If you're as fond of lightweight footwear as I am, you know they're going to wear out every few hundred miles. Let's face it -- light hiking shoes and boots are pretty much understood to be disposable.
There are a few things you can (sometimes) do to forestall the inevitable breakdowns, though -- and if you're dealing with heavy-duty boots that were actually built to last, these tasks become the regular maintenance that will keep your footwear in hiking shape for many years to come.
Ways to Extend the Life of Your Hiking Boots
1. Swap Out the Insoles
Sometimes the signs you need new footwear are painfully obvious -- like big holes in the uppers. Other signs are still painful but less obvious -- like when the shock-absorbing midsoles on your light boots start to break down.
The quick solution? A change of insoles to something with a little more structure or a little more cushion, as befits your feet. And if you're dealing with heavier-duty boots, you'll probably be changing the insoles because the insoles themselves have worn out before the rest of the boot did.
Lots of hiking footwear gets its waterproofing from a waterproof/breathable bootie sandwiched into the construction of the upper. If that upper is compromised, there's just not much you can do about it -- although if your boots are otherwise fine, their suddenly not being waterproof doesn't necessarily mean you have to stop wearing them.
If your boots get their water-resistance or waterproofing from the material in their uppers, however, you can refresh it with a rub-in or spray-on waterproofing treatment. If you a fan of Timberland boots, you may check how to clean Timberland boots.
3. DIY Repairs
When it comes to DIY repair, I have five words for you: Duct tape and Shoe Goo. The Shoe Goo can help you piece together crumbling or delaminating soles or just patch spots that see excessive wear.
Duct tape is great for field repairs to the uppers, as long as they're not too wet or muddy for the tape to stick. If you're not concerned with keeping your boots watertight, you can also stitch together any holes in the uppers with artificial sinew. (I've never tried using fishing line, but I assume it would work just as well.)
4. Professional Repairs
In my experience, boot shops aren't likely to work on lightweight footwear. The last time I took my torn-up boots into a repair shop and made my "please fix these" face, they told me the repairs would cost more than buying a new pair.
If you're dealing with heavier-duty footwear, though, they're often made to be repaired, or at least resoled -- either by the boot manufacturer, an authorized repair shop, or a local cobbler that you trust.
So if those sturdy boots you adore have come down with a case of the crumbling midsoles or a smooth-worn outsole, don't give up hope yet! Most likely a professional cobbler can give them new life.