There are some parts to hiking that we’d all like not to exist, such as pitching up your tent in the rain, dealing with mosquitoes, and breaking in a new pair of hiking boots. Sometimes we just don’t have the time to break them in properly, or we forgot to break them in and a long hike approaching just around the corner. Can you break in hiking boots quickly, and how long will it take?
How Long Does It Take to Break in Hiking Boots?
With some effort, you can break in a pair of new hiking boots in just a few days. But it might result in some blisters and possibly even reducing the lifespan of your new hiking boots. A proper and blister-free breaking in on new hiking boots usually requires 1-4 weeks.
The time that it takes to break in a pair of brand-new hiking boots depends on how well the new boots fit your feet, what materials they’re made from, and whether your feet are broken in. Yes, you read that right – you also need to break in your feet! If you’re hiking regularly, your skin will become thicker around the areas where you usually get blisters, for instance, on the outside of your pinkies. Someone who already has their feet broken in will have a much more comfortable experience with brand new hiking boots and will rarely get any blisters.
If you have the time, we’d advise on breaking them in properly, but if your long-distance hike is just around the corner, you don’t really have a choice – you’ll need to break them in quickly and you might get a few blisters.
The Right Hiking Boots Need Little to No Breaking In
But before we talk about how you should be breaking in hiking boots, we should mention that the right hiking boots don’t need to be broken in. They should already be in the right shape and you shouldn’t get any blisters from day one. We’ve experienced this with the Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator hiking shoes. They didn’t require any breaking and we didn’t get any blisters whatsoever.
But finding the “right” hiking boots is really hard, especially if you’re shopping online. When buying boots online, try to look at the customer reviews and find out if the majority of the people who purchased them say that they’re comfortable (which was the case with the Merrell Moab 2 Vent hiking shoes).
A much better option would be to purchase boots in real life in a reputable hiking store (such as Rei.com) with good customer service. Ask the store employee to help you find the right hiking boots and make sure to try on many different pairs to find out which ones feel most comfortable. When you find a pair that feels comfortable, walk around the store for a few minutes and see how they feel – is the toebox wide enough, are they loose enough around the ankles, do your feet stay in the same place, instead of sliding forward, e.t.c. If you do get the “right” hiking boots, your feet will thank you later. While “good enough” hiking boots can eventually be worn in and become more comfortable, they’ll never be as good as the “right” hiking boots for the shape of your uniquely shaped feet.
How to Break in Hiking Boots
Depending on how much time you have before your next hike, you can break in your hiking boots quickly or in the correct, preferred way. We’ll cover both techniques.
How to Break in Hiking Boots Correctly (1 – 4 Weeks)
To break in your hiking boots correctly, you have to take things nice and slow. When you first get your hiking boots, wear them around the house, on quick walks to the store, or when walking your dog. Do this for about 1-2 weeks, so that the insole and the fabric cushioning all around the boot start to take the shape of your feet. Make sure to wear your hiking socks instead of your regular ones. You most likely won’t get any blisters from this.
When you’ve walked around with your new boots for a few days, now it’s time to hit the trail. Start with a few shorter hikes (3 – 8 km / 2 – 5 miles) and gradually improve. Make sure to simulate the right hiking conditions – wear a heavy pack which you’d normally wear on multi-day hikes, wear your hiking socks, and choose a rugged trail with plenty of hills, rocks, and roots.
During the second step, you have to pay close attention to any hot spots on your feet. As soon as you feel some bruising, stop and check out the area. Maybe you’ve just laced your boots too tightly around the heels or around the toebox. Maybe you’re wearing too thick socks. If it isn’t caused by laces or socks, apply some leuko tape, moleskin, bandages, or even duck tape to the hot spot to avoid any blisters forming. After about 1-2 weeks or about 3-5 hikes, your boots should be fully broken in and you can start using them to their full potential.
Read Next: How to Toughen Your Feet for Hiking (Guide)
How to Break in Hiking Boots Quickly (1-3 Days)
If you have the time, you should definitely break in your hiking boots in the correct way, as it will result in a better fit and improve the lifespan of your hiking boots. But if not, then the second, much quicker technique is also a sure way to get your hiking boots ready in time for your next hiking trip.
A very old and proven technique on breaking in hiking boots quickly is to get them soaking wet and go hiking until they’re dry. When hiking boots get wet, they change their shape more easily, and they’ll break in much quicker. For this technique to work best, soak your brand-new hiking boots in warm water for about 15 minutes before hiking with them. Doing this one or two times will achieve a very similar result to breaking in your hiking boots correctly with the technique mentioned above.
But there are a few negative aspects that come with this technique. Firstly, your boots may get damaged from getting completely soaked. Although good quality hiking boots shouldn’t get damaged when wet, it usually reduces the water-proofing and sometimes may even damage the spot where the boot is attached to the outsole. Another negative thing that comes with this technique is that you’ll most likely get some blisters. To reduce blisters, wear thick merino wool socks and apply some waterproof moleskin around the areas where you’ll most likely get blisters.
Can You Start Hiking With Brand New Hiking Boots Without Breaking Them In?
Obviously, if you have absolutely no free time on your hands to break in your new hiking boots, you can start hiking without breaking them in. This is very common for long-distance hikers because when you’re walking for one month or more without stopping, you need to switch to new shoes at some point when the old ones become too worn down. Most likely you’ll get a few blisters, but you can minimize that by doing a few things.
Note: If you don’t mind a few blisters, you could soak your new boots in warm water and walk in them until they’re dry to break them in faster.
How to Not Got Blisters When Breaking In Hiking Boots
- Pay a lot of attention to how your feet are feeling. As soon as something starts hurting, try re-tying the laces and taping down the hotspot with moleskin and leuko tape.
- Wear thicker, moisture-wicking socks, preferably, merino wool socks. Make sure that your socks aren’t too tight around certain areas.
- Whenever you stop, take down your shoes, let your feet breathe for a few minutes, and inspect if there are any blisters forming.
- If your socks get wet, change to a dry pair ASAP.
What Causes You to Get Blisters From New Hiking Boots?
Blisters are caused by friction from your feet rubbing against socks or boots. Blisters form much more quickly in wet conditions and in the presence of bacteria, so wearing moisture-wicking, antimicrobial socks definitely helps.
Unless you’re lucky, a pair of new hiking boots probably won’t be perfectly shaped for your feet. The inner padding might be too tight around the toebox, ankles, or somewhere else. When new hiking boots get broken in, the inner padding slowly starts to form to the shape of your feet, which reduces the overall friction where the shoe might be too tight and reduces the chances of getting blisters.
Blisters can also form from wearing too tight socks or if your feet aren’t used to hiking and carrying loads heavier than your body weight, such as your backpack. People who hike regularly have thicker skin around the areas where they’re most likely to get blisters, so they’re less likely to form new blisters.
Even though we’d all like for there to be one, there isn’t a quick solution to breaking in a pair of new hiking boots. Unless you aren’t fine with getting a few blisters and sacrificing the overall lifespan of your new hiking boots by dry-walking soaked hiking boots. If you have the time before your next hike, you should break in your new hiking boots correctly, by taking things slowly, which should take about 1-4 weeks in total.