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How Long do Hiking Boots Last?

Last Updated: November 16, 2022
Close-up on intermediate climber tying her shoelace

Not all hiking boots are created equal. It’s part of the ways certain people fall in love with certain brands.

Your feet need a specific shape and form to bring the best experience possible.

The wrong pair of hiking boots can be as agonizing as walking miles with the left boot on your right foot. Every step that we take as avid hikers means wear and tear straight onto our boots.

The stress adds up as we continue to abuse the boots we love so dearly, and eventually, you’ll start to witness the slow falling apart of those boots.

No matter how durable a pair of boots can seem, a true hiker can tear through them in no time at all. 

So, when buying a pair of hiking boots, you need to know exactly how long do hiking boots last.

This can help you with a budget, a long-term decision, and a happier set of feet at the end of the long trail. 

Key Takeaways
  • Leather boots need more care and attention than synthetic boots.
  • Synthetic hiking boots last much longer than leather boots.
  • It is important to break in hiking boots correctly before using them extensively.
  • It is important to take care of your hiking boots in order to increase their lifespan.
  • The amount of terrain you hike on also determines how long your hiking boots will last.

What is the Average Lifetime of Hiking Boots?

Picking a pair of boots that won’t just end up in the trash after a few months of walking can make a huge difference in how you view hiking.

The right pair of boots makes going out even easier.

With a pair of boots that you can grow to love over time, you’ll form a meaningful relationship with that rubber, leather, and cushion that takes you across hundreds of miles. 

In general, a pair of hiking shoes will last anywhere between 500 and 1,000 miles.

A 500-mile difference is huge. That’s akin to hiking the entire Colorado Trail a second time in the same pair of boots, even further demonstrating how important it is the make an informed decision from the start. 

The best start is to know what kind of shoe you should go with. If you want lightweight and nimble movement, trail runners are more suitable for that need.

A bulky and sturdy hiking boot will give ankle support and waterproofness that can come in handy on long expeditions.

There is a long list of pros and cons that come along with making this choice, which is why it needs to be made carefully. 

Each style of shoe will respond differently to the brutal test of the trail. 

Trail Runners

Close-up of a hiker's legs in trail running shoes

Trail runners have only recently become more popular for hikers, especially those going a long distance. The lightweight comfort adds to the appeal, not to mention that they often have a lower price tag.

This hiking shoe is a good option for anyone that doesn't need the extra ankle support a boot can give.

These hybrids are made to dry out faster, provide a lighter feeling on your feet, and simply work better for moving quickly. The only catch is that the more flexible design that incorporates fewer materials will naturally become destroyed by the trail much more quickly. 

You can expect a pair of good trail runners to last you up to 500 miles on the trail.

Again, that number is dependent on how you take care of them, the terrain, and many other factors.

For example, on rocky terrain, you may quickly find these shoes dissolving underfoot. 

Hiking Boots

Close-up of a hiker's legs in hiking shoes

A quality pair of tough hiking boots can make a huge difference when you’re trying to get the most out of a pair of boots. Hiking boots tend to be built with more material, which can provide a huge amount of stability under a heavier load as well as durability.

The right type of boots will vary greatly from person to person.

Your favorite pair might be drastically different than your hiking buddy's, and it might cause a constant debate to start on the trail. 

You may replace frayed laces, but you will keep your feet dry and have the right hiking footwear for a long expedition. Waterproof boots provide protection that other shoes may not, but that doesn't mean that waterproof boots are the only option for you. 

In the end, hiking boots are going to be on your feet much longer than a pair of trail runners. A good pair of boots can make it 1000 miles, sometimes more if they’ve been taken care of. It's important to look at all the hiking boot options as lightweight hiking boots may not work well.

Backpacking boots are made to last forever, while suede hiking boots may need a higher level of care that you can't provide on the trail. 

How Often Should You Consider Replacing Your Hiking Boots?

Just like cars, some boots will last thousands of miles, and some may start to give in earlier on without the proper maintenance.

