Breaking in new walking boots is essential for hikers to achieve ultimate comfort and support on a long hike. But how do you break in new walking boots? And why is it necessary?
Why do you need to break in new walking boots?
Like any footwear, new walking boots often need to be broken in to soften them and let them form to your foot. Particularly for boots that you plan to wear on long hikes, this is essential to avoid blisters and discomfort.
When you first purchase your walking boots, particularly leather walking boots, they may feel stiff. This is perfectly normal so don’t worry, they will loosen up when you are breaking in your boots.
Your new walking boots should also feel a little snug at first. Again, this is good because they’ll loosen up a little over time. But remember - ‘snug’ is good, ‘tight’ is not, and there should be no pinching or rubbing either.
If you haven’t yet purchased your walking boots, we’d suggest taking a look at our infographic to get advice on Getting the Right Fit first. It also features handy lacing techniques, which we recommend you try out during the wearing-in stage, so that you can find the most comfortable fit for your foot shape.
Breaking in new walking boots around the house
It’s important to break in your new walking boots around the house on clean, carpeted surfaces before taking them outside. If after the first couple of wears you find that the fit isn’t right, the boots will still be in a ‘like new’ condition so you can return them to the retailer you purchased them from for a replacement.
Make sure that when breaking in new walking boots, you always wear the same socks that you would wear on a hike, such as thick merino walking socks. This will ensure that the boots will form to the correct foot shape and that your lacing technique is suitable for when you’re ready to tackle a long hike. If you’re planning on changing the insoles or adding arch support, you should do this before breaking in the boots too.
For the first few days after purchasing your new walking boots, break them in by simply wearing them around the house while you’re doing general household chores such as cooking, doing laundry, and walking from room to room/up and down the stairs while tidying up. Just don’t wear them during any intensive cleaning when they could come into contact with bleach or other harsh chemicals.
Throughout the ‘in-house’ breaking in period, pay attention to any discomfort and whether it improves. If your boots still feel particularly tight, or continue to rub/pinch after a few wears and trying different lacing techniques, then you may need to return them for another size.
Wearing new walking boots outside for the first time
If wearing your new walking boots around the house hasn’t caused any problems and you’re finding your boots comfortable, it’s time to venture outside. This is another important part of the breaking in phase and should be done gradually. Again, always be sure to wear the socks/insoles/arch support that you’d wear on a hike.
Start with a very short walk, then slowly build up the distance and difficulty each time you go out. Don’t try to go too far too soon or you may end up miles from home with painful blisters and no option but to hobble back.
As you increase the distance of your walks, try increasing the incline too. This will help to flex the soles and reduce the stiffness giving you wider movement. If you don’t live near any hills, try doing a few squats!
If the short walks have not highlighted any problems, try walking for a mile or two ‘off road’ on some public walking trails with rougher terrain. At this stage, you should also wear your backpack if you’d take one on longer hikes, to ensure that you’re used to the added weight.
If you purchased waterproof walking boots, don’t avoid the odd puddle either! It’s worth testing that the boots will keep your feet dry if it rains on your hike. Just remember to clean them up at the end of each wear to keep them in good condition.
Once you’ve built yourself up to walking a good few miles in your new walking boots and you're confident that they are comfortable and fit well – consider them broken in!
How long does it take to break in new walking boots?
Breaking in new walking boots can take longer for some than others and depends on multiple factors such as the type of boots and how frequently they’re being worn during the breaking in phase.
Leather boots will take longer to soften than fabric boots and boots being worn around the house for 3 hours a day will be broken in far sooner than those only being worn for 15 minutes a few times a week.
Trust your judgement on when you feel like you’re ready to start wearing your boots outside and just ensure that you build up gradually to your first long hike. But generally, we’d say that a couple of weeks should do it.
With this in mind, it’s actually important to purchase your new walking boots at least one month before planning any long hikes or expditions. This will ensure the extra time should you find that you’re original choice of boots are not suitable and you need to replace them and break in the new pair of walking boots.
Hi-Tec often hear from customers who tell us that their new walking boots didn’t need breaking in and were immediately comfortable. This is fantastic to hear, but all boots (and feet!) are different, so we’d still suggest following the steps above, just to be on the safe side. Happy hiking!