You bought your favorite pair of waterproof hiking boots years ago and they've protected your feet and allowed you many, many miles of excellent hiking, wonderful backpacking and camping and some unforgettable memories. But they're beginning to get a bit worn, starting to crack a bit and you've replaced the inners several times and even re-glued the soles a few times.
They've become a part of your family, have treated you well and you're wondering if maybe it's time to think about replacing them but you're not sure if they're ready for the trash heap yet. So, how do you know when your favorite hiking boots are in need of replacing? We'll try to answer that question for you here.
The first thing you should consider is the boot sole. Is the sole losing it's traction? Are you finding that you are slipping a bit more than you used to and that it's more difficult to stay on slippery surfaces that you used to be able to cling to almost like a fly? You know how important it is to have good traction. Without that traction, those rocks and other smooth surfaces that you cross are going to be much more difficult to stay on. This can cause all kinds of problems so you know you need soles that grab the surface and hold when you need them to. Are the soles getting smooth and obviously worn? If so, it's time to replace the boots.
Also, in regard to the soles: are they actually wearing down and losing their thickness? Are you beginning to feel small stones and pebbles when you walk on them, more than usual? Do your feet bottoms feel rather sore and aching after walking for several hours? If so, do not hesitate. Get some new hiking boots because these old dogs are losing their comfort and protection qualities which is why you bought them in the first place, right?
When you cross shallow water areas or climb on sandy hills, do you find that more debris is beginning to seep into your boots, causing you to have to stop and change socks or empty out your boots more frequently? This means the scree collar padding is wearing thin and is unable to keep out the "stuff" that it used to keep out. You can not just replace the scree collar. It's time for you to consider another pair of hiking boots, my friend.
Remember when you first got your boots and you never or rarely ever got any kind of blisters or hot spots? They were very comfortable and you could walk for extremely long distances without even an itch or any type of sign of blistering or foot fatigue. If you are starting to get blisters or hot spots on your feet, anywhere, now, it's a sign that the inner surfaces of the boots are thinning out and are not providing the protection and padding that they once did. You can only change the foot bed liners so many times. Once the padding under the foot bed begins to wear out and break down, it's time for another pair of boots.
In a related sense, when those padded linings that have served you so well begin to cause you to feel tenderness (or worse), even after short hikes, they've seen their best days and they're trying to tell you that it's time to let them go. These built-in linings can not be replaced. Move on to a new pair.
One of the most obvious signs of the need for replacement is when the seams, that used to hold out water and other debris, begin to split and come loose. Yes, you can take them to a shoe repair shop and hope that they can extend the life of the boots but keep in mind that sometimes it does no good or even makes matters worse. First of all, they'll need to completely remove all the threading in the seams, place waterproof glue in them and then re-sew new seams in. This will often leave small holes in the uppers that will allow water to seep in. In addition, when new threads are sewn in, new hot spot possibilities are increased with changes in pressure and suture rubbing. You sure do not want this. You can let the repair shop do the work and then use the old hikers around the house to mow the lawn in or use in the garden but they're no longer suitable for extended hiking.
Everyone hates to give up the things they love and we often do form a loving relationship with truly excellent hiking boots that have served us well for so long but when they're ready to give up the ghost, do not try to drag more life out of the old friends. Let them die with dignity.