How To Clean Walking Boots

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We expect a lot from a pair of walking boots, demanding they keep us upright on all kinds of treacherous terrain, as well as ensuring our feet are dry and warm no matter what weather we wear them in. And then what thanks do our trusty boots get? They get shoved in a plastic bag at the back of a cupboard because we can’t be bothered to clean or dry them after a long day on the trails.

If that sounds familiar then it’s time we staged an intervention – your boots deserve better. For advice on how to look after your walking boots, hooked us up with Salomon ambassador Squash Falconer, for these top tips.

How To Clean Walking Boots

“It is really important to clean boots each time you get them dirty,” says Falconer. “If you’re really tired, the day after your hike is OK, but don’t leave them any longer.

“When cleaning your boots, it’s good to have a small brush – an old toothbrush or washing-up brush works well. It’s best to use a specific shoe cleaner and avoid using bar soap or stronger detergents because they may contain additives that can damage the leather and affect how waterproof the material is. If you are cleaning mould off your boots or they smell, use a mixture of water and vinegar and rinse thoroughly with clean water afterwards.”

Here’s Falconer’s six-step process for cleaning walking boots.

  1. Remove the laces and insoles.
  2. Bang the boots together or against a hard surface to remove excess dirt, mud and stones lodged in treads and caked around the boot.
  3. If the boots are dry, use a hoover on the inside and out to remove the finer dirt or sand particles.
  4. Clean them with a damp cloth or under running water (depending on how dirty they are) and use the brush with your boot cleaner to scrub away all remaining dirt.
  5. Rinse with clean water.
  6. Use the same process for the boot insoles.

If you’re thinking that sounds like a lot of work and are starting to wonder if you can just shove the boots in your washing machine, don’t!

“Never put your boots in a washing machine – that accelerates the ageing process and can cause a lot of damage,” says Falconer.

How To Dry Walking Boots

“If boots are left damp, mould will quickly set in, the material will start to break down and the smell can be dreadful,” says Falconer, who offers another six-step plan for drying boots.

  1. Remove the laces and insoles.
  2. Dry the insoles separately and only put them back in when boot and insole are both completely dry.
  3. Stuff each boot with newspaper.
  4. Do not place boots in direct heat, including fireplaces. This can damage the leather or material and weaken adhesives.
  5. Low humidity is key. Speed up the drying process using a fan or boot dryer.
  6. Store the boots in a well-ventilated area. Avoid damp or hot places.

If you have leather boots it’s worth applying a special conditioner after they’re clean and dry.

“Leather boots will last longer and age better if you treat and condition them,” says Falconer. “Once they’re clean and dry, simply use a cloth to apply the conditioner to the leather, removing any excess, and buff to polish.”

View SportsShoes’ range of walking boots at

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.