When To Replace Hiking Boots

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Hiking boots are an essential piece of gear for all those who enjoy the trails. They can be expensive, yes, but they are worth every penny because of the comfort and protection they provide. We’ve put our boots through many miles, so we know the indicators of when to replace hiking boots, including the two biggest signs: discomfort that wasn’t there before and the overall look of the boot.

Become Uncomfortable To Wear

My number one factor for determining if I need a new pair of hiking boots is how they fit. Am I comfortable wearing them? Proper ankle support, arch support and new insoles should lead to a comfortable fit. If I’m experiencing sore feet or joint pain during or after any hike, I know something is off with my shoes.

Maybe I didn’t have them tied tight enough? Maybe I wore the wrong socks? Before jumping to the conclusion of buying new hiking boots, I’ll troubleshoot some different things to see if these fix the issue.

If not, then it’s time to consider a new pair. If you’re putting in hard miles on the trail, why would you wear something that’s causing you pain and discomfort. It’s true boots can be costly, but a quality pair will last a while and rid your body of preventable aches.

Boots becoming uncomfortable to wear is the first indication that something is breaking down. Look for the following things to determine if it’s time for new ones.

Overall Look Of The Boot

Once you begin to feel discomfort when wearing your boots, you then evaluate the overall look of the boot. It’s a “big picture” view of what they look like.

Yes, hiking boots are going to look dirty and muddy, but they should still look intact. There should be no sizable frays or loose material. They shouldn’t feel floppy and should hold their form when sitting there.

If you start to notice any of these, it’s time to look deeper into the issues. Focus on the specific areas covered and use the information to determine if it’s time to retire your current pair of boots.

Worn Out Tread Pattern

Tread is what gives you traction and grip on surfaces, and when your boots lose this you run the risk of slips and falls.

A brand new boot should have a very defined tread on the bottom. Depending on your walking posture and foot placement, certain areas will begin to wear out. Replace your hiking boots when they have a worn tread to keep yourself safe.

Loose Eyelets

Eyelets hold your laces to the leather, so as these become loose your laces won’t stay tight. This is going to cause your boots to loosen on your feet and may cause instability and even falls.

Frayed Laces

As your boots age, you’ll deal with worn laces. Laces are usually the least durable material on hiking boots, so you should see this happen once you rack up some good mileage.

Worn laces result in loose fitting boots and they start to come untied very easily. Frayed laces are also a lot more difficult to tie. However, laces can be replaced very quickly without replacing the entire boot. As long as they still feel good on your feet, keep them and just switch out the laces.

Cracked Midsoles

A cracked midsole is going to result in a lot of discomfort. You will see a noticeable difference in the level of comfort and support your boots provide when the midsole is compromised. When cracks begin to form in this area, your feet will get sore and blisters can form if you continue to wear them.

Ankle Collar Is Worn

The ankle collar is where your foot goes into the boot. It plays a role in ankle support so a good, strong collar is exactly what we need. Keep an eye out for wear and tear in this area as it will result in some serious discomfort and instability.

Usually there’s some cushioning on the back of the collar that runs along the Achilles to prevent rubbing. Unfortunately, this is what becomes worn, and when it does, it can be excruciating. Some of the worst blisters result of this on the back of the ankle. Do yourself a favor and get a new pair of hiking boots as soon as there’s wear in this area.

Loss Of Ankle Support

One of my important criteria for choosing a hiking boot is ankle support. Most of us like getting into more rugged terrain, but without solid ankle support it becomes a hazard. As your boots become worn, they will lose support. Your feet and ankles won’t feel as stable and you’ll notice a lot more movement of the material in the ankle area.

Lack Of Waterproofing

This is another obvious indicator of your hiking boot needing to be replaced. If you own boots that are waterproof, but they don’t do their job of keeping moisture and mud out then it may be time to get a new pair. The waterproofing on old boots can wear down to the point of being useless, so pay close attention to how dry your feet stay if you have waterproof boots.

There are ways to re-waterproof your hiking boots if they still feel comfortable and perform well, so don’t necessarily use this as the determining factor for getting new boots.

