at a more affordable price. They are also great for casual hikers who don’t require the highest level of waterproofing technology.

Ultimately, the choice between Gore-Tex and other waterproof hiking boots depends on your needs and budget. No matter which option you choose, be sure to take good care of your boots to maintain their waterproofing capabilities and extend their lifespan.

Hiking Boots Components

hiking shoes cleaner

Most components of hiking boots are not that different from normal sneakers. However, I should tell you that there are unique components that make them viable for hiking situations. Let’s discuss some of the details down below. 


how to clean hiking shoes

Hiking Boots’ outsole normally features material from rubber. This is the part that gets into contact with the ground most often. 


how to clean hiking shoes

The mid-part of your boots. Midsoles might provide extra support and comfort for your boots. You might also notice the presence of a shank or welt, which is located between the midsole and outsole. Shanks can provide stability to the bottom of your foot.

Tongue and Tongue Tab: 

how to clean hiking shoes

You can find this part in the center of the upper section of a shoe. I believe that a tongue usually will incorporate a soft pad in order to provide a soft cushion that will feel comfortable. You’ll also notice the presence of a tongue tab that can be used to pull the tongue in order to insert your foot easier. 


how to clean hiking shoes

This part is quite essential for hiking boots, as hiking boots’ uppers are the ones that cover the foot and ankle. They will protect you from the risks of an ankle injury during challenging hiking situations. This is why I believe that choosing a boot with a good upper is essential.


how to clean hiking shoes

If an upper’s job is to keep your ankle safe from injuries, then a collar will help to keep you safe from dirt and debris. Normally, they are made of synthetic materials. 

Mesh Panels

Some hiking boots have mesh panels that allow ventilation and better air circulation for your foot. This way, you won’t sweat as much and will feel far more comfortable. 

Toe Cap and Toe Guard

parts of hiking boots toe box and toe cap

These two parts are located at the very end of your hiking boots. Normally, a toe cap will be equipped with reinforced material for increased strength and durability. The same thing can be said for the toe guard. The stronger material will help protect your boots when you hit some rocks or other hard objects. 

Heel Counter

how to clean hiking shoes

As the name suggests, this part can be located at the posterior end of the boot. Most of the time, it consists of plastic and will support your heel.

Heel Brake

Going on a hike means that you need to deal with challenging terrains and environments. Therefore, you really need a heel brake, as it helps to provide traction and reduces the chance of slipping. In my case, I usually pay a lot of attention to this part when I choose a hiking boot. After all, safety is the number one priority!

Mud Guard

CHASE AND CHLOE Mud Guard Lug Sole Ankle Combat Boot | Nordstromrack

Not all hiking boots have a mudguard. Their role is to provide extra protection to your boots from dirt. 

Hiking Boots Cleaning Kit

  • ShoeCleaner: A special shoe detergent needed to clean your favorite and precious hiking boots. 
  • Apron: Not an obligatory item, but it will come in handy when we’re talking about keeping your shirt clean while washing your boots. 
  • Premium boot cleaning brush: Used to clean the upper part of your shoes
  • Medium brush: Used to clean your boot’s midsole section. 
  • Standard brush: Used to clean your hiking boot’s outsole section.
  • Small brush or toothbrush: This type of brush will come in handy when it comes to cleaning the inner part of your hiking boots that is usually hard to reach. 
  • Microfiber cloth: Used to wipe boots clean of dirt and stains. 
  • Shoe Tree: Essential item to keep your boot’s basic structure intact. 
  • Container/Pan: used to store water that will be mixed with Shoe Perfume in order to generate a certain odor for your boots. 

Hiking Boots Anatomy and How to Use the Cleaning Tools

  • The Upper Part of the boots: The upper part of the boots is divided into two different categories: the outer and inner parts. To clean the outer part of the boots, I highly recommend the use of Premium Brush and microfiber cloth in order to avoid any damage. For the inner part, a small brush would be a great solution, as it will reach small and narrow spaces. 
  • Sole, or the lower part of your hiking boots: To clean the sole, you’d want to stick with a standard brush, one that has some strong and sturdy bristles. This way, you have a better chance to clean and eliminate dirt and stains from the outsole. 

How to Clean Hiking Boots

Here is how I usually wash my hiking boots by hand after breaking trails and adventuring in the mud and dirt! You should follow the step carefully and put effort into it for a satisfying end result.

#Step 1: Prepare the hiking boots that you’ve used before:

Prepare pair of hiking boots that are ready to be cleaned. Make sure that you check for damages so you won’t accidentally brush over them, making the damages worse.

#Step 2: Prepare the necessary items and tools needed to clean your hiking boots:

Prepare the Shoecleaner, apron, Premium Brush, Medium Brush, Standard Brush, Small Brush, Microfiber Cloth, two pieces of Shoe Tree, and a container to store water and ShoePerfume. 

