Hiking boots are going to make or break your experience on the trail which is why it is important to know just how long they are going to last. Welcome to the “Comprehensive Guide on How Long New Hiking Boots Last.”
The right pair of new boots can mean the difference between conquering peaks and nursing sore feet. This guide aims to give you the knowledge you need to extend your boots’ lifespan and know when you need to pick your next pair.
We will look at the factors that impact boot longevity, types of boots for specific needs, and how to recognize wear and tear. Lastly, I’ll look at proper boot maintenance and highlight brands known for their durability. Whether you’re an avid hiker or new to the game, this guide ensures your trek is comfortable and safe.
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How Long Do New Hiking Boots Last?
New hiking boots are going to last 500 miles if properly taken care of and used on moderate terrain.
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee for how long a pair of new hiking boots will last.
However, there are things you as a consumer can consider when purchasing your boots that can determine how long new hiking boots will last. You can also increase their lifespan with proper maintenance and have realistic expectations for their lifespan based on how you use them and the type of sure you purchase.
This guide covers it all!
Factors Affecting How Long New Hiking Boots Last
The lifespan of your new hiking boots is impacted by several factors. Understanding these variables can help you make an informed decision about the type of boots you purchase and how to maximize their usage.
Frequency of Use
The more you hike, the quicker your boots will wear out. Frequent use results in higher impact on your boots resulting in more strain and causing them to break down over time. While this doesn’t mean you should avoid hiking, it’s essential to be aware that frequent hikers will need to replace their new hiking boots more often.
Terrain plays a significant role in boot longevity. Different terrains can cause various types of stress to your boots.
- Rugged and Rocky Terrain: Rocky trails can potentially reduce the life span of your boots by causing abrasion.
- Dirt Trail: On the other hand, a well-maintained dirt trail will be easier on your boots and can extend their life.
The type of terrain is something you’re not going to avoid, but depending on the type of terrain that is most common in the area you’re hiking in, it could have an impact on how frequently you need to replace your boots.
Hiking with a heavy load while backpacking can accelerate wear and tear. The added weight puts more pressure on your boots, especially the soles and midsoles.
If you’re a backpacker this factor is essential to consider when evaluating the longevity of your boots. You might be purchasing new hiking boots more frequently due to the added strain.
The materials your boots are made of significantly influence how long new hiking boots last.
Two common materials are:
- Leather Boots: These are known for their durability and can withstand harsh trail conditions. Properly maintained leather boots can last a long time. However, they do require extra care.
- Synthetic Boots: While lighter and more affordable, synthetic boots may not last as long as their leather counterparts. Regardless of their shorter lifespan, they are excellent for specific situations.
Quality and Build of the Boot
While this factor can be tough to assess, the way your boot is built matters.
High-quality boots are constructed to withstand the rigors of the trail. If the materials used are also high quality, the boots will additionally withstand the wear and tear of heavy use. Boots with solid construction, reinforced stitching, and quality materials tend to last much longer than boots without.
If purchasing a boot online, read reviews!
Proper Care and Maintenance
The most crucial aspect of extending the life of your hiking boots is proper care and maintenance. Cleaning, conditioning, and protecting your boots can significantly increase their lifespan. In the upcoming sections, I share the best practices for preserving the conditions of your boots to ensure they serve you well for years to come.
In the next section, we will look at the different types of hiking shoes, what types of shoes are available, what shoe is best for each type of terrain and condition, and the longevity of each.
Types of Hiking Shoes
When it comes to picking a type of hiking shoe, there are countless options and each addresses a specific need to hike on a particular type of terrain or serve a particular purpose.
Choosing the right shoe for your specific need is going to be essential in elevating your hiking experience. Whether you’re trying to buy your first pair of new hiking boots or replace an old pair, here are some options!
Increasing in popularity in the more recent years amongst weekend warrior hikers, trail runners have been a long-time favorite amongst long-distance thru-hikers.
Designed for speed and agility on the trail, they are lightweight and typically less durable than other types of boots.
They are a better choice for shorter hikes and well-maintained trails if you’re concerned about longevity.
Synthetic Hiking Boots
Synthetic hiking boots are often lighter than leather boots.
Think of synthetic hiking boots as a blend between trail runners and boots. While they may not be as durable as leather boots, they have the perks of being lightweight.
Some lightweight boots have a waterproof boot option as well. Waterproofing can add additional weight and leave your feet feeling sweaty in the fall.
These boots are moderately durable. They are a great option for new hikers looking for their first new pair of hiking boots.
Leather boots are known for their exceptional durability. They can handle rugged, rocky, and harsh terrains.
These boots require proper care for them to be worth the extra cost of the high-quality materials.
