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PostPosted: Thu Jul 30, 2009 5:00 pm 
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I've noticed many threads about picking out the right pair of boots, and none about what to do with them once you've got them. I've also noticed that a lot of people in general buy a nice pair of boots, take them out of the box, and then wear them until they fall apart a few years later and then buy another pair of nice boots.

This is wrong. A good pair of boots can, barring destruction via some unusual event, last longer than you will, and it's really very easy to do your part to make that happen - very simple things, like shoe polish and mink oil.

Now, part of the problem is that a "good" pair of boots might not be. A lot of high speed ultra high tech boots are built more like tennis shoes than boots. I will call them "tennis boots". They feel better side-by-side to a solid pair of "real" boots in the store since the "real" boots aren't broken in, and the tennis boots aren't nearly as tough or durable. Look for solid leather uppers, thick metal grommets for the laces, quadruple stitching, and multiple layers in high-wear areas. If you can find them, a great boot is the Timberland "Pro Series". I've got a pair older than most peoples' cars and they take me anywhere I need to go.

I'll get off my soapbox and get onto the point - properly conditioning and caring for your boots. This is two parts - breaking them in, and waxing them.

First off, you'll want to break your boots in before you worry about anything else. Breaking in a pair of boots goes miles and miles towards a long serviceable life, not to mention comfort and ergonomics. If they are solid leather construction with replaceable soles and triple or quad stitching between the panels, this might take a while. I suggest wearing them every other day until they're comfortable and you have some good seams starting to appear where the toe bends when you walk. One of the most important things about properly breaking in a pair of boots is to have them laced properly! These boots are eventually going to almost mold to your feet, so start the process early. Take the extra thirty seconds every time you put them on to adjust every row of laces to make sure they're even and snug, but not football-lace tight. Eventually you won't need to do this, because, like I said, the boots will take the shape you form them into. Now, onto the waxing.

Once you start to see some good seams and "rub marks" near the corners of the tongue where the lace strips touch, and the factory sheen is off the leather, you're probably ready for the first waxing. There are a lot of miracle products on the market that do all kinds of crazy stuff, but there's a reason they still sell good old fashioned shoe polish in an age of aerosolized pore sealers and polyacrylate surface treatments. Good old-fashioned shoe wax protects the leather from salt and moisture better than anything else, and is almost self-maintaining after you've done it a few times. It doesn't dry out the leather - on the contrary, it keeps it "live". If you have brown boots, get some neutral shoe polish. Black boots, black shoe polish. I recommend Kiwi polish, the original formula, not parade gloss.

Use your horsehair brush to dry-scrub the boot before polishing - you'll want to get any dust out of crevices and cracks and hard-to-reach spots. Pop open a can of the appropriate color polish and apply it all over the boot. One of the best ways to apply polish is to open the can and set the surface of the polish on fire. There will be a good sized flame and a lot of soot, so be aware of that before you do it. Once the flame has spread across the whole surface, let it melt and warm the lower layers, then extinguish it by putting the lid back on the tin. Use a washcloth or old teeshirt to soak up the liquid wax and rub it onto the boot.

You'll probably notice the leather drinking up the polish - this is a good thing. Get all leather surfaces, paying special attention to any seams, especially where the leather meets the sole. You don't want to end up with a boot-shaped candle, but don't be stingy. When you're done applying wax, get out the horsehair brush again and buff it down. You aren't trying to shine your boot (you can do that later if you want), you're trying to do two things: make sure that there isn't extra wax on the surface and also work the wax deep into the grain of the leather. If you do decide you want to polish your boots, don't use any super miracle polish-like products, or anything you apply with a sponge - just plain old polish.

Now let your boots sit for a few hours before you lace them back up. Repeat the whole process about once a month if you wear them every day, maybe more often if you slog through a lot of muck or salt slush. After a few rounds of this, you won't have to do it as much, and you'll have a better eye and feel for when you should. Most of the time just running your by-now slighty waxy brush over them should be enough to take care of any scuffs or dings. Keep an eye on the soles and have them resoled when they start to get thin. Resoling costs about $10-15 and takes an hour or less.

It really is that simple!


