You just bought new hiking boots. You’ve been hiking for quite some time now, and you’ve finally treated yourself to that fabulous pair of hiking boots your favorite hiking vlogger recommended. The new boots are directly in front of you, waiting to be worn.
However, you dread that painful feeling of wearing new shoes — the so-called break-in period. During this period, your new shoe will rub mercilessly against your foot. This conflict between shoe and foot will cause abrasions, blisters, or at least discomfort in some parts of your toes.
You wonder, when will this ever stop? How many miles do I walk to break in hiking boots? When will shoes and feet reconcile for comfort? In this article, we will discuss how long it takes to break in hiking boots.
What Does it Mean to ‘Break In’ Hiking Boots?
First, allow us to share with you what “breaking in” your hiking boots means. When your hiking boots are still new and stiff, it does not allow your feet inside them to move as freely as they should.
This is because hiking boots, like any other shoe, are patterned after a mold. Molds look the same as each other but unfortunately not with our feet.
Molds are smooth and rigid, whereas our feet have nooks, crannies, calluses, soft spots, and many other things that the molds do not. In addition, it does not help that hiking boots are usually made of much tougher materials such as leather. These materials initially make the hiking boots more painful and restrictive.
The process of making your hiking boots softer for them to fold the same way your feet do is called breaking in. Once your hiking boots are softer, your feet will be more comfortable.
You will find that breaking in your new hiking boots will come naturally through regular wear. You will also find that almost every new shoe demands a break-in period, not just hiking boots!
How to Break in Hiking Boots
Breaking in your hiking boots will require patience. Note that the best way to break in your hiking boots is to use them regularly, although we do not recommend you use them first during the day of your planned hike since this will be uncomfortable, and that is exactly what we are trying to avoid!
We have come up with some tips below to help you with how to break in hiking boots.
Do Your Hiking Boots Fit Properly?
Before anything else, the fit is of utmost importance. How your hiking boots fit will determine how comfortable they will be in the long run (or long hike!). The general rule is that they should be snug everywhere. Meaning they should be tight enough that if you walk, your hiking boots won’t fall off.
Your hiking boots should not be too tight, however, that you no longer can wiggle your toes. Putting it on the first time should be comfortable and not restrict any blood circulation.
No amount of breaking in will fix a bad fit! So always make sure to wear a new pair of hiking shoes in the store first if allowed. Walk around a little bit so you can be sure that you feel comfortable while doing it.
Which Material Is Easiest to Break In?
The material your hiking boots are made of will also matter. Boots made of synthetic material will feel more natural right out of the box. However, natural materials, such as leather, will shape up to your feet much better. The downside is that they take a much longer time to break in.
Consistency Is Key
If you want to break in your new hiking boots before hiking, you should wear them regularly. We recommend that you wear them around the house as much as you can.
Put your hiking boots on with the socks you plan to hike in, and just walk around the house like a madman! Climb the stairs, mow the lawn, anything!
You will realize that your hiking boots will start to move the way your feet do with consistent movement. The sole will have softened down a little after being heated up from all the movement, as will all the other parts.
Just in case you feel sore in some spots of your feet, try wrapping them with bandages. The most common spots are the area just below your ankles and above your heels, the top of the big toes, the heel, and sometimes even the top of the small toe.
Also, remember that if your planned hike is for more extended periods, such as days, it is smart to bring along some bandages and preemptively tape up all the areas that you have experienced to be painful.
Start Walking in Your New Hiking Boots
If you’ve been consistently wearing them around the house, the shoe should have already softened a bit. However, try taking short walks because this simulates the actual movement that you will do while hiking — walking.
The only difference is that if you start to feel uncomfortable on your short walks, you can rest easier knowing that you are in the city with other people to help you should things get too painful.
Once you are more comfortable, try walking around for much longer. Try walking around your neighborhood several times on end. If you can, try walking in places not on the plain ground since this more accurately simulates your feet’ movement patterns when hiking.
Listen to Your Feet
If your feet still hurt after doing the above, you might have to buy a different pair of boots, or you might even want to consult a feet specialist.
So, How Long Does it Take to Break In Hiking Boots?
Just like everything is never the same, not all hiking boots are created equal. This means, if you want to find out how to break in new hiking boots, the answer is that it will depend. Several factors dictate the amount of time it takes to break in hiking boots.
For example, ‘lighter’ boots made of soft synthetic materials will feel comfortable immediately. Natural leather will take more time to break in, but as mentioned before, it will form much better on your feet.
There is no exact answer to the question, “How many miles should I walk to break in hiking boots?” The answer is always, “It depends.”
But if you want at least an estimate, give yourself one to four weeks to warm up both your feet and your new hiking shoes. Slow and steady wins the race, as the kid’s tale says.
A Word of Caution
We genuinely believe that the best way to break in our hiking boots is to walk with them. There is other stuff you might have read on the internet, such as freezing and blow-drying them. We do not recommend that you do these. These will mess with the materials used for your hiking boots and could potentially shorten the lifespan of your new hiking boots.