You don’t go on conquering the highest peak around after just a few daily hikes. The same goes for breaking in new hiking boots. You need to advance gradually by layering new hikes and trails one after the other with increasing difficulty and length in order to do both.
If you have made the mistake in feeling overconfident and rushing through the process of breaking in hiking boots, then you are aware of the painful experience, the sore feet, blisters and possible injuries which such a mistake can cause.
There is a proper way to safely and comfortable break in your boots for hiking, so that they become comfortable enough for long and difficult trails.
Here are the steps to take:
- Put your hiking socks on and then lace up your new boots, so that they feel tight and nice, level up the tongue with the gusset material of the boots, so that comfortable creases can be formed and the break in process can begin. Start with wearing them and walking around the house with them.
- Once you start feeling more comfortable, you may try wearing them for going to the neighbors, running errands in the backyard or nearby or for walking the dog. This will allow your soles and your boots to begin taking the form of your feet. They probably will feel stiff at first, but this is perfectly normal for new, sturdy hiking boots. Of course, be wary of any continuous pinching, ongoing pain or rubbing which doesn’t go away – this could mean that you have bought the wrong size or wrong type of shoes for your foot type, and you may think about returning and replacing them with more suitable ones.
- After you feel comfortable enough, you may try out your new boots for a short walk or hike outdoors. Start with an easy 2-3 mile trail at first. Even if you feel comfy in your new hiking boots, this step may lead to blistering. Usually, this can be caused by: heat, moisture or from the pressure of impact with the uneven terrains. In order to avoid blistering, you can take some additional precautions, such as:
- Get properly fitting and properly sized boots
- Train the strength of the bottoms of your heels by walking barefoot at home or in your backyard.
- Apply Benzoin to your heels, and make sure you treat any callouses and tough skin on your feet with the appropriate foot care cream.
- If you suffer from foot fungus, ensure that it is treated and healed properly before going hiking.
- Give your feet sufficient rest time during the hike with the new boots.
- In case your boots are not breathable, you can take them off during the breaks to allow the feet to breathe and dry off.
- If you get a rock or other debris in one of your boots – remove it immediately.
During your first short hikes, you may want to test your hiking boots for the features they claim to have, such as waterproofness, breathability and others.
It is important to test their reliability and performance before taking off for a serious long hike with them on your feet.
- After you have tested your new hiking boots, and have ensured that they feel comfortable enough, you should plan and go to your fist day or weekend hike. If you can, you may want to bring along an alternative pair of hiking or trail running shoes with you just in case, if the boots start causing you discomfort during your hike.
- To ensure that your boots stay comfortable and retain their protective and comfort properties, you need to take regular care of them. The better you treat them – the longer and better they will serve you! This means you should always clean your hiking footwear when you are back from a hike. Let them air out. Keep them in an upright position. If they are wet, stuff them with crumpled newspapers so that the water is absorbed faster, and let them dry completely before wearing them again. If your boots are leather, you need to regularly condition them after cleaning them. Don’t dry them under direct strong sunlight or close to a heat source, because the leather will dry up and crack.
Whether your hiking boots are synthetic or leather, you should always ensure that they are dry and clean after you return from a trail. Excessive water and dried up mud can ruin them. It is also advisable to remove the insoles when you return from a hike. Even if it hasn’t been raining or wet, it is highly likely that the insoles are damp or wet from your perspiration, so make sure you let them dry off completely before putting them back into the boots. If you leave wet insoles inside the boots, this can cause them to start growing fungus and other harmful bacteria, and could make them smelly and unhealthy to wear.
Also, make sure you impregnate your boots for hiking on a regular basis to make sure they remain waterproof, no matter if they have nylon or leather uppers. Apply the appropriate impregnator periodically, especially when you notice that the upper starts absorbing and is getting saturated by the rain. You can test them by spraying some water on them. If the water rolls off – they are OK, but if it starts soaking into the material of the upper apply a thin layer of impregnator to be certain that they are waterproof once again.
Bottom line: Breaking in your hiking boots takes time and patience. Avoid quick fixes such as soaking your boots and going on a hike with them. In order to do a good job at breaking them in, you have to put in enough time.
Adventure hiking landscape image via Pexels/Pixabay CC0 license