Unless you’re throwing on a new pair of everyday shoes to simply walk around in, you should be taking time to break in footwear before you use it for its intended purpose. This is crucial when acquiring a new pair of hiking boots. You don’t want to hit the trails wearing a brand-new pair of hiking boots for the first time, only to have them too tight, too stiff, and leave you with painful blisters.

The style of hiking boot and materials it’s constructed of will help determine how much breaking in is needed. For example, leather usually needs time to soften up a bit. By taking the time to break in a pair of leather boots, it will allow your feet and the boot to conform to one another for the perfect fit. Keep in mind this may take several weeks. For other synthetic materials, the length of time to break in may be only a day.

Follow these simple rules to properly break in your hiking boots before you hit the trails. 


Wear your hiking boots in the house

Since they haven’t been worn outside to get dirty yet, you shouldn’t have to worry about your significant other yelling at you for wearing your shoes in the house. Make sure that you wear them just as you will on the trail – with a good pair of hiking socks and an insole if you prefer that extra cushion and support.

Adjust the tongues and gussets so they are straight and tie the laces nice and snug. Now you can wear them around the house throughout the day. Keep in mind that your boots may feel stiff at first. This is normal, and it’s exactly why you’re taking the time to break them in. 


Start with shorter walks outside

Once you’ve worn your new hiking boots around the house for a day or two, take them for a spin around the block, through your town, or down your driveway if you live in the country. Gradually increase the distance or time you wear them for a couple days. 


How to prevent and treat blisters

Look, no matter how much you break in your hiking boots, you’re going to get a blister or two at some point. It’s just the nature of the beast. Moisture, heat, and pressure are all factors that can cause blisters, so avoid them if possible.

Ensure your boots fit properly and you wear a quality pair of comfortable socks, such as a synthetic blend or wool (never cotton which retains moisture). If conditions call for it, carry an extra pair of socks you can change into if your feet get wet.

To help prevent blisters, consider using moleskin. Moleskin can be found in most drugstores and is a thin, but durable piece of cotton fabric with a sticky backing. It can be used by removing the sticky backing and applying to areas on your feet that tend to develop blisters. You can also apply it directly to the inside of your shoes.

If you do acquire a blister, only “pop” or drain it as a last resort. The better option is to use blister bandages with pads and gels to soothe the area and protect it from rubbing against your sock and boot and making it worse.


5.11 Tactical offers a full selection of durable, comfortable hiking and work boots. With the proper care and maintenance, your favorite pair of hiking boots can keep you blazing trails for years to come.