You’re a logger in the Pacific Northwest. Your lace-up steel-toe Danner boots with a puncture resistant sole have served you well for several months. In the last few days, however, they’ve developed an annoying squeak. You’ve checked to make sure the soles are still securely attached. They are. What else could be causing the noise? Let’s look at the quick and easy ways how to stop work boots from squeaking.
Updated November 2021 by Maya
Squeaky boots are irritating, especially if you work in a relatively quiet environment, or if you work odd hours and leave or return when your family is asleep. You don’t want to make a noisy entrance or exit.
How to fix squeaky boots
In this article I’ll address the likely culprits of squeaky boots, most of which are related to friction between 2 parts of your boot or your boot and the floor. I explain how you can fix the squeaky problem and also suggest products that work well, and advise on the best ways to use these items to stop squeaky work boots.
I’ll point out potential pitfalls so that you can avoid doing anything that would damage your boots or make them potentially hazardous to wear.
How to stop work boots from squeaking
- Locate the cause of the squeak.
- Are your boots new?
- Did your work boots get wet
- Do your rubber outsoles scrunch
- Is the squeak from inside your boot
- Do the tongue and laces rub and squeak
- If you still have a squeak
Locate the cause of the squeak.
Are the boots brand new? Did they get quite wet the last time you wore them? Is the squeak caused by gummy outsoles that stick to a smooth floor, old or stiff leather that squeaks as you move, or insoles that squish inside the boot? Once you know what needs mended, you can decide what to do.
Are your boots new?
New boots often squeak, especially if they are heavy-duty boots made from thick leather. If your boots also include safety features like a safety toe or a met guard, they are even more likely to squeak. Friction is a big cause of squeaking. When stiff leather rubs against the metal of a steel toe, it’s prone to squeak.
You can alleviate this problem by softening the leather with a quality cream, oil or spray. Wearing your boots will also decrease the squeaking of new leather. As the boots form to your feet, the leather will become more supple.
If you treat your new boots to stop their squeaking, be sure to use a product specifically for the type of leather in your boots–full-grain, Nubuck, or suede.
Follow the application directions carefully, and be sure to coat the whole boot, not just the squeaky area.
Avoid DIY methods that encourage you to dunk your new boots in water or heat them with a hair dryer. These methods soften the leather, but they are also apt to damage your boots and decrease their useful life.
Did your work boots get wet
…the last time you wore them and are squeaking now. Wet leather stiffens as it dries, and may develop creaking noises if it stays damp for a length of time. The best approach is to dry your boots fairly quickly, and then to condition them once they are dry.
Boot dryers use light heat that doesn’t harm the leather in your boots. Some boot dryers are inserted into your boots. Other models stand up vertically and are made so that you can hang your boots upside down with the dryer inside.
An added benefit of using boot dryers is that the heat will help prevent fungus from developing and will kill bacteria that leads to odor.
Once your boots are thoroughly dry, you should treat them with a boot conditioner like mink oil. Doing so will help eliminate squeaks and will also help keep waterproof or water-resistant boots from saturating.
Do your rubber outsoles scrunch
…when you walk on a smooth surface. If you’re a logger, you won’t have this problem. This might happen on the floor of a welding shop, or the concrete slab of your home or construction site. You’ll need to “roughen” the surface of your soles. You can do this with fine sandpaper or a dryer sheet.
Start by cleaning and thoroughly drying the soles of your boots.
If you use dryer sheets, you’ll need 1 for each boot. Rub the dryer sheet over the entire sole of each boot. The residue from the sheet will cling to the rubber of the sole and become a barrier that prevents friction and eliminates the noise.
If you use sandpaper, rub the soles lightly with the paper. You’re not trying to lessen the effectiveness of the slip-resistant sole, but simply to roughen the surface and decrease friction.
Don’t use oils or powders on the soles. These can make non-slip soles useless, and cause you to slide and fall.
Is the squeak from inside your boot
Noises emanating from inside the boot most often mean that the insole is rubbing against the sole of the boot. You’ll have to remove the insole of your boot first. This will be easy if the insole is made to be removed, and a bit difficult otherwise. Once the insoles are removed, you can choose any of the options below to create a layer between it and the sole of your boot.
Sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of talcum powder on the soles and gently shake your boot to evenly distribute the powder. Re-insert the insole.
Cut a dryer sheet or a thin towel to the size of your insole and insert it between the sole and insole.
Rub a thin layer of petroleum jelly on the sole, then replace the insole.
Replace the insole with a cut-to-size replacement insole. If your insoles have seen better days, you may find that the squeak disappears and that your boots are more comfortable after you replace the footbeds.
Do the tongue and laces rub and squeak
…on a regular basis. This doesn’t happen frequently. If it does, then lubricating the tongue should help. Boot oil or coconut oil work well.
If you’ve checked all of these areas, and still have a squeak.
