Do Hiking Shoes Need To Be Broken In?

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Do hiking shoes need to be broken in? The answer is yes, they need to be broken in, especially if they are leather.

To enjoy a successful hiking experience, you need a good pair of hiking shoes. Thankfully, these are available in plenty in the online marketplaces. They come in all sizes, colors and styles.

Hiking is a tasking exercise and therefore you need to prepare amply for it. If you will be hiking on the unbeaten trails, or you will be taking a long hike, you need to break those shoes in. If you will be taking a short day hike on paved trails in the park, well, you can do it in almost any pair of shoes.

When you buy a new pair of hiking boots on Amazon or other marketplace online, you need to break them in. The manufacturer will claim they come true to size and indeed, most of them do. However, the most important thing about breaking in the hiking boots is to make them conform to the shape of your legs.

How long does it take to break in hiking shoes?

2 weeks, 3 weeks or even 4 weeks

You need at least 2 weeks before the hiking day to get the shoes to fit your feet properly. Please note that we said at least 2 weeks. In some instances, you may even need up to 4 weeks.

Walk around in the shoes for several days

You need to wear the shoes and walk around in them. This makes the shoes and the feet get used to each other. Besides, by wearing the shoes frequently before your hiking trip, you will be getting enough exercise for your feet. They will get used to the weight of the boots. If you can, it is also recommended that you carry a pack with the same weight as what you will carry on the trail.

If you know the trail that you will be hiking, you can try to break in the boots on places that mimic its conditions. If it is steep, walk on inclined spaces. This will benefit your mileage on the trail.

Prepare your shoes and feet for hiking

Unknown to many people, hiking is not an activity that you will just wake up to from months on a desk or a sedentary lifestyle. You need to amply prepare for the hiking trip. Usually, this should involve exercises for hiking.

If you are ill-prepare for hiking, you could be in a whole lot of trouble. For example, you could even develop pain in the ball of foot. This condition is also brought about by wearing bad shoes for hiking.

Since preparing for hiking involves breaking in your shoes, you will know whether they are the right fit. Wear them with the socks and inserts that you intend to wear during the hike.

How do you break in new walking shoes?

Apparently, breaking in new hiking boots is much more than just wearing them for two to four weeks before your hiking vacation.

It means being actively engaged in ensuring that the shoes fit you nicely, with some room to spare.

Using a blow dryer

This is one of the simplest methods. Just gather the following items because you will need them:

  • A blow dryer
  • Hiking socks
  • Your new hiking shoes
  • Inserts (preferably customized ones)

To start breaking in your walking shoes, wear your hiking socks. If you do not have any, you can buy a pair such as Danish Endurance Merino Wool Socks on or some other online marketplace. What you are doing here is creating a real-time walking experience in the shoes.

Insert the custom insoles if you have any. If you think the stock insoles are OK, you can use them. Custom inserts such as Superfeet or Protalus can set you back even more than $30, but people swear by them.

Wear your walking shoes and lace them up properly, just as you would when hiking. Now, walk around the yard with your shoes on. “Listen” to your feet.

Where does the shoe pinch you? Around the big toe? Small toe? Heel area? Take note of that. These are the spots that need your immediate attention. If you like, you can even mark them with a pencil.

With the shoes still on your feet, blow on the spots that are pinching you with the blow dryer. The heat will force the leather to stretch and when you walk around in the boots while still hot, they will stretch.

Please note that this method might not work for textile uppers.

Take the boots to a cobbler

Sometimes, your trail boots may be a bit too tight such that breaking them in at home might not work, and returning them may not be an option. If such is the case, take the boots to a cobbler. They will enlarge them for you.

How does a cobbler stretch shoes? They will have a stretching machine for the job. However, because they know that stretching can ruin the leather fibers, the stretching machine will only stretch the parts that need to be stretched. Therefore, the rest of the boot will be left intact.

Using ice to break your trail boots

It seems ice is not only good for swollen places, but it is also good for enlarging your boots. If you have bought walking boots that are not fitting you as comfortably as you would like, use ice to enlarge them.

It is quite simple too. Take plastic bags and fill them with water. Insert them in the boots, put the boots in a plastic contain and leave them overnight in the fridge.

From basic physics, water will solidify into ice, which expands. Therefore, as the ice expands, it will force the boots to enlarge. The following day, remove the boots from the freezer and break the ice. If you try them on, you will notice a whole lot of difference.

If the boots do not fit you as well as you would like, repeat the process.


Do hiking shoes need to be broken in? You have seen that they do. However, only use the methods that we have proposed here for leather boots since textile ones can generally expand on their own. The bottom line is that you should never wear trail boots straight out of the box.