How to Dry Hiking Boots (Step-By-Step & 5 Tips to Nail It)

Nothing’s worse than hiking in soggy wet boots. Although it’s unavoidable when you’re on the trail and it starts to downpour, it still can make for a slightly miserable experience.

I remember one particular hike when my boots got so wet and muddy that the water soaked through to my socks, and I ended up with terrible blisters.  

I also made a mistake once of not properly drying my boots after taking them off at home, and to my surprise, a few days later, when I went hiking again, they were still wet. 

Since then, I’ve learned the importance of properly drying your hiking boots between hikes and have thoroughly researched the best way to dry boots for hiking.

Not only will doing so help you prevent blisters and other foot problems (like athlete’s foot), but it will also help ensure that bacteria will not grow in your boots. Here are my recommendations based on my mistakes and what I’ve learned along the way. 

Quick Summary 

  • A wet pair of hiking boots can take a very long time to dry (especially leather boots). 
  • Make sure you absorb as much moisture from the boots as possible and perform steps that allow the air to circulate properly. 
  • Avoid exposing hiking boots to heat or direct sunlight to dry them out, as these things can quickly ruin your boots. 

How Do You Dry Wet Hiking Boots?

The best way to dry your hiking boots is by following a step-by-step process that requires completely removing the laces and the insoles, cleaning them thoroughly and using a newspaper or a kitchen roll to absorb all the moisture.

However, regardless of where you are, it’s essential to start the drying process as soon as possible and ensure that you have a spot to hang them as they dry to allow air to circulate around the boots.

Follow these steps to learn how to dry hiking boots properly and effectively. 

Start The Process As Soon As Possible After The Hike 

I’ve learned the hard way that wet boots can take a pretty long time to fully dry (really soaked boots can take up to a week to fully dry).

If you want to ensure that your boots are ready for your next hike, the best thing you can do is start the drying process as soon as possible after taking them off your feet. 

As soon as I return home from a hike, I set aside some time to start the drying process for my boots. If I’m backpacking for a multi-day hike, I begin this process when I get to my campsite. 

Remove The Laces From The Hiking Boots 

removing laces from hiking boots

If your boots are wet, it’s likely you also have wet laces.

Although it can seem like a bit of a hassle, removing the laces from your hiking boots is important to help speed up the drying process, as it helps air circulate more freely around the boot. 

After I remove the laces, I like to make sure I give them a thorough cleaning.

I find that this step helps them to last longer, and it’s straightforward to do.

I’ll either throw them in the washing machine or rinse them in the sink with soap and water. After that, I always let them air dry to avoid shrinking or fraying.  

Read More: Can You Wash Hiking Boots In The Washing Machine

Remove The Insole From The Hiking Boots (If Possible)

removing insoles from my hiking boots

Just like with the laces, you also want to remove the insoles from your boots.

I realize that this step is not always possible because, for some hiking boots, the insole stays attached to the boot’s midsole.  

Since I always use my own aftermarket insoles in my hiking boots, this step is a breeze.

It helps a wet insole dry faster and promotes better air circulation in the boots because the excess moisture doesn’t stay inside.   

Check our guide where you can find the best 2023 hiking insoles on the market.

Clean Your Hiking Boots Thoroughly 

Although there’s the temptation not to spend a lot of time cleaning hiking boots that you’ll only get dirty again, this step proves critical in helping your hiking boots properly dry, and it’s not difficult.  

I recommend using a stiff brush to scrub away any mud, dirt, dust, grass, or other grime that has stuck to the shoes during your hike. After scrubbing away most of this built-up mess, I wipe the boots with a clean cloth. 

I also suggest doing this step outside, as, in my experience, it can get pretty messy, and you don’t really want all of that stuff you brought back from the trail getting into your sink.   

Hang Them Up To Dry 

Once you’ve cleaned your boots and prepped them to allow the air to circulate, you want to hang them up to dry naturally. This way, you will also eliminate the bad odor of your hiking boots.

In my experience, they dry quickly when you hang them upside down because it allows all the moisture to drip out of the boots. 

Although it may seem like a good idea to hang them near a heat source, such as a radiator, you should avoid placing them anywhere too close to direct heat. Direct heat can dry out your boot’s protective materials and cause possible damage. 

To avoid this problem, I usually just hang my boots overnight in my garage. However, I’ve heard from friends who hang them in the bathroom over the tub or in their mudroom, and it also seems to work out well. Try to find a cool spot whenever possible. 

Adjust This Process Slightly If You’re Drying Your Boots During A Hike 

If you need to dry your boots out during a multi-day hike, you will need to adjust this process slightly, and getting them completely dry will most likely prove a bit more difficult than when you’re at home. 

You should still make sure that you remove the laces and insole and clean them as best as you can (although I realize it won’t be as thorough as at home).

However, you will also need to realize that if your hiking boots got really wet, they likely wouldn’t be completely dry when you need to use them the next day. 

Although it can be tempting to place your boots close to your campfire to use the heat to speed up the process, remember the importance of not placing your boots too close to a direct heat source. 

You may actually end up melting the rubber soles of your hiking boots this way. It’s true, a friend of mine had that happen once, and he learned a quick lesson when he realized that he likely ruined a new pair of boots that had cost him quite a lot of money.  

hiking boots drying next to firecamp
Courtesy of Andrew E. Larsen @ Flickr

Your best bet is to keep them away from the fire. However, you may still want to angle them slightly so that the inside of the hiking boots faces the direction of the campfire, and it will likely help to speed up the drying process a bit. 

