Guide to Breaking in Hiking Boots for the Trails

*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commision. At no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link!

Have you ever got a new pair of boots and tested them out on the trails only to feel that they were less comfortable than when you tried them on before. Sometimes, this is from not having them broke in yet. Breaking in hiking boots before heading out on a big hiking trip is helpful because it can minimize blisters and discomfort out on the trails.

In this guide I am going to teach you how to break in your hiking boots so that they will be ready the next time you decide to go out.

Key Takeaways

  • Choose the right fit for your hiking boots and understand how material affects break-in time.
  • Gradually increase intensity of walking up/down stairs to simulate inclines & declines, plus walk around house in them before taking outdoors.
  • Test performance on different surfaces, adjust lacing techniques & insoles for optimal comfort and support. Replace if necessary.

Preparing Your New Hiking Boots

You should begin with a pair of boots or shoes that will have the right fit for you. The right fit ensures your feet aren’t swimming in too much space or squeezed in too tight without any room.

The boot and shoe material, on the other hand, determines the flexibility and longevity of your footwear. Materials have pros and cons each material works a differently.

Both aspects are intertwined, as the right fit is influenced by the boot material. For instance, leather boots may start stiff but will mold to your foot shape over time, while synthetic materials are more forgiving initially but are not as durable.

Finding the Right Fit at the Store

When trying on hiking boots or shoes go to a store with an open mind willing to try on anything. Too many times I have heard people already having something in mind to buy yet to be disappointed later when they take it out on trail.

When trying on the shoes be mindful of any discomfort, such as bumps, seams, or pinching in the forefoot. Remember, hiking boots and shoes are more rigid than regular shoes, providing enhanced ankle support and traction for uneven terrain.

This rigidity may demand going half a size up for a proper fit. Avoid common mistakes like choosing boots that are too tight or too loose, leading to blisters or potential accidents.

Understanding Boot Materials and Their Impact on Break-In Time

How quickly your boots break in greatly depends on their material. Leather boots, with their high durability, may require a longer break-in period of 4-8 weeks, while more flexible softer materials like Gore-Tex, Nubuck, or Suede might only take 2-4 weeks. Remember, the more rigid the boots are, the longer it will take for your feet to become accustomed to them.

Starting the Break-In Process Indoors

After choosing the right boots or shoes, begin the break-in process at home or during daily errands. Here, you can identify potential discomfort areas and adjust the fit accordingly. Walking around the house or doing daily errands in the boots or shoes allows you to get a feel for them in a controlled environment.

Starting Short Walks

To start the break-in process you can start walking around the house or during daily outings. While indoors, you can perform regular tasks like cooking, cleaning, or yard work. In addition to just getting out and running errands like going to the store or an appointment. This helps your feet adjust to the new footwear, and any discomfort can be addressed quickly.

The Staircase Method

While breaking your hiking boots or shoes in be sure to try them out on some stairs. Walking up and down the stairs helps your boots adapt to your feet. There’s no set timeframe for this method, but it’s recommended to start with short sessions and gradually increase their length and intensity.

If you have stairs in or on the outside of your home, you can try the staircase method to simulate inclines and declines. You can also go find some stairs when you are out running daily errands on the streets and climb those to simulate various terrain.

Starting Short Hikes

After spending about a week or two of walking around your home and doing short outings in your hiking boots it is finally time to start taking your boots out and hitting the trails. It is best to start with shorter day hikes and do this for the next week or two. This will be important for testing your boots or shoes out on various terrain.

Why Uneven Terrain Matters

Any pair of hiking boots must pass the crucial test of uneven terrain. It not only tests your boots or shoes grip and stability but also helps them adapt to different pressures, which further helps the breaking in process.

When to Add Weight to Your Pack

To simulate real hiking conditions, consider adding weight to your pack. But remember, it’s not about packing as much as you can. Start with a light load and gradually increase the weight as your boots adjust. This will ensure your boots are well-prepared for the trails without causing unnecessary strain on your feet.

Lacing Techniques and Insole Adjustments

With your boots broken in, the next step is to fine tune the fit of your hiking boots or shoes. Different lacing techniques and insole adjustments can significantly improve the comfort and support of your boots. Lacing your boots just right can provide optimal comfort and support, while the right insoles can offer additional cushioning and arch support.

Lacing for Comfort and Support

Your hiking experience can be significantly influenced by the way you lace your boots or shoes. Different lacing techniques can provide optimal comfort and support for your feet. Techniques such as the heel lock can prevent your heel from slipping forward, while toe-relief lacing can reduce pressure on the toes.

Want to learn more about lacing techniques? Experiment with different techniques to find what works best for you.

Recognizing the Wrong Pair

Even after all your efforts, you might discover that the boots are simply not the correct fit. Persistent discomfort, blisters, or pain even after breaking them in are signs that you might need a different pair. It’s important to listen to your feet and make the necessary adjustments.

Everyone’s feet are different and finding a good pair of hiking boots can be a journey where sometimes it works out and sometimes it does not. But it is worth trying a new pair of footwear instead of suffering through an uncomfortable pair of boots.

Signs You Need a Different Pair

It’s crucial to recognize when you need a different pair of boots. Persistent discomfort such as:

  • pinching
  • rubbing
  • blisters
  • pain

Foot problems should be taken seriously. If these issues persist despite your efforts, it might be time to consider a new pair of footwear.

The Process of Exchanging Uncomfortable Footwear

While the idea of exchanging your boots may seem like a hassle it definitely does not have to be. Most stores have reasonable return policies especially within the first 30 days which by 4 weeks you should know if the shoes or boots will work for you.

Check the store’s return policy, ensure the boots are fairly good condition, and follow the instructions given by the store. If the boots are a little dirty, I recommend cleaning them prior instead of returning back a pair of slightly dirty boots or shoes.

Remember, the goal is not just to have a pair of hiking boots but to have a pair of footwear that you can enjoy your hikes in.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to break in hiking boots?

It typically takes around 2 weeks to break in hiking boots with a synthetic material, nubuck, or suede, and 4-8 weeks for leather hiking boots. Most synthetic hiking boots will be broken in after a few short hikes.

Is it normal for hiking boots to hurt at first?

It is normal for hiking boots to feel a bit stiff at first, and the stiffness should improve over time with wear. You can also help this process by wearing them around the house and walking in them with a daypack on.

Is it normal to get blisters when breaking in hiking boots?

Yes, it is common for hiking boots to cause blisters during the break-in period. To reduce this risk, wear them around home and on short hikes before heading out for longer trips.

Can I speed up the break-in process?

Yes, you can speed up the break-in process by wearing your hiking boots more often during the breaking in process.

How do I know if my boots are the wrong fit?

If you feel persistent discomfort, blisters, or pain even after the break-in process, it could be a sign that your boots are the wrong fit.


Breaking in your hiking boots is a journey, but it’s one that is necessary if you want to be comfortable out on the trails. If you need help with breaking in hiking boots refer to this guide and if you have any further questions, please feel free to leave use a comment down below or find us on social media. As always hike more and worry less.

Similar Posts