Everything takes time, and getting comfortable in your new shoes is no exception. Even the best ergonomic footwear needs time to break in and get sync with your feet. And with hiking boots, there are more issues to pay attention to.
Do you know how to break in hiking boots properly?
Read this article for the most detailed answer now.
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Breaking In Hiking Boots
What Is Breaking In Hiking Boots
Breaking in refers to the period in which the new shoes soften up and gradually mold themselves to the shape of your feet.
Most shoes require some time to break in, especially those with leather upper soles and insoles. This is because leather is an organic material that softens up over time to guarantee your comfort in the long run.
During the break-in period, you may feel slightly snug and uneasy, even pain while wearing new hiking boots. You do not want these blisters to interfere with your hike, do you?
Thus, to have a comfortable experience, you definitely need to break in hiking boots ahead of the trip. I recommend breaking in at least three weeks prior to your departure.
Why You Need To Break In Hiking Boots
Like many other products, modern footwear is available with many advanced features. Several top-end boots claim to equip ergonomic designs and high-performing materials, which offer out-of-the-box comfort for customers.
Does that mean you do not need to break in high-quality boots anymore?
The answer is no, since there are hiking boots that can absolutely fit your size. Since people’s feet are unique in different ways, it is difficult to find a perfect fit. Thus, you need to give the shoes some time to mold to the shape of your feet before they feel right.
Especially some special materials such as leather need break-in times to stretch out and conform to your feet. You may feel a little snug at first, but it will be fine once the materials settle.
Important Notes Before Breaking In Hiking Boots
Before jumping to break in, jot down these notes to speed up the process and get comfortable in your boots in no time.
#1 Know Your Feet
It is a good idea to know your feet first before buying any footwear, particularly a pair of hiking boots. To do so, ask yourself some questions:
- Do you have a high arch?
- Do you have fallen arches, or are you feet flat?
- Are your feet too wide or narrow?
- Are your feet of the same size?
- Do you have bunions?
- Have you had any trouble breaking in shoes before?
Once you know everything about how your feet are, you can be more confident in buying the right boots.
#2 Choose The Right Boots
Choosing the right boots will help you break in more quickly and comfortably. So when shopping around, focus more on the quality and sizing.
Make sure the shoes are made of high-performing materials such as soft fabric or leather. The length, height, and width of the boot must match your feet. More importantly, the toe box should be roomy enough for comfort.
A tip is to wiggle the toes while trying out the new hiking boots. If you cannot do so, chances are the boots are a bit small for your size. You should check the inside of the shoes for any seams that may irritate your feet over time too.
#3 Prepare The Socks
It is best to break the new hiking boots with hiking socks – the ones you are going to wear when you go hiking. If you do not have any by your side at the moment, you can do with some random thick socks too.
Thick socks are useful for breaking in boots in two ways.
First, it creates a thick layer between your feet and your boots, thereby keeping your feet safe from pain and blisters.
Second, the bulky feeling will help the material of your shoes stretch out and soften up more quickly.
How To Break In Hiking Boots At Home?
Pay attention, as you are approaching the main topic today: how to break in hiking boots at home.
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Step 1: Try The Boots On
Wear the boots along with hiking socks or mountaineering socks before lacing them up fully. Make sure you keep the gusset and tongue material lined up properly at the first time; otherwise, they could be indelible after a while.
Step 2: Start Slow
Now take a hike around your house first. Wear them as much as you can and identify any discomfort. It is fine to feel a bit snug at first, but pain is not a good sign. If your feet get sore and painful, you may want to buy another pair instead.
After two weeks or so, you will feel more comfortable as the boots gradually conform to the shape of your feet.
Step 3: Identify The Problem
Take this step when you feel pain in the new hiking boots. Identifying the right problem will help you choose the next pair of hiking boots more easily.
Some typical issues include:
- The backs of your heels rub against the boots.
- Your toes have little room to move and start going numb.
- You feel hot spots on the bottom of your feet.
- You feel excess pressure on the top of your feet.
- Your arches feel cramped.
- Your toes hit the front of your boots as you walk down the stairs.
How To Break Hiking Boots Outdoors?
If you have walked around your house and all feels fine, you can build up the mileage by going outdoors. Head onto the streets and tread across some rough surfaces if possible.
Try to resemble the trails that you need to stray onto during the hike, so that you can ensure the boots can support you through that.
You may want to try some different pairs of socks as well as experiment with added insoles to find out the perfect hiking gears for yourself. It is especially useful if you want to go on longer treks in the future.
