May 6, 2022 / Hiking
How Long Do Hiking Boots Last
Hiking boots go through a lot—they traverse tough terrain such as rocky foothills, slimy riverbeds, mucky fields, and other unforgiving terrains.
They’re the foundation of any awe-inspiring adventure—which means when you start to feel the sole of your boot flap with every step or notice a small hole at the tip of your toe, it may be time to shop for a new pair.
Even the most durable pair of hiking boots will inevitably meet their end after going over a lot of uneven terrain, but precisely how long do hiking boots last, how do you know what to look for in hiking boots, and how can their shelf life be extended? This guide will explore all things hiking boots to help you navigate the durability and lifespan of your favorite hiking partners for your next backpacking trip.
How Many Miles Do Hiking Boots Last?
Generally speaking, the average shelf life of a quality hiking boot ranges from 600 to 1,000 miles (for heavier mountaineering models).1
In other terms, if the average hiker scales roughly 8 miles a day, her boots will last her a little over 4 months, provided the trail and terrain remain the same. However, there are other factors that can shorten or lengthen the lifespan of a hiking boot.
One of the most important of those is the boots’ construction.
There is a dizzying array of hiking boot types to choose from, and each boot is constructed uniquely. There are heavy boots meant for scaling mountains and lightweight designs for running on trails, each with their own shelf life. Lightweight trail-running shoes tend to have a shorter lifespan due to the rubber of the soles being thinner to reduce weight in the shoe.
The average trail running shoe can last between 400 to 500 miles2, but even this number varies a lot based on how often the boots take to the trails. For example, a trail runner may cycle through multiple pairs of trail running shoes or boots due to the repetitive use on rough terrain. In general, the easier you are on your shoes, the further they will carry you.
Factors That Affect The Longevity Of Hiking Boots
We’ve established that every boot, no matter its build, reaches its retirement period. But a slew of factors impacts how long your hiking boot will last. These include the construction of the boot, the ground you use it on, how frequently you use it, and more.
To that end, here are some additional factors that can impact the longevity of your hiking boots.3
- Storage – How you store your hiking boots can impact their longevity. If they’re placed outside, they may wear and tear from the elements. As such, it’s important to store your hiking gear in an indoor area that’s cool and dry.
- Care – Cleaning your hiking boots after trekking a dusty or muddy trail can help keep them in pristine shape. Invest in a special boot brush or opt for a toothbrush to gently remove dust and grime from your shoes with soapy water (just be sure to remove the laces first)
- Construction – The structure of your boot and its tread, insole, and outsole will have an effect on its durability. Consider a waterproof boot made with high-quality leather and rubber.
- Terrain – If you frequent craggy rock terrain, your walking boots may not last as long as they would if they regularly walked dirt trails. Additionally, the more you use your mountaineering boots, the more quickly they’ll deteriorate.
As such, it’s important to invest in a high-quality hiking shoe that’s suited for your favorite terrain and activity level.
Signs Of Wear And Tear In Hiking Boots
Aside from the obvious toe-holes and flapping soles, there are other signs it's time for your boots to take a hike without you.
In fact, you don’t need to wait for swollen feet and damp socks to know when to replace hiking boots. Not only is this method potentially injurious but it also sets you up for some painful treks. To that end, here are a few initial signs of wear and tear in your hiking boots that shouldn’t be ignored:4
- Cracked midsole – With an improper midsole, you lose the shock absorption your boots provide that is necessary for longer treks. This can set you up for short and long-term injuries. A visible crack in the midsole of your hiking boot is a clear sign they should be replaced.
- Uneven support – It is possible to use inserts when the cushion support in a midsole feels lost or imbalanced. However, when you begin to lose ankle support, you can easily injure yourself on the trail. This is another big sign that it's time to toss your boots.
- Loose eyelets – Eyelets are the little holes that shoelaces go through. Loose eyelets are among the reasons hikers find it difficult to keep their boots laced up securely. Although this seems like a minor issue, these are cause for concern since you lose support every time your hiking boots are undone.
- Thinning laces – In the same vein as loose eyelets, frayed laces make it difficult to keep your boot laced up for long periods, especially when laces start to thin out in certain areas from repeated tying and loosening. If you notice worn out or weak spots in your laces, replace them to avoid ending up with torn laces midway through a hike.
- Worn out tread – The protrusions on the bottom of the boots’ sole are its treads. These are your source of grip in a durable boot. A clear indication that your boots need replacement is when the tread begins to wear out. Hiking on worn out treads means you’re at risk of slipping.
- Loss of comfort – As their sole and tread begins to erode with time, hiking boots can grow uncomfortable and even painful. If your hiking boots are leaving you with blisters, aches, and swollen feet, they should no longer be your hiking go-to’s. You might also consider learning the proper boot lacing techniques, depending on the type of hikes you do, to help create a more comfortable experience.
