Hiking in KEEN Targhee hiking boots
Hiking in KEEN Targhee hiking boots

Shoe Care Tips: Keep Your Shoes Going

A durable pair of shoes is a sustainable pair of shoes. KEEN shoes are built with quality materials and constructed with proven techniques, so you can rely on them for years and years. But then life happens: laces fray, insoles get that not-so-fresh feeling, and a paper plate malfunction at the BBQ results in a whole lot of potato salad all over your sandals.

But don’t throw them out! Keeping your KEEN shoes on the trail as long as possible prevents unnecessary waste and saves you money (that you can spend on things like reusable picnic plates and more potato salad). Here are a few ideas to help you care for your shoes and extend their lifespan, so you can have many more adventures together.

a bucket of dirty sandals

Clean ‘Em Up

A good cleaning can be just what a pair of shoes needs to restore them to their former glory (or at least get you excited about wearing them for another summer).

Sandals: Did you know? All non-leather KEEN water sandals are machine washable (cold water, air dry). In a real pinch, you can even throw them in the dishwasher (top rack, low heat).

Insoles: To wash your insoles, hand-wash with light detergent and a soft cloth, then air dry. (Don’t put insoles in the washer; trust us, it doesn’t go well.)

Leather boots: Maybe it’s time to clean your leather? Here’s an easy way to clean leather shoes with stuff you probably have in your pantry: Mix two tablespoons of castile soap (we love Dr. Bronner’s) into a large bowl of warm water. Dip a clean rag into the water and wring it out so it’s not sopping. Then wipe your shoes clean of stains, dirt, and debris (as many times as it takes). At the end, dab away any leftover soap with a clean rag wet with just water. Let dry overnight. You can condition with leather conditioner or just a thin layer of coconut oil. (Pro tip: Once your boots are clean, it can be a great time to reinforce water repellency with a PFAS-free spray like Nikwax.)

Winter boots: What if your leather winter boots have salt stains? Equal parts water and vinegar will make a solution that you can use to gently dab them away with a soft cloth or a cotton ball.

Faux fur: Do you have slippers or boots with fluffy faux fur trim or lining? Here’s a weird trick for cleaning faux fur: go back into your pantry and find some corn meal (not corn flour or cornstarch — cornmeal). Cornmeal acts like a dry-cleaning agent, absorbing oil and dirt that has built up on the fur. Sprinkle it all along the furry parts, then let it sit for a few hours before giving it a good shake outside.

Odor: Ok, but what if there’s a funky smell? If you’ve done all the washing/cleaning you can do and there’s still a not-great odor happening, here’s a recipe for de-smelling stinky shoes: Find an old spritz bottle and fill it with vodka (or equal parts rubbing alcohol and water), then add a few drops of tea tree essential oil. Shake it up and spray the inside of your shoes, then let it dry completely. The alcohol in the vodka kills stench-causing bacteria, and the tea tree oil has antibacterial properties that will keep new bacteria from growing (plus it has a fresh, herby scent).

replacing insoles in hiking boots

Swap Out the Parts

You don’t have to get a whole new pair of shoes to get that new-pair-of-shoes feeling. Sometimes it’s just a matter of replacing one element to get your shoes back to their old selves.

Replace insoles: Taking out your old shoes’ original insoles and replacing them with fresh new ones is an easy way to press the reset button on a pair of old favorites. New insoles can restore the comfort you’re used to from your shoes (because a comfortable pair of shoes is a pair you’ll wanna keep on wearing).

Replace laces: Over the years, laces can get frayed, greasy, and otherwise gross. A new pair of laces can give your shoes new life (pick a different color than the last pair for an update to the style, too).

Replace bungee: What if your shoes don’t have laces? Many KEEN shoes have a bungee lace system. Stretchy elastic bungees can start to lose their stretch and snapback after a few years of getting wild in the great outdoors. That's why KEEN offers to send you a new set for free, so your shoes can bounce back! Once you have your replacement kit, here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to replace your bungee laces at home.

Give Them Some Sun

When they’re not on our feet, shoes spend a lot of time in dark, stuffy places like closets or car trunks. That can lead to moisture buildup that sometimes makes things a little… yucky. If that’s happened to your shoes, never underestimate the power of a few hours in full sunlight. We recommend removing any laces and opening the shoe up as much as possible so it can get the maximum amount of sun exposure. Turns out fresh air and sunlight are good for shoes too.

Call the Professionals

Even if your specific shoe trouble seems like it’s too big to be fixed (think: your adorable new puppy chewed a strap clean off), call up your local cobbler. There’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to fix your issue, but it’s worth asking (what they can do might surprise you!). Rather than spending money on a whole new pair of shoes, spend that money on rehabbing the shoes you already have. We’re big believers in repairing rather than replacing whenever possible, since it’s always the more sustainable choice.

couple hiking together

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