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Sole hydrolysis

Sole hydrolysis: the facts

Meindl uses a number of different soles on their boots, including Vibram. The material used in the midsoles sometimes undergoes a chemical process called hydrolysis, which can make the midsole material fail. This can occur on all makes of boots. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about hydrolysis – and how to avoid it:

What happens to the boot?

Hydrolysis causes two main issues – the sole material crumbling away, or the sole separating from the boot. 

Why does this happen? 

The number one cause is lack of use.

The midsole materials must be regularly compressed and released to shift fresh air through them. When left in storage for extended periods, the sole material goes brittle, and it can fail. Rather in the way rubber will perish after a time.

This is intensified by storing the boots before they are fully dry, and storing them in damp or humid conditions.  

Top tips to avoid hydrolysis through lack of use:

  • Wear them regularly
  • Avoid long periods of storage
  • Always fully dry your boots before storing them for any length of time
  • Store your boots in dry conditions


More about hydrolysis

The number two cause of hydrolysis is exposure to certain chemicals.

Boot materials are destroyed quickly by exposure to harsh substances such as manure, urine, pesticides, herbicides, dips, fuels and oils. These chemicals destroy boots fast.

The substances dissolve or eat away at the sole and glue. They also make the leather turn very dry and hard, which causes it to crack.

Top tips to avoid hydrolysis through chemicals:

Always clean the soles and uppers of your boots after using them:

  • Use a soft brush and clean loose dirt from the outside of each boot – with the laces removed
  • Use warm water and a soft brush to remove dirt, dry or wet mud and debris, paying particular attention to the welt (where the boot upper is attached to the sole)
  • Use warm water and a sponge to clean the interior of each boot, making sure all debris is removed. The warm water won’t damage the GORE-TEX lining
  • Let your clean and treated boots dry slowly with the tongues wide open in a room-temperature area with low humidity or in a dry, shady place
  • Store leather boots where temperatures are stable, cool and dry

I think my boots have sole hydrolysis. What can be done?

If the uppers of your boots are still in good condition – if they’re flexible and not cracked in any way, then they could be re-soled. Read all about our resoling service.


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