Guide On How To Break In Hiking Boots

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It’s common to purchase cutting-edge hiking boots, take them out of the box, and head to the nearest trail. This is a mistake that is made by beginners, intermediates, and yes even experienced hikers!

Why Do We Need To Break In Hiking Boots

It’s often assumed hiking boots are well-engineered and don’t need to be warmed up. This means people just want to put them on and head to the nearest trail for a tricky hike. This mistake is not only bad for the hiking boots, it can also compromise your safety while hiking!

Keeping all of this in mind, it’s essential to learn how to break in hiking boots the right way. Several people have a gist of what to do, but still make mistakes along the way.

This guide is going to pinpoint how to break in hiking boots safely without harming the boots or yourself.

Timeline for Breaking in Hiking Boots

Let’s start with a simple timeline to make sure you give yourself enough time to work on the hiking boots. Don’t assume this is going to be done over the course of a day.

In general, it is going to take at least 2-4 weeks for the hiking boots to be 100% ready to go. Yes, you can wear them before this, but you will still have to be careful about heading to harsher trails that are not as forgiving to your raw hiking boots.

It’s also important to note the materials that are involved in the hiking boot’s construction will play a role as well. For example, if you are going with a heavy-duty mountaineering boot, it’s going to take the entire four weeks to break in, while trail runners won’t.

You will have to look at the type of uppers that are used for the hiking boots too. For example, anything that is made of leather is going to take longer than flexible materials that are already working on getting used to the shape of your feet from day one.

However, once leather breaks in, this type of leather boot offers the best performance. This is why a lot of people don’t mind moving forward with the “breaking in” process because it is well worth the reward at the end.

Steps To Break In Hiking Boots

1. Start Indoors

Before doing anything else, you will want to learn how to put on the hiking boots and get used to them. This is a mistake some people make because they rush outside and walk through the yard or neighborhood.

While this is okay in the future, it’s not going to yield good results right now. The hiking boots are too fresh at this point and will not adjust to your feet as well as you want them to. This can lead to breakage, which is the last thing anyone wants to see happen!

Instead, you want to put on the clean hiking boots and just walk around indoors.

This is good because you want to ease them in without exposing the hiking boots to inclement weather. Even colder temperatures might not bode well for the hiking boot’s structural integrity. By walking indoors, you are going to have the ability to work on the hiking boots and see how well they adapt to your feet.

When you are walking indoors, just focus on walking short distances. You may also want to re-work the laces or straps as you go until the boots fit nicely. This isn’t going to happen right away and you will have to make natural adjustments throughout the process.

This is why patience is of the utmost importance when breaking in new hiking boots.

A lot of the time, people will start to rush through this process in a bid to head outdoors. What happens is the hiking boots don’t adjust to the shape of your feet and that is when you get injured and/or develop pain along the heel or arches.

This is not a fun experience for the average person and it is the last thing you want to see happen with a new pair of hiking boots.

2. Change Elevations

Now you are going to get a more adventurous after walking indoors for a few days.

In this case, you are going to look to change elevations (i.e. stairs, hills). You want to make sure the surface is dry whether you are doing this indoors or outdoors. While it is still recommended to stay indoors while changing elevation, you can head outdoors to a clean surface.

This doesn’t mean you are going to rush to a nearby forest!

Just stay somewhere close by and walk on different elevations. You can even do it on a treadmill if that makes you feel better.

The reason for doing this is to get the hiking boots used to different angles and pressure points. Sometimes, hiking boots are only aged to walk on flat surfaces, but don’t do as well when there is a greater bend in the front of the boot.

This is why you want to prep the hiking boots in advance because the amount of pressure on a trail is going to be significantly higher.

It’s important to remember, the average hiking trail is not going to be flat. There are going to be curves, different types of surfaces, and large inclines that you have to navigate. If you are not taking the time to respond to this, you could get hurt outdoors with the hiking boots on.

You should do this for at least a week to make sure you are used to the hiking boots on different elevations. It is okay to do this in short bursts, but make sure to do it at least once a day.

3. Wear Your Hiking Socks

A lot of people don’t do this and that is a mistake.

