Ok, so you just got a pair of brand new, expensive hiking boots, now what do you do with them.

Break your new boots in

Your boots won't fit exactly right when you get them, so you have to wear them around a bit. Expect to get a blister on your first hike, so be sure to take some moleskin. Anyway, tie your boots pretty snugly, and start by walking around the house. You should probably work your way up to several miles before going on a major hike. If you start to get a blister, you can put some molefoam inside the shoe where the rubbing is.

For smooth leather boots:

Take care of them:

Boots need to be treated with something to keep them supple and waterproof. Though people might tell you otherwise, there is only one right thing to use. First, here's what not to use:

  • Mink Oil
    Or any other grease or oil based stuff. They soften the leather to much, and you end up with sloppy boots that doesn't give any support. In addition, they displace the leathers natural oils, so after a while, if you don't keep putting new mink oil on, your boots will dry out. If your boots get really, realy dry, from neglect or really rough conditions, you can sometimes use a little bit of mink oil, but it's a last resort.
  • Silicon based waterproofing
    This stuff is not made for leather, and will dry the boots out, and flake or peel off. this is a very bad thing.
What you should use is aqueous wax. This stuff is wax, dissolved in a solvent, it soaks slightly into the leather, and adds a nice coat of wax. The most popular brand is Nikwax, though others exist. You wash, then coat the shoe in this stuff, wait a few minutes and wipe it off. You can repeat several times, if you like.

For suede/fabric composites

Almost all of this sort of boot have Gore-Tex or something like it in them, however, this shouldn't stop you from water proofing them. If you plan to hike in cold weather, where the temperatures will go below zero, you should waterproof them. While the Gore-Tex might keep your feet dry, having a block of ice fractions of an inch from them is not a good way to keep your feet warm. If you only plan on hiking in warmer climates, you may wish to leave them uncoated, as coating them reduces breathability.

When you should treat your boots

  • When they get muddy: Mud draws out oils, and messes up the coating.
  • After a long hike: Exposure to dirt and water, and lots of use will thin the coating in spots.
  • When you get bored: Call me weird, but it's better than cleaning my room.

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