How Long Do Hiking Boots Last (2022)
When you step from the pavement to the trail it opens a whole new world of exploration. Hiking is the sport of seeing nature and the wonders of the wild under the power of your own two feet.
Unlike walking on sidewalks when you hit the dirt you will need footwear that gives you both traction and support.
For most people, this means getting a pair of hiking boots. Compared to the average pair of sneakers, hiking boots often cost a lot more.
Like any specialty sporting equipment, they will have a limited lifespan of functionality so many people want to know how long hiking boots last.
Hiking boots can last anywhere from a few months to many decades depending on the quality of the boots and how much you use them. There are many factors that will affect how long your hiking boots will last.
Generally the more expensive the boots the longer they will last but our breakdown will give you the information to make an informed decision about which boots to choose for the longest lifespan.
Types of hiking boots and their lifespans
Heavyweight trekking boots
This style of boot is meant for rugged terrain while carrying heavy loads. They offer maximum support and foot protection.
They tend to be stiffer around the ankle and have a shank in the midsole that protects the bottom of the foot.
A full-grain leather boot will last longer than one made from a synthetic fabric. While heavier, traditional hiking boots can last for many years or even decades depending on how much you use them.
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.
Boots that are molded mainly from one piece of leather will tend to last longer as there are fewer seams that can give out. This type of boot has a longer break-in time as you have to stretch the leather to the shape of your foot by wearing them.
You can speed up the process a little by softening the leather with mink oil but it will still require many miles of hiking before they shape to your feet. This type of boot is often more expensive as the manufacturing process is time-intensive and the materials are more costly.
Great examples of this type of boot are the Zamberlan Vioz or Lowa Camino. Classic designs built with modern materials and techniques for a boot that will last a long time and give tremendous support.
Lifespan: Heavyweight hiking boots will stand up to years of heavy use. For the average recreational hiker, these boots can last over a decade if they are looked after.
Depending on the terrain hiked the soles may need to be replaced every 5 years. This can be done by a cobbler or by sending them back to the manufacturer.
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.
If a seam wears out it is usually near the ball of the foot where the boot flexes with every step.
Great examples of high-quality multi-piece boots would be the Salomon Quest 4 or Lowa Renegade. They trade some of the durability of the full-grain leather boots for lighter weight and out-of-the-box comfort.
Lifespan: Midweight boots will offer up to 5 years of regular use for the average recreational hiker. More avid hikers may only get a few seasons depending on the terrain and how many miles they hike.
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.
We find 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.
If you want to save weight then consider the Merrell Moab Mid Tops or Salomon X-Ultra Mid. They both offer a good balance between support, comfort, and lightweight.
Lifespan: We find 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.
Factors that affect how long your hiking boots will last
A number of things will have an effect on how long your hiking boots will last. From the materials, they are made from to how much you hike, the lifespan of a pair of hiking boots isn’t a clear-cut number.
Just like people, how long you last will have to do with your lifestyle, diet, and exercise. With your boots, it will have to do with how rough you treat them, the conditions you hike in, and how many miles you hike per year.
Generally the more leather a boot is made with the longer it will last. Full-grain leather boots that use the cowhide that hasn’t been split will have more abrasion resistance and take longer to wear through.
The more fabric a boot uses the shorter the lifespan.
Not all companies build to the same standard. The combination of high-quality materials and better craftsmanship will lead to a boot that lasts longer. Hiking boots are an area that proves the adage.
“You get what you pay for”. If you want boots that last longer expect to pay more.
The longer life often works out to a lower cost per year as spending double can usually lead to boots that survive 3-5 times as long.
One of the biggest factors determining how long your hiking boots will last is the terrain you hike on. Rocky mountainous trails will wear a boot out quicker than smoother dirt paths.
The more abrasive the surface the quicker the tread will wear and the more scuffing the upper of the boot will experience.
How many miles do you hike?
The more mile you hike per year the quicker your boot will wear down. We think of the lifespan of a product in terms of time but when it comes to hiking boots it is best to think of mileage.
Like a car, a boot that sees more miles per year will reach the end of its functional usefulness quicker than one that is used only occasionally.
For instance, when I hiked the Appalachian Trail I needed to get new boots every six weeks (700 miles) while the same model of boots lasted me 2 years of casual hiking.
Your boots will last longer if you keep them clean and treated with a protectant. Dirt is abrasive so a dirty boot will wear quicker than a clean one.
To aid this it helps to have your boots treated with a durable water-repellant coating as it helps keep them dry and repels dirt from sticking.
If your boots are leather you will need to pay attention to keeping them moisturized as leather is skin and dry skin cracks. Keeping your boots treated with a leather protectant or was will help waterproof them and help dirt from adhering.
The lifespan of hiking boots varies with the quality of the boots and how hard you use them. This can be anywhere from a single season to decades.
How long your hiking boots last is often connected to how much they cost so don’t be afraid of spending a bit of money if you want the maximum durability. The increased life expectancy spreads the cost over time making them a better value than the original purchase price might indicate.
You can extend the life of your boot to the maximum by keeping them clean and treated but each type will have a limited potential lifespan. Choose the boot that has the qualities of support, weight, and comfort you need. Then get out and hike.