The gear you wear as a wildland firefighter is crucial to your safety as you battle intense flames. While protecting your body with fire-resistant jackets, pants, and helmets is important, you should never overlook a quality pair of boots. This footwear protects your feet from flames and other hazards.
You probably already have a pair of these boots, but, unfortunately, they won’t last forever. In fact, depending on how well you look after them, you may have to purchase new boots regularly. That’s why we’ve put together this guide going over the signs it’s time to replace your wildland firefighter boots.
How Long Should They Last?
Before we start talking about the common signs of damaged boots, we need to cover how long you should expect a standard pair of boots to last. On top of the intense heat, your boots must endure the constant abuse from the water and chemicals used to put out the flames.
On top of that, you’ll constantly be walking across jagged rocks and broken tree branches. These can do a lot of damage to the soles of your boots over time, so you’ll want to make sure they can sustain heavy wear and tear.
As long as you care for your boots, they will last for a while. However, they’re not indestructible. Also, depending on how often you use them, they could start breaking down before the wildfire season ends. Unfortunately, due to the nature of this career, durable boots don’t last as long as advertised. If you’re lucky, they might last you a few years, but in some cases, they’ll only hold up for a couple of months before you’ll need to do something about them.
What Are the Signs To Look For?
Now that you know that you should check on the integrity of your boots regularly, it’s time for us to cover the actual signs it’s time to replace your wildland firefighter boots. Not all of these will mean that it’s time for a brand-new pair, but they’re certainly things you’ll want to watch in the future.
The most likely problem that you’ll run into is worn-out soles. This is the part of any shoe that takes the most abuse. Since you’ll be running around on rugged terrain, your boots’ soles won’t be able to hold out for long. On top of that, the intense heat will do a number on the rubberized materials that manufacturers typically use.
Some boots can better resist the heat, while others fare better against sharp objects. Either way, they’ll take a beating every time you’re out in the field, so be sure to thoroughly inspect the bottom of your boots after each use.
Dried or Cracked Leather
As we mentioned earlier, the water and chemicals you spread across the flames will wear out your boots. You’ll most likely notice this in the degrading quality of the leather. If you see dry spots or cracks in the material, that typically means that these elements are slowly degrading their overall quality.
Fortunately, you can do something to fight this issue. Thoroughly scrubbing, drying, and greasing up your boots after each use will help remove the excess water and chemicals while protecting them for future use. Obviously, removing all the harmful chemical residues won’t be possible, but anything you can get rid of will help increase your boots’ longevity.
While most of the rugged terrain, like jagged rocks and sticks, will tear up the soles of your boots, some of them will be able to reach other areas. Luckily, leather is excellent at resisting these sharp objects, but the threading that holds the pieces together is not.
Even though a quality bootmaker will know how to sew their products together in a way that keeps them from easily ripping, it’s still bound to happen. If you see any small tears in your boots’ threading, be sure to keep an eye on it to ensure it doesn’t worsen.
Glue Coming Apart
One issue that isn’t as common relates to the glue that holds the boots together. This glue can come apart. If the flames get hot enough, the intense heat could ruin the solidarity of the adhesive, leading to it sliding around or even coming apart. Depending on your boots, you could lose your entire sole during the heat of battle against a raging wildfire. This takes a while to happen, though, so simple checks will help ensure your safety.
Torn Up Insides
Sometimes, it’s not the outside of the shoe that’s the problem—it’s the inside. Over time, the interior of your boots can become just as beat up as the outside. If you’re not careful enough with them, your feet can wear right through the materials and rip your boot from the inside out. This problem is relatively uncommon, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it as a possibility.
Any Size of Holes
Finally, if a hole starts to form in your boots, that’s a clear sign that they’re not safe to use anymore. Holes ruin the fire-resistant abilities of any piece of clothing. While you can theoretically fix smaller holes, simply replacing them is usually the safer option.
Should You Repair or Replace Them?
But that brings up the question for the last section of this guide: should you repair or replace your worn-out boots? If you are good about keeping up with the damages, repairs are possible. In some cases, you might even be able to rebuild your boots, but both options can get expensive depending on where you go. The best option is to replace old boots with a brand-new pair.
This allows you to upgrade to a high-quality pair and keep up with the latest fire-resistance tech. If you’re in the market for some wildland firefighter boots, you should check out the vast selection we have on our site. Give us a call if you have any questions. We know you’ll be able to find a pair that is just right for you.