Leather boots might become scuffed by sharp rocks, but you don’t need to worry about fabric ripping.
Leather boots are significantly heavier than other boot options and are not ideal for thru-hikes.
Best Hiking Boots for Specific Terrains
When selecting the best, new hiking boots for yourself you need to consider the terrain and conditions you will be hiking in most regularly. This will increase how long your new hiking boots will last.
- Rocky Terrain: For rocky terrain, leather boots offer durability and ankle support.
- Wet Conditions: Waterproof boots are necessary for wet and muddy conditions. Most leather and Synthetic Hiking Boots have waterproof boot options.
- Well-Maintained Trails: Lightweight boots, synthetic boots, and trail runners all work well on well-maintained trails. They will not wear out as quickly as they would on rocky terrain.
In the next section, we will look at how to recognize signs of wear and tear on your hiking boots. This will help you determine when it’s time to replace them.
Signs of Wear and Tear on Hiking Boots
Even the best hiking boots will eventually succumb to the trail. As an avid hiker, I replace my hiking boots about every year.
In this section, I will share some of the telltale signs that your hiking boots may be reaching the end of the trail life. Recognizing these signs will help you make informed decisions on when to consider replacing them. Who doesn’t love a trip to REI for new hiking boots, anyways?
Worn-Out Soles and Insoles
Appearance: The soles have flattened treads and have minimal gripping ability on terrain. Insoles have reduced cushioning. Both can make your feet feel more sore by the end of a trail they wouldn’t normally feel sore after.
Causes: Soles can wear down with frequent use on abrasive terrain like gravel and rocky trails. Insoles can degrade overtime with constant wear and this can be accelerated by carrying a heavy pack while backpacking.
Loose Eyelets and Lacing Loops
Appearance: The eyelets may rip out of the hole in your boot. This happens more frequently with the eyelets near the top of your boot.
Causes: This can happen by regularly tightening your laces. The regular friction from the laces can weaken these parts of your boot over time.
Appearance: A cracked midsole usually occurs right behind the ball of your foot. The crack runs perpendicular across your shoe and usually splits clean through the sole of your boot.
Causes: Cracked midsoles can occur with intense frequent use on rough terrain. It is also common with boots that have dried out from UV radiation and are susceptible to cracking.
Visible Compression Lines
Appearance: Compression lines occur with repeat use. These lines can occur surrounding the toe box and will decrease the stress-absorbing capabilities of the shoe. If the lines and creases are significant it compromises the boot. I will share how to test this in a later section.
Causes: Compression lines indicate that the midsole, which is important for shock absorption, has thinned. This occurs over time with regular wear.
Toe Cap and Protective Rand Damage
Appearance: Damage to toe caps and protective rands (protective cover in front of the toe) will show scuffs and occasional tears. A toe cap, if glued onto the boot, can begin to peel off if left in hot conditions for extended periods or if extremely old.
Causes: Toe Caps and Rands are most commonly damaged from brushing against rocks and other rough surfaces.
In the section to follow, I will share tips for proper care and maintenance of your hiking boots! This could help extend the life of your new hiking boots now that you can recognize wear and tear.
New Hiking Boot Maintenance
The best way to increase the longevity of your new hiking boots is taking proper care of them. While a boot company might predict that their shoes will last from anywhere between 500 to 1,000 miles, how you take care of them will have a significant impact on the accuracy of that number. In this section I will share some tips and tricks for how to extend the life of your hiking boots with proper maintenance.
Cleaning Your Boots
Properly cleaning your hiking boots after a hike is essential for removing dirt that can cause damage. To clean your boots, follow these steps:
- Remove loose dirt: Knock your boots together to dislodge loose dirt and debris. You should do this at the trailhead. (this also deters transporting invasive plants to another trail)
- Brush off debris: Use a brush to remove dirt from crevices.
- Wash with warm water: Using a damp cloth or sponge clean the exterior of the boots with warm water. There is no need for harsh chemicals.
- Dry Properly: allow your boots to air dry naturally. Do not expose them to direct sunlight or heat sources. A warm area with good air circulation will work well. Remember, excessive heat can damage leather and synthetic materials.
Doing a deep clean of your boots is not necessary after every hike especially if you use them frequently. Consider cleaning them off after they’ve gotten particularly dirty or before storing them for a longer period of time. Cleaning your boots regularly can also help remove any transferable seeds, animal, or plant material which will help stop the spread of invasive species.
Leather Conditioner and Waterproofing
Leather boots require special care to maintain their durability. When not properly maintained the leather can become dry and cracked.
When applying leather conditioner, it is important to apply it based on the directions of the brand you are choosing to use.
