Let’s face it, boots aren’t one of the most glamorous elements of airsoft.
After all, you didn’t get into airsoft for the boots, now did you? No, you got into it for the guns. But you’ll be able to afford more guns if you make your boots last. And you’ll make your boots last by looking after them.
We’re not talking parade-ground gloss here. Just sensible, straightforward post-skirmish maintenance that will keep your boots supple and water-tight for years to come for a surprisingly small investment of your precious Sunday evening time.
You’ll see that I use dubbin. This is an ancient and mysterious compound accidentally discovered by medieval alchemists during their pursuit of the philosopher’s stone.
Actually, it’s a mixture of natural waxes prepared and packaged in Corby. It’s been used by generations of hunters, horsey types and soldiers to moisturise and preserve heavy leather. It buffs to a matt finish. That makes it useless for getting a mirror-like finish, but ideal for the battlefield, where the last thing you want is anything with a vaguely reflective glint.
There are more recipes for the care of boots than there are for making a martini. For what it’s worth, here’s mine.
- Get to work on your boots as soon as you get home. That way, the mud won’t have time to dry on.
- Remove as much of the crud as you can with a stiff brush.
- Take out the laces, wash them in cold water, squeeze them out and leave them to dry.
- Clean the outside of the boots under running water. Use cold water only, as hot water will remove the oils that help preserve the leather. Never use detergents, for the same reason.
- Take care to remove all the dirt, bbs and body parts of your dead enemies from the treads. The more you get out, the more traction you’ll have the next time you’re on the field. Which could save you an embarrassing ‘arse over tip’ incident.
- Take a moment to remember John Sipe. He invented the thin incisions you’ll see in the soles of vehicle tyres and good quality boots. Known today as ‘sipes’, these structures create a partial vacuum when wet, effectively sucking your boot to the ground. In memory of Mr Sipe, clean them out with a pin or similar implement. (I use an old sterling silver cocktail stick. Each to their own.)
- Pat your boots dry with a paper towel. Fill with rolled newspaper and leave to dry. Do not expose them to heat. Washing your boots will have removed some of the oil content of the leather. Fast drying can cause it to crack.
- While the boots are drying, take a shower, have a cuppa, clean your rifle, apologise to your other half for all the mud that’s now everywhere. Most importantly, use the time to put your tin of dubbin in a warm place (the top of a radiator is ideal) until it’s nice and runny.
- Once the boots are dry, liberally apply softened dubbin to the uppers using a rag or stiff shoe brush. Pay particular attention to seams. Really work it in.
- Leave your boots for up to an hour for the dubbin to soak in. Then buff off any surplus with a softer shoe brush.
- Put the laces back in and put your boots away, ideally in a place where they can ‘breathe’ and any residual water (from your sweat) can evaporate.
- If you leave your boots unused for more than a few months, reapply some dubbin. It’ll only take a few minutes and it will keep your faithful friends in perfect nick so they’ll be ready to rock when you are.
A good pair of boots will set you back over £100. But if you follow this simple routine, they’ll repay you with years of faithful service.