Meet the new Nikwax Ambassador!

This month’s blog is penned by our brand-new Nikwax ambassador! Heather Mackins is a solo hiker and adventurer whose connection with the great outdoors goes beyond a hobby. Heather is passionate about the wider benefits of life on our tracks, trails, hills and mountains, and their impact on our mental wellbeing in a world dominated by technology and social media.

Heather has hiked many of the UK’s long distance routes including Cape Wrath Trail, West Highland Way (twice!), Great Glen Way, Cumbria Way, Cotswold Way, and South Downs Way, and is drawn to the simplicity of life on the trail, spending prolonged periods in nature, and living self-sufficiently out of her backpack. She has blogged extensively about her outdoor travels, which you can read more about here.

In her inaugural blog for us, Heather writes about her exciting upcoming trips and the importance of preparing footwear correctly before putting it through its paces…

As is often the case during the winter months, recently I have spent a lot of my spare time immersed in preparing and researching for this year’s upcoming expeditions. I find this type of preparation almost certainly helps me get through the colder weather and the darker days and gives me something to look forward to.

Whilst I do enjoy winter hikes, I must admit that I much prefer the spring and summer months when the days are longer and there is less prospect of freezing in your tent – I often can’t help but feel the winter months rob me of some of my freedom…

I have already managed to plan quite a line-up for this year, including the Affric Kintail Way, the Alder Trail (between Fort William and Aviemore), and expeditions to the Isle of Rum and the Kerry Way in Ireland, which I will modify slightly to include a summit of Carrauntoohil, Ireland’s highest peak. All these expeditions, except for the Alder Trail, will be undertaken on a solo basis and equate to roughly 300 miles of hiking over some very rough terrain with 14,500m / 47,500 feet of elevation, plus around 24 nights of wild camping!  

My first expedition, the Affric Kintail Way, is fast approaching and so I now find myself preparing my hiking boots in readiness – surprisingly, a task I thoroughly enjoy! Nikwax’s very useful Hiking Care Kit provides the key products I need to ensure my boots deliver for me on the tracks and trails in all weather conditions (there is nothing worse than damp, uncomfortable feet in the great outdoors).

The first step to maintaining any type of footwear is, of course, regular cleaning since dirt can work its way into the fibres of the materials, reducing breathability. In some cases, prolonged periods of neglecting to clean footwear can contribute to its materials breaking down.

After removing excess mud and dirt with a brush, I always use Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel, it being recommended for Gore-Tex®, Sympatex®, eVent® and all other waterproof footwear. It improves the performance of your boots and shoes, keeping your feet warmer and drier in all weather conditions.

I also find the cleaning process helps me to identify any repairs that are required, such as soles that are too worn to support my feet effectively, loose eyelets, or frayed laces. It is vital to keep tabs on the condition of your outdoor kit, especially when it is relied upon to keep you safe and comfortable in outdoor environments.

Once footwear is clean of dirt and the overall condition inspected, it is time to waterproof it by selecting the appropriate reproofing treatment for the shoe in question. Nikwax’s Hiking Care Kit contains two key products for the job – for combination fabric and leather footwear, Fabric & Leather Proof, for purely leather footwear, Waterproofing Wax for Leather. Both are very easy to use and add water repellency (as opposed to restore it). As with all Nikwax products, they also maintain breathability.

Whether your boots/shoes are made from leather, suede or mixed materials, pay special attention to the stitching and edges of (any) hardware to ensure they are completely protected from the elements. Post-proofing, allow them to dry at room temperature – never expose footwear to a direct heat source as this has the potential to cause irreversible damage to the material. It could also be harmful to the adhesives used in the footwear’s construction.

Finally, it is wise to condition your leather boots a couple of times a year, and, for this, I recommend using Nixwax Conditioner for Leather (as well as reviving dried-out footwear, it can also reduce the break-in time for new boots).

It is so important that we seek to maintain our gear as this will help our gear last longer (yippee!) but also prevents replacing items so frequently rather than adding to the landfill.


As one passionate hiker to another, have a fantastic 2024. May the weather be with you!

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