How to Waterproof Hiking Boots

how to waterproof hiking boots

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Written by: Derek Vitiello
Fact Checked by: Ashley Vitiello

Updated Apr 27, 2023

Over time, hiking boots lose their waterproofing, so it’s an essential part of gear maintenance to know how to waterproof hiking boots. Doing so will increase the longevity of the boot and make hiking more enjoyable while keeping water out of your shoes. Hiking boots take on a lot of different types of terrain and weather conditions, and it can become difficult to keep them in good condition if they get wet regularly. Luckily for us, there are many ways we can maintain a pair of hiking boots’ water resistance – here are just a few!

Best Waterproofing for Hiking Boots

When it comes to how you waterproof hiking boots, the best method is with a spray. Waterproofing sprays are used by many hikers because they can be applied quickly and easily and are typically long-lasting.

Nikwax Fabric and Leather Waterproofing

Our go to product is this Nikwax Fabric and Leather Waterproofing. Simply clean the boot first then apply while the boots are still wet. This works for most fabrics, including leather, suede, fabric, and Gore-Tex, and it works by attaching directly to the fabric. It fills any pores or cracks that may exist, and leaves your boots with a waterproof barrier that will keep your feet dry even when hiking through the rainiest of conditions!

Another option is waxes or oils which can be applied directly onto the leather exterior of a boot. These substances work by forming a protective barrier between water and shoes. Water-resistant waxes are available in many different types such as beeswax, carnauba wax, and paraffin.

How Do You Waterproof Hiking Boots?

When waterproofing, doing it correctly will prevent you from having to do it again and again to achieve your desired results. It seems like a hassle, but it really doesn’t take that much time and is worth the effort. 

  1. Remove the laces from the boots and set them aside. You can clean them with soap and water if you wish, but our main goal is to clean the actual boot itself.
  2. Always clean your hiking boots before reapplying the waterproofing product of your choice.
  3. Apply your waterproofing product of choice according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Some products may need reapplication after a couple months while others can go up to six months or more before needing another application. For Nikwax, you should apply while the boots are still wet from cleaning. 
  4. Allow the boots to dry completely before use. We like to let them air dry outside for a day before using them again!

How Often to Waterproof Hiking Boots

How often you waterproof your hiking boots depends on how often you use them, how far you hike, and what kind of terrain you hike on. There’s no set schedule really, and you should determine this on your own. The best test is to dip the toes of your boots in water, such as a stream, puddle, or your laundry room sink, and see what happens. If the water beads up and rolls off, you are still good. If the water seems to soak into the fabric, or is in the beginning stages of doing so, it’s time to reapply! We tend to notice these signs during our hikes, and try to take action when we get home.


Over time, the waterproofing on your boots will fade away after being exposed to water and mud. Taking the time to maintain your gear can extend the life of the product and keep you from dropping more money on expensive equipment. Waterproofing your boots is easy and isn’t too time consuming, and it’s worth it to take care of your gear properly. 


What can I use to waterproof my boots?

First, always consider the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance and cleaning. For most fabrics, we recommend Nikwax Fabric and Leather Waterproofing, as they are a great brand focused on outdoor gear maintenance. 

Can you waterproof any boot?

Most boots and fabrics can be waterproofed in some way or another. You should look up any manufacturer’s instructions first, then decide on the proper type of cleaning and waterproofing products you should use. 

Can you use Vaseline to waterproof boots?

Technically, yes, Vaseline can help waterproof certain fabrics, but only for a short period of time. This could be used in a pinch while on trail, but we don’t recommend it for a long term solution. 

How often should I waterproof my boots?

This varies greatly depending on the type of fabric, the terrain you typically hike on, and how often you wear your boots. Instead of basing it off time, a simple test will tell if it’s time to reapply the waterproofing. Dip the toes of your boots in some water, and see if it beads up or starts to soak into the fabric. If it’s not beading easily, it’s time to reapply!

Derek, Co-Founder at Know Nothing Nomads

My goal with my writing and Know Nothing Nomads as a whole is to share my passions of hiking, camping, and a love of the outdoors with our readers. Making the difficult and uncertain feel more approachable to people that might not know enough to feel comfortable taking their first steps into the wilderness is a driving factor for me. When I’m not writing you can find me on a trail, in a forest, or next to a river with hiking shoes on my feet and a fly rod somewhere close by.

Ashley is an adventurous soul who loves all things nature, especially warm sunshine, wildflowers, scenic snacking, and mushrooms. She is an avid outdoor enthusiast who has spent years enjoying time outside doing things like hiking, camping, and rock climbing.
Her goal with Know Nothing Nomads is to make these hobbies easily accessible through knowledgeable content and how-to’s based on all the stuff she’s learned on her journey. If she isn’t writing an article, she’s probably in a forest looking at big mountain views and tiny pieces of moss on the side of the trail.

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