There is a huge range of footwear available for outdoor pursuits from traditional leather boots through to Vibram 5 finger shoes. Many of us have a range of different footwear for different outdoor occasions but whatever you have, you need to take care of it!


  • If the mud is still wet, wash it off with a brush and sponge. Ideally outside with a bucket to save blocking the kitchen sink!

  • If you’ve left the mud to dry, remove the dirt and mud with a stiff brush. Use water if the brush alone doesn’t remove it.

  • Stuff the boots or trail shoes with old newspaper to absorb any moisture. This helps to dry them faster, inside and out.

  • For nubuck, suede or fabric products the application is usually a spray. Use more newspaper under the shoe, to protect the carpet or floor. Make sure you shake the can thoroughly before use so the footwear has an even coating. Then leave to dry in a warm room.

  • Leather boots are generally treated with dubbin which feeds the leather but also helps repel water. This is generally applied like polish, using a soft cloth and then left to soak in. The boots can then be left as it, or buffed up as preferred.


There are a number of different products available to help extend the life of your footwear. These include McNett Freesole amongst others. They can be used in numerous ways.

  • To Rebond Sole. Firstly ensure both surfaces are clean and dry using a stiff brush and then wiped down with White Spirit.  Apply the Freesole by McNett evenly. Then tape or clamp the footwear and sole together. A bottle full of water or similar placed in the shoe can help acting as a weight. Leave to dry overnight.

  • To Rebuild Heel. If you wear down your heel unevenly you can use Freesole to rebuild it. Prepare the heel area by cleaning it, then buff the worn area with sandpaper and wipe clean with White Spirit. Next make a wall round the heel with insulation tape. Ensure the boot is level before applying the product to fill the worn area. Leave to cure 12 to 24 hours.

  • To Rebond Rand. Another problem is when the rand of your footwear breaks away from the body. Clean as previously mentioned with a stiff brush and White Spirit before applying the Freesole. Next place tape round the footwear to clamp the body and rand together. If you insert a pencil/pen between the tape and the rand, it keeps it in place and prevents the tape from sticking to the footwear.

  • Repair torn panel. Freesole will also repair torn panels on leather and fabric boots. Coated both edges with the product and draw together. They should then be held in place with tape overnight until dried.

  • Freesole can also act in a preventative way to increase the longevity of your footwear. If your Trail Shoes, have a soft mesh upper which may tear with use, perhaps increase the size of the rand, or toe cap.  

Author: Bob Cartwright