In the world of boot care, there are cardinal rules that everyone must follow. Not following these rules will lead to incurable damage to your boots and invalidate your warranty.
Here are the cardinal rules:
Rule #1: Never put your boots near a heat source
When you place your boots near a source of heat, like a fireplace, heat register, or even under a blast of hot air from a vehicle heater, you essentially dry out the leather to a point from which it cannot recover, causing shrinkage and wrinkling. In addition, heat can cause delamination of rubber rands and outsoles, splitting them away from the uppers.
If your leather boots are wet on the outside don't worry, they are made for this reason. Outdoor wetness is completely normal and fine. Simply let the boots dry naturally in the open air without heat. Once every four to six months, depending on use, apply a quality leather conditioner approved for use with Gore-Tex membranes (if you have a boot with Gore-Tex) and ensure a proper level of hydration (not too much, not too little). Please also be careful of leather conditioners that contain chemicals that can delaminate the cement used to attach the rubber rand to the leather upper (select models only). We are not big fans of oils or silicone-based conditioners as they can interfere with the performance of the membrane (and invalidate the membrane warranty).
If you step into a deep stream or experience heavy rain and the insides of your boots become wet, do not use heat to dry them out on the inside. Instead, use (a) the open air to naturally dry with time, (b) newspaper, which acts as a sort of sponge absorbing moisture, or (c) a Peet boot dryer, which uses room temperature air to dry the boots more quickly. Do not let the boots sit long without addressing moisture inside of the boot as this may allow for the formation of mold. The same can be said of excessive foot moisture caused by sweating, especially with leather-lined boots. If you have leather-lined boots, don't forget to condition the inside leather.
This is the primary rule of leather boot care!
Rule #2: Do not use a leather conditioner that is not approved for use with Gore-Tex membranes
Gore-Tex membranes require that a specific type of leather treatment be used on the boot. Silicone-based and other non-approved treatments can clog the pores of the membrane, which will cause them to stop breathing and will also invalidate your Gore-Tex warranty. We recommend using our Hydrobloc cream (full grains) or spray (nubucks, split grains, and Perwangers) or another product on the market approved for use with Gore-Tex (e.g. Nikwax).
Please also be careful not to use leather conditioners (typically leather oils) known to delaminate the cement used to attach the rubber rand to the leather upper. While excellent for the life of your leather, delamination of a rubber rand can be difficult to cure and may require resoling. Please inquire with Zamberlan USA about specific products to avoid for randed leather boots, or preferably use one of our recommended products from Zamberlan (Hydrobloc), Nikwax, or Graingers.
For help on cleaning and caring for your full-grain leather boots, try this video:
For help on cleaning and caring for your nubuck and suede leather boots, try this video:
Rule #3: Buy the right boot or shoe for the activity
Zamberlan strongly recommends buying boots and shoes that are well suited for the intended purpose and the intended environment. While this seems obvious, it is not always readily apparent when evaluating different models. There are specific reasons why Zamberlan offers many different models within the same category, and that is because usage varies greatly depending on the user and the geography in which the activity is being enjoyed.
For example, customers selecting a backpacking boot to be primarily used in the backcountry will want a supportive model with approximately a 4.0mm insole (e.g. the 996 Vioz GTX). If the backpacker plans on navigating rough backcountry areas with tough rock or shale, we strongly recommend buying a more rugged boot employing a full rubber rand (e.g. the 960 Guide GTX RR). Likewise, a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail (or similar) should shy away from unsupportive "running-style" shoes which will not last the journey and ultimately lead to injury due to over-fatigued feet. Proper structure, support, and insole stiffness exist for a reason, which is to transfer the workload from the foot to the shoe.
Selecting the wrong boot for the activity not only affects user experience and performance but the product and hiker durability as well.