So you purchased a new pair of hiking boots? Here’s how to break it in for a more comfortable feel and fit. Choosing the best pair of hiking boots takes a lot of time, but breaking it in is a different story.
Before you go for a hike with your new pair of kicks, you must break it in to ensure that it will be comfortable for long walks and climb. It’s like getting your feet in sync with your new shoes to prevent strain and chafing often associated with new footwear.
What does ‘break-in’ means in shoes?
Breaking in a pair of shoes is the process of molding it to your feet. The goal is to soften up the material so it will be more comfortable to wear, especially in the case of hiking boots. Take note that even if hiking boots feel comfy at first try, trekking and hiking will put it to the test. Your feet will suffer from chafing and blisters if you don’t break the shoe properly.
Depending on the material and construction of the hiking boots, it will take anywhere between one to five weeks to break it in thoroughly.
Leather vs. fabric boots
Take note that a leather boot will require a different approach than a fabric boot when breaking in. Leather boots are thicker and heavier, which is why it takes more time to break in. Also, a full-grain leather boot is longer to break in as compared to fabric or suede boots.
This is quite normal since leather is stiffer and heavier than other boot materials. Also, no ‘cheat’ or quick-fix will go well in breaking in a boot. It has to be gradual, instead of forced.
So if you’re planning to hike next week, you might as well purchase a lightweight fabric boot. For those who have more time, they can get a pair of leather boots. As much as the breaking in process is long, leather boots are one of the best hiking footwear you can get.
Remember: breaking in will not make unfit boots fit
Take note that the goal of breaking in a pair of hiking boots is to make it more comfortable to wear. So if the pair of shoes aren’t comfy at first wear, it never will regardless of how much you break it in.
The same goes for the fit of your hiking shoes. A very tight one would not become comfortable unless you purchased the right size in the first place.
Even if you have to try several sizes, take your time and make sure that it suits you well.
How to break in your new hiking boots
How long to break in hiking boots? What should I do to break in it? To answer your questions, the following are some of the things you can do to break in your hiking boots naturally and safely.
Wear it inside the house
The first thing that you can do is wearing boots inside the house. Do your chores with the boots on, climb stairs, or grab some supplies from the store. Go slow and steady on your first jaunt so you wouldn’t sustain blisters.
Also, wear the exact insoles and socks you’ll be using for the hike. Pull the tongues out and straighten the gussets. It’s normal for the boots to be stiff at first.
Walk around your lawn and the neighborhood. A strolling pace is enough for the first day.
Walk around while wearing it
Once you have given the hiking boots a warm-up, you can now take it to longer walks. Try wearing it when you’re bringing your dog to a dog park or if you’re running errands. This way, the boots will be exposed to outdoor elements and a more rigorous foot activity.
Listen to your feet
As you walk around with your boots, make sure that you have a good feel of it. Make some adjustments as necessary to make the pair as comfortable as possible. Also, if you’re starting to feel a little chafing, stop to check it or have some rest. You may need to apply a cream on your chafed skin to prevent further blistering.
Moreover, be vigilant on pain points. It’s quite common among hikers to deny pain when breaking in their new boots. Don’t let your pride mask the problems on your boots. Otherwise, you’ll suffer during the hike.
Pain points could have simple solutions. It could be a different lacing technique or a new insole. If the hiking boots proved to be uncomfortable, you can send it back or ask the store for tips on how to break it in.
Avoid quick fixes
If you want to break in your hiking boots properly, avoid resorting to quick fixes. Soaking your boots on hot water or applying various creams that aren’t made for shoes can be disastrous. It might actually damage the boots instead of breaking it in properly. In the end, your feet will just suffer more.
Instead, resort to the natural way by wearing your hiking boots and wearing it around. Remember, good things take time, just like breaking in your new pair of boots.
Flex the soles a little
If you noticed that the soles of your hiking boots are quite stiff, try flexing it a little while you walk. You can also flex it manually when you’re not wearing it. Take note that stiff soles can punish your feet if you don’t break it in properly.
However, don’t put too much force in flexing the soles, or it will start to crack. The easiest way to do some sole flexing is by performing some squats while tiptoeing.
Store it properly
After a day’s session of breaking in the boots, make sure that you store it properly. For leather boots, apply a leather conditioner to keep it moisturized. This will prevent cracking and bad odor, especially if you’ve taken the boots on a rough day.
For fabric boots, allow it to aerate to prevent odor and bacteria buildup. You may also want to place a cushion inside. Some use crumpled paper to keep the mold of the shoe. You can also use rags.
