Breaking in hiking boots can be a long process, and it can be frustrating when you are ready to hit the trail and have to rely on a pair of untested boots. As many hikers point out, new boots don't yet have a “soul;” you build that up over time. But how much time?
How Long Does it Take to Break in Hiking Boots?
The truth is, the time it takes depends largely on what your hiking boots are made of. Thick leather boots take longer to break in than lightweight, flexible ones. Read on for some tips and tricks about how to speed up the process.
How NOT to Break in Hiking Boots
If you want to break in hiking boots quickly, here are a few things NOT to do.
Do not choose poorly fitting boots
Do not leave the store with tight or uncomfortable hiking boots, thinking that they will loosen up or fit better when broken in. You can't make a shoe fit better by breaking it in, and you run the risk of damaging your feet. Always choose boots that fit you properly, to begin with.
Do not soak your boots
Some people say that getting hiking boots wet and then wearing them is a shortcut to breaking them in, but it can be extremely painful for your feet, and is very bad for your boots. If you simply have to hike in unbroken-in boots, then at least keep them dry.
How to Break In Hiking Boots
In order to break in hiking boots, remember that you always need to wear the socks and insoles you plan to wear when hiking, and lace the boots for hiking. Make sure the tongue and the gussets are straight. Breaking them in properly means wearing them properly.
Wear them around the house
Wear your new hiking boots around the house. You may feel stiffness, but shouldn't feel rubbing or pressure.
Do some squats
Many hikers swear by using deep squats and lunges to limber up the soles of new boots.
Wear them for short walks
When your boots are comfortable at home, it's time to go further. Take a stroll around the block, or wear your hiking boots while running weekend errands.
Leave the road
When your hiking boots feel relaxed and comfortable at home and around town, it's time to leave the pavement. Your boots aren't truly broken in until you are walking on trails, gravel, and natural surfaces. Plan short walks at first in nearby parks and natural areas. Look for hills, because new boots can be most uncomfortable on the descent, particularly at the end of the day when your feet are larger.
Gradually increase the distance
After testing your new boots on a variety of shorter hikes with different terrains, it's time to progressively increase the distance. If you get a blister, you have either got a particular pressure point inside the shoe, or you've gone too far too fast.
How to Break in Hiking Boots Faster
If you are in a hurry, here are a few tips to help break in hiking boots fast.
If your boots are made of leather, there are a number of products that will help to soften the leather and break them in faster. These products also typically help preserve the leather and protect it from water, so it's a great option for leather hiking boots that speeds up the breaking-in process.
Try some heat
For hiking boots that stay stiff and uncomfortable and won't seem to break in, a little heat often does the trick. Wear your hiking boots, along with your hiking insoles and socks. Use a blow dryer to provide gentle heat to parts of the boots that are stiff and painful, while moving your feet to press against these points from the inside (or use a spoon in hard-to-reach places). Heat often helps boots soften up and break in faster.
Get them stretched or punched
If you have a problem with a particular spot, you can try taking them to the retailer or to a shoe repair place, who will often stretch shoes for you. Ski and skate shops often also “punch out” problem spots in boots, heating and reshaping problem areas to eliminate a pressure point.
It can take several weeks to fully break in new hiking boots, but if you've chosen high-quality, well-fitting boots to begin with, it shouldn't take that long. Pay attention to your feet, and take it step by step, and soon your new boots will have a personality all their own.