How to Break in Hiking Boots: Tips & Tricks You Need to Know

How to Break in Hiking Boots
Bradley Page
Written by Bradley Page

Your pair of brand new hiking boots will serve you well in a lengthy hike if you break them in prior to your trip. A good understanding on how to break in hiking boots is vital to avoid experiencing what has been termed as the new boot side effect. Breaking in hiking boots is a matter that you can’t afford to overlook especially when you’re a person who hikes on a regular basis.

Breaking in a pair of hiking boots begins before purchase. Before you buy your hiking boots, ensure that they fit well on your feet. This is very important given that the process of breaking them in only works to achieve the best fit.

See also: How to Care for A Blister: When Medicine Isn’t Available

It is important for you to narrow down to your preferred style of boots but keeping in mind that they have to fit well on your feet. Not too tight and not too lose. In all this, listen to your feet.

Hiking boots fit

Your feet will help you differentiate between boots that are outright uncomfortable and those that are slightly uncomfortable just because they are new. Do not ignore what your feet tell you but also judge wisely and make good choices.

This may be a tricky part. Your feet may not feel comfortable in new boots but that is okay, that is why we break them in. However, you should be able to identify that which pair is outright uncomfortable as early as when you are shopping. This will help you save time.

How to Properly Break in Your Hiking Boots

Here is a step by step guide on how to break in your outdoor boots:

Wear the right socks for a hike

The type of socks you chose to wear is very important. Whether you get the right fit and feel depends on the types of socks. Your socks and insole ensure that the boots fit your feet well. It should not be too tight neither should it be too loose, just make sure it fits correctly and gives you just enough space around your feet.

Hiking boots and socks

If you can invest a good amount of money in your boots, then do the same for your socks too. Socks and insoles of the right quality will give you a better experience. With the right socks, you will put blisters at bay. Your foot will also be very stable in your boots. For the warmest socks you can use, check out our article to find out more.

 Wear the boots around the house

It is important to test whatever you will be wearing on the trail while you are still around the house. You can wear them when you are going to the nearest shop or when just attending to a few home errands here and there.

Wear the right socks too. Tie your boots and make sure they are comfortable. Do not make them tight.

Hiking boots indoors

Leather boots especially the new ones will feel a bit tight but that’s okay. They will adapt to your feet with time. Keep the gussets and the tongues of your boot straight. It is important to try your boots around the house because should you need to return them to the shop then they will still have that new look so you won’t have a problem.

Wear your boots for short walks

Your ultimate goal for breaking in the boots is to get your feet to adapt to your hiking boot. You can achieve this if you wear your hiking boots regularly around the house or when taking short walks.

It is very important, especially if you have leather boots. Leather boots may take some time to flex. Covering short distances regularly is one sure way you can ensure they flex properly and fast.

Wearing hiking boots for a walk in autumn

Short walks give you the best form of outdoor trials that will help you identify potential problems quickly. In addition to this, you will be speeding up the break-in process. The more frequent you do outdoor walks, the faster your shoe flexes and acquire the best fit.

Avoid shortcuts

Breaking in your hiking boots requires patience. Avoid shortcuts. Do not soak your boots. While many see this as a quick way to break them in, it is a risky practice. It can destroy the leather boots or even the fabric ones very quickly. Just take time.

Soaking hiking boots

Your boots will naturally gain the comfortable feel that you want from them so just take your time. Shortcuts are short-lived and above all they are not worth the risk. With shortcuts, you risk losing your shoes and losing your warranty even in situations where your warranty could have been of help.

Importance of breaking in your boots

Whenever one buys a new car, there is always the excitement to take it out for a road test. The same is true with hiking boots. There is always that satisfying feeling of just wearing a new footwear. Testing it out can be fun, satisfying and fulfilling more than anything else. Despite this fulfillment, there are also other benefits for breaking in hiking boots.

Getting the boots into a comfortable form

Comfort is the number one factor that will ensure that you enjoy your hike. Breaking in yourboots is geared towards getting the pair into a comfortable form. A hiker would like to be comfortable in his or her boots while in the wild.

Wearing hiking shoes

Comfortable boots can only make your hiking trips more fun and memorable. If the boots are not comfortable, then the hike becomes an exercise in frustration.

Adapting to the boots

Adapting to a pair of footwear is very important. In order to cover long distances in a hike, one has to be used to moving in his hiking boots. Boots can feel very heavy on the feet if you wear them for the first time. Breaking them in improves your ability to adapt to them.

Doing a couple of miles helps you ensure that the boots don’t rub, chafe or start hurting you when you are halfway in the wild. You wouldn’t like to stay in pain while in the wild covering a long distance. So this is why it is important to break them in. Once you can feel comfortable in these boots then you can head out and finally hit the trail.

Hiking boots in the forest

Identifying potential problems

Rather than wait and identify potential problems while in the wild, it is important that you break in your hiking boots. It gives you the opportunity to identify problems and correct them as early as possible, and if needed you can seek for a replacement when your warranty is still valid.