#Step 3: Remove the laces from the boots:

Before proceeding to clean the boots, make sure that you have removed the laces from the boots. Then, soak them inside a bucket of water mixed with the Shoe Cleaner detergent. 

#Step 4: Wash Your Boots Sole:

Use a standard brush to clean the sole. It’s essential to use a strong brush to wipe all the mud and dirt from your boot’s gap. In my experience, this step can be tricky, especially if you’ve just come home from an extreme hike. Make the sole sparkling clean so that it does not lose its grip!

#Step 5: Wash the Outer and Inner Parts of the Upper Boots 

Use the Premium Brush to clean the outer part of the upper boots. For a great output, you can consider using a mixture of water and Shoe Cleaner detergent. 

Use a small brush or toothpaste for the inner part of the upper boots. After all, the inner parts will prove to be a little bit challenging due to their narrow nature!

If you don’t own a Shoe Cleaner detergent, using water won’t hurt you. Just wipe them with a microfiber cloth after letting water flow throughout the boot. I have tried this alternative method to clean the outer part of the upper boots. and it works just fine in a pinch.

#Step 6: Drying Process 

After the hiking boots are deemed to be clean enough, you can proceed to dry them off by fanning them or letting them somewhere hot without direct contact with the sunlight. Sunlight can damage the boot’s paint job and make the colors fade, so avoid that!

I really recommend that you dry your booth thoroughly. Otherwise, they’ll get smelly and attract bacteria. If your shoes are wet and not hygienic, it may increase the chance of you contracting trench foot disease. That’d not be good for us hikers!

#Step 7: Finishing 

As soon as the boots are clean, put the laces back on, and the boots are ready for another adventure!

The Do and Don’ts When You Clean Your Hiking Boots



  • Don’t clean the boots with a strong soap, as it can make the waterproof feature of your boots get broken. 
  • Don’t use any detergent or bar soap
  • Never put your shoes under direct contact with the sunlight 

Prolonging the Lifespan of Your Hiking Boots

As a seasoned hiker, I’ve learned that taking good care of your hiking boots is essential to make them last longer. Here are some tips that I’ve found to be effective in extending the lifespan of my hiking boots:

1. Break in your boots properly

Firstly, it’s crucial to break in your boots properly to prevent hotspots and blisters. I recommend wearing them around the house or on shorter hikes to help the boots conform to your feet, providing optimal comfort and durability.

2. Clean and dry your boots after each hike

After each hike, I always make sure to clean and dry my boots thoroughly. Dirt, mud, and water can damage the material, so it’s essential to remove any debris and dry them completely. I recommend using a soft brush to clean them gently and avoiding harsh cleaners that can damage the material.

3. Treat your boots with waterproofing spray

To keep your boots dry and prevent water from seeping in, treating your boots with waterproofing spray is crucial. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and reapply the spray periodically.

4. Store your boots properly

Storing your boots properly is another key aspect of extending their lifespan. I recommend keeping them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, which can damage the material.

5. Replace worn-out parts

Replacing worn-out parts is also essential in prolonging the lifespan of your hiking boots. The sole, laces, and insoles can all become damaged over time, so consider replacing any worn-out parts to help your boots last longer.

6. Rotate your boots

Lastly, rotating your boots is another way to make them last longer. Using your hiking boots regularly can wear them down quickly, so I recommend rotating them with another pair of shoes to give them time to rest and recover between hikes.

By following these tips, you can be sure that your hiking boots will last longer and serve you well on many adventures to come.

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Question and Answers

How often should you clean hiking boots? 

Avoid cleaning your hiking boots too often, even if you’re using the shoes regularly. A great trick will be to clean them if there’s a long window in which you’re not using the boots. 

How do you take care of hiking shoes?

There are a lot of ways to take care of hiking boots. The most important thing is to not let them be dirty or stinky. Clean them if you have spare time, but make sure that all the material won’t get damaged in the process. 

How do you wash the inside of hiking boots?

The inner part of hiking boots might be a little bit tricky, as they are small and narrow. However, it can be solved simply by using a small brush or toothpaste!

How do you clean smelly hiking boots?

To clean smelly hiking boots, you need to wash them first. Normally, it would be the inner part of your boots. Then, give a fair amount of shoe perfume to eliminate bad odor inside the shoes. 

How do I clean waterproof shoes or boots?

You can follow the tips that I’ve highlighted above. However, you should avoid using abrasive cleaning solutions like toothpaste or other strong chemicals. You also need to brush gently and wipe it lightly. Do not forget to respray your boots with a waterproofing spray after you’ve finished the cleaning process.


Due to their functions, hiking boots need to be cleaned thoroughly and regularly. No matter what type of hiking boots you have, they can be cleaned with the same tools that you can find at home. The only thing that matters is to clean them carefully in order to prevent any damage to the boots.