How To Break In Your New Hiking Boots For Comfort and Longevity

A close-up of a traveler in the mountains in the winter tying shoelaces on his shoes. The concept of mountain tourism and trekking in sports and tourism
  • Breaking in your new hiking boots is critical to success on the trail.
  • A good tip for sizing is to put the boot on and then kick a hard wall or sturdy post 3 times.
  • There should also be about 1/4 inch heel lift in the back which will help prevent blisters.

In this article, we’re breaking down how to break in hiking boots and why it’s so important to do before you head out on your adventure.

Break In Your New Hiking Boots

Getting out into the backcountry can be very exciting.  Especially with new gear.

However, the mistake many backpackers make is getting a new pair of hiking boots and wearing them on the trail right out of the box.

While there are plenty of hiking boots that fit great the first time you put them on, many pairs need some usage before they are trail ready.

You’ll feel it as soon as you put them on your feet.

Be patient and take the time to break in your new boots and you’ll be rewarded with a comfortable trek.

Timberland Men's White Ledge Mid Waterproof Ankle Boot
The Timberland White Ledge Men’s Waterproof Boot includes a B.S.F.P. (Brake, Support, Flex, and Propel) lug system that gives dynamic control and traction.

Change Is Hard

You’re old trusty hiking boots that you’ve worn for years finally gave out.  

Since the day you bought them you pushed them to the limits.  

Rocks, roots, dirt, mud, hills, streams, pavement.. your old boots kept you on the trail no matter where you took them.  

Timberland Men's Anti-Fatigue Hiking Waterproof Leather Mt....
The Timberland Men’s Mt. Maddsen Hiker Boot has a strong outsole with great traction and grip for rigid day hikes.

But now they’ve finally given out leaving you with a new pair of unfamiliar boots that feel like tile under your feet.  

All the reviews rave about how comfortable these new boots are, but when you put them on all you can think about is how much duct tape would be acceptable to use to tape up your old boots. 

Before you toss the boots in the box and print a return slip give yourself a chance to break them in a bit to find that sweet comfy spot your old boots held in your adventurer’s heart.

Why Breaking In Your New Hiking Boots Is Important

Breaking in your new hiking boots is critical to success on the trail.  

Especially if you plan on going out for multiple days and trekking a lot of miles.  

Assuming you keep a 10-20 pound pack on your back your whole body can feel wrecked if your boots aren’t keeping your feet comfortable.  

Salomon Women's Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking Boot
The Salomon Women’s Quest 4D 2 GTX Hiking Boot is waterproof with Gore-Tex.

Remember your feet are the base of the whole system which can send pain through the rest of your body.  

If your feet are sore then your knees will be sore, along with your back and neck and watch out.. you could have a recipe for a migraine.  

This is the last thing you want on the trail.

Take a few days to break in your boots and you’ll be a happy camper.  

How Are Hiking Boots Supposed To Fit

Hiking boots are built for utility and comfort.  

Merrell Women's Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot
The Merrell Women’s Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot provides plenty of shock absorption and support on the bottom of your feet.

Your foot should easily slide inside the boot and not require a ton of maneuvering or shoehorning.  

Once inside your foot should rest gently against the back and sides with some wiggle room in the toe box.

A good tip for sizing is to put the boot on and then kick a hard wall or sturdy post 3 times.  

Each time your toes should scoot closer to the front wall with the third kick landing your toes against the wall.  

There should also be about 1/4 inch heel lift in the back which will help prevent blisters.

When you walk in them you should also feel a bit of a lift off the ground where you can’t actually feel the floor below you.

If this is all set than 90% of your work is done.  

Merrell Men's Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot
The Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot includes a Vibram TC5 outsole with 5mm lugs that offer great traction

Chances are you have the right size and right boot, but it will take a few wears to get them feeling like your old faithful boots.  

How To Break In Your Hiking Boots

The easiest and most cost-effective way to break in your new hiking boots is to simply wear them a lot.  

Put on the socks and the insoles you plan on wearing on the trail and wear them around the house, wear them to the store, wear them to the light trail close to your home.  

Get them outside and walk anywhere there’s dirt and rocks.  

If there’s a high school football field around, walk up and down the bleachers to simulate climbing and descending. 

KEEN Women's Voyageur Mid Hiking Boot
The KEEN Women’s Voyageur Mid Hiking Boot has plenty of shock absorption and heel support

Make sure you get used to the way your foot moves or doesn’t move inside the boot.  

Identify any pain spots on your feet and keep wearing to see if that’s a temporary issue.  

If its permanent than you know these boots aren’t for you.

With leather, it is possible to stretch the boots out.  

Some people say to submerge the boots fully in water and then wear them around.  

We don’t advise this as this could really damage the other materials on the boot and even if the label does say waterproof, you might find out real fast that, that was just bad marketing and now you have a ruined boot you can’t return.  

There are boot stretch sprays like Kiwi Select Universal Shoe Stretch which will work great.

But the only way to truly get used to the boots on your feet is to actually put in the time and wear them around.   

It’s important to properly break in your footwear no matter if it’s men’s hiking boots or women’s hiking boots.  Both are built to be broken in.

Last update on 2022-12-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Erik grew up as a desert rat in Arizona. After exploring the backcountry of the west coast he came east for a job but still finds time to explore the beauty of the northeast.