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How Long Does it Take to Break in Hiking Boots?

How Long Does it Take to Break in Hiking Boots?

If you’ve ever bought a new pair of hiking boots, you’ll know how exciting it is to take them out on the trail for the first time. You’ve tried them on at home, done a few laps of the kitchen and satisfied yourself that they’re the most comfortable things ever to grace your feet. Lo and behold, the day finally comes to take them out into their natural habitat. Within a few short miles you’re hobbling about with all the grace of a newly born giraffe, cursing the day you ever decided to upgrade your old boots which felt like a second skin. Two or three miserable outings later, and you’re still no closer to breaking them in. So how long does it take to break in hiking boots? This guide will give you all you need to help you speed up the process and keep suffering to a minimum.



Why do Hiking Boots Need to be Broken in?


Your hiking boots are not designed to fit your feet straight out of the box. The idea is for them to be malleable enough so that over time, they mould to your feet and offer superior support to a regular boot. How much breaking you need to do depends largely on the material. Lightweight mesh hiking shoes or trail runners can often be comfortable straight out of the box, requiring no breaking in at all. On the other hand, a hiking boot with a stiff leather upper could take you a few weeks to bed in. 

Advances in technology mean that a good leather hiking boot is able to be both breathable and waterproof, whilst retaining the malleable quality that allows them to mould to our feet over time. Make sure that your boots are the right fit prior to starting the breaking in process, or they will never be comfortable.



How to Size Hiking Boots for the Best Fit


You should take care to try on a few different pairs of boots prior to purchasing, if possible. Whilst this won’t give you an indication of how easy they will be to break in, it will at least allow you to size them correctly with the socks you plan to wear them with. Your boots should be snug, without being too tight in any area. You should have enough room to move your toes freely.

Wearing thick walking socks will likely mean that you need to wear boots half a size to a size larger to accommodate the socks and still allow your feet to be comfortable. You may be tempted to lace your boots up tightly for the feeling of added ankle support, however this can accelerate the onset of blisters. You should try to find a happy medium when you lace them up so they are not loose, but offer enough support in the ankle region.

Different manufacturers offer boots with varying features. Some have a tighter toe box, which might not suit you if you have wider feet. Others might have a different shape heel box which doesn’t work well with the contours of your foot. A great way to get the right pair is to try on as many boots as you can in store. You can also order online as most companies offer free returns.



How to Break in Hiking Boots without Pain


There are a few things you can do to minimize or completely avoid the painful blisters many people experience when breaking in their boots. Essentially, it’s a case of taking it steady and not overdoing it from the get-go. 



Wear Your Boots Around the House


You should begin to break your boots in by wearing them around the house. You might begin to find the boots more comfortable, even though they haven’t been taken outside yet. Whilst you won’t be able to simulate the conditions of the trail, it will at least allow your feet to begin to get used to the boots, and vice versa. Make sure you wear them with the socks you plan to wear on the trail.



Wear Your Boots Around Town


Another way to mould your boots to your feet is by wearing them around town for a week or two. Generally these trips are shorter than you would usually walk out on the trail. This can be useful to get some miles under your belt without overdoing it. Be aware that excessive walking on concrete can wear out the tread on your boots prematurely, so try to avoid this where possible.



Wear your Boots on a Short Hike


Once you have spent some time around the house or walking to the shops in your boots, it’s now time to take them into the hills for the first time. Whilst you might feel that you have done enough to ward off any blisters, you should still keep the walk to 2 or 3 miles at the most. At this point you should try and build in some elevation, and vary the terrain as much as possible, without it being overly challenging. Following on from this, you can gradually increase the mileage. You should consider using a weighty backpack which will speed up the process. After hiking, always make sure that you dry your boots properly before putting them away. You can read about the best ways to do this here.



How Do I Avoid Blisters When Breaking in Hiking Boots?


If you gradually increase the mileage you walk in your new boots, you will significantly reduce the chances of getting blisters during the breaking in process. However, you may still suffer as the boots put pressure on certain areas of your feet, known as hotspots. When it comes to blisters, prevention really is better than the cure. You can use blister plasters like Compeed prior to hitting the trail. These plasters act as a second skin to absorb much of the friction your feet will have to deal with. You should also proactively cover potential problem areas. This will give them an extra layer of protection which can really make all the difference as you break in your boots.

If the worst happens and you feel blisters starting to form, you should take notice of this immediately. You might only consider this to be a minor discomfort however it will become a major aggravation in a very short period of time. You should remove your boots and apply blister plasters to the hotspots. Alternatively, applying Vaseline or Body Glide can give that extra lubrication to slow down the onset of a blister enough to get you back home or to your camp with your spirits intact.



Things to Avoid When Breaking In Hiking Boots


You might to try the odd quick fix in pursuit of comfortable hiking boots. Unfortunately, when it comes to breaking in your boots, there really is no such thing. Don’t submerge your leather boots in water, no matter how much you feel the temptation. Whilst they may expand and feel more malleable when wet, you can guarantee that once dry, they will return to their original form.

Equally, you definitely shouldn’t go for a mammoth hike in your boots with the intention of breaking them in in one go. You will likely end up with severely blistered feet within 5 or 6 miles, and your boots will still be practically box fresh. As annoying as it may be to have to increase the mileage gradually, it’s nothing in comparison to the several days of misery you will have to bear, only to have to start the process again when your feet finally do recover.



Final Thoughts


So how long does it take to break in hiking boots? The good news is if you follow the above advice, you will be well on the way to enjoying your new boots without fear of discomfort within a few short weeks. Before long, your boots will be a joy to wear, and you can get back to enjoying all that the outdoor world has to offer, without fear of shredding your feet in the process.