Don’t just put on the hiking boots with any random pair of socks. Your house socks are not always the same as what you would put on when hiking and that’s normal. However, you should break in the hiking boots with those socks in.

Otherwise, you may assume the hiking boots are comfortable when that is not the case with a thicker pair of socks. As a result, it is your responsibility to not only break in the hiking boots but also make sure you are wearing the right type of hiking socks.

By doing this, you are going to get a closer feel for what the hiking boots are going to do when you are outdoors and walking on a tough trail.

4. Increase the Mileage Every Day

If the hiking boots feel good, you won’t want to go straight to 100% hiking.

Instead, you are going to want to head outdoors in different conditions for a week or so. During this stage, you are just going to get the hiking boots used to different types of surfaces while increasing the distance you’re walking.

If it feels okay right now then keep increasing the distance. The more distance you cover with the new hiking boots, the easier it is going to get to fall in love with them.

A good place to get to would be a 2-3 mile hike that is on a relatively easy-going terrain. The idea is just to get used to those conditions while hiking. You can even carry your hiking gear while doing this to put additional pressure on the hiking boots.

Remember, don’t head over to the harder trails right now!

This is how you can end up getting hurt or tearing the hiking boots. It is better to start with longer distances while focusing on easier terrain that isn’t going to create unnecessary worries during the process.

When you are comfortable with this, you can start taking the next step, which includes heading to terrain that is elevated a little bit. The idea is to get the hiking boots used to different types of surfaces while adding a bit of elevation into the mix.

This could be something as simple as a short trail that has a hill along the way. You should be doing this on a sunny day, so you are not worried about slipping due to rain/snow.

Always pay attention to how the boots respond to these scenarios. The more you get comfortable, the more you can ramp things up as a hiker. Otherwise, you are not going to go about it gradually and that is what leads to unwanted injuries.

It is smarter to take your time and just pay attention to how the hiking boots are treating you on a trail.

5. Head Out for a Tough Hike

The final step is going to be to put it to the test in a controlled setting. This can be a trail that you have already walked on, so you don’t have to worry about potential variables that come along on a new hiking adventure.

By knowing the trail, you can focus more on the hiking boots while still putting them through the paces. The goal remains to break in the hiking boots.

If you want to, it’s okay to bring a second pair of hiking boots when going on a tough trail. This will allow you to switch over as soon as you test the new hiking boots out. This is a lot better than going all-out right away without knowing how things are going to turn out.

You will always have more time to head over to new trails once the hiking boots are ready to go. Don’t rush to those trails right now!

6. Focus on Maintenance

Your hiking boots aren’t going to be 100% ready to go after they have been broken in. This is a myth and it is a mistake a lot of hikers make because they get confident.

You have to learn how to maintain your hiking boots once they are ready to go.

This means you are going to want to keep them clean, make sure they are in good condition, and just continually check for potential breakage. If you keep an eye out for these details, you are going to have a much easier time increasing the longevity of your hiking boots.

High-quality hiking boots get better with time if you take the time to maintain them.

The best way to do this is to always store hiking boots in a clean, safe environment. This means not tossing them into the garage or the back of a truck. This is how the materials will start to break down even if the hiking boots were good for your first hike.

Once you learn how to do this and remain consistent, the hiking boots are going to age gracefully. This is when you will get to reap the rewards of high-quality boots.

Final Thoughts

New-age hiking boots continue to introduce new technology into the mix every year.

This is why more and more hikers are becoming increasingly confident with what they are buying. While the technology is great, this doesn’t mean you don’t have to go through the “breaking in” process like everyone else.

Take your time to work on the hiking boots and see how well they do before ramping things up. If you take the time to go through the 2-4 week process with your boots, this will bode well for the future.

It’s important to note, there is nothing worse than taking your hiking boots out to a harsh trail and getting hurt because the boots give out under your weight. This happens because trails are not like other flat surfaces that are going to be forgiving. The more difficult hiking trails pack a punch and they are going to put a tremendous amount of stress on your boots.

By following the steps in this guide, you are going to know the hiking boots won’t let you down at any stage. This alone is powerful and a must for those who want to do things the right way.

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