Whether it’s a new baseball glove or a pair of soccer cleats, the equipment we use for our various outdoor activities undergo that “breaking in” period. The same can be said about hiking boots, which can be stiff and tight when first purchased. Keep reading to learn more about how to break in your new pair of hiking boots the right way, and how this can solve a lot of potential problems in the long run.

Different boot styles may feel different right out of the box, and may require a different approach to breaking in. Lightweight, ankle-cut boots or shoes, for example, may feel perfect when you first try them on while heavier boots, especially leather ones, need to be softened up. Most boots will stretch a bit during the breaking in process, so make sure when you’re trying them on at the store to purchase ones that have a comfortable, yet snug fit.

Begin the breaking in process by wearing your new boots for short periods of time around the house. To get a better fit, wear the socks you’ll be wearing on the trail as well. Tightly lace and tie your boots, as any creases formed during this time will remain for the boot’s lifespan. After a few sessions around the house without any problems, branch out and wear your boots to the store or even while mowing the lawn. The idea is to gradually increase the amount of time you wear them, as well as the distance you walk in them. After this step, you can practice wearing a weighted pack to see how the boots hold up against simulated weight.

Be sure to take notice of any discomfort during this time, such as pinching or rubbing. A little stiffness at first is normal, but consistent pain may be a sign that the boots aren’t the right pair for you. Take the boots off when you notice pain and search for the source. Some problems can be remedied at a local shoe repair shop or the outdoor retailer where you bought the boots, but others signify that an exchange for a new pair more suited to your foot and walking style is in order.

Not only is breaking in a pair of hiking boots the right way important for loosening them up, but it also helps you decipher any potential comfort or design issues that might cause problems on a real hike. There’s no quick way to shortcut the process, though, as it takes time and focus. Put in the time and pay attention to discomfort throughout the process and you’ll have a solid, broken-in pair of boots just in time for your next trip. 

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