The Basics Of Boot-Care
As with most things, the more you care for your hiking boots, the longer they will last you. A lot of the following boot-care tips can be easily implemented into the preparation, recovery, and duration of your hikes, while significantly impacting the longevity of your boots for the better.5
Step 1: Store Your Boots In A Temperature-Controlled Room
Temperature-controlled storage protects clothes, handbags, and‚ you guessed it—hiking boots. That’s because most high-quality hiking boots are constructed with leather, which requires a cool and dry environment.
A storage space with too much heat and humidity may negatively impact the outside of your boot by aging the leather quickly. This type of environment can also reduce the cushioning properties of your insole, which can cause your midsole to stiffen faster.
Step 2: Reapply Leather And Waterproofing Treatments To Your Boots
For occasional hikers, if you have leather boots, it makes sense to reapply waterproof sprays after hikes to prevent one’s boots from eroding on their next hike. You can utilize a treatment to block out the ‘pores’ in your boots, which means no water can get in and damage the material. We recommend using Sno-Seal, to limit a bit of breathability and maintain your boots. For Nylon membrane boots, the water resistant feature requires no treatment.
However, the typical waterproofing spray can last for about four weeks,6 so it is essential to respray your boots each month, especially if you regularly hike on damp trails.
Step 3: Maintain Cleanliness By Removing Dirt And Debris
An obvious yet underrated habit that keeps athlete’s foot away is to clean out the dirt and debris from your hiking boots before and after your hike.
To clean, you must first look at the construction and material of your hiking boot, to understand proper cleaning methods. For leather boots, you will want to take care when cleaning and use a conditioner to treat the boot. For boots that are nylon, you can use a stiff brush with a bit of soap and water as a way to scrub out particles superbly. Ensure you avoid brushing the inside of your boots too hard so that you don’t erode your insole. If you need to dry your boots, it is best to place them in a temperature controlled room with moving air flow, and keep them out of direct sunlight.
Step 4: Remove The Moisture From Your Insoles Regularly
A common practice that most hikers with waterproof boots don’t consider is drying the inside of their shoes. To that end, try to dry the inside of your hiking boots as soon as possible to keep your insoles intact. No fancy spray is necessary. You can do this simply by removing the insole and placing newspaper into your boots to absorb the moisture inside. This prevents your insoles from getting stiffer and less supportive over time.
Step 5: Replace Insoles If They Begin To Lose Support
When insoles begin to harden, it’s hard to recover their softness. A better bet is to simply replace your insoles. Walking on improper insoles can result in:
- Alignment issues
- Plantar fasciitis
- Weak ankles
What’s more, some hiking shoes come with bad inserts that can be immediately felt in the form of heel and arch pain. Replace those fault inserts immediately, and consider keeping a spare set when hiking on long trails.
Step 6: Nip Minor Problems In The Bud
Not every problem calls for a new pair of hiking boots. For small holes, frayed laces, faulty inserts, or issues with your upper/soles not keeping you centered or supported, attack these problems head on by using a bit of shoe glue or getting these parts replaced before these issues grow into serious concerns. The key is timing.
Scale Mountains With Boot World’s Range Of Hiking Footwear
Depending on the construction of the hiking boot, your shoes can last anywhere from 600 to 1,000 miles. As such, it’s essential to take to the trails with a top-quality pair of boots.
For that, look to Boot World. From industry-grade EVA and polyurethane midsoles for firm support to waterproof membranes for improved durability, you can find the best specs for both women’s and men's outdoor hiking boots at Boot World. Each hiking boot fits differently, so it is important to know how hiking boots should fit before purchasing and how long they may last you.
Whether you’re a trail-running enthusiast or a mountaineer buff, Boot World presents all hikers with an array of choices to find a shoe that fits their lifestyles. Climb your favorite trails with the finest support from Boot World’s footwear.
- 1 Gear Junkie. How long do hiking boots last.
- 2 Rei. How to choose hiking boots.
- 3 Active Weekender. What’s the average lifespan of your hiking boots?
- 4 Waterproofing Tips. How long does waterproof spray last?
- 5 Very Well Fit. Foot problems from bad inserts.
Ed Stone brings over 45 years of footwear knowledge and passion to his role as President of Boot World, a family-owned company and an industry leader in safety and occupational footwear. A second generation "shoe dog” Ed's footwear knowledge is unparalleled, serving as an informal advisor for some of the worlds largest footwear brands including Wolverine, Timberland PRO, and Reebok Works.
A lifelong Southern California resident, and ardent conservationist, Ed enjoys hiking and open water swimming.