Hiking shoes are made to roll in the dirt. That said, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to clean them. Leaving your shoes to soak in grime and dirt will promote bacterial and fungal growth. Keeping your shoes clean and dry after a hike will ensure that they last longer before you have to replace them. A well-kept pair of hiking shoes will also maintain good traction on the trail to help you travel further with less energy.
It is recommended to follow your shoe manufacturer’s washing instructions if there is one. That said, here are some helpful tips on how to clean your hiking shoes.
Cleaning the upperIt is common for the upper of your hiking shoes to look like an abstract painting after a good long hike. Dirt, mud, foliage and the occasional animal poo will stick to your shoes. Cleaning the upper is vital to maintaining the integrity of its material and breathability.
- Remove the laces to give you better access to the nooks and crannies of your shoes. Wash the laces with soap and water and examine them for wear and tear.
- Remove dirt and mud deposits from the shoe upper by brushing them gently with a soft brush. If there are stubborn dirt deposits, resist the temptation to scrub harder because you may damage your shoes if you do. Instead you should rinse the affected area with water and continue brushing lightly until the dirt deposits fall off. For hard-to-get areas, you can use a toothbrush.
Cleaning the outsoleThe outsole of your shoes is what gives you grip and traction. It is also your first line of defence against rough terrain and sharp objects on the ground e.g. rocks, glass, litter.
- Remove any small stones that may have gotten stuck.
- Rinse or hose off any dirt or mud.
Cleaning the insideThe insides of your hiking shoes are constantly absorbing the sweat from your feet. It can be a nasty breeding ground for bacteria if not cleaned. If your hiking shoes are made of leather, the salt build-up from your sweat may cause the leather to crack.
- Remove the insoles and give them a good wash with soap. Some insoles are even machine washable so you can save yourself some effort. Leave them to air dry.
- Soak the inside of your shoe with warm water for a few hours to dissolve the salt. Pour away the water and air dry your shoes away from direct sunlight. To speed up the drying process, wipe the inside of your hiking shoes with an absorbent kitchen paper towel.
Cleaning mildew and mouldMildew and mould growing on your shoes is a common occurrence in high-humidity places like Singapore.
- To remove mildew and mould from your hiking shoes, mix 1-part water with 1-part vinegar and rinse the affected areas while brushing lightly.
- Avoid mildew and mould growth by storing your shoes in a dry and well-ventilated space.
Cleaning out the smellThe mixture of bacteria and sweat from your feet can create an unpleasant odour inside your hiking shoes.
- To get rid of the smell, pour some baking soda into your shoes and let it sit overnight to absorb the smell before emptying it out. If you don’t like the insides of your shoes to feel powdery the next time you wear them, you can stuff your shoes with clean socks that are filled with baking soda.