Contact the seller or manufacturer to see if they can shed any light on the problem. Don’t be afraid to ask for a replacement. You may not get one, but at least you tried. Another option would be to visit a cobbler. He or she may be able to diagnose the difficulty and suggest a fix.
Squeaking boots are noisy and annoying. The good news is that the problem is often fairly easy to solve. The key is to isolate the specific location of the squeak and then use the best product to resolve the issue. The areas that most commonly squeak are the upper, the outsoles, the insole and the laces.
If you have tried all the solutions and still have the squeak, you may need to contact the company who made or sold the boots and request information or an exchange. Another possible problem-solver how to stop work boots from squeaking is your local shoe repair shop.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Why do my boots squeak when I walk?
A: There are lots of possible answers to that question. Basically, boots squeak either because something is in poor repair or because of friction–the rubbing of 2 surfaces against each other. Friction is the cause of most squeaking. Where the squeak occurs in your boots depends upon which surfaces are rubbing against each other.
Areas that commonly squeak are between
- 1) the soles and insoles
- 2) the outsoles and a smooth, hard walking surface
- 3) the laces and the tongue
- 4) areas where leather is stiff & rubbing against other leather or a feature such as a composite safety toe
The usual problems are new boots with a leather upper that’s particularly stiff, insoles that have worn and shifted, or outsoles that grip a little too well. Usually the problem is fixed easily, especially squeaking associated with the upper of a new pair of boots or a well-worn pair that’s gotten very damp and dried slowly.
Squeaking is more a function of wear and care issues than it is a brand or style of boot. Insulated Red Wing boots with a moc toe and a wedge sole may squeak after you wear them in a winter snowstorm. They might not. The same is true with a pair of lightweight, black men’s or women’s work shoes made by Keen or Nike and worn in a factory.
Q: What is your advice about how to stop leather boots from squeaking?
A: The bullet list above details how to stop leather boots from squeaking. In a nutshell, however, you must
- Locate the source of the squeak. Common problem areas are the upper, the outsole, the insole, or the laces of your boots.
- Use a product designed to lubricate, soften, on in some way reduce the friction occurring in that area. You may need a leather oil like mink oil, a conditioner or a household product like a dryer sheet or a piece of fine sandpaper.
- Carefully apply the product according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Q: What are your tips about how to stop shoes from squeaking on hard floors?
A: Squeaking that occurs when you walk on hard floors is almost certainly caused by the traction between the outsole and the floor. Non-slip rubber soles are especially apt to squeak when you walk across a linoleum or concrete floor.
Common suggestions for reducing this type of squeak include rubbing light sandpaper, a dryer sheet, or even the edge of a bar of hard soap along your shoe’s outsole. If used carefully, any of these will stop this kind of squeaking.
You do need to be cautious here so that you don’t make the outsole slick and increase your likelihood of slipping and falling. Don’t use anything oily. Don’t drastically alter the contour of the outsole. Be sure to test the grippiness of the outsole after you eliminate the squeak.
Q: Why are my Ariat boots squeaking after a few months of wear?
A: They could be squeaking for a number of reasons.
- Are your cowboy boots wet when they squeak? Wet leather often squeaks.
- Were they wet when you last took them off? If your slip-on boots were wet when you took them off and they dried slowly, they may squeak because the leather got a bit stiff as it dried. Conditioning may solve the problem.
- Do your boots have smooth bottoms that are nailed? If so, the squeak may be caused by a loose nail.
- Do your boots have separate insoles? If so, the squeak may be the result of the insole rubbing against the sole. A layer of talcum powder, dryer sheet, or cotton cloth between the two should help.
Q: What suggestions can you offer about how to stop cowboy boots from squeaking?
A: Regardless of whether they have a pointy toe or a square toe, your cowboy boots contain a good bit of breathable leather that must be conditioned and maintained well to prevent it from squeaking. If you take care of your boots and still notice that one or both of them now squeak, take a minute to isolate the source of the squeak.
Once you determine where the noise comes from, scroll up to our How to stop work boots from squeaking section for specific information about the best way to eliminate the specific squeak in your cowboy boots.
Q: Why are my Timberland boots squeaking?
A: That’s difficult to answer without knowing a few details.
- Are your boots new? New leather boots–from Timberland, Wolverine, Carolina, Thorogood, or just about any other company–are prone to squeak until they get broken in. Cheap leather is generally a bit softer and may squeak less initially.
- Are you conditioning your boots regularly and taking good care of them? Care and conditioning are a big factor in whether boots remain supple and free of squeaks. Again, this holds true as much for boots made by Diehard or Skechers as it does for those made by Irish Setter or Carhartt.
- Is the squeak coming from inside the boot? If so, the problem may be between the insole and the sole of the boot. A layer of powder or cloth may eliminate the difficulty. Or, you may want to purchase new insoles.