Expert-tested, editor-approved

Gear Guy

A Guide to Making Your Hiking Boots Last Forever

And how to know when it's time to splurge on a new pair

It’s easy to get emotionally attached to your boots over hundreds of miles together on trail. (Sarah Jackson)
boots

And how to know when it's time to splurge on a new pair

To repair or get rid of? That’s the question that inevitably comes up after your hiking boots have seen seasons of use. To get a definitive answer to that question, I reached out to Matt Menely, who has owned outdoor gear and footwear repair company Mountain Soles & Outdoor Threads since 1999. He’s fixed up countless shoes from all sorts of companies during his career. At its peak, Mountain Soles was giving new life to 600 rock climbing shoes per year, plus hiking and other outdoor footwear. Menely currently repairs footwear for Patagonia and high-end cycling apparel for Rapha.

Here, he lists the most common problem spots for hiking boots—and whether the issue is fixable or catastrophic.

Chewed-Up Soles

Why It Happens

Well, because boots are made for walking. And with lots of walking comes inevitable wear and tear. Menely suggests checking the bottom of the sole every so often. “If it seems like it’s starting to thin—especially at the heel or the ball of the foot—like you are going to wear down to the next layers of material,” he says, “then it’s probably time to stop and determine if you can get them resoled or not.”

How to Fix It

Don’t try this at home. The only way to know definitively if you can resole a boot is if the manufacturer says so or by sending a picture to a specialty retailer for their opinion. “Nowadays, most outdoor shoe soles are molded on, rather than stitched, which makes them more difficult to resole,” Menely says. “A lot of companies just don’t stock soles in the U.S., so check with the manufacturer to see if they even can be resoled.” If it’s doable, the fix could take anywhere from one to five weeks depending on the time of year. The good news is that if your boots can be fixed, the soles will be as good as new usually for somewhere between $60 and $85.

When to Toss It

Menely suggests closely assessing the rest of the boot to see if any other parts need repair, then do the math to gauge if paying the bill makes sense. Like an old car, a patch job may not be worth it if the whole rig needs fixing.

Packed-Out Midsoles

Why It Happens

Primarily, outdoor shoes are made with EVA or polyurethane foam midsoles. EVA will pack down over time, depending on miles traveled, essentially stomping out its ability to cushion your foot. “Once the midsole has between 600 and 900 miles on it, the EVA foam is shot,” Menely says. “If the midsoles are made of polyurethane, that tends to bounce back, but it will break down regardless of use.” If a pair of hiking boots with EVA midsoles live in your closet for a decade, they could come out good as new, whereas a polyurethane midsole can lose its spring over those ten years even if you don’t use the boot. Most hikers will feel it in their feet and back when a midsole is shot. If the jarring sensation with every step doesn’t get you, the sore back and feet post-hike will.

How to Fix It

Sadly when it comes to spent midsoles, the prognosis is bleak. But again, check in with your cobbler. A skilled one could replace a midsole, but that requires cutting out the old, dead midsole and gluing in a fresh one, so many won’t bother. Plus, it could cost more than the boot is worth.

When to Toss It

More often than not, a dead midsole means a dead boot. The price will likely outweigh the benefit of giving your old boot a new midsole. And again, after logging hundreds of miles, the rest of the boot may be toast as well.

Busted Hardware

Why It Happens

Eyelets and hooks can blow out for a bunch of reasons. Rusting (usually caused by saltwater or sweat) or banging on rocks are two of the most common. Also, general wear and tear from pulling on the laces can loosen the eyelets over time.

How to Fix It

Replacing hardware takes skill likely beyond what an amateur possesses, but Menely has some suggestions to stop the damage from happening in the first place. “Don’t yard so hard on the laces when you tighten them,” he says. As for corrosion, staying on top of cleaning them after contact with saltwater is key. “ If you get in or near the ocean, make sure to give your boots a hit of fresh water, and pay attention to the interior. The hardware on the inside will corrode just as easily” if water gets in or if there’s a lot of sweat buildup. If preventative care doesn’t stave off the damage, some companies cover it in the warranty or will fix it for a price.

When to Toss It

A single blown eyelet usually isn’t a reason to give up on a boot. But if multiple eyelets or hooks give way, it’s likely your boot is past the point of no return.

Undone Stitching

Why It Happens

Stitching comes undone from abrasion and general use. Like with hardware, routine banging against rocks and roots will wear stitching down over time, and repeated flexing of the upper as you put the boot on and take it off will stretch it out.

How to Fix It

Be proactive and pay attention to how much stitching your boot has. “The less stitching, the less likely there will be a stitching failure,” Menely says. “Look for an upper made of larger pieces of leather rather than a bunch of small pieces of fabric and leather pieced together. Where the foot flexes, if there is stitching in those places, that tends to fail a lot.” Catching frayed stitching early is key. Menely suggests taking a close look at your boots after using them and applying some Gear Aid Aquaseal ($8) over any stitches that are starting to unbraid. Really want to hedge your bets against this one? Hit the stitches with Aquaseal the day you buy the boots. “It will create a nice abrasion-resistant layer,” Menely says.

When to Toss It

The good news here is that stitching is a relatively easy fix for a repairperson—if the boots aren’t waterproof, that is. Waterproof boots needs specialized machinery to restitch without piercing the membrane. If the stitching on a regular boot is failing but the material around it is solid, it can be repaired.

When you buy something using the retail links in our stories, we earn an affiliate commission that helps pay for our work.

Filed To: Boots / Footwear / Hiking Boots / Gear

Obsessed with Gear?

Thank you!

Pinterest Icon