Fair Go: Man baffled by claim his $190 steel cap boots deteriorated because he didn't wear them enough

We all know the phrase “use it or lose it”, but most of us think of muscles or skills or a language, not work boots.

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A Canterbury man went to Fair Go after complaining to a manufacturer and getting the seemingly counterintuitive advice. Source: Fair Go

Boots are something that you might think, the more you wear them, the sooner they wear out.

That’s how Mike Rogers sees it and he pulls no punches in his review of his Steel Blue Hobart work boots: "They're landfill".

To be fair Mike had been happy at first – steel caps, NZ leather, on special at $190, down from $205, comfy, all very much like the pair of Steel Blues he’d owned for some years before.

And these weren’t for everyday wear like most of Mike’s work boots - these were weekenders on the lifestyle block.

“I’m walking round on grass here, I dig the garden in them, do odd jobs. I could wear just some sneakers.”

But boots are safer, and Mike figured, longer lasting. But he says within two years they were cracking and then the soles collapsed internally.

“The padding's virtually gone to granules.”

He tried to return them. The retailer insisted the 12 months’ warranty was up.

Mike knows his consumers rights and citing the lack of durability, he wanted the boots repaired or his money returned, by law.

Defining durable can be tricky – we’ll come to that.

No joy – so his next step was to approach the manufacturer in Western Australia - it wanted photos and replied with a quality control report

“We cracked up reading it” says Mike.

Abrasion, excessive heat and hydrolysis were given as causes.

Hydrolysis is where a substance absorbs water and breaks down as a result.

Steel Blue says that can happen if the boots are left wet or stored in humid or damp conditions. Mike says they weren’t thrashed and lived on the back doorstep with all the other footwear, just fine.

Steel Blue did reveal the date of manufacture meant his boots were already 18 months old when Mike had bought them new – so had the damage been done in a darkened shoebox?

No, Steel Blue insisted - they are stored and shipped in the same state they are made.

It says it sells about 700,000 pairs a year and told Fair Go about 1000 a year are returned.

“Our boots are made to be worn,” Steel Blue chief executive Garry Johnson told Fair Go in a statement, explaining Mike’s irregular wear of his pair might be partly to blame for their early demise, as well as exposure to conditions.

Fair Go’s highly unscientific poll of Auckland construction workers reached the conclusion that if you are working eight to 12 hours a day in your boots, you might get six months from them, you might get 12.

Fair Go put it to Steel Blue that perhaps the boots were only made for a short hard life. The company insisted that no, they would last if cared for.

However, as a sign of good will Steel Blue has now offered Mike a new pair, or a refund. Mike has taken the money.