How to Store Military Boots
Keeping a pair of military boots in excellent shape means taking care of them. Whether it's a few hours or several months in between wearings, they need to be stored properly so that they're ready to go when you need them. Boots worn in less volatile working conditions need less care. Boots that take a beating require more attention. If they're clean and put away in a dry place, your boots will be ready to protect your feet when you wear them. They'll also last longer.
Frequency and Wear
How often and where you wear your boots plays a significant role in how to store them.
§ Light Wear – If you wear them daily in an office, you can keep them in a locker in your barracks or in your closet at home.
§ Daily Beating – The environmental conditions take a greater toll on combat, tactical or industrial personnel. If you're constantly on the move or your footwear takes a beating every day, proper storage is harder to do. Leaving them in a clean and dry space with good ventilation may be your only option to let them dry out before putting them on again.
§ Seldom Use – Boots that aren't worn very often should be kept in a box or container to preserve their pristine condition. If you want the leather to be soft, pull them out and condition them on occasion.
§ Leather military boots require special care. This sturdy material that can last for years, but it can dry out and develop cracks and holes without proper care. If your work requires waterproof footwear, look for treated leather. Some waterproof or water-resistant boots are lined with Gore-Tex interiors.
§ Sturdy leather protects your feet and ankles from injury in harsh environments. Working around industrial equipment and metal machinery calls for hard and tough exteriors with steel or fiberglass toes.
§ Grain-out leather shields your feet better from oil, fuel and water.
§ Soft leather is more comfortable, but it offers less protection from impacts and sharp objects. Use leather conditioner frequently to keep the leather soft and supple.
§ Put shiny or patent leather boots in a muslin or felt bag to keep them free from scuffs.
Polish for Resistance
The best way to keep leather boots clean for storage and ready to wear is to polish them often. How shiny they need to be depends on your unit and what you're doing when you wear them.
§ They might not need to be polished to a glossy shine, but polished boots are less affected by oil and water.
§ Water-resistant boots don't saturate as easily, and residue takes less effort to remove.
§ The dried white crust from saltwater is much easier for Navy or Coast Guard personnel to wipe away from polished boots. When left on the surface of a leather boot, salt can erode the material.
The most important thing about storing your boots is to make sure they're dry first. How long it takes them to dry depends on the material and just how wet they really are on the inside and outside. Expect a pair of leather work boots to dry out in about three to six hours.
§ Putting them in an enclosed space with little circulation invites mold and mildew.
§ Set wet boots in an area with a cool or moderate temperature and good air circulation.
How to Dry Boots Faster
If you're in a hurry to put your boots away or wear them again, you might be looking for some shortcuts. While heat and warmth seem like a quick fix, they can damage interior and exterior materials. Your boots will last longer and look better if you let them dry naturally. A hair dryer, heating vent and low oven aren't the answer. They dry out the fabric and make them crack.
§ Use a microfiber or chamois towel to soak up water inside very wet boots. Press the towel into very wet areas to remove standing water.
§ Stuff wads of packing paper or newsprint into your boots to absorb excess moisture. Change the paper every few hours to speed up the process.
§ Loosen the laces to open the tops of your boots more. Pull the tongue forward to allow more air to circulate inside the boots.
Where to Dry Your Boots
§ You might be tempted to pull your boots off, depositing them on the floor for a few hours to dry out on the inside. Make sure you put them on a surface that's easy to clean and unaffected by moisture.
§ Cement, cool asphalt, plywood, gravel rocks and linoleum tile are good surfaces.
§ Avoid dark hardwoods, ceramic tile and carpet as temporary resting areas for your wet or muddy military boots.
§ Clean dirty boots to help them last longer. If you've been in the mud or moisture, residue build-up can wear out your boots faster.
§ Wipe off heavy amounts of mud with a dry cloth before allowing your boots to dry.
§ The best method to clean them depends on the type of material. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations.
§ You can typically use a cotton cloth or a dry brush with soft bristles that won't mar the finish. Remove any stubborn dirt, salt or film from your dry boots by gently rubbing or scrubbing them. Follow up by wiping them down with a soft dry towel.
§ Don't put your shoes in the washing machine if you want to them last longer.
§ Footwear that's eight inches or taller from the floor to the ankle or shin needs support during storage. This helps maintain shape and prevent wrinkles or grooves at the ankles.
§ Prevent tall boots from flopping over by rolling up a magazine and inserting one vertically inside each boot.
§ If you don't have a magazine, use a small bath towel instead. Fold it in halves or thirds and roll it up inside a tight-fitting plastic bag.
