Expert Advice: How to Waterproof Hiking Boots

You would be forgiven to think that because modern boots are now treated with Durable Water Repellent that you don’t need to treat them. To a certain extent, that is true. Your boots will stay waterproof for a reasonable length of time. The only problem is it won’t last.

When the water starts to soak into the leather and through to your sock, you will have a choice to make: Either you buy a new boot, or you start waterproofing your current one. Most people choose the latter. There can be fewer things more relevant to you as a hiker than a pair of hiking boots you are already comfortable walking in.

How to Choose the Right Treatment

Your best option is to talk to a specialist at a specialist hiking store. They should be able to tell you the best treatment for your boots. Alternatively, you can contact the boot’s maker. They may be able to offer you their treatment specific to their brand, or the most expert advice.

Two things you need to remember, Firstly waxing is now rarely used as a treatment. It tends to damage the hiking boots adhesive qualities, particularly if you need to resole your boot at a later date. Secondly, most treatments are aimed at leather and rough leather shoes only. Below are eight steps you should be taking to waterproof your hiking boots.

The Preparation

  • Put some newspaper down to prevent the treatment from dripping from the boots to the floor.
  • Remove your boot’s laces. First, it will make the boot’s easier to clean and second any liquid that drips onto the laces can potentially weaken them.
  • Clean the surface of any grit and dust with either a brush or a cloth. Don’t use a stiff brush as it will scratch and therefore weaken the surface of the boot.
  • Wipe the boot further with a damp cloth and leave it to dry. It shouldn’t take more than ten minutes.

Treating Your Boot

  • Wet your boots thoroughly. You will find this take a lot longer then you would expect so the best method is to fill a bowl with water and keep applying the water to the shoe with a cloth until the leather is wet through. An easier, but more time-consuming method is to wrap the shoe in a wet towel and leave for an hour or two on the side.
  • Read the treatment instructions carefully. Pay particular attention to what you shouldn’t do and places you shouldn’t apply the treatment. In general, you should not apply waterproofing treatment to gore-tex.
  • Apply the treatment with a dry cloth and according to the instructions.
  • Leave the boots to dry off.


Don’t rush the application of the treatment or the drying of the shoe. It is essential that the treatment has time to absorb into the material. Before you use the shoes again, make sure you test the shoe out under the tap. If the treatment has worked, the water should just drip off. If the water soaks into the shoe, you should think about buying a different waterproofing treatment.

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