You’re reading this article because you’ve got new hiking boots and an epic trip planned. And I have to say I’m a tiny bit jealous. But you also know new hiking boots can be disastrous for your feet if they aren’t broken in before you go.
New hiking boots are good, but not when you have monstrous blisters a few hours into the hike.
You’re in a pickle. REI recommends going slow and steady. But you don’t have time for that. Well, it just so happens that we have a strategy for how to break in hiking boots fast. Follow our step-by-step guide, and your feet will thank you.
Materials Needed For Breaking in Hiking Boots:
To customize the fit of your hiking boots, you’ll need a few things to do it:
- Your new boots (Yup, still jealous.)
- Trail socks
- Other socks of different thickness
If you are trying to break in your boots during winter, you can opt to wear heated socks or heated insoles to keep your feet warm.
If you have all these items, then you’re ready to start. Let’s do this.
Time Needed to Wrangle Your Boots into Sweet Submission
We wish we could tell you, but there are too many variables. Lightweight boots do break in easier because they aren’t as stiff, but even then, it can vary depending on the brand. Generally, it takes about 2-4 weeks to break in your boots.
A good rule of thumb for knowing your boots are ready for the big trail is that you can comfortably hike about 2/3 of your big hike’s distance. If you don’t have time to test this, don’t worry. Try to fit in as many short hikes as you can and always pack Moleskin.
An Absolute Truth About Breaking In Hiking Boots
There are no shortcuts. It’s about wearing them for short bursts of time on your feet.
DO NOT SOAK YOUR BOOTS. Yes, I just shouted. Some people are under the impression that if you soak your boots in water that they’ll loosen up and be more malleable to your feet. Lies.
Do not do this. Your boots will hate you. Your feet will hate you. It’ll get ugly. Please resist the urge to try it, or I’ll shout again.
A Quick Chat About Blisters
Blisters form from too much heat, pressure, and moisture around your foot. Hot spots form on your foot because the heat and pressure cause too much friction.
If the hiking boot doesn’t fit well, then breaking in the boot will not prevent blisters. So make sure your hiking boots are correctly fitted to your feet first.
Also, at any point in breaking in your hiking boots, you feel a hot spot starting to form: take your boots off. Let your feet breathe for a bit before you put your boots back on. And only wear the hiking boots around the house until this improves.
Our Amazing but Politely Understated Step-by-Step Guide for How to Break in Hiking Boots Fast
Before going through the steps, if you are looking for new extra boots to break in, I recommend checking out our top hiking boots for under $150.
So are your boots on? Because it is time to start.
Step 1: Wear Your Boots Around the House
Make sure you have on your trail socks because that’s what you’ll be wearing while hiking. Tie your boots on tight and go about your day. The boots will be really stiff at first, but the longer you wear them, they will loosen and start to shape to your feet.
It’s not about putting in miles. It’s about time forming to your feet. So wear them all day, every day. Or at least as long as you can stand it because new hiking boots aren’t cozy slippers. When they start to feel more comfortable, you’re ready for the next step.
Step 2: Take Short Walks Around Your Neighborhood
Start by going around your block or for a stroll at the park. Again, not about miles. We are gradually breaking the hiking boots so that they stretch and mold to your feet. As the boots feel more comfortable, increase the distance for your walks.
If you feel a blister forming, you are pushing the boots too hard, too fast. Get them off your feet until you get home. Once they feel suitable for long walks, you’re ready for trails.
Step 3: Hike a Short Trail
At this point, your boots are close to being ready to go but to be on the safe side, start with a short hike. This is when your boots will be tested and will form more to your feet. Increase the distance depending on how great your feet feel inside the boot.
Make sure you pack Moleskin. You would hate to be halfway out on a trail, only to discover your boots aren’t quite ready yet, and a blister starts to form. If you feel any hotspots, stop and cover the hotspot with Moleskin. The bandage will reduce the friction and hopefully save your feet on the hike home.
These short hikes are also great conditioning for your upcoming backpacking trip.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few answers to some commonly asked questions you may be thinking about breaking in hiking boots. Yup, we read minds. Also, most people ask these questions.
How to break in cowboy boots overnight?
Oh, now you want to know about cowboy boots. That’s a different breed of shoe. But since you’re here, the answer is you can’t break them in overnight. We’re not miracle workers. Sage advice is to wear them everywhere.
Some people swear by different methods to break in their boots but be wary that these methods may damage or compromise the boots’ longevity. Conditioning your boots can help but not overnight.
How long does it take to break in boots?
That depends on the boot and how much you are willing to wear them before your hike. If you follow our strategy, you should be able to break them in fairly quickly within a couple of weeks.
The more you wear them, the faster they will form to your feet.
Put in the time to reduce the time.
How should hiking boots fit?
Hiking boots should fit snug around your entire foot without being tight. If any area is too tight, get another boot. You should also be able to wiggle your toes.
When trying on new hiking boots, you should go at the end of the day when your feet are a bit more swollen. This will be a good indicator of how the boots will feel on the trail since feet tend to swell while hiking. Also, wear trail socks when trying on boots.
How to tell if boots fit right?
When a hiking boot fits right, all of these factors are true:
– Your heel isn’t slipping more than a half-centimeter when you walk.
– Your heel doesn’t move up or down when you walk.
– When you stand on tip-toe, your heel moves very little.
– You don’t feel squishiness on the sides of the boot.
– The sides of your feet don’t feel scrunched.
– You can wiggle your toes.
– Your toes don’t touch the end of the boot.
If you can’t answer yes to all of these factors, you need to return your boots and get a new pair.
Why are my feet hurting while I break in my boot?
We never said it would be easy, only that it would be worth it. While your boots are stiff, your feet are going to be uncomfortable. This is normal. And it too shall pass. Ways to ease the discomfort:
– Adjust how you lace your boots
– Put some Moleskin on. We’re not judging.
– Try a different sock thickness.
Also, you can take your boots off for a bit and let your feet breathe.
I didn’t walk in my boots before my big hike. Am I in trouble?
Hey, we get it. Not everyone has time to break in their new hiking boots before their big hike. And new boots are amazing, that’s why you bought them. You can hike in your new boots.
We would caution that you definitely bring Moleskin, extra socks in different thicknesses (in case you need to adjust), and an old pair of hiking boots.
This way, if you feel hot spots, you can switch out or adjust your footwear for maximum comfort while on the hike.