Also, if you have access to any of the methods I’ll discuss in the next section, you could potentially dry your boots overnight while camping. 

At any rate, when you need to put your hiking boots on the next day and discover that they still feel damp, you can put on two pairs of socks to help absorb some of the excess water while you walk and avoid having your foot rub against the wet shoes. 

Related Article: How to Care for Leather Hiking Boots

5 Tips To Speed Up The Hiking Boot Drying Process

Although you’ll definitely need patience to properly dry your wet shoes after a hike, a few methods do exist that many hikers say can help you cut the drying time for your boots.

I’ve tried several of these things myself, and some of them make excellent options for helping you dry your boots more quickly.  

1. Use Newspaper Or A Kitchen Roll

adding newspaper in my hiking boots

Both a newspaper and a kitchen roll are a type of absorbent material that makes excellent ways to wick excess moisture away.

Stuff newspaper or kitchen paper into your hiking boots (use as much as you can cram in), and let it sit until the material has absorbed as much moisture as possible.  

You’ll know that it’s time to replace the newspaper or kitchen paper with fresh ones when it’s turned soggy and does not absorb any more water after leaving it in there for a while. 

Once you think that the newspaper or kitchen roll will not absorb anything else (i.e., it’s not getting soggy anymore), remove it from the hiking boots, allow the air to circulate, and finish drying them. 

2. Use A Boot Dryer

If you’re an avid hiker, a boot dryer makes a great investment. I recently purchased a boot dryer for myself, and I can’t believe it took me so long.

It’s actually proven itself as one of the best methods to help boots dry quickly without damaging the leather or synthetic materials on the boots. 

The boot dryer uses a thermal convection method as a heat source for drying boots, which gently warms them without any high heat that could cause damage.  

Although it’s an additional cost to your hiking gear, it quickly pays for itself in terms of drying your boots quickly and keeping them in good condition. Some models even allow you to dry multiple pairs of boots simultaneously, which is good if your family has several hikers. 

3. Use A Towel

using a towel to dry by boots for hiking

A dry towel is another type of absorbent material that you can use to aid in the drying of your boots. You should only need to use one large bath towel for this process.

Place your hiking boots on the towel and tuck some of the corners of the towel into each of the boots.

Wrap the rest of the towel around the boots and enclose them. The towel will help absorb the moisture from the outside of the boot. 

I make sure that I dedicate an old towel for this task, as it will quickly ruin the towel, and you won’t want to use it again for anything else. 

4. Use A Fan 

If you have a portable fan at home, you can effectively use it as another way to shorten the drying time of your hiking boots.

Since a fan uses cool air and does not blow heat on the boots, you can keep your hiking boots in front of it for as long as you don’t need to worry about heat damaging your boots. 

5. Use A Hair Dryer 

Use this method only if your hair dryer has a cold setting. Do not use it with hot air.

Some hikers I’ve talked to say that using a blow dryer to dry hiking boots makes them dry in no time. However, any experienced hiker will tell you that this method is a surefire way to damage a hiking boot.

Again, the high heat blows out of the hair dryer and directly toward the boots. Remember, heat can damage many parts of your hiking boots, including stitching, leather/synthetic materials, and waterproof protection.

Avoid using any method that involves heat to dry your boots. 

Can You Avoid Getting Your Hiking Shoes or Boots Wet? 

If you’re serious about hiking, you likely will encounter times when the weather or terrain (like mud puddles) does not work in your favor, and your hiking footwear will undoubtedly get wet.

However, I’ve found that you can reduce the chance of drenched boots by investing in a good, high-quality waterproof pair of hiking footwear

The waterproofing will help prevent the water from entering the inside of the boot, and you’ll likely only have to let your boots dry for a few hours since the inside won’t be wet. 


How Can I Dry My Boots Fast?

Your boots will dry fastest if you have access to boot dryers and use them. However, you can also help them dry quickly by using things that absorb moisture (such as old towels, newspaper, or kitchen rolls) and hanging them to dry. 

How Do I Dry My Boots Overnight?

You can dry your boots overnight by removing the laces and insoles, soaking up the excess moisture with material that will absorb moisture, and hanging them upside down in a cool place away from high heat. 

Can You Dry Hiking Boots in the Dryer?

You should not place hiking boots in the dryer. Doing so will expose them to high heat and quickly damage the boots by compromising the materials and making them fall apart. 

How Long Does It Take for Hiking Boots to Dry Naturally?

The drying time for hiking boots naturally depends on various factors such as humidity, ventilation, and the material. Leather hiking boots may take longer to dry, typically ranging from 24 to 48 hours or more.

Should I Avoid Drying Hiking Boots Near a Direct Heat Source?

Yes, we recommend you avoid drying your hiking boots near a direct heat source like a wood stove. High heat can cause damage to the boots, including warping or cracking, especially for wet hiking boots. Opt for a gentle and indirect drying method instead.

Jennifer Strom

Jennifer Strom

Jennifer Strom has been a writer for over 20 years and an outdoor and hiking enthusiast for most of her life. After spending much of her career in the corporate world, she decided to freelance to spend more time with her family and explore new places. You will find her always looking forward to her next weekend adventure and writing guides that help others make the most of their own hikes and time outdoors.

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