Critical care

Critical care

In summer I tend to use a lightweight boot or trail shoe. However, in winter I prefer a heavier leather boot. With winter approaching it was time to clean my boots and get them ready for the trails. I often walk in nearby Delta Park early in the morning and like the leather’s ability to repel water from dew and frost.

Maintenance is key to durability. One spends a good deal on a pair of boots and, if correctly cared for, they will stand you in good stead and last many years. 

Retail stores do offer cleaning kits but over the years I have assembled my own through trial and error. I begin with a variety of cleaning cloths cut from an old t-shirt and use a clean cloth for each step of the process. I begin by removing the laces which I wash separately. The boots are then brushed briskly with a brush to remove excess dirt and then wiped with a damp cloth paying attention to the sole rims and toe guards. While the boot is still damp, I apply a leather cleaner with a damp cloth and work it into the leather – paying special attention to the folds on the tongue as well as the lace grommets as these areas attract dirt. After cleaning the boot, take a clean cloth and remove the cleaner. I then leave the boots in the shade for a day to dry before the next steps.

The next day begins with the application of a conditioner. This will add a shine to the boot and, if applied regularly, will extend the life of the boot as well. You will thus not need to waterproof them as often. I also do this with new boots, as they have been boxed in a warehouse and stored in a storeroom before being sold so they will be dry. You get various conditioners, but I have settled on one brand which I have used over many years. I once again apply it with a clean cloth. There is no need to work it in as the leather naturally absorbs the conditioner over time. Simply coat the whole boot evenly. It may look darker than normal after applying the conditioner. I then leave the boot for a few hours before removing the conditioner.

The final step will be to waterproof the boot. The conditioner does this to some extent, but it’s always good to finish with a waterproof coating. This can be old-style beeswax, liquid wax or a silicone spray. Silicone is the easiest, but it is not as durable as the wax options. I opt for silicone as I find the waxes attract dust which is difficult to get off the boot when outdoors. The silicone is thinner, and this allows my boots to breathe. Simply apply the silicone directly onto the boot and work it in evenly. Before applying the silicone, you can warm the leather with a hair drier. Leave the boots for an hour and then apply a second coat. Afterwards, remove any residue with a clean cloth. The last step is to buff the boots, with a medium to hard brush. Buff the boots in a striking motion until they have a sheen to them. You can then re-lace them and they are now trail ready.

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