One of the most important pieces of equipment for a comfortable and successful trekking experience is a good pair of hiking boots.
If you plan to invest in a pair of trekking boots, being aware of their expected lifespan and wearability is essential. Unfortunately, it’s hard to know how long they’ll last and still be comfortable and supportive.
Hiking footwear is not cheap and you don’t want to waste money replacing them if you don’t have to. But you also don’t want to be uncomfortable on a hike due to worn-out footwear.
In this article, I’ll discuss how long hiking boots typically last and what factors determine their durability, and how to know when you actually need to replace them.
How Long Should Hiking Boots Last?
Some manufacturers recommend you replace certain models of hiking boots every three to six months or every 350 to 500 miles depending on usage. Others suggest that a quality pair of boots can last a decade or more. The consensus is that the lifespan of hiking boots is around 500-1,000 miles.
These estimates may be true for you, but the truth really depends on the type of terrain, the weight of the hiker and gear, the type of shoes, and the conditions in which the boots were used.
How Long Do Hiking Shoes Last?
As a general rule hiking shoes should be able to survive at least two years of heavy usage before needing replacement. However, the answer is not so simple; it depends on several factors.
The biggest factor to consider when it comes to boot longevity is the type of boots. Lightweight trail shoes or trail runners are never going to last as long as a pair of boots designed for heavy-duty through hikes.
Heavyweight trekking boots
Heavier, traditional high-top boots can last for many years or even decades depending on how much you use them. This style of boot is meant for rugged terrain while carrying heavy loads, so they are built tough.
Naturally, a full-grain leather boot will last longer than one made from a synthetic fabric. Boots that are molded mainly from one piece of leather will tend to last longer as there are fewer seams that can give out.
Since the uppers of a leather boot last so long, many of them are designed so they can be resolved as the tread wears out much sooner than the body of the boot.
While this type of boot has a longer life, they also have a long break-in time as you have to stretch the leather to the shape of your foot by wearing them.
They offer maximum support and foot protection and tend to be stiffer around the ankle and have a shank in the midsole that protects the bottom of the foot.
The Zamberlan VIOZ is a good example of these heavyweight boots.
If looked after they can last an average hiker ten years or more.
Mid-weight hiking boots
While not as supportive as the heavyweight trekking boots they still offer a lot of ankle support and foot protection. The goal of this type of boot is the optimal balance between support and weight.
Many midweight boots are made of a number of pieces of fabric and leather that are stitched together. This tends to make for a comfortable boot with a shorter break-in period but every seam is a potential failure point.
This sector has the widest range of prices and specifications, so the expected lifespans are also the widest. It is usually, the seams near the ball of the foot are the first to go as this section of the boot flexes with every step.
Those made with high-quality materials will usually last longer than cheaper boots, but there are some cheaper boots that are very rugged.
Examples of high-quality mid-weight boots would be the Salomon Quest 4 GTX or Lowa Renegade
Midweight boots will offer the average recreational hiker up to 5 years of regular use if cared for.
Lightweight hiking boots
The third type of hiking boot construction is effectively high-top hiking or trail running shoes. The construction is much lighter with more fabric and synthetic materials.
This offers up a lighter boot that feels like a shoe but with more ankle support.
This weight savings come at the cost of durability and these types of boots are usually good for only a year if you hike a lot but can really increase your speed as they are so light on the feet.
The Merrell Moab Mid Tops are good examples of this type of boot.
Lightweight hiking boots are usually good for 1-2 seasons for the average recreational hiker. For high-mileage hikers, you can expect to get 500-750 miles per pair of lightweight hiking boots.
Terrain & Weight
Another factor to consider when it comes to boot longevity is the type of terrain you are using them on. Trail walking wears the tread far less than walking on pavement, but hiking with heavy packs will cause more wear as there is greater pressure applied with each step.
This pressure puts increased pressure on the midsole, which can cause it to break down faster.
Likewise, continually soaking and then drying can also dramatically impact the lifespan of the boot, so your care regime is a factor too.