Breaking In New Leather Hiking Boots
There are some differences when it comes to breaking new leather hiking boots. Follow my guide below.
Step 1: Oil The Boots
Leather oils and greases are widely available, some of which are specifically tailored for hiking boots. Do not worry about the specific product, since any of them will work.
Apply the oil on your boots using a brush, a rag, or with your bare hands. Rub it in and the oil will help soften the leather as quickly as your eyes can see.
Step 2: Wear Your Boots
Toss your nicely oiled boots on and go round the house, or go for a short walk on the streets. By doing so, you will get the leather bending so that it can mold to your feet over time.
When you get back, check whether the hiking boots are dry again. If yes, give them another dose of oil and repeat the process.
Alternatively, you can use water to speed up the break-in period. More specifically, soak the boots in water and dry them before putting on. Make sure you dry the boots carefully and properly, since water may damage leather.
Potential Blisters After Breaking In Hiking Boots
To fully understand potential blisters that you may suffer from when breaking in shoes, you may want to know what causes blisters first.
- Pressure: Too much pressure placed in a spot can cause cell damage. Then, the blister, or more exactly the fluid inside, will travel to that spot to protect and heal the damaged tissue.
- Direct friction: Friction is the most common culprit behind blisters. Friction occurs in any place where a force grabs the skin, most often inside your boots or gloves.
- Moisture: Sweaty skin is more prone to cell damage when friction takes place.
Now you know the factors that cause potential blisters, preventing blisters mean avoiding these factors as much as you can.
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These are some tips to prevent blisters during the break-in period:
Wear proper socks
It is best to choose the hiking socks that are meant for hiking. The number one thing to keep in mind is to avoid cotton socks since they retain moisture. I recommend wool or synthetic socks. Be it any material, you need to make sure the socks fit your feet.
Too big socks cause wrinkles, while too small ones can lead to slippage and in worse cases, creating pressure points.
Wear liner socks
Liner socks come in handy while breaking in shoes as they add a layer between your skin and your primary socks. More importantly, they are effective in wicking away moisture.
Change Your Socks
It is recommended to bring some spare pairs of socks to change during the trip.
After going on hiking for a while, your socks may get wet due to sweat and moisture. You may want to stop and change to dry socks so that the moisture gets back to the beginning level.
Use Gold Bond
Gold bond is another great equipment to prevent blisters. Place some in your socks before putting on the boots, and your feet can stay dry throughout the trip. Better yet, you will experience less rubbing and sweating.
Treat The Hot Spots
When you sense any hot spots inside your boots, take them off to treat these spots immediately. Apply the treatment as quickly as possible even if the area is only slightly red.
Do not underestimate these hot spots, since without proper treatment, they can develop serious blisters in the long run. And of course, it is much more difficult to handle blisters than these little hot spots.
If you often take on a hike, I advise you to buy the blister prevent kits, which include:
- Moleskin: These will cover the blisters and stick well to the skin, regardless of your movement.
- Tape: There are many types of tapes and most of them are effective in treating the hot spots. Even the cheap paper surgeon’s tape is no exception.
- Blister bandages: These bandages often come with pads and gels, and they can be used for treating both hot spots and blisters.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How long does it take to break in hiking boots?
A: The exact amount of time depends on the specific types of hiking boots you have. But generally, it takes about two to four weeks to break in completely for most boots.
Q: Is breaking in hiking boots hurt?
A: It is totally normal to feel a bit stiff at first when you put the boots on. But if you feel pain or rubbing in the new footwear, you should try out a different pair for a better fit.
Q: In short, what can I do to quickly break in my stiff hiking boots?
A: There is no particularly fast way to break in hiking boots. If any, it is to walk around with your boots on whenever possible. And a useful tip is to buy high-quality boots, since they take less time to break in than cheaply-made, stiff ones.
Q: Break in vs Do not break in, which one is better for hiking boots?
A: Isn’t it obvious? You need to break in every shoe, but it is even more important with hiking boots since you will use them to trek on different terrains. Without leaving some time for breaking in, you may suffer from painful feet and blisters during the hike.
The Bottom Line
Breaking in hiking boots is an essential step to have a comfortable trip in your new footwear. I have shown you step-by-step instructions in the article. Follow the guide closely and I am sure you can break in your new shoes in no time.
Thank you for reading. If you have any questions about breaking in hiking boots, you can leave them in the comment section so that I can help you out.
Break in quickly and have a nice hiking trip!