You’ve got everything set and ready to go – all the gear you will need plus new hiking boots. Next step? Hitting the trails!
But don’t do that. Whether you are going hiking for the first time or have been doing it for years, the worst mistake you can make is going hiking in untested boots.
Unless you don’t plan on enjoying your hike due to blisters, I would suggest your take time to break in your new boots.
Even the best fitting boots need time to at least get in sync with the feet. Breaking in new hiking boots is a long process that can be frustrating especially if you want nothing but to hit the trails.
However, at the end of that long utterly-frustrating process are miles and miles of the best hike of your life.
How Long Does It Take to Break in Hiking Boots?
The truth is, don’t expect to break in new hiking boots in a few days. It is a process that takes up to two weeks and sometimes a month. At the end of the day, however, how long it takes you to break in new boots comes down to several factors – the type of boot and the material.
Types of Hiking Boots
There are different types of hiking boots and the one you choose will determine how long you break in them. Lightweight, low-cut hiking boots don’t need as much time and some are ready to be worn a soon as they are out of the box.
Rugged and heavy-duty boots on the other hand are a different case. Such boots may not be ready for trekking for a couple of weeks. As such, avoid buying such boots when your hiking trip is a few days away.
Most hiking boots are made of leather which takes a while to soften and conform to your feet. However, even when this is true, leather is usually tough and eventually molds perfectly to your feet.
Today, leather undergoes treatment to make the material waterproof and breathable which is exactly what you need in a hiking boot.
However more and more synthetic boots keep being produced and it’s no surprise to find hiking boots that have little to no animal products in the material.
Compared to leather boots, synthetic boots mold to your feet differently. The process is much faster since all you need is to wear insoles.
How to Break in Your New Hiking Boots
If you’ve been hiking for a while, I’m sure you have heard all manner of advice regarding breaking in new boots – from soaking them in water and vinegar to urinating in them to soften the material!
Don’t urinate into your hiking boots! Here is a simple process that is meant to gradually help your break in new boots before your next hike.
Get Acquainted with Your New Boots
Just like you would when you start exercising, you want to start slow and progressively build endurance.
So, how do you do that? Start with something as simple as wearing your new boots inside the house. Assume you are going for a hike and wear the boots with the socks you would wear.
Align the gussets and tongue materials perfectly when you lace your new boots for the first time. This is an important part of the process because it determines where the permanent creases form.
After a while, these creases tend to become indelible so it’s best if you get them right from the word go.
The boots should feel snug but not overly tight. Wear your boots for at least an hour around the house and neighbourhood. Try also simulating a hiking trail by walking up and down the stairs in them.
At first, they may feel stiff but there is nothing wrong with that. Over time, they will start yielding to the shape of your feet and will start feeling more comfortable.
If you however experience pain, pressure points, and the likes, wearing them over and over again will not alleviate the discomfort. In fact, it may make things even worse! The only solution in such a case is returning them for another boot size or make.
Increase The Mileage
Once the boots begin to feel comfortable, it’s time to take it a notch higher by giving them a true trail test run.
I’m not talking about a full hiking experience for hours. Rather, you only need to increase the distance by a few miles.
Wear your boots plus hiking socks and start by taking them for a spin around your block and then gradually add around the town outs-and-abouts.
Your boots should start stretching a little and conforming to your feet. As you do that, make sure that you note down any problem spots in the boots and try making adjustments in the lacing and orthotics.
Gradually, add two to three miles of hikes on flat terrain at first before adding some climbs. During this time, you need to make sure that the boots feel comfortable every time you take them off.
Trail Testing: Settling into The New Boots
Once you are sure that the boots are a great fit and that they are comfortable, it’s time for some serious breaking in off the pavements.
Start with short trail hikes while you’re carrying a daypack and then gradually increase the load and the mileage.
Try doing two to three-hour hikes and see how your boots respond to that. Be on the lookout for blisters.
You could also try adding other challenges like water and creeks. This is also a great time to test the breathability of your new boots and how waterproof they are.
What to Consider Before Breaking in New Hiking Boots
When you are buying hiking boots, at the top of your priorities, should be an excellent fit. For poorly fitting boots, it doesn’t matter how long you take to break in them, it will just not fix anything. Before you start breaking in new boots, consider the following:
Boot Length and Width
When you’ve found the perfect length in a pair of boots, you need to pay attention to the toe box. It should not bind your toes or “swallow” them.
You also need to note how much extra space you have elsewhere in your hiking boot. To test the fit, slide the index finger into the boot just behind the heel.
The finger should fit perfectly into that space but without a lot of space that it moves around. If you can hardly get your finger inside the boot or it wiggles a lot, you need to re-consider the boot size.
Choose your hiking socks wisely because they determine just how comfortable your boot fits. Avoid cotton fabrics and instead, go for synthetic or wool blends.
High-quality hiking socks should wick away moisture when worn which will help prevent blisters when you hit the trail.
Orthotics and Insoles
If you want to enjoy your hike when that time comes, you need to invest in good insoles. Believe me, they will eventually pay off thanks to the orthopedic stability and comfort you will experience.
When you are preparing for a hike, your hiking boots play a very important role. While most hiking boots can be worn straight out of the box, they need some getting used to. Breaking in new hiking boots is a long process but worth it if you are to avoid blisters when you hit the trails.
When breaking in new boots, start slow and gradually build your endurance. Good hiking boots should feel comfortable regardless of the terrain.
However, before you even think about breaking in your new hiking boots, ensure that your boots are a great fit. No amount of trial tests will fix a poorly fitting boot.