Ultimately, the life span of any given pair of hiking shoes boils down to the type of boots, the usage, and maintenance habits combined with personal needs and preferences.
Someone who treks frequently across rugged terrain might need replacements every year or two while another person could get away with using their current set for three years or longer without issue.
How Many Miles Do Hiking Boots Last
As you have seen from the above, with proper care and maintenance, some hiking boots can last thousands of miles before needing replacing. Conversely though, if you hike hard trails with a lot of weight through adverse weather conditions, they will wear out far faster.
Boots used regularly throughout all four seasons will inevitably show more wear and tear compared to those stored away properly during winter months away from heavy rain or snowfall that could cause significant damage due to waterlogging or freezing temperatures.
Additionally, improper storage practices such as leaving your wet footwear near heat sources can also reduce its lifespan substantially regardless of mileage.
There is also the construction to consider. Lightweight trail shoes or trail runners will never last as long as a hard-core pair of boots designed for heavy-duty thru-hikes.
So the next question to answer is how often should *you* replace your boots?
How Often To Replace Hiking Boots?
Replacing your hiking boots too soon means spending unnecessary money while waiting too late could lead to dangerous situations and potential injuries or just discomfort from blisters and joint pain.
So while manufacturers will give you a number of miles and time frame these are just a good general rule, but the real answer is when they are worn out. But when is this?
The best way to ensure maximum performance is by regularly inspecting your footwear
How Do I Know When My Hiking Boots Need To Be Replaced?
It’s essential to know when it is time to replace your hiking boots. The life of a pair can vary greatly depending on several factors, such as the quality of the shoes and how often they are used. To help determine when you should buy new ones, consider these steps.
Check the Appearance of the Upper’s Condition & Shape
First, inspect the exterior of your boots regularly for signs of wear and tear.
If there is heavy scuffing along the sides, this may indicate that you need new ones soon. Check out all seams for tears or fraying threads too.
Check your hiking shoes to see if their shape has altered. Misshapen hiking boots are a good sign that the structural integrity of the boot is failing and they will not support or cushion your feet as they should.
So if your hiking shoe looks misshapen, flatter, uneven, or wider, it’s time to invest in a new pair.
If you own a pair of mid or high-top hiking boots, the ankle collar is the upper part of the boot that wraps around your ankle to provide support.
If there are noticeable signs of wear, such as cracks or the lining coming away, or it has lost its shape and cushioning, it is a good sign your boots are reaching the end of their useful life.
Treadwear is an important consideration for hiking boots and probably the one that most people rely on when deciding whether to replace their boots or not. However, tread wear is rarely uniform.
Depending on your hiking pattern and body type your tread wear pattern may appear differently on various parts of your shoe.
If you tend to pronate when you walk, you may notice the part of your shoe that runs along the side of your big toe is worn more than the middle or outer part of the sole.
Overpronation occurs when the wear pattern is more pronounced around the ball of the foot and into the toes.
On the other hand, people who supinate when they walk may find a more drastic wear pattern on the outside or pinky-toe side of their shoe. Neutral walkers tend to find even wear on the entire bottom surface.
So inspect all the treads of the shoe closely, just like you would the tire of your car. If any part of the tread on the bottom of your shoe is smooth or isn’t as defined as it used to be, it’s time to buy a new pair of hiking shoes.
However, you will often find that the tread is not the thing that wears out first on your boots. Also, keep an eye on the following
After wearing your boots, assess the fit – have they become less comfortable? Is it becoming easier to develop blisters? These may be signs that your existing shoes need to be replaced as your insoles way be worn.
Insoles, which are usually constructed of EVA foam, provide support and cushioning. So, as you can imagine, worn-out insoles will make hiking uncomfortable as the cushioning deteriorates.