Take short adventures
After a week, you can now pack a bag and go for small adventures. Look for short trails that you can finish in less than an hour. This way, you can put your hiking boots to test. Jump into puddles and walk through the gravel and uneven surfaces to test the durability of your hiking shoes. Aside from breaking it in, these short hikes will allow you to check if your shoes can put up to long treks.
Try soaking it in puddles
During your short hikes, try soaking your hiking boots in water and other outdoor moisture. This way, you can simulate the harsh environment that the hiking boots will endure on your long hike.
Also, if the hiking boot brand claims a specific feature, always put it to the test. If it fails, you can contact them and secure a possible refund.
Prevent blisters while breaking in your new boots
One of the common struggles with breaking in new hiking boots is preventing blisters. If you always keep on having chafed and sore soles, you can try the following steps.
Wear hiking socks
The first thing that you can do is wearing thick socks. If the fit of your shoes allows, look for thick socks that will protect your feet from blisters. It’s best to wear the socks you’re planning to use on your long hike. This way, you can get a good feel of the boots and see if the blisters will persist.
Apply creams to avoid skin cracking
If your skin is prone to cracking, apply a moisturizing cream on your soles and ankle area. You can try The Yellow Bird All Natural Foot Cream. It helps hydrates the skin in your feet to relieve sores, callouses, and cracked heels.
This foot cream has 10 organic and natural ingredients to soothe your skin. It’s free from synthetic ingredients, so you’ll have peace of mind that your skin is safe.
It’s available in a 4 oz. jar for a small price. It can last for months, even for regular hikers.
Take enough breaks
Your feet will take the beating of long walks. So while breaking in your shoes, take short breaks to prevent blistering on your heels and ankles. You can also re-apply the foot cream of your choice to keep your feet lubricated. This will reduce the chance of chafing.
Strengthen your soles
If you’re new to hiking, one thing that you can do is strengthening the bottom of your feet. Walk around the house barefoot and try to keep your soles accustomed to rough surfaces of your front yard. Of course, keep watch on sharp objects that may injure your feet.
This way, your heels and soles won’t be prone to blistering. A thin layer of callous will help here.
Remove pebbles and debris that get in your boots
The moment you feel like something got inside your shoe, take it off and remove the debris. It could be a pebble or a shard of glass that can cause injuries. The moment that you feel something off on your shoes, always check it.
Aside from that, make sure that your toenails are clipped. This will prevent scraping and damages on the boots itself. Also, clipping your toenails will prevent ingrown nails.
Bring a blister kit
During your actual hike, see to it that you bring a blister kit. It’s a small pouch with band-aids, foot creams, and other first-aid items to treat a blister. At some point, blisters are inevitable, especially for very long and challenging hikes.
This way, you wouldn’t have to endure the pain the entire time. A blister kit is also important to prevent wounds from being infected.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do you break in boots fast?
A: The best way to break in your hiking boots is by wearing it around. Do your chores with your hiking boots on or grab some groceries while wearing it. In just a week or two, you’ll have a fully broken-in pair of hiking shoes.
Q: How long do boots take to break in?
A: For leather hiking boots, it will take around 3 to 5 weeks for it to conform to your feet’s shape. Those with fabric or thinner materials may take a shorter break-in period.
Q: How tight should new boots be?
A: For hiking boots, it should feel snug, but not very tight-fitting. Take note that tight-fitting boots may cause problems once you break it in. Just get one that feels comfortable without being too baggy on your feet.
Q: How do you soften leather boots quickly?
A: Some rub their leather boots with Vaseline and expose it to sunlight. However, we recommend that you wear it all day if you really need to break it in fast. Take note that other methods that involve harsh solutions will damage the boots instead of breaking it in properly.
Q: How do you break in new leather hiking boots?
A: Walk it around, but make sure that you’re wearing socks to prevent blisters. You can also soak it in lukewarm water than walking it again until it dries. Once the hiking boots dry from walking, wipe it with a leather conditioner to prevent molds and odor.
Q: Why hiking boots are important?
A: Unlike other shoes, hiking boots are made durable and rugged to protect your feet from the harshest outdoor elements. It should be durable enough to shield you from sharp rocks, twigs, and insects.
Knowing how to and how long to break in hiking boots is essential so that you can have a pair of comfortable footwear. Make sure that you break it in properly to prevent damages on your hiking boots. Also, go slow until the boots mold perfectly into your feet.