The old adage, “Take care of your equipment and it will take care of you” is an important truth to live by for campers, hikers and backpackers, and one that is absolutely true when it comes to your hiking boots. Throughout a long day of hiking, you’ll want your boots to be well-fitted, comfortable and able to withstand the constant punishment of climbing up rocks, down hills and through streams. Follow the Gear Care suggestions below and you’ll have hiking boots that will take care of you and give you years of service because you take care of them.

Select the Right Kind of Boot – Choosing the right kind of boot means knowing the kind of hiking you’ll be doing. Lightweight boots are designed for easy day hikes or at the most overnight hikes across even terrain. Their selling points are comfort and ease of use. They offer less support and durability than the next two types. Midweight boots will allow you to do some light to moderate backpacking, but are still mostly designed for easy day or extended hikes over even to slightly uneven terrain. They are more durable and provide more support than the lightweight models, but not as much as the next type. Heavyweight style boots offer the ultimate in durability, support (often adding ankle support in by virtue of their design) and extended wear capabilities. They are designed to handle trekking over rough, uneven terrain carrying moderate to heavy backpacks for extended lengths of time.

Get the Proper Fit – No matter how great your hiking boots may be, if they don’t fit properly you’ll find yourself in agony, at the least, while hiking and possibly injure your feet, ankles or legs. Know your foot size. If you don’t or aren’t sure, measure it in the store. Most people have one foot larger than the other, so always fit to the larger foot. You’ll need to perhaps add another sock layer or an insert into the hiking boot for the smaller foot, but that is by far better than feeling your toes pinch and your foot have blisters rubbed into it by a too tight hiking boot.

Break Them In – Take the time to break in your hiking boots. Wear them around the house and out in the yard. Take walks around your neighborhood. Give them a chance to adapt to your feet, your style of walking and to lose their stiffness. You’ll be glad you broke them in properly when you’re out on the trail.

Waterproof Them – Always check the manufacturer’s guidelines or recommendations as to the kind of waterproofing to use. These can range from pastes to liquids to spray-ons and can be water, wax or silicone-based. Whatever kind you use, make sure to choose a quality brand to insure proper protection. Make especially sure that the area where the boot attaches to the sole is adequately treated.

Keep Them Clean – When you return from a hike, whether it’s a short day hike or an extended multi day, overnight hike, carefully clean your boots with water and a rag. Leaving dirt or dampness on the boot will cause it to have a shorter life span as it destroys the material. Even on the trail, you can work on keeping your hiking boots clean by brushing off dirt and debris and allowing them to dry on a rock or in your tent vestibule area. Always allow them to dry naturally. Never place them in an oven or use a heated blow-dryer or space heater on your hiking boots. This just breaks down the material and shortens their useful life.

Store Them Properly – Keep your hiking boots in a room temperature area, not too cold and not too hot. If it’s a long time between hikes for you, slip them on occasionally to keep them shaped to your foot and to remain broken in and not stiffen from lack of use.