Do Hiking Boots Need to Be Broken In? [Here’s Why]

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There’s something just so special and exciting about bringing home that brand-new pair of shoes, still wrapped up in the box.

But then, you remember the dreaded period of time when you can’t even wear them because they need to be broken in.

You may be so excited to get out on the trail that you ask yourself, do hiking boots realllyyyy need to be broken in?

And the short answer- yes. But let’s go over why, how to do it efficiently, and what could happen if you don’t break them in.

Do Hiking Boots Need to Be Broken In?

Before you take them out on the hiking trail for a long-distance hike, you’re going to want to break in your hiking boots.

Unfortunately, there’s no getting around it, because to be comfortable, you’re going to want them broken in.

There’s nothing more irritating than being on the hiking trail and having sore feet.

Depending on the pair that you get, it can either go pretty quickly or take up to a few weeks to fully fit your feet.

There are many reasons why it’s so important to do this, so let’s go over them.

Why Do Hiking Boots Need to Be Broken In?

Even if you think that a boot fits perfectly on your foot, you’re still going to need to ensure that it is broken in.

The top reason that we need to do this is to ensure that our feet fit properly.

While we choose the size that fits us best in the store, companies don’t make shoes to fit our feet specifically.

They make them according to a general size, and we must remember that everyone is different, so this won’t fit us all the same.

Myself wearing a pair of hiking boots on a dirt path with leaves on it.

Breaking hiking boots in helps us almost “mold” them to fit our feet.

The shoes get used to being on our feet and our feet get used to being in the shoes, making them more comfortable.

You’ll also want to set them up with any special insoles that you’ll be wearing and try them out with your favorite hiking socks.

Wearing a pair fresh out of the box compared to wearing a pair that you’ve worn for a few days is going to make all the difference.

How Long Does it Take to Break in Hiking Boots?

The time that it will take to break in a pair of new hiking boots really depends on what kind of boots you bought.

Cheaper, less supportive boots are going to take far less time than a sturdy, leather pair.

In those cheaper pairs, you honestly might only need to take them out for a quick stroll around the block before you feel comfortable in them.

Plan to spend probably 1 week to 4 weeks breaking in your new pair of boots.

The 1 week time period applies more towards trail runners and hiking shoes, rather than sturdy boots.

Mid-range boots will usually take closer to that 2-week mark because they are a bit more rigid and tough.

I have a pair of mid-rise hiking boots and they took me about 2.5 weeks to fully feel comfortable hiking long distances.

Stiff, leather mountaineering boots could take closer to 4 weeks.

This is because the leather is going to need some time to form to the shape of your foot.

What Happens if You Don’t Break in Boots

I know how tempting it can be to just hit the trail, rather than spend the time breaking in boots.

But if you value your comfort and enjoyment while hiking, like I do, I don’t recommend it.

My hiking boots that are broken in on top of Dog Mountain in Washington.

You’ll take the risk of being stuck out on the trail with sore feet, squished toes, and potentially blisters.

These are all ways that can turn a fun hike into something pretty miserable, pretty quickly.

How to Break in Hiking Boots

Now that you know the importance of breaking in your boots, let’s go over the steps on how to do it.

It’s really quite a simple process, it can just be time-consuming.

1. Wear Them Around the House

When you first bring your new hiking boots home, you can start the break-in process pretty much immediately.

Throw on your favorite hiking socks and put any insoles you may have inside.

Then, lace up your boots as you would if you were going to go for a hike, and walk around the house.

Get all of your chores done while you’re wearing them, cook dinner, read a book, heck, go to the bathroom.

This will give you a good initial feel for the shoes and will help you understand how they fit you.

I would do this for 2 to 3 hours to get a really good feel for them.

2. Wear Them Around Town

After you’ve worn your new boots around the house, throw them on and bring them with you on your errand run.

Head into town and get anything that you need to get done, done.

This could be walking the dog, going to the grocery store, or visiting a friend.

My hiking shoes on a dirt path.

Wearing your shoes on the pavement for a while will help get the bottoms broken in and will help you feel them out.

During this stage of the process, really pay attention to any spots that hurt or are uncomfortable.

These are things that you’ll want to find the root cause of and fix.

