Hiking is a very demanding activity. Whether you’re navigating rocky terrain or taking a nice trek up a grassy hill, the boots you choose to wear are important. But how exactly can you tell when to replace hiking boots?
Even if you’re sporting the best hiking boots around, time is undefeated; they’ve all gotta go at some point.
Just like the tires on your car, hiking boots become slightly worn down with every use and will eventually need replacing to prevent future problems.
When dealing with worn-out hiking boots or hiking shoes, the earlier you recognize the problems, the better. You don’t want to have to postpone a planned hike due to injury.
How Often Should You Replace Hiking Boots?
Knowing how long your hiking boots will last is the first step in knowing when you’ll need to replace them.
From average use (hiking 10 miles/week), you should replace your hiking boots every 500-1,000 miles, depending on the quality of the boots.
By the thousand mile mark, there should be clear indicators it’s time to upgrade.
However, every boot isn’t made the same. Some last longer. Some tap out after mild use.
The answer to this question will depend not only on the quality of the shoe but other variables like terrain, the average amount of use, and the materials used.
For the sake of clarity, let’s look at what needs to be examined before you consider replacing your hiking boots.
Keep in mind: you don’t need to be a forensics expert to figure this stuff out, so don’t overthink it. This should be used more like a “checklist” for a boot replacement.
Signs You Need New Hiking Boots
There are several indicators your boots may be hiking on borrowed time.
Aside from the obvious cosmetic issues like cracking leather or extreme cases like soles peeling from the shoe, there are some early indicators we can look for.
What are the common signs that you need to replace your hiking boots?
- Worn-out eyelets or lacing loops
- Worn-out ankle support
- Cracked midsole
- Worn tread
- Frayed Laces
- Cracked or pitted insoles
- Leather, Fabric or Synthetic Upper and Stitching
- New Foot Pain/Discomfort
How To Tell When You Need New Hiking Boots: In-Depth Look
So we went over the main indicators above. But how do we know the exact conditions to check for? Let’s a take look at what exact signs you need to factor in before tossing the old boots for some new ones.
Depending on the severity of wear on your boots, these items listed below can either be early warning signs, or telltale signs that you need new hiking boots immediately. Be sure to keep an eye on these factors and use your best judgment accordingly depedning on the condition of your boots.
08. Eyelets/Lacing Loops
The eyelets of a hiking boot/shoe are the “holes” that the laces go through. Some hiking boots don’t have eyelets and will have lacing loops, instead.
Wearing footwear with bad eyelets or lacing loops can lead to injury and serious discomfort over time. This is an issue especially with high-top boots as the ankle support will become less stable—and we definitely don’t want to deal with a rolled ankle!
So, what should we look for when looking for worn eyelets/lacing loops on a hiking boot?
If you notice the eyelets or lacing loops are starting to peel away from the boot, or that the boot is starting to crack around the eyelets, it’s a good sign that they’re becoming too worn.
Also, if it’s becoming more of a hassle to keep the boot/shoe tightened when tied, it’s another indicator that the eyelets are becoming worn.
07. Worn-Out Ankle Support
The ankle support of a hiking boot is vital for preventing injury and strain on your, well, ankles.
Proper ankle support also prevents further damage to your knees and even hips, too.
Worn-out ankle support on a hiking boot can cause the hiker to try and compensate by changing their footing or using more weight on a foot than they normally would. This, once again, can lead to injury.
If you notice that your ankles don’t feel as firm or supported as they used to, examine the fabric and cushion around the ankle support for wear.
Once the support becomes too worn, the padding will become a lot softer and “thinner” than it once was.
06. Cracked & Worn Midsole
The midsole of a hiking boot or shoe is in between the arch of your feet and the ball of your foot.
Cracked and worn midsoles lead to an overall less-fortified boot sole, which can increase the wear of the boot’s insole.
Always examine the midsole of your boots or hiking shoes for large cracks and tears. The last thing you want is a flappy foot when your trekking through the wild!