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 9:26 am 
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Good Advice. But I prefer some alternate products beside Kiwi Polish. I use the Original Australian Leather Seal for most of my leather goods (boots and saddles). It's beeswax with eucalyptus oil which prevents mold. Doesn't rot the stitching either. It's pricey but so is a good saddle.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 10:10 am 
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Good writeup... it is indeed important to take care of your boots. I have tried both wax and other products. I like the kiwi polish for black leathers and Dr. Martens Wonder Shoe Balsam for natural leathers. However, this doesn't help my boots "outlast me". I have gone through probably 4-5 pairs of work boots in the 12 years I have been wearing them. The leather /stitching is never the weak link for me. This is the order in which my boots fall apart:

1. Fabric Lining: This always seems to be the first thing to go... in a matter of a couple of months to maybe a year. The lining separates from the leather outer exposing rough seems and making the boot uncomfortable. This problem tends to start and the heel and up were the steel cap begins on steel toes.

2. Soles: I tend to roll my feet to the outside and this puts hell on the soles. After 2-3 years of daily wear the sole will be so uneven I can't comfortably walk on it. I've had soles replaced, but they never feel the same again and in combination with problem #1, this is usually when i replace the boots.

2. Toes: toes get cut to hell. This is especially a problem with steel toes, but soft toes go this way too. Things like sheet metal and bricks make deep cuts in the leather. wax patches these up, but eventually the toe will have so many deep gashes that it will fail no matter how well it is oiled. I've only had one pair fail this way, but I'm thinking of going with a boot that has a rubber toe for this reason.

Now maybe I am not picking the best quality boots, but they are always in the $120-$200 range and appear to be of quality manufacture. I don't have a huge degree of flexibility in my boot choice because I have a very wide foot (4E). Most manufacturers are moving away from the lettered width sizing and only offering standard (usually D sometimes C) and wide (usually EE but sometimes E). This vastly narrows my choices so I can't be too picky about the stitching or any of that stuff. I find a boot that looks decent, is sized very wide and seems decently well made and this is all I can hope for. I'll usually spend a whole day trying on every boot in town and end up with 2 choices that actually fit.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 3:52 pm 
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TTUShad:

You may want to see about having your work boots double-capped - just have another piece of leather added over the toe of the shoe. You can even do it yourself with very basic supplies - leather, a razor knife, and rubber cement. Make a paper template of the toe of your boot, then trace it onto the leather and cut and trim with the razor knife. Then you'll want to rough the toe of the boot and the backside of the cap, and bond with rubber cement. You can get all of the supplies you need from Tandy Leather - http://www.tandyleatherfactory.com/

The fabric lining shredding isn't something I've ever really encountered, my guess is that your feet are just too big! It's something you could probably check for and keep at bay with a product like Fray Stop or liquid stitch.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 6:06 pm 
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I've been using this stuff for 10 years now:
http://www.obenaufs.com/lp.php?osCsid=b ... 6716f894a9

I've posted about it often too. I still use Kiwi on my dress shoes were color is important but my out door boots get the Obenauf's LP stuff. I use it heavily on my current Vasques I bought in 2004.

Don't forget to clean them suckers too.

Like my Dad and many others taught me - buy a pair of $250 boots once.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2009 7:47 pm 
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Great thread, I have always wondered when someone would start a boot care topic on here.

I try to do my boots once a week, and this was motivation to get started again. I normally use plain black kiwi, and sometimes a little parade gloss on top before inspection.

I also have the toecap issue that TTUShad mentioned as well as the sole wear from walking duckfooted, and therefore will always have to replace boots eventually.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 02, 2009 6:59 am 
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I wore a pair of Corcoran II Boots every day for 6 years. I retired them because I had worked a hold through the leather near wear you toe flexes. I would polish them with kiwi shoe polish, a heat gun, a old cotton t-shirt, and a little water cut with rubbing alcohol(so the water evaporates and doesn't leave spots).

I just broke in a pair of jungle boots a few weeks ago for a canoe camping trip. I bought them probably about a year or two ago when after the Army went to desert boots. Found them at a thrift store near a base for like $6. Almost brand new.

Step 1
Strip all all the manufacturer's "polish" off (or any shoe polish left from its prior owner).

Step 2
Lather up the leather on the boots with Saddle Soap. And wear boots in HOT shower.
(If you can, wear them wet around the house or to get the mail etc to help break them in.)

Step 3
Dry boots by toweling off and stuffing with newpaper or paper towels over night.

Step 4
Put a thick coat of neatsfoot oil on leather, replenish after leather drinks the oil in. Repeat for several days.
(alternately place boots in bucket of neatsfoot oil for 24 hours or so, so that only the leather is covered)

Step 5
Break in the boots by wearing them. Do this before you will be hiking in them.


This is only for "field boots" as you will not be able to get boot polish to stick to the leather after using neatsfoot oil. The neatsfoot oil will soften the leather and waterproof it.

