Everyone’s familiar with the sound of squeaking sneakers in a sports hall. However, hiking shoes can also squeak or suddenly start to make strange noises too. This can be really annoying, especially if you’re stalking animals to photograph them. (–> Tips for observing wildlife)
In this article, we look at why shoes can squeak with every step and what you can do about it. And there are tips and tricks to deal with squeaking shoes from a real pro.
And in our shoe hack check, we take a look at the effectiveness of some of the main pieces of advice for dealing with squeaking shoes. Some of these so-called ‘secret tips’ can do more harm than good.
Shoes can squeak when you’re walking for different reasons and in different places. The first thing you need to ask is: Where exactly is the noise coming from? Is it coming from the sole or the upper? And more from the toes or the heel?
“It’s not always easy to tell,” says Florian Kern, Head of Service at HANWAG. “When you are walking upright, it’s hard to hear exactly where a noise is coming from.” This is why: two pairs of ears are often better than one. Get a friend to kneel down and listen, he or she can determine more clearly whether the noises are coming from the sole, the upper material or from inside the shoe.
Once you’ve found out where your shoes are squeaking, there are a number of things you can do.
The sole, also known as the outsole, is often a source of noise. Sneakers can be really noisy on a linoleum floor, say at a basketball match. Hiking shoes and trekking boots also sometimes squeak if your soles are wet and you walk over a tiled floor. So what can you do if your soles squeak on certain floors?
“There’s not much you can do,” says Florian. “And I wouldn’t recommend doing anything either. This type of squeaking is not a sign of poor quality. On the contrary, it shows that your soles are made of high-quality rubber.” With outdoor shoes on, you’re more likely to be walking over natural terrain, where you won’t have this problem.
But what about the ‘secret tip’ using hairspray?
When shoes are squeaky, some people spray the outsole with hairspray. “I would not recommend doing this with high-quality sport and outdoor footwear,” says Florian. “If hairspray gets on the leather or the upper fabric, it can block the pores. And this can have a negative effect on a shoe’s breathability.”
But what can you do if it’s not your outsole that’s squeaking, but when the noise is coming from inside the sole? Florian knows more about this issue: “Very occasionally, air can get trapped inside the sole unit, causing your shoes to make a noise when walking.” This, he says, is often a guarantee issue. Anyone with this problem should contact their local outdoor retailer. Or, for HANWAG footwear, they can get in touch directly with our Customer Service.
Maybe the trapped air might disappear as you break your shoes in?
Yes, you should break in leather hiking shoes and trekking boots. (–> How to break in hiking boots). However, despite what it says on the internet, breaking them in might not stop your soles from squeaking: “Breaking in your hiking boots does not always solve the problem if there is air trapped in the sole,” adds Florian.
The main cause of squeaking hiking boots or trekking shoes has to do with the collar at the top of the upper. When you walk, the tongue can rub against the leather edging of the lining. And if the leather is dry, this might make a noise.
There’s a simple solution for this: “It can help to apply a small amount of hand cream and work it into the leather edging of the inner lining,” says Florian. This is something that you should do anyway from time to time when you clean your footwear. (–> Tips for how to clean your hiking boots). Vaseline also works well too with shoes that make noise when walking.
“Why do my shoes squeak?” This is something lots of people ask and then assume that it has to do with the inside of their shoes. With conventional everyday footwear, the footbed inside the shoe can start to slip and make a noise – especially if they are damp or sweaty inside. Florian says though, that this is rarely the case with HANWAG hiking shoes and trekking boots as: “We use footbeds made of felt or foam. So there is nothing that can squeak.”
Or maybe you feel that your shoes squeak inside at the heel? This is possible. With poorly fitting shoes, the heel can slide up and down, resulting in shoes that make a noise when walking. Here, Florian recommends using thicker socks or a footbed. In extreme cases a heel wedge can help give a better fit. You can get them, for example, at a health care supply store. (–> 4 tips for a perfect fit)
And what about the ‘secret’ baby powder squeaky shoes fix?
To stop boots squeaking due to moisture inside the shoe, you often hear about the tip of sprinkling baby powder or baking soda on the footbed. “It might well work with sneakers,” says Florian. “But, I would never do this with outdoor footwear. The fine powder will block the pores in the waterproof, breathable membrane and can also damage the leather.”
New walking boots are not normally squeaky. Over time though, leather boots and shoes can start to squeak or creak. “This is normally a sign that the leather really needs some tender loving care,” says Florian. If leather gets too dry, it can become hard, brittle and start to make noises.
To keep the leather on your hiking shoes or trekking boots soft and supple, you should clean them properly and dry them carefully (not by the fire, but at room temperature). It’s also important to perform some regular leather shoe care – using shoe wax. (–> How to clean hiking boots made easy)
Wax prevents leather from drying out. By looking after your boots and shoes, you’ll give them a long life. Please note: Never use grease or oil. It blocks up the pores in the leather and impairs its breathability.
With our expert tips, we hope that you can fix your squeaking shoes or creaking leather and keep it quiet. And if nothing seems to work, ask a shoemaker, or get in touch with the HANWAG Customer Service. Florian and his team will do everything in their power to make your next trip go as smoothly and as quietly as possible.