05. Worn-Out Tread
Footwear tread is a funny thing. It’s a bit of a magician; now you see it, now you don’t.
This is usually the first indicator you need new hiking boots. The tread of your hiking boots can wear down very fast if you’re not paying close attention.
If the tread on your hiking boots becomes too filed down, the soles of the shoe are going to become slick. This can lead to slipping and sliding or, simply put, injury.
Studying the tread of the boot is also a great way to find out if it’s indeed a quality problem of your footwear or a problem with your form.
04. Frayed Laces
Hiking in different terrain exposes your boots to different elements: mud, water, dirt, etc.
It may not seem like it after a few times, but even dry dirt can cause problems for your laces. And not cleaning your laces can lead to them stiffening up and eventually cracking.
Even with proper care laces can still get run down over time. Always examine the tips of the laces and note the condition of the plastic wrap on the end. If the plastic wrap is gone, your laces are going to start splitting and unraveling.
When laces become too worn, they can even break. Though this is usually from extreme wear, and you should have your boots or laces replaced long before this ever happens.
03. The Insole Condition
Did you suddenly notice one day that it feels like you’re walking on crumbled foam? Or maybe like you’re stepping on clumps of soil? Yeah, it’s time to toss those boots in the bin.
Insoles are typically made of EVA foam. It’s a pretty fascinating material and has tons of different uses. And it’s quite durable. However, it’s not immune to wear and tear.
In most cases, bad insoles will cause blistering on the feet. This is extremely annoying to deal with and can—for me, anyway—diminish the desire for future hikes for fear of blistering.
Under a more serious circumstance, deteriorating insoles, though tolerable, can lead to huge issues. It puts your footing slightly off balance and can hinder your ankle support, leading to joint pain.
Fine cracks along the insoles are an early sign that the insole is becoming worn. Though, at this stage, you don’t always have to hit the emergency alert button and toss your hiking boots. Just pay attention to the cracks and take note of any larger cracks.
Another sign of wear on the insoles is pitting. You will notice pitting especially around your toes and the ball of your foot. If you start to notice serious pitting in those areas (I’m talking having the ability to sink your toes into the pits) either get some new insoles or bury those boots in the backyard.
02. Leather, Fabric or Synthetic Upper and Stitching
Unlike fashion sneakers, every part of a hiking boot’s construction serves a purpose, including the stitching.
The stitching of a hiking boot is crafted to uphold the boot’s integrity and durability. Bad and worn stitching can lead to an increased breakdown of the boot.
Look around the upper and around the sole. If the stitching is frayed or becoming separated, it’s a good sign that you may have to add a new pair of hiking boots to your shopping list.
Bad stitching doesn’t only affect the boot’s integrity. Loose or worn stitches can severely hamper the capabilities of waterproofing your hiking footwear, too.
01. New Foot Pain
Foot pain and discomfort is often a sign that you may be wearing an improperly laced or sized hiking boot. But what about when you’ve been wearing the same shoe for a while and just started suffering new pain and discomfort?
Experiencing a new pain in your feet or hips is another indicator that you may need new hiking boots or hiking shoes.
When the insole and tread become worn, it opens you up to an increased probability of injury. Your feet may slide more in the shoe, or your ankle may be bending it ways it shouldn’t be, adding stress to your joints.
A personal note: wearing worn-out footwear caused me some serious physical pain in my hips and gluteus medius. The pain lasted months and would have been avoided had I just bought a new pair of hiking boots. Take it from me, it’s an annoyance you don’t want to deal with for months on end. Always take care of your physical health.
What Steps To Take Before Replacing Your Hiking Boots
If you’re concerned about tossing a pair of hiking boots too early, consider proper maintenance of your hiking boots.
With proper care and protection, you can extend the lifespan of your boots and save some cash in the long-run.
One thing to consider, too, is your level of hiking; New hikers make a big mistake by exhibiting improper form or footing, which leads to an increase in wear and a possible short lifespan of your footwear.