3. Head Out on a Short Trail

After steps one and two are complete, it’s finally time to hit the trail! The moment you’ve been waiting for.

Start out on a shorter, easier trail, just in case they don’t work out for you.

I would recommend getting on something under a mile with under 300-500 feet of elevation gain.

During this hike, step on tree roots, rocks, logs, etc., and get a feel for how they do on rough terrain.

Start out with a light backpack, just so you don’t put too much strain on your feet to start out.

Start upping the mileage every few times until you can start going your normal distances.

4. Up Your Pack Weight and Distance

Now that you’ve completed all of the first three steps, it’s time to get going back on the trail with your newly broken-in boots!

Add more to your pack and up that distance until you’re back to normal, but just with a new pair of kicks.

Things to Avoid When Breaking In Boots

You may or may not have heard of a few things to do to speed up the process of breaking in a new pair of boots.

Some of these may work, but even so, they should really just be avoided, and I wanted to address them.

Soak Them: This won’t hurt them, but it really just doesn’t work well.

Use a Hairdryer: Only really works on leather, but even then, it’s not good for the shoes.

Frozen Bags: Don’t place bags of frozen water in the shoes, it won’t do any good.

Peeing in Them: This one is old, but it’s just unsanitary. Just spent the time breaking them in!

FAQ: Breaking In Boots

How Do You Break in Hiking Boots Faster?

There are a lot of rumors and ‘hacks’ out here about how you can break your shoes in faster, but many are just temporary fixes.

If you want to break them in fast, wear them around the house for hours at a time or immediately start wearing them in town.

Just speed up the process by moving the steps faster.

Wear a thicker pair of socks to help stretch the boot more or use a boot stretcher.

Can I Hike in Brand New Hiking Boots?

There’s definitely nothing saying that you can’t hike in brand-new boots, but it isn’t recommended.

It can cause sore feet and blisters, so I would spend the time breaking them in.

Myself sitting on a rock, overlooking the beautiful view of mountains and trees.

If you have to, use a thicker pair of socks and put some bandages on your heels to be proactive about blisters.

On the other hand, some new shoes are a lot less sturdy and rigid than others, and it might be okay to wear them immediately.

How Many Miles Should I Walk to Break in Hiking Boots?

There is no set mileage for walking in your new boots to break them in, as it’s just until you feel comfortable in them.

Do Hiking Boots Stretch?

Hiking boots might stretch slightly after wearing them for a while, but it’s not going to be a huge amount.

What you’re usually feeling is just your feet becoming more accustomed to the shoes and getting more comfortable with them.

Should Hiking Boots Be Tight at First?

Your hiking boots might feel a little tight at first, but you don’t want them to be too tight.

Your feet might swell after a long day of being on the trail, so you want to leave enough room for that.

You also should be able to slightly wiggle your toes at the end.

If you can’t do either of these things, the boots are too tight.

Is it Okay for New Hiking Boots to Hurt?

One reason that your new hiking boots might hurt is that they aren’t broken in yet.

In order to ensure that they don’t hurt once you start to wear them more, you’ll want to break them in before getting on the trail.

If you notice that your ankle is hurting, there are a few possible causes such as they’re too big or too small.

If your toes are hurting, they might also be too small or too narrow.

How Should Hiking Boots Fit?

Hiking boots should fit snugly on your feet and should be comfortable and not tight in any place.

Your toes should be able to slightly wiggle and your heel should feel “locked” in place.

You can read REI’s article on how to fit them best here.

How Long Do Hiking Boots Last?

the life of your hiking boots will really depend on the brand and how you wear them

Some companies say that you should replace their shoes every 500 miles or so, while others claim up to 1,000 miles.

This also comes down to how you’re wearing them because if you’re on nature trails, they’ll last a lot longer.

But if you’re climbing mountains or are constantly on boulder fields, they will have a shorter life.

Wrap-Up: Do Hiking Boots Need to Be Broken In?

Breaking in your hiking boots allows you to be comfortable on the trail and will give you plenty of time to enjoy your new shoes.

Not taking the proper measures to break them in can be painful and cause you to be miserable.

So if you’re asking yourself, do my hiking boots need to be broken in before I take them out, the answer is yes.

Yes, you should break them in for the best experience.