§ The supports should extend at least a few inches below the top of each boot. It can show above the boot if necessary.
Long-Term Boot Storage
Keep your military boots in a box or a plastic container if you're not going to wear them for some time. This protects your footwear from sunlight, extreme temperatures, excessive moisture, spiders and dust.
§ Line the bottom of the container with a cotton towel or several layers of paper towels.
§ Put crumpled packing paper inside your military boots to help them keep their shape.
§ Wrap them in tissue paper or packing paper. You can then slide them into plastic bags if they won't be used for at least a few months.
§ Set the boots on their sides with the toes and tops in opposite directions. Don't fold them.
§ Put the lid on securely.
§ Store the box in a dry room that's not exposed to extreme temperatures.
Some boots come with removable interior supports or liners that provide waterproof protection to help your feet stay healthy. Remove the supports when you're letting your footwear dry out or if you're storing them for a week or more.
Polyurethane inserts are a popular choice for safety boots. They can be wiped dry with a microfiber or cotton towel if they're damp. Set them aside until the rest of the boot dries.
Boot laces typically come in leather or nylon. They're typically kept in place unless you're giving your boots a thorough polish.
§ Dirty laces can be laundered in the washing machine or washed by hand in warm soapy water. If you wash them by hand, be sure to rinse them thoroughly.
§ Hang your shoelaces over a railing or a chair to help them dry faster. Never put shoelaces in the dryer.
Many combat and tactical boot styles come with a convenient side zipper. Don't leave them unzipped during long-term storage. This affects the profile and fit.
§ Zip up your boots to maintain the proper shape around the shaft and ankle.
§ If you have tall boots with a side zipper, store them flat without any heavy objects on top to preserve their shape. This prevents the zipper from bending and damaging the teeth.
§ Side zippers are typically made of nylon. If they're muddy or dirty, close the zipper before cleaning it off to avoid getting debris inside your shoe.
§ Wipe it down when cleaning the rest of your boot. If dried mud is caked on, use a soft brush to gently dislodge dirt without damaging the zipper.
§ Use hand soap or wax on zipper teeth that don't glide smoothly to prevent damage.
Packing a Bag
Put your boots at the bottom when you're packing a duffel bag. Roll up your socks and slide them inside your boots to save space. If your military boots came with waterproof inserts, keep them inside, tucking your socks and laces into the inserts. This saves space and makes it faster to put your boots on when you're getting dressed.
Controlling Odor and Other Mysterious Smells
Footwear starts to smell over time. The odor can be quite atrocious when your boots are worn every day. It's even worse when your shoes get wet on a regular basis. Some boot manufacturers use antimicrobial agents in the fabric or as an outer coating to prevent bacterial growth and reduce unpleasant smells. One solution is to invest in more than one pair of boots and alternate wear.
§ Whether you're storing your boots overnight or for several months, another option is to deodorize them.
§ You can use store-bought medicated powder, but it might compromise the insoles and make the fabric deteriorate faster. Check the powder's warning label for recommendations on insoles.
§ Two homespun remedies to control odor are kitty litter or cedar chips. Pour a cup or two of one or the other into an old pair of socks. Fold or twist the tops of the socks before sliding them into your boots. Worn elastic isn't a problem, but make sure you choose a pair of socks without holes in the feet.
Some climates naturally attract spiders, scorpions, salamanders and insects. These creatures take cover from excessive heat, cold and water in boots and shoes. Many species bite or sting when they feel threatened, so don't put your feet into your boots before you check for bugs and the like.
§ Scorpions and many types of spiders and insects enjoy dark places. They hide in small spaces, seeking water and moisture in hot and dry conditions when people aren't around.
§ If you're staying in a place that's prone to these creatures, always store your boots in an airtight container to prevent unwanted guests.
§ Turn your boots upside down at an angle before you wear them. Forcefully bang the soles and then the sides together to see if anything falls or crawls out of your boots. Avoid side-to-sole contact to prevent scuffs.
There's nothing like the smell of new boots. Don't be distracted by the fresh new scent when you open the box and the packaging for the first time. Pay attention to how they're wrapped.
§ If you have the space, keep the interior supports that some manufacturers use to help them maintain their shape.
§ Keep the manufacturer's care and instruction sheet. Follow any recommendations for storage.
Taking care of your military boots with proper storage techniques will help them last for several years. It's best let your boots dry before putting them back on your feet. Protect your footwear from harsh environments by keeping them out of the light and extreme temperatures.