How To Break In Hiking Boots

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Hiking boots are a vital piece of gear for every hiker. A good, well broke in pair of boots goes a long way in aiding your hiking goals. However, one of the common questions from beginners is- how do I break in my hiking boots? The answer is simple- use them! Before you go all out, it’s important to use a strategic approach to breaking in your boots. Below we detail simple steps to get your new boots broke in with a weeks usage.

Progression of Breaking in Hiking Boots

Step 1: Get Properly Sized Boots

Step 2: Wear Them Around The House (a few hours)

Step 3: Take Short Walks Without Added Weight (a few more hours)

Step 4: Increase Distance And Add A Light Load (Under 2 miles)

Step 5: Take Your First Extended Hike (About 2 miles)

Step 6: If All Feels Comfortable, Test Them On A Day Hike (More than 5, less than 10 miles)

Here’s How To Break In Hiking Books

Below, we’re going to give you the steps you need to break in your hiking boots and why it’s better to take a gradual approach like this.

Step 1: Get Properly Sized Boots

The first, most important step to break in hiking boots is to pick a proper fitting boot. Hiking boots sizing is important for comfort and long term usage.

Too small and you’ll never be comfortable. Your feet will be sore every time. Boots that are too big will allow for excessive slippage and result in plenty of blisters.

Get sized properly and bring home boots that fit your feet.

Step 2: Wear Them Around The House (a few hours)

When you first bring home your new hiking boots, they’re going to be rigid. The first step will be to wear these things during low intensity activities (doing chores around the house). These activities will be low impact, so you should be able to wear them a few hours without any issues.

This is the first time you’ll really get to feel your boots work, so it’s the perfect time to see if there’s any glaring issues with them. If so, you can return them and get another pair. Think of wearing boots around the house as a trial run.

Step 3: Take Short Walks Without Added Weight (a few more hours)

Once you’ve made it through a few hours of wearing your boots around the house, you should know if you’re keeping them.

You’ve made it through the initial break in, so now it’s time to expose your new boots to some terrain and the outdoors. Nothing crazy, just wear them outside, to the store, etc. This is so you’ll be able to see how they feel on different surfaces. Do they still feel comfortable switching asphalt to grass to dirt?

The goal is to gradually increase the load put on your boots.

The point of these first few steps is to make sure the boots are what you want and will still feel comfortable as the intensity increases. If there’s pain points and discomfort right away, you already know different boots will be required.

Step 4: Increase Distance And Add A Light Load (Under 2 miles)

Now that you’ve decided to keep the boots and continue breaking them in, you’ll want to increase your distance, add some different terrain and add some weight like a light backpack.

This will be your first “hike” in them so keep it short and pay attention to hot spots on your feet. Keep it under 2 miles to avoid unwanted discomfort. Your boots still won’t be broke in so there’s a chance you’ll develop soreness if you push it further.

Step 5: Take Your First Extended Hike (About 2 miles)

You’ve done a short, easy hike to test the boots and all checked out. Now, you’re going to take them for a hike that’s about 2 miles. Carry your normal gear and keep it around 2 miles because this will be more than your short hike, but not long enough to overdo it.

You should treat this like a typical hike, just be sure to monitor how the boots feel and make sure there’s no issues with them along the way.

Step 6: If All Feels Comfortable, Test Them On A Day Hike (More than 5, less than 10 miles)

You’ve made it this far, if your boots have held up and you haven’t had any issues they should be good to go. Get out there and give them a final test on a day hike. You should aim to go at least 5 miles because you want to push it to make sure everything holds up.

Everything should feel good at this point, but if there’s a problem you’ll know 6 miles in instead of being on a multi-day trip.

There you have it! Boots aren’t difficult to break in, it’s all about using them. The more mileage you put on them the quicker it is to break in hiking boots. Use these incremental steps above to avoid soreness, blisters and overall discomfort during the process.

How Long Will It Take To Break In New Hiking Boots?

Breaking in hiking boots isn’t dependent on time, but on mileage done. You can realistically, using the process above, have your new pair of hiking boots broke in within a week.

The more miles you put on the boots the faster they’ll be broke in. It’s not a good idea to do all the steps above in one day. However, it’s a realistic goal to do one step each day and have your boots broke in less than a week.

I know you want to get out and use the boots full go, but it pays to have a little patience with this process. Avoid the pains and spend some time breaking in your boots.

How To Break Your Boots In Quickly?

Despite everything i said above, if you absolutely don’t have the patience to take a few days for the process, you can try to break them in quicker. It might not work as well, but if you’re short on time it should suffice.

With leather hiking boots, you’ll want to soak them in warm water (not hot) for about 15 minutes. After that, put them on while wearing some thick socks and go for a hike. The damp leather should be more flexible and pliable to your feet.

Hike with them on until they have dried. At this point, the leather and foam should have formed to your feet.

Again, this is a quick way to break in hiking boots but it’s not the best option. We still recommend the break in process described above.

Thing To Remember When Breaking In Hiking Boots

Tie Your Boots Properly

Tying your hiking boots properly is important. They should be snug on your feet to prevent slippage. Otherwise, you’ll develop blisters from the friction on your foot. Less slippage = fewer blisters.

Of course, don’t have them too tight and cut off blood flow. Just make sure your foot isn’t sliding around in there.

Also, good hiking boots are expensive so you want to take care of them. Not tying them correctly can lead to broken or frayed laces or cause other issues with your boots. Take care of your gear and it’ll last longer!

Wear The Right Socks

It’s important to wear the same socks that you’ll wear during your hikes. Avoid wearing cotton as it holds moisture. When socks are wet, they cause more friction resulting in blisters. Instead, wear thick socks made of wool or synthetics.

Change Up The Terrain You Walk On

This was discussed a little in the break in process above, but you’ll want to vary the terrain you walk on after the initial steps. Uneven terrain is important to break in brand new hiking boots.

Starting with this early on will expose the boots to different elements and help the boots break in quicker.

Pay Close Attention To Pain Points

You should be looking for pain points the entire process. If you feel any from the start, then it could be a sign you need different boots. The sooner you catch it, the easier it’ll be to return them for a new pair.

There’s always some kind of discomfort or aches when breaking in hiking boots, but these should subside as soon as you start to get some use out of them. If it doesn’t feel like it’s getting any better after some wear, then consider trying something different.

Take Care of Your Hiking Boots

You’ve spent good money on your new boots and took the time to break them in properly. Now it’s time to take care of them and do “preventative maintenance” to make them last as long as possible. We have resources that show you how to wash hiking boots and help your investment last more miles. It doesn’t take long to ensure your new boots stay in good shape.

Know When It’s Time For New Boots

We mention this because an important skill for a hiker is to determine when to replace hiking boots. After your boots are broke in, it’s important to monitor how they feel and breakdown over time. Take notice of when they’ve reached their limit and repeat the cycle all over again!

Don’t Rush It

Technically it’s possible to break in hiking boots quickly, but it’s not worth it. You’ll have to wear the boots nonstop and deal with a lot of foot soreness. You’re also going to deal with blisters.

You’d be taking something that should take about a week and 8 miles or so and cramming it into a day or two. Not much good can come of that. It pays to be patient while breaking your boots in.

Conclusion

As you can see, breaking in a new pair of boots is pretty simple. It comes down to using them. If you’re dedicated and patient this process should take you about a week. Stick to getting through one step a day and avoid rushing through the process. It may take longer than a week, but it’s better to have the gradual increase that a single 12 hour day of wearing them. Go buy yourself a new pair and follow our steps above so you can get on the trails!