This is also less of a concern in dry climates as it’s not as difficult to keep your feet dry.That’s why this factor isn’t the most important, but definitely something to keep an eye on.

Total Mileage

Like all shoes, hiking boots have a useable lifespan. Once you cross that mileage threshold, it’s time to get another pair of boots. That limit seems to be somewhere between 500 and 1,000 miles of hiking before it’s time to trade them in. You high mileage hikers will have to do a lot more replacing.

To keep up with their usage, I like to track my miles while wearing my boots. I do the same thing with running shoes. Track how often you use them, and keep an eye out for some of the other signs of wear before replacing them. The miles are a baseline, so just because you hit 500 miles doesn’t mean it’s time to replace them. Check for the other signs and replace your boots when you notice them.

Boot Longevity: How Long Do Hiking Boots Last?

I know I mentioned 500-1,000 miles earlier, but there’s no one right answer to the question of how long hiking boots last. Many factors are going to play into how long your boots last. Boot brand will play a role as high quality boots like Saloman and Merrill are going to last significantly longer than an off-brand.

You also have to look as the type of hiker you are. Are you the casual, every couple months kind or hardcore, get after it every weekend type? Obviously, the more you hike, the more often you’ll need to replace your hiking boots.

The types of trails you do will also affect how quickly your boots break down. Rocky terrain and wet elements are going to break down the materials much quicker than flat, dry trails.

The length of time your boots will last depends entirely on these factors, which is why I use comfort and feel first, then the overall look of the boot to determine if it’s time to consider a new pair.

Cheap vs. Expensive Boots

One of the first things you’ll ask yourself when buying hiking boots is how much should I spend. This is completely a personal choice, but there is something to be said about spending for quality. For the quality brands you’ll definitely pay over $100, in my opinion, it’s entirely worth it.

If your concern is comfort, support, and longevity, one of these quality, reputable brands like Saloman or Oboz should be your choice. Cheap boots are easy on the wallet, but they are usually low quality and don’t hold up long term to the demanding activity of hiking. If there’s one thing to spend on, I really think it’s a good pair of hiking boots.

Proper Care Of Hiking Boots

Okay, so you just bought quality, brand new hiking boots, now you need to maintain and care for them. Here’s some things you can do to make them last and repair minor damage:

  • Store them in a dry, indoor area.
    • If you’ve recently used them, let them air out or dry of all the moisture before storing them.
  • Don’t forget to clean them after use. Leaving mud caked on there will cause them to wear down faster.
  • Keep up with replacements of laces and insoles when they’re needed. These will breakdown before new boots are needed.
  • Before extensive use, make sure your boots are broke in properly to avoid soreness and prevent blisters.

How To Pick New Hiking Boots

When looking for new boots, here’s what should be considered:

Comfortable Fit: The most important factor. Try the boots on and make sure they fit your feet well. Certain brands will fit better than other. Check out our guide on hiking boot sizing.

Ankle Support: I prefer higher boots that provide good support. If you want low tops, go for it.

Waterproof: This is really going to depend on preference and the climate you’re in. If you do your hiking in wetter regions and want to keep your feet dry, go with waterproof boots. Dry climates make it less of a necessity; however, they’re more versatile that non-waterproof boots.

Lightweight: Boots that don’t weigh a ton are going to make your life easier on long hikes. You won’t be as weighed down and fatigue will take longer to set in.

Good tread: Make sure your new hiking boots have a well defined tread. Try them on and test out how they grip the ground.

Brand: This is going to tell you the overall quality of the hiking boots. The better brands build quality footwear. You can’t go wrong with them.

Price: You should consider what works for you. You don’t have to get the most expensive ones, but find your price point and get something quality that is worth the price. Like I said, hiking boots are the most important thing I consider spending on.

Final Thoughts On When To Replace Hiking Boots

Hiking boots are one of the most important pieces of hiking gear, which is why they need to be performing at their best every hike.

If your boots are causing you pain or look visibly worn down it may be time to consider new ones. Keep an eye on the other telltale signs that indicate when it’s time to replace hiking boots.