Now all I need to do is remove the heel cap, toe cap, and steel shank. And resole it to somthing better than the standard sole.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 02, 2009 8:05 am 
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Any advice for the suede-ish boots we get in the Army these days? Somehow I don't think polish, wax, or oil is a good idea on them. I'd especially like to know how to take care of the cloth portion...

The ones I've got now are the same kinds I was issued in BCT, and I've had no problems with them (well, first pair had a barb in the right heel that tore my foot up pretty bad the first couple days... I was advised that I wasn't used to wearing boots [had been wearing them for work for 5 years] and I'd get used to it. Then someone forgot to tie their laces before PT one morning and they all got tossed. Never found my own pair, but someone else's ended up under my bed) except that the cloth portion wears out! The leather and sole on this pair look like they'll be good for another year or so of wear, but there's holes all along the cloth around the ankle.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 02, 2009 12:57 pm 
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Nice write up, MisterFuffie.

Since I was a kid working on my dad's Jump Boots I've only really used Kiwi Black Shoe Polish and Saddle Soap. I made a mistake once with a pair of German army boots by waterproofing them. They would not breath properly after that. I should have only waterproof the two inches around the bottom.

My quick formula smooth leather field boots:

Saddle soap
: Soften/clean as needed especially when new and after getting wet.
Kiwi Black Shoe Polish: Apply after cleaning.
Insoles: Having a good pair you like make for happy feet.

For cleaning the new Army boots it is even more simple. I remove any mud/dirt. I put them in the sink with warm soapy water and scrub everything with a soft brush. Drain, dry and brush the leather with a wire bristle boot brush. I use saddle soap on these boots as well. Again, good insoles rock.

That is my two cents, HTH

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 02, 2009 2:47 pm 
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The stuff I linked in my prior post, Obenauf's, works great for the softer suede-like boots and fabric/nylon. I think the key to any kind of fabric/nylon on boots is washing them with soap and a brush - or whatever you can do to get the dirt out of them- Important in general but especially for the non-leather parts of your boots.

My boots last fall on Warrior Rock hike on the Columbia River:
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 02, 2009 4:01 pm 
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I hate the "suede" boots. The AF is switching to them, too, and I refuse to wear them. There are several "suede protectors", but as far as non-chemical crap, the only real advice I've ever heard about suede is "don't get it wet or dirty". Hilarious, huh? Those new boots fall apart pretty quick under heavy wear. The soles are athletic-shoe style as well. They definitely fall into the category of "tennisboots" - they don't generally hold up for years. I burn through about a pair a deployment.

The best I can offer is, use the "leather brush" designed for them, and if that doesn't clean whatever's on them, tie 'em up in a pillowcase and throw them in the washer, then tumble dry low. Don't ever get a snag in the cloth part of the upper, and get a new pair as soon as the rubber part of the sole starts wearing into the foam cushion.

I should note: They aren't really "suede", they're just rough side out.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 21, 2010 1:24 am 
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Tennisboots are better for your joints, helping mitigate some of the shock of impact. I love my Bates USMC Lightweight Durashocks, and wish I'd had them when I was in the infantry. My first pair was retired after my feet flattened out another half size bigger, so I ordered 2 new pair of boots that fit well. I should take a side-by-side pic of the new and the old, high-mileage boots...

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In addition to saddle soap and Kiwi, I apply a coat of either mink oil or Sno Seal at the beginning of every winter.

White vinegar removes salt stains from leather boots like nobody's business. Wax your boots right after the vinegar dries, because it can dry out the leather.

(Edited to add: from the age of about eleven on, I was head shoe-shiner in my family.)

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 08, 2010 10:46 pm 
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Somewhere many years ago I heard one of the best pieces of advice ever given:

"Three things never to skimp on and always buy the best you can possibly afford: Your shoes (esp boots!), your mattress and your work tools."

Truer and wiser words have seldom been spoken.

I've been around leather a goodly time at a pretty deep level of participation. I've done period leatherwork as part of Living History groups. Done Cuir Bouli (leather boiled in wax) armor, appliances and accoutrements. Leather is wonderful stuff. Modern society has NO real appreciation for its versatility and advantages.

Neatsfoot oil is a BIG NO-NO for leather products in my book! I have been told by the best museum curator I know (who happens to be my niece) NEVER to put any dark oil on any leather you wish to preserve.

Neatsfoot oil will dissolve cotton stitches. Maybe your boots are stitched with nylon or some other but how about your holster? Your rifle sling? Why take the chance?

Best leather preservatives are made by Pecard's. Period.

