Hiking boots are a perfect example of purpose-built footwear, and since they can be on the pricey side, it’s good to know how long they will last and when to replace them.
Not all shoes are created equal. This statement goes beyond just the quality and price point of your footwear.
My favorite pair of canvas sneakers look fantastic, but they would disintegrate in weeks if I wore them every day.
My partner spent double the price of my running shoes on her favorite pair of heels, but guess which will be comfier on the treadmill?
So, how long do hiking boots last? Let’s take a look at seven ways to tell.
When to Replace Your Hiking Boots
The amount of time your hiking boots will last depends on several things, including:
- The shape of your feet
- How you wear them (and their fit)
- The quality of your boots
- Where you wear them
However, it doesn’t have to be rocket science determining when to replace them, so here are seven ways to tell it’s time for a new pair.
When inspecting the bottom of your boots, a worn tread is a telltale sign they may be past their prime.
Most people tend to wear down certain parts of their shoes’ tread. This wear should appear more obvious with hiking boots, as they have a more robust tread than most street shoes.
Checking for uneven wear when comparing both items of footwear can show telltale signs of problems with your walking pattern, something that might want to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Above the tread or outer is the midsole which should give the cushioning with flexible support that the boot (or shoe) provides.
Any damage to the midsole is a little like a hole in a dam in that it can start small but have the potential to spread leading to more and more loss of integrity.
Check for any compression of the midsole.
Cracks and Rips
Cracks in leather and ripped upper materials are sure signs of wear on the uppers of your hiking boots.
Aside from being aesthetically unappealing, this also can affect the proper even support your boots provide.
It can also lead to letting in water, mud and other detritus causing discomfort.
A less severe indicator to keep an eye on is the quality of your shoelaces. Frayed laces will not immediately affect your comfort but are a good indicator that your boots need some attention.
While the laces can and should be replaced on their own (who wants one to snap in the middle of a hike?), fraying can be a sign of other issues.
You have favorite laces that are fraying and want to fix the aglet – the bit at the end? Try this.
Among other things, eyelets and lace loops are in constant contact with your laces. Eyelets are the holes your laces pass through to keep your boots snug, and lace loops are the apparatuses that you can tie knots around.
Your shoes will fit looser if the loops loosen from the boot material or the eyelets stretch and grow. The solution? Likely a new pair but maybe by a different manufacturer or at least another model.
Loose laces, cracks in the midsole and upper leather, and worn treads all change the fit of your hiking boots and can lead to another significant sign that they need replacing: discomfort.
Once worn in, your shoes should be comfortable enough to wear for many hours over varying terrain. If they suddenly don’t feel as supportive or comfortable, inspect for any signs mentioned above.
Discomfort can be noted indoors or on pavement, but there are warnings to pay attention to on the trail as well. Even if your boots aren’t fully waterproof, they will likely be designed to keep out moisture underfoot.
Sudden Leaking or Sole Problems
If you notice sudden leaking, this could require repairs or new boots. Most boots are designed to maximize comfort and protect you from sharp objects like rocks and twigs.
If you are suddenly noticing more underfoot than usual, it’s time for a sole inspection.
How to Care for Your Boots
Most of our seven indicators do not mark the end of your boots on their own. Instead, they combine to render your shoes unwearable.
You can do a lot preventatively to increase your boots’ lifespan and keep them comfortable throughout.
Soles, leather, rubber, and eyelets/lace loops can all be repaired by a boot or shoe cobbler. Does anyone do that anymore?
It is up to you and them to determine whether replacing your boots altogether is a better alternative, but this is a cost-effective and less wasteful option for simple fixes.
Your local hardware or shoe store will have materials to keep on hand at home and prolong the life of your boots, such as:
- Waterproofing sprays
- Leather conditioners
A quick fix for frayed laces on the go is to tape them, thus protecting the fibers from scraping on eyelets or debris.
Disposing of Used Hiking Boots
So is it time for a new pair of boots? If your old ones are too worn to donate to a local clothing donation, several organizations have innovative solutions to shoe waste.
Nike grind is one of these organizations, using used shoe materials to make everything from playground surfaces to bicycle tires.
For more, we have an article on recycling sports shoes.
People Also Ask
Here are some frequently asked questions about hiking boots and trail shoes.
What are some acceptable hiking boot alternatives?
If you realize your boots have bitten the dust but have a hike lined up before you can replace them, here are some excellent hiking boot alternatives.
Some hikers find running shoes comfier than boots if you aren’t particular about water seepage.
This article includes affiliate links. If you choose to purchase any of the products we have discussed in this article, we may receive a small commission.
A happy medium may be versatile boots like Blundstones, which you can wear straight off the trail to dinner.
How long do trail shoes last?
Hiking shoes are another alternative to boots and tend to share a similar lifespan to regular running shoes.
The same can be said for trail shoes, which are more robustly constructed than runners but not as heavy-duty as traditional hiking boots. They can last several years with the proper care.
You can also try out a new trend, called a sneaker boot, which lasts longer than regular sneakers, and is heavy-duty like a boot.
To Sum (Lace) It Up
So, how long do hiking boots last? It depends on the care you give your shoes and whether you choose to replace them or fix them over time.
You now know what to check for when you’re curious about the state of your boots. The same should apply to your hiking shoes and trail shoes, though we have discussed their potential for a shorter lifespan.
Following these steps will keep your footwear lasting longer, so you can spend more time on the trail and less time shopping. Happy hiking!