Unfortunately, not every boot is made the same and it’s important to be aware of how often you need to think about replacing your hiking boots

There are a few factors that come into play here.

Each of these factors will influence the wear and tear that your boots are exposed to, making it more or less likely that they need to be replaced.

  • Depends on the Trekking Terrain - If you’re hiking on soft grassy trails, your boots will be given a luxury treatment. Hard, sharp, rocky trails will be brutal on the soles of your boots, making them damage quicker. One other main factor to consider in terrain is the level of moisture. Swamp hiking will make your boots wet and wear them down faster than drier conditions. 
  • Depends on the Material of Boots - Leather boots are made to be long-term companions while synthetic materials, such as GoreTex, tend to break down faster. The catch is, you need to take care of leather boots much more often than you do synthetics. 
  • Depends on the Usage Frequency and Method - If your boots are sitting in the closet for half of the year, you won’t need to think about replacing them as often. A pair of walking boots, while they are still quality boots, aren't made for tough terrain. If they’re constantly sitting at the door getting strapped on for a new adventure, they’re likely to turn over much faster. 

The answer isn’t clear here. What we’re saying is, it all depends. You need to pay attention to your boots just about every time you put them on.

If you see any signs of wear, showing that they need to be replaced, that’s when you need to start considering a replacement pair. 

What are the Signs that Your Hiking Boots Need Replacing?

Any of these signs should be a red flag when you put your boots on before heading out. These are many common symptoms of a boot that’s headed downhill towards its final resting place.

An illustration of the symptoms of a hiking boot that needs to be replaced

Unfortunately, there are a lot of signs that your hiking boots need replacing. It doesn’t always mean they need to be replaced instantly but are a good sign that you should start thinking about it. 

  • General Wear and Tear
  • Insole Cracks
  • Worn Out Heel
  • Laces Fraying
  • Loose Eyelets
  • Escalating Stiffness
  • Worn Out Ankle Support Stability
  • Diminishing Treadwear
  • Uncomfortable Midsole
  • Squeaky Step
  • Deteriorated Waterproofing
  • Uncomfortability

It's important to keep in mind that discomfort can also come from soggy feet, the wrong types of hiking boots, not wearing high-quality socks, or using the wrong shoe on the wrong terrain conditions. 

How to Increase the Shelf Life of Your Hiking Boots

Similar to a car, or even your body, the better care you give to your hiking boots, the more likely they are to live a long and happy life. If you leave them to collect dust, only putting them on and throwing them straight back into a damp cupboard when you’re done, the neglect will show. 

Leather hiking boots with wax and soft cloth on a wood background

Caring for your boots, whether they are made of synthetic material or leather, will make for a much more comfortable shoe for a longer time.

If you take these steps to properly care for your hiking boots, their lifespan will naturally increase with the amount of care that you give them.

  • Break Into Them Correctly
  • Promptly Clean After Use
  • Consider a Good Quality Shoe Tree and Boot Dryer
  • Keep them Dry
  • Monitor Wear, Tear, & Stitching
  • Ensure the Purchase of Terrain-Specific Boots

All of these methods of care will help to keep you on top of a well-maintained boot that can travel for more miles than its counterpart. It isn’t always easy to stay on top of this high-maintenance care routine, but it is always worth it. 

At the End of the Trail

Determining how long do hiking boots last starts with defining the hiking preferences. Different terrains and activities have a huge influence on how long your boots are going to live. Living in rocky Pennsylvania will damage a boot much quicker than it will live in the rolling green hills of Arkansas. 

Besides, you might realize that a particular boot style just doesn't work for you. With this knowledge and understanding, you can feel more confident to make a purchase that will stand the test of time.

Ian Standard is an outdoor educator and wilderness guide based in Anchorage, Alaska. Most recently, he worked part-time at Alaska Crossings, a wilderness program for at-risk youth, and is currently studying for a Master of Science in Outdoor & Environmental Education at Alaska Pacific University.
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