Did you just spend big on new hiking shoes for the summer? Then we are sure you can’t wait to hit the trail and show them off, isn’t it? But hang on, did you know that you need to first ‘break into your hiking boots’? Now, what exactly does that mean?
Breaking into your boots is just like the warm-up before you lift big (considering you are a gym freak) or the final practice session before the big match. It is often underestimated but still crucial.
That is because it makes tackling the rough rocky terrain a whole lot easier and comfortable as the leather softens up and conforms with your feet, in turn, reducing the risk of blisters and aching ankles or sore feet.
And breaking into your new boots is not just about walking a couple flights of stairs or trying them out in the house a couple of days before the hike. If you want to do it right, here’s how to break in hiking boots the expert way.
It starts with the socks
With socks, the golden rule is to break into the hiking boots using the same type of socks you want to be wearing during your hikes. That is because just like your feet, the boots need to conform to your socks as well.
Plus, everyday cotton socks will hold moisture and make the hike uneasy and messy. And just like with the socks, you also want to be using the same insoles.
Tip: The right socks for hiking are those made of wool, spandex or polyester since they will wick away moisture quickly and provide you with added cushioning and warmth.
Walk around the house
In short, new boots equals new slippers. Put on the selected pair of socks and insoles and give your shoes a test run by walking around the house or doing your chores just like you would in your everyday slippers.
This gives you an idea about the overall comfort and any spots in the shoe that poke or cause pain. To soften up those spots and help the shoe better conform to your feet you can use leather softeners or conditioners.
You can also blunt out any parts that poke. But if the shoe still continues to hurt and causes pain it would best to get it exchanged.
Also, make sure you do not dirty the shoes during any of the chores or while applying the softener (no coffee/tea spills on these, please).
Time to take it outside
Once you have given it a run inside the house, it is time to give your baby a taste of the outdoors. Start by taking a small walk around the block or locality.
Slowly and steadily increase that distance. Like you can go grocery shopping to the nearby supermarket or even wearing them on those early morning runs is a good idea but keep them short (5-10 minutes). Once again, we are looking for any hotspots on the shoe.
With continuous use, the boots will start to form crease lines in the front (the point where the toe and ball meet). Flex these creases every day by moving the toe-end of the boot in up and down motion.
This will reduce stiffness and give your feet more room to move, in turn, adding to the comfort. You can also do lightweight exercises such as squats etc. to loosen it up.
Tip: Be gentle when you flex the shoes or workout. After all, you do not want to end up overstretching and tearing it, right?
Build on the foundation laid so far
As your feet get accustomed to the boots and vice versa, it is time to take things up a notch. Increase the timings of your walks by another 5-10 minutes.
Also, make the switch from smooth pavements or sidewalks to grass or even a nearby hill (after all, that is what the boots were built for). Continue to add 5-10 minutes to your walks/runs every week and switch up the terrains whenever possible.
Walking up and down the rough hills will give you an idea of how well the shoes can tackle such paths. Does the uneven surface hurt the underneath of your feet? Or does it slip over wet surfaces? These questions will make or break your hike.
Tip: If you are planning a long hike and intend on carrying a 50-60 oz. backpack, you would want to give the boots a test run with the backpack a few days before the hike.
You are almost there
Within a month running around in the shoes will start to come naturally (you know what the comfy, cozy feeling is like now, don’t you?). Well, congratulations, that is when you have finally broken into your hiking shoes. Now, all you need to is put them away safely and wait for the big day to arrive.
Few tips to keep in mind
In case the shoe has hotspots that cause blisters, use moleskin and tape on your feet to cover those spots and provide an added layer of cushioning.
You can also stretch the boot using a boot stretcher. Yes, you will need to spend a few bucks to buy a stretcher. Or you can also have any of the hiking boot professionals/shops stretch it out for you.
Got alcohol at home? Chuck the softeners and conditioners, alcohol works just as well. Simply dip some cotton into it and dap on the tighter areas of the shoe. Once done walk around for a couple of minutes to allow the alcohol to work its magic.
Always store the shoes in a warm area so they maintain the flexibility and softness built over this period.
Talking about heat, a hairdryer is a handy equipment too. Once you have the socks, insole, and shoes on, simply run the dryer on the tighter areas of the shoe and walk for a couple of minutes.
How long does it take to break into the hiking boots?
Breaking into new hiking boots isn’t about a day or two but rather a few weeks, 4-5 weeks to be precise. This is why it is pivotal to plan ahead.
Hiking boots are not your average joe. They are built to provide comfort and safety on the worst of trails and I am sure you want to make the most of the big bucks you spent on them. This is why putting in those few weeks breaking into them is worth the time and sweat. So if you just purchased new hiking boots, you now know what needs to be done ;).