It’s normal for the brand or size markings on the insole to wear away, but there are a few telltale signs that your old boots need to go
- if the insole padding loses its elasticity
- the arch support looks worn or misshapen
- the heel pad is worn away to the point that it looks like the material underneath the surface of the original insole is coming through
- you are getting more blisters since worn-out insoles tend to cause increased friction or rubbing.
The midsole gives much of the cushioning to absorb the shocks of each step on your feet, ankles, knees, and hips. As they age the midsoles on hiking boots, like all shoes, tend to become thinner, harder and more brittle, losing their cushioning.
This is called “compacting”, and the best way to check for this is the press test.
The press test is an easy way to determine if the midsole or cushioning in your hiking boot is compromised. Start by placing your thumb against the tread pattern on the bottom of the shoe and press upwards into the midsole.
The press test will give you a good idea if the midsole is still good or compressed beyond repair.
To do this, hold your shoe in both hands with your thumbs on the read and push up and check along the side of the shoe for compression lines.
A new hiking boot should not have any more than faintly visible compression lines, and they should return to their original shape very quickly when you release the pressure. If the lines are heavy and they fail to rebound quickly, it’s time for a replacement.
Shoelaces on hiking boots are subjected to frequent tugging, pulling, picking, and loosening, which can lead to frayed laces, to the point of breakage.
While worn laces are not a sign in themselves that your boots need replacing. you should replace worn bootlaces. It is never enjoyable when you experience a broken shoelace on the trail, and they are cheap, so replace them and be sure to bring a spare or invest in new ones.
Eyelets and Lacing Loops
Inspect the eyelets and lacing loops. The eyelets are the holes where the laces go through the shoe. The lacing loops are the loops at the upper part of the shoe on boots that have ankle protection.
If there are any loose eyelets on your shoes or they are bent or missing, it may be hard to tighten them properly. This will compromise the ankle support, which will make them less supportive and could lead to injury.
While this can sometimes be fixed, it is usually easier to say goodbye to your old hiking shoes and invest in a new pair.
Are they still waterproof?
If you bought waterproof boots, examine whether or not water is seeping through onto your feet after being outdoors in wet weather conditions.
This could mean that the waterproof coating has worn away and no longer serves its purpose effectively and potentially a sign that they need replacing, or re-waterproofing at least
How long can you leave your hiking boots unused?
With good storage and care, a good pair of hiking shoes can easily lie untouched for over five years.
But we have all had that pair of shoes that have gone brittle while they have been stored, or got damp and moldy.
So the truth is that the way you stored the shoe is the real determinant of how long you can store a hiking shoe.
What warranty do hiking footwear companies offer?
Manufacturers usually state that normal wear and tear is not covered by the warranty, but they never explain what is considered normal wear and tear. So, unless you receive a damaged pair of hiking boots, you’re pretty much at the mercy of the manufacturers when it comes to warranty claims.
However, the better-known brands will probably take your warranty claim more seriously as they take pride in their brand and the potential negative publicity.
If you do find one with a lifetime guarantee, do make sure you read the small print and stick to it!
In conclusion, no one hiking boot is going to last forever. However, with proper care and maintenance, your hiking boots should keep you comfortable on trails for many years.
Make sure you break them in slowly and don’t skimp on cleaning and waterproofing; these tasks may seem tedious, but they will save you a great deal of money by extending the life of your boots.
Finally, don’t forget to take advantage of any lifetime warranties offered by your shoe manufacturer in order to get the most out of your investment!
Matt Green, is an avid hiker and lover of the great outdoors. He is always planning his next big trip or hitting the trails for a solo hike.
He’s traveled extensively to many remote regions and has plenty of experience exploring various terrains, and stories to tell.
- 1 How Long Should Hiking Boots Last?
- 2 How Long Do Hiking Shoes Last?
- 3 How Many Miles Do Hiking Boots Last
- 4 How Often To Replace Hiking Boots?
- 5 How Do I Know When My Hiking Boots Need To Be Replaced?
- 6 How long can you leave your hiking boots unused?
- 7 What warranty do hiking footwear companies offer?
- 8 Conclusion