I have these hiking shoes that have metal hook type of eyelets. Since I frequently go to the leech infested areas of the western ghats in India, I'm forced to use salt on my shoes to prevent leeches from climbing onto me (and it works pretty well). But due to salt, the metal hooks seem to be rusting.

Is there a way I can prevent the rust while still exposing the hooks to salt? This post talks about using oil as a possible solution to prevent rusting. But obviously with shoes it would be impossible to do. I'm thinking if there is a chemical coating that could help me with this.

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    The answer would also be useful to people like me: I often walk along the coast (and sometimes carry my boots on kayaking trips). Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 14:08
  • Yes, I thought about that as well. However, it's not a frequent activity for me. As of now, leeches are of a higher priority :) Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 14:12
  • Do you apply the salt directly to the metal? Could you treat your boots without any salt getting on the metal parts?
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 15:50
  • @ShemSeger A bit difficult to do that when you are in a rain forest and you have a couple of seconds to reapply the salt before the leech army climbs onto you. Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 15:51
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    Oh wait, there is a horror flick: Attack of the Giant Leeches
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 16:01

3 Answers 3


When I bought my first pair of walking boots, I was told to buy a jar of vaseline and use that on the hooks of the boots.

You can apply it very precisely and it is very likely not to run off and spread over the boot. (Not sure how it reacts when it gets hot.)

  • How about rain? Would it wash off in rain? Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 4:07
  • It will not wash off in rain.
    – Willeke
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 16:19
  • @Ricketyship One does not simply wash off vaseline.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 19:11
  • @ShemSeger In a tropical forest where it's a mix of hot weather and rainfall? I've to try this out though. Seems like a good option. Another couple of months before the monsoon starts. Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 19:15
  • @Ricketyship You're going to have soft hands either way. Your laces are going to get soaked in vaseline, which is inevitably going to end up all over your hands when you're tying up your boots.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 19:21

I think the simplest solution would be to wear ankle-high gaiters and salt the gaiters instead of your boots. This way you will get even added protection from the gaiter, and spare your expensive boot from the inevitable abuses of applying chemical treatments.

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You could also try using anti-leech socks.

Anti Leech Socks

Oil treatments are designed to displace salt, which is the opposite of what you want, you want the salt there to deter the leeches, treating you boots with oil would prevent the salt from sticking (even if you spot treat your boots, it may drip or bleed).

The best thing you could do for boots if you're treating them with salt, is clean the salt off your boots after your hike. In Canada we use a lot of salt on the roads to eliminate ice, this salt ends up on your vehicle, and if you don't clean your vehicle regularly, the salt eats away at your fenders and undercarriage like crazy. Regularly cleaning the salt off denies the salt the opportunity to start a chemical reaction.

  • The only problem is that leeches tend to get under the gaiter from the lower end of the gaiters. Even when the elastic binding there is real tight. I've tried this before once. Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 15:39
  • @Ricketyship That sucks. Maybe treat the whole elastic of the gaiter by dipping/soaking it in your salty solution. I bet that would deter leeches from climbing up under your gaiter.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 15:47
  • Should try that. Haven't soaked the whole gaiter as such. But wouldn't that lead to the gaiter's salt content affecting the hooks again anyway? (I agree it would be lot lesser than the direct application on the shoe). Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 15:49
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    @Ricketyship I wouldn't soak the whole thing, just the bottom elastic, and then treat the outside of the gaiter. I've edited my answer to add a few more suggestions.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 15:58

Wash the eyelets with soap and water (tooth brush) follow with a solution of TSP. (tri-sodium phosphate)

Let dry.

Apply zinc chromate primer with small brush or Q-tip (cotton swap on a stick)

Let dry.

2 coats of Water based polyurethane varnish. Renew every 30 days of wearing.

Note: Use care with the ZnCr2O5 paint -- it's BRIGHT yellow, and errors in application will look, well, odd.

Zinc chromate is a general purpose metal primer. Chromium is highly toxic (as bad as lead) so it's harder to find. It isn't not strong. It acts as a binder chemically bonding to metal.

Failing this, mix up a batch of epoxy. Thin with a drop or two acetone, and carefully coat the cleaned metal with that.

Or, next pair of boots get ones with plastic eyelets.


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