Drying Boots Properly
Drying boots properly is crucial in preventing damage and maintaining their shape. Here are two of the most popular methods and how to do it:
- Air Drying: The most gentle, effective, and time-consuming method is air drying. Remove the insoles and laces so you can fully open to boots up. This will allow air circulation into the boot. Place them in a dry, well-ventilated area. Screened-in porches work great for this if you can withstand the smell.
- Newspaper: If your boots are soaking wet, stuff them with newspaper to absorb moisture. Avoid using colored newspapers to reduce color seepage.
Remember: Direct heat sources like hair dryers and heaters can cause damage to leather and synthetic materials. One time I even melted the sole of my hiking boot because it was too close to a fire and I wasn’t even trying to dry them…oops.
Storing Boots in a Dry Place
After your boots have been cleaned, storing them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight will increase their longevity. Avoid keeping them in your car, a moist basement, a humid attic, or places in which mold could grow on them. Before storage, make sure they are completely dry.
When deciding if you need to replace your boots the best way to check quality is to complete the press test. This involves putting pressure on the midsole of your shoe which is the main shock absorber. If the midsole has significant give or feels soft, it might be time for a new pair of boots.
You can additionally press the toe box upwards to look for signs of creasing along the sides of your boots that might be causing cracking or damage to the material or stitching holding your boot together. If when you press the toe box upward, it does not immediately bounce back, it has lost some of the shock absorbing spring that helps protect and cushion your feet on the trail.
Replacing Worn-Out Insoles
Insoles are an easy part of your hiking boot that you can replace after it has gotten worn out over time. If you notice that the insole has reduced cushioning and support, but the rest of your boot is still in relatively good condition, you can just replace the insole.
Many hikers will replace the insole of their hiking boots with a higher quality insole more shaped to their foot when they purchase a new pair of boots anyway.
Superfeet Insoles are an extremely popular insole option for hiking boots because of their added cushion and support!
Even by following just a few of these steps, the life of your boots can be increased significantly. In the next section I will share some guidance on how to pick the best hiking boot for your specific needs.
How to Choose the Right, New Hiking Boot
Selecting the perfect pair of hiking boots is a big decision. It took me years to settle on a pair of boots that worked for me and even now I just sized up a half size this past hiking season for the perfect fit. To help you make an informed choice, Here are some things to consider when picking your new hiking boots.
Consider the Most Common Terrain Type
The type of terrain you plan on hiking on is a critical factor when choosing hiking boots.
Living in the Pacific Northwest I know a lot of the terrain I am going to come across will be rocky, but someone hiking in the Midwest might come across more dirt trails.
Matching Your Foot Shape and Size
While this seems like a no brainer, hiking boots fit and wear completely differently from normal shoes. They’re more rigid and built to give optimal support for your ankle.
Foot Shape: Different boots are designed for people with wider feet and higher arches. At the same time, others fit more snugly in the toe box. Alta Trail Runners are notoriously known for their wide toe box.
Size: Try your boots on with hiking socks. Thick, wool hiking socks could add a half size to your hiking boot size. Additionally, consider that after a long day on the trail, your feet will likely swell.
Brands and Style Options
The market is saturated with reputable hiking boot brands, each with a variety of styles. How do you even choose a good pair of boots?
- Reputable Brands: If you’re new to buying hiking boots, I suggest going to an outdoor store that can provide you with individualized advice. Well-regarded and known brands include Merrell, Oboz, Lowa, Solomon, Danner, Columbia, and Keen.
- Style Options: Consider what you will be doing. Each of the brands above has a variety of style options from lightweight boots, waterproof boots, hiking shoes, winter boots, and trail runners. Try on a variety of styles to figure out what feels good to you!
Quality vs. Budget Considerations
Balancing quality and budget is a common topic of conversation. As always, don’t let gear keep you from accessing the outdoors. I can’t tell you how many hikes I’ve done in a pair of tennis shoes. However, if the trail is dangerous in tennis shoes, please hike at your own risk.
- Investment in Quality: High-quality boots may cost more initially but they are built to provide long-term value. Which means that they might outlast a budget option once or twice over. Investing in quality can prevent the need to continuously replace worn-out boots that were made with cheaper materials.
- Budget-Friendly Options: If you are on a budget, find a mid-range option with good reviews. They might not be top-tier boots, but they will still be of substantial quality. I will give a list of budget-friendly hiking boot options below.
Choosing the right hiking boots for you and your hiking situation can be a tough process. Balancing quality and budget can make it even more challenging. But by making a short list of what you want in a hiking shoe, it will be easier to narrow down your choices and find something that works for you!
In the next section, I will share some of my favorite brands that are known for having a long trail life!
