Boot restoration and maintenance

11:03 a.m. on June 28, 2008 (EDT)
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I have a pair of boots that are starting to crack a little. I have been keeping them in the trunk of my car. Is there any way to restore them? Once restored, how do I keep proper maintenance on them?

12:07 p.m. on June 28, 2008 (EDT)
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98 forum posts

I have a pair of Lowa's i bought in 1973. I kept them clean and applied leather conditioner over the years and they are in excellent condition.

First, you have to clean the boots with a clearner that will raise the dirt from the leather. I just a minwax leather cleaner for that and it works find. It is a spray on foam that you work into the boot with a a soft brush then wipe off with a cloth.

Lots of people use saddle soap, but there is some debate ofer whether or not it is rally a cleaner.

Next you need a leather conditioner. There is a lot of debate over this, but for years I just used a car seat leather conditioner and seemed to work find. Now i use the Niwax product and it seems to both condition and add water resistence.

3:03 p.m. on June 28, 2008 (EDT)
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nogods has good advice on restoring the boots. I would add that continual preventative maintenance is the real key to keepin them from cracking in the first place. Storing them in the trunk of the car is guaranteed to deteriorate the boots rapidly. The trunk gets very hot, even on cool days (stays cool if the car is buried under snow, though). That's why the camera and film manufacturers used to say NOT to leave a camera or film in the trunk, glovebox, or even the car itself (film? film? what is "film"?). I did some measurements once (when living in Mississippi), and found that temperatures in the trunk could get in the 150-180 degree range on a summer afternoon, and the car interior could get to 130-140F. This will dry the leather in even just-treated boots in short order.

As nogods says, clean the boots, dry them out of the sun, then treat them with a good conditioner. Usually, the boot manufacturer will include a tag with a recommended conditioner. The best choice depends on how the leather was tanned and treated - oil-tanned, brain-tanned, silicon-treated, etc are all different.

8:39 p.m. on June 28, 2008 (EDT)
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3,956 forum posts

I let my son "borrow" a pair of Montrail Morraines I bought at Rock Creek Outfitters several years ago, we both wear the same size and I have moved on to a pair of Alico's. He finally returned them to me, stiff and crusty with the toe rand pulling loose. They had been in his trunk for weeks through the summer, I never thought to warn him against this. After I pay good money for boots I always place them carefully in their shrine, top shelf of my closet.
The Montrails were a complete loss. But I have to admit that I like my Italian boots with stitched soles better anyway.

12:37 p.m. on June 30, 2008 (EDT)
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Thank you all for your help. Hopefully I can restore them.

4:45 a.m. on July 6, 2008 (EDT)
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Thread Hijack! Does ANYONE remember the Backpacker Magazine issue MANY years ago that did THE most comprehensive test on a dozen different waterproofings for boots? Most waterproofings seemed to get around 15,000 to 35,000 steps before leaking, whereas the one best waterproofing consistently made it over 100,000 steps before leaking. (Or something like that.) Anyone remember, or have that issue? Would really like to be able to find out which it was. Thanx!

6:58 p.m. on July 6, 2008 (EDT)
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265 forum posts

Back to topic. The best repair agent for boots, tents, that I know of is Aquasure. I have mended dosens of shoe soles, repired loose welcro-bands, even a zipper. The glue is flexible when cured, and has an enourmous adherence to most materials.
I never leave on a trip without it. To speed up curing time I also take a bottle of accelerator. Normal cure is 12 hours, too long when you are walking.
Only con is that the cap adheres hard to the tube. At home I keep the glue in the fridge, and uses a pair of pliers to help uncap when the tube is frosen.

7:58 p.m. on July 6, 2008 (EDT)
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TC asked


Most waterproofings seemed to get around 15,000 to 35,000 steps before leaking, whereas the one best waterproofing consistently made it over 100,000 steps before leaking.

Lessee now, at roughly 30 inches per step, that's 7 to 16.5 miles, or the "best" one is 47 miles. Somehow that seems a bit on the short side, compared to my experience. That would not have gotten me past the second camp on Kilimanjaro last December, with the "best" one not making it through my full photosafari plus Kili hike. The all-leather boots I used on that trip easily made it through the whole rainforest experience with no leaks.

The John Muir Trail is about 220 miles long, and people do the length all the time, including wading streams, without problems for the waterproofing. And through-hikers on the PCT and AT (couple thousand miles) seem to do those without a lot of re-treating of their boots.

So I guess I am a bit skeptical of the results you ascribe to Backpacker (I don't remember the article myself). I might believe it for some treatments if you are hiking continuously through wet snow (like our Sierra springtime snow). But 7-16 miles is just way unacceptable for serious hiking. You would have to re-treat at least once a day, and lots of people who do 20-30 mile days would be re-treating 2 or 3 times a day. My experience in snow hiking is more like 50-100 miles for Biwell (can't seem to find it anymore), maybe half that for SnoSeal, and 4 or 5 times those distances for summer trail hiking.

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