Some warranties last for around 60 days after which the boots might not valid for return. It is important to take advantage of the 60-day warranty before they expire.

How to Take Care of Your Hiking Boots

Wear and tear when it comes to footwear is a certainty. You cannot stop it but you can slow it down. By caring for your hiking boots just as is any other footwear, you increase their lifespan. A good pair of hiking boots come at a cost and it is only sensible that you care for them. You wouldn’t really want to lose that comfortable high-quality pair.

Hiking boots

How you treat your boots after each and every hike determines how long they last. Taking care of hiking boots begin on day one after purchase. Here are a few tips on how to care for your hiking boots.

Practice proper usage

Caring for hiking boots begins by how you use your boots. Use your boots for the right job. For your boots to last longer, you need to use them for the purpose for which they are made.

Do not use your boots to play football or for something like garden work. Stick to what they are meant for – hiking. Just because they feel comfortable on your feet does not mean you have to wear them for every occasion.

Waterproof your hiking boots

Just like fire, water can be a good servant but a bad master. We use water to wash the same boots. However, if we do not control that water, it can have damaging effects on a boot. Before you venture into the wild ensure that your boots are properly waterproofed. Choose high-quality waterproofing agents based on the type of boots you have for the best results.

Waterproofing hiking boots

Waterproofing agents for leather boots are different from fabric ones. Different materials require different waterproofing agents so choose wisely. You can refer to the manufacturer’s instructions.  It is best to waterproof at home and not while you are already out in the wild.

Immediate repair of worn out parts

Wear and tear is almost unavoidable. You should therefore be on the lookout for any signs of wear and tear. To keep your boots fit and up to the task you have to service them just like a car. Replace any shoelaces that show signs of breakage before it actually breaks while you are out hiking.

Check for cracks and ensure you bind them up. Minor cracks quickly develop into serious ones and in no time, the boots will be of no use.Check out our instructions on how to repair your hiking boots to find out more.

Clean the boots immediately you return from a hike

A good hiker attends to his boots first thing after hiking. Do not leave them overnight. There is always the temptation to attend to other things and the boots later or you might forget about them altogether. Things such as mud can destroy the boots especially when left alone overnight. Thus, it is important that you attend to your boots immediately after the hike.

Hiker cleaning his hiking boots

Here are a few tips on how you can clean your boots effectively.

Removing mud

Mud is one of the most frustrating dirt to clean. It can stick on the boot so tight like glue. To remove mud, tip the boots upside down and bang their soles together firmly. This will shake off parts of the mud.

You can then use a stick to dig out some stubborn mud from off the sole of the boots. At this point, most of the mud shall have been done away with. Use a bristle brush to remove the last bits of mud on the boot.

Washing the boots

After removing the mud, the next step is to wash the boots. However, assuming the boots did not have mud, you can wash them straight away. Put in place warm water, mild soap, and a rag or some soft piece of cloth. Wash your boots using the warm water. The mild soap will be very effective in removing all traces of dirt leaving your boots sparkling clean.

Cleaning hiking boots

Use the rag to wipe your boots afterward and let the boots dry away from direct sunlight. This is a cleaning procedure that works well for all types of boots.

Must read: How to Waterproof Boots: Do-It-Yourself Guide

But do not ignore your manufacturer’s specification with regards to what you should use or not use when cleaning your boots.

Polishing your boots

Boots needs to be polished in order to protect their surfaces especially leather boots. After the boots are washed and dried, they need to be polished before they are stored.

Polishing should be done using appropriate shoe polish. At this point, the manufacturer’s instructions need to be followed to the keenly. You can’t just use any polishing product to polish your pair.

Storing your boots

Normally, you will not use your hiking boots all year round. It is, therefore, important that you store them well whenever they are not in use. Avoid humid places. Mildew growth is rampant in humid places.

Storing hiking boots

For long term storage use a shoe tree if possible. Many have the tendency of storing hiking boots in plastic bags which is not good either. Hiking boots just like any other footwear need to be stored in a place that has a good circulation of oxygen. They need to breathe too.

To Wrap Things Up…

Any self-respecting hiker knows that breaking in your pair of outdoor boots is a must. As you can see, there are so many advantages to it, especially with regards to comfort. So always make sure to break in your trusty pair before heading out in the wild.

Hikers wearing hiking boots

How do you care for your boots and what was your experience breaking in your hiking boots? Share with us your opinions and thoughts in the comments section.

Before your next adventure, find out more tips and guidelines on how to backpack safely.


Bradley Page

Bradley Page

With several decades of experience as a backpacker and outdoor adventurer, Bradley is an open encyclopedia when it comes to gear, clothes, and other items that matter on the trail. He tested hundreds of shoes, pants, jackets, and backpacks in his long career and is always up to date with the new appearances in the niche. His experience makes him one of the authority figures in backpacking and he can help anyone to get prepared for a great adventure!