New Hiking Boots with Long Trail Lives
In this section I am going to introduce you to several renowned brands with a reputation for durability and longevity on the trail. The boots mentioned in this section are just a sample of what each brand has to offer, but each of the selections are outstanding for several of the factors that people look for in a hiking boot, whether that is budget-friendly, lightweight, waterproof, leather, or a combination.
Lowa Footwear is an exceptional brand with innovative boots. The Renegade GTX Mid Boot is built for a tough trail and made for comfort. These boots were designed for day hikes and lightweight backpacking for increased longevity.
Merrell Moab hiking boots are an extremely popular hiking shoe because of their versatility amongst various types of hikes. They are known for their comfort and easy break-in period. With both a high-top and low-top option, you can determine your desired need for ankle support, which is not always common amongst specific styles of hiking boots.
Made of both leather and mesh, the Merrell Moab boats also happen to be waterproof!
Oboz are my favorite choice of hiking boots and I have been wearing them for years. Known for the guarantee of 500 plus miles of wear and tear, the Oboz Bridgers are waterproof leather boots that can handle any rocky or muddy terrain you throw on them. Oboz Boots can withstand the challenges and have remained a reliable choice for years.
La Sportiva is known for creating footwear specifically for the terrain each piece of gear will be utilizing. These hiking boots are lightweight, durable, and waterproof. My sister refuses to wear a different pair of hiking boots. This brand is synonymous with quality. If you’re looking for long-lasting quality boots, these are it.
If you would prefer trail runners, Altra Lone Peak Trail Runners offer an impressive combination of durability and comfort. While trail runners do tend to wear out faster, these shoes are also lightweight and can handle extended hikes and challenging terrains.
Danner’s have to be the most iconic, highly recognized hiking boot on the market. The Danner brand is known for producing high-quality, durable hiking boots with a long trail life. These boots will remain comfortable after years on the trail without their construction becoming compromised with heavy use. Originally constructed to be used by loggers, these boots were built to withstand harsh conditions.
A phenomenal budget-friendly option that can withstand the conditions of the trail are the Columbia Newton Ridge Hiking boots. These boots are waterproof and lightweight. They also come in a wide size for people looking for a more comfortable fitting shoe. As a budget-friendly boot, these are just as functional and high quality as the ones listed above.
Now let’s talk about hiking boot lifespan expectations.
New Hiking Boot Lifespan Expectation
Now that we have looked at the factors that cause wear and tear on hiking boots, how to increase the lifespan of your hiking boots, and some of the best quality boots on the market, here is how long you can expect your hiking boots to last.
Estimate of How Long Different Types of New Hiking Boots Last
Different types of hiking shoes are going to vary in longevity. Here is a general estimate for what you can expect for each of the three major types:
- Trail Runners: Trail runners are lightweight and agile but tend to have a shorter lifespan. They typically last between 300 and 500 miles.
- Leather Boots: High-quality leather boots that are well maintained can last between 500 to 1,000 miles or more.
- Synthetic Boots: Synthetic boots age similarly to trail runners and typically range from 300 to 600 miles.
This mileage is based on averages. While some people will wear a hiking boot longer than the mileage range the integrity of the boot is usually diminished within that range.
In the debate between higher quality, more expensive boots, and cheaper, wallet-friendly options, the longevity factor plays a significant role. While a higher quality boot might cost more upfront, it will likely outlast a cheaper boot that would need to be replaced more frequently with wear.
Occasional Hiker vs. Avid Hiker
The length of ownership rarely has an impact on boot integrity if properly stored. This is why when the question, “How long do hiking boots last” is asked, the answer is given in miles rather than years.
For an avid hiker, part of the cost of the hobby is replacing hiking boots. Whereas a hiking backpack or trekking poles will last years, hiking boots will last based on the number of miles walked. Just between June and September, I end up hiking around 500 miles, so investing in a pair of leather boots makes sense for me.
For an occasional hiker, who goes on a couple of hikes a year they could purchase a more budget-friendly option that will last them years.
People with a preference for trail runners have an understanding that they might need to be replaced sooner than hiking boots, especially with heavy use on rugged trails.
TLDR; How Long New Hiking Boots Last
When it comes to new hiking boots, here are some things to consider:
- Choose the right type of boot for your terrain
- Get the perfect fit based on your foot shape
- Consider reputable brands like Lowa, Merrell, and Danners
- Balance quality and budget for your best investment.
Average Lifespan of New Hiking Boost:
- 300 – 500 miles for Trail Runners & Synthetic Boots
- 500 – 1,000 miles for High-Quality Leather Boots
- Will need to replace their boots more often
- Should take care of and clean their hiking boots to increase longevity
- Store your boots in a cool, dry area to minimize sun damage and prevent mold growth
Understanding these insights could help you pick new hiking boots that meets your needs on the trail.