Pecard's is something of a tenant of the faith among museum and historical folk for their precious leather items. VERY worth the trouble to find. If nobody local carries it, get it from the mfgr below. I use their "leather dressing" which comes as a soft wax. A 16oz tub of it will last you for decades. Good for holsters, slings, bracers, etc too!

http://www.pecard.com/


I agree that tennisboots will never last as long as good 'ol airborne-standard Corcoran jump boots or their modern equivalent. Also you can resole good jump boots darn near forever, effectively reducing their cost. HOWEVER, tennisboots are much easier on the feet and joints and are lighter. And less expensive. I got three pair of rough-out military tennisboots (gently used - i.e. already broken in!!) from Ebay for $12 a pair shipped. Try that with the old black beauties!

Another thing I didn't see mentioned is rotating your boots. Two pair of boots, worn on alternating days will last more than twice as long as two pair of boots worn out sequentially.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 09, 2010 2:12 am 
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MrNatural wrote:
Another thing I didn't see mentioned is rotating your boots. Two pair of boots, worn on alternating days will last more than twice as long as two pair of boots worn out sequentially.

I second this! Forgot to mention it, but it's why I ordered 2 pair of the Bates.

Come to think of it, I need to break in that second pair...

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 20, 2010 6:34 pm 
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Thoughts on exclusive mink oil use?

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 20, 2010 7:12 pm 
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Great info guys. I wear leather boots all the time and find that using a brush to keep the dirt off between treatments is just as important. Dirt and grit are the #1 thing that wears out the leather.

Just for the record I use Sno-seal treatment products because I have to have 100% waterproof boots all the time and find that the product is fairly priced and works better than anything else.

I do have another set treated with Mink oil and it is great in that the oil sticks and rarely needs reapplied... good in terms of bugoutboot but not my first choice because the boots become soft. ;)

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 17, 2010 7:51 am 
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All this talk about Kiwi and resoling boot makes me home sick for the days when I didn't have to have "field boots" and "good boots". I had the same pair of boots, resoled only once, from basic training in 2000 to 2005 when the Army switched us to our lazy man's uniform. They literally fit like a glove. I agree with Kutter that the new tennisboots feel better out of the box but with a set of goodyear flat soles my boots felt like an old friend. Great thread.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2012 7:41 am 
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Back from the dead...

I have a pair of Gore-Tex leather boots that are in need of some TLC, but I'm not sure what to use on them. I've heard some of the leather products will clog the Gore-Tex making it less breathable and/or less water resistant. The stuff Asolo (the maker of my boots) recommends is hard to find and ambiguously explained on their website. Any suggestions?


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2012 1:14 pm 
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THe stuff I posted years ago in this thread, Obenauf's http://www.obenaufs.com/ is good with Goretex.

http://www.obenaufs.com/leathercare/lea ... th-gortex/

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Weirdly enough, I've been using Nakona NLT classic leather glove treatment (meant for baseball gloves) on my Danner Combat Hikers every other month for a year and it works wonders. This is just what I've had on hand and I decided to use it rather than go buy a dedicated boot product. It turned them from light brown to a dark chestnut color and I love it. I might even buy more as to not upset the feeding schedule of my Danners.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2012 10:50 am 
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Thanks, ninja. :o


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I noticed that no one mention's to stay away from shoe polish with silicon in it.

It used to be that it ate the seams but I do believe that this has become a problem of the past, the one thing that hasn't is that while silicon may "waterproof" your boots, it will also destroy(significantly lessen) the leathers ability to retain heat.

Silicon do nothing but cause a seal on your leather, which may provide an attractive finish but does not allow the leather fibers to breathe or receive any further nourishment.
Waxes does this too but as long as they don't contain silicon they don't do much harm beyond this.

Avoid all raw silicone oil based products. The silicone oil will dissolve out the leather's natural oils, it may make them look good and waterproof them but it won't do much for making them last longer, leather is a natural material so natural oils/fats will always be the better choice, plain kiwi shoe polish without silicon applied regularly without polishing has made boots last for 5 to 10 years of regular(8 hours+ 5 days a week) use. Silicon also seem to attract dust and grime to a larger extent than natural fat's/oils....

FWIW

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The soles on my boots always go out first,
they begin with all the traction, then they
grind down, until it's completely flat.

I've been wearing my boots everyday, for the past 6 years,
and I'm having to buy my 3rd pair now.

I have the Converse 8 In. Soft Toe Boot w/Side Zipper
http://www.uscav.com/productinfo.aspx?productid=9665&tabid=548
Image

Is there someway to replace the soles?
If possible is it possible to make my own sole molds?

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