How To Break In Hiking Boots (Expert Tips)

I am a hiker and I own about five pairs of hiking boots. That might sound like a lot, but I’m not even close to being the most obsessive person on the trail. I have some friends who own 30 or 40 pairs of hiking boots! 

They are always telling me about how bad their feet hurt because all their new shoes are so stiff, but there’s a secret they don’t need to break in their hiking boots. 

If you know what you’re doing, breaking in hiking boots can be much easier than they seem!

Top Takeaways – How to Break in Hiking Boots
Properly breaking in your hiking boots can help prevent discomfort, blisters, and injuries during your hike.
Start by wearing your boots around the house, on short walks, or around town before hitting the trails.
Gradually increase the duration and difficulty of your hikes as your boots become more comfortable.
Wear your hiking boots with thick, cushioned hiking socks that provide support and prevent blisters.
Use products like moleskin or blister pads on areas prone to discomfort or blisters.
If you have sensitive feet, consider custom insoles or orthotics for extra support and cushioning.

Buy the Right Size

If you are buying new hiking boots, it is important that they fit properly. If they are too tight then they can cause blisters and discomfort while walking. 

If they are too loose then they will not protect your feet as well from rocks or other things on the trail. 

You want to find a balance between having enough room for your toes and being able to wiggle them inside of the boot without feeling like you are about to slip out of it every time you flex your ankle or move around in your step. 

You also want enough room for thicker hiking socks so that when wearing them, there will be no rubbing on any part of the foot caused by fabric touching skin directly – which could lead to chafing or blisters developing later on down the road (and believe me – no one wants that!).

 Proper packing is essential for a successful and comfortable hike. Make sure to distribute weight evenly and organize your gear efficiently. Check out our guide on how to pack a backpack for hiking for expert tips.

Rub Hand Sanitizer on the Toughest Spots

Rub hand sanitizer into the most stubborn areas of your hiking boots. The alcohol in the hand sanitizer will dry out the leather and make it more flexible, which will allow you to break in your boots faster.

To do this, use a circular motion to rub hand sanitizer into all parts of your leather hiking boots the ankle area, heel counter, toe box and tongue are all important spots to focus on. 

Don’t apply too much at once; if you use too much hand sanitizer at once, it will dry out the leather and prevent any further stretching from taking place.

Buy Hiking Boots a Little Bigger

This is a simple, but very important step. Hiking boots should be slightly loose enough to allow for swelling in your feet as you hike. 

You don’t want to buy hiking shoes that are too tight, because this can cause blisters and other problems with your feet. 

I learned from my own experience that if I had bought hiking boots that were a little bigger than the size recommended by the store, they would have been much more comfortable when I wore them on hikes.

The key here is not to go overboard and buy hiking shoes that are too big for your foot—they’ll be uncomfortable and will wear out quickly. Instead, opt for a pair of hiking boots that’s maybe one size larger than what you’d normally wear at home or at school (or where ever).

Keeping your hiking boots clean can help extend their life and keep them performing at their best. Check out our guide on how to clean hiking boots for an easy and effective way to clean your boots.

Wear Your Hiking Boots Around the House for a Few Weeks

It’s not a secret: if you want to break in your boots, you need to wear them around. However, just because this is true doesn’t mean it’s as easy as putting on your boots and going for a mini-hike. Breaking in new hiking boots takes time and patience!

The best way to do this is by wearing them around the house, then gradually working your way up to longer and longer distances until they are fully broken in.

Try Them Out in the Store For at Least 30 Minutes Before Buying

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices to a few pairs, it’s time to test them out.

Try on the boots and walk around in them for at least 30 minutes. This should give you an idea of how they’ll feel when you’re actually hiking or walking long distances. 

If they’re too tight or uncomfortable, it may be worth looking into another brand or style that fits better. If they don’t fit quite right but are still wearable, try sizing up (or down) until they do fit comfortably!

Go with what feels right don’t just buy something because the salesperson recommended it! You know yourself best and will be able to answer these questions: Do I like how this boot looks? Does it fit my foot well? Am I comfortable wearing this new pair of shoes all day long?

Hiking poles can greatly improve your balance, stability, and reduce the impact on your joints. However, using them correctly is essential. Check out our guide on how to use hiking poles for expert advice.

Lace-Up Your Hiking Boots Correctly the First Time

The first step of breaking in hiking boots is to get the fit right. This means that your boots should be snug, but not too tight. If you get a pair that’s too big and can wiggle your toes around inside, you’ll end up with blisters before you even hit the trail.

Make sure the laces are straight across your foot you want them to feel comfortable without being overly tight or loose. 

Your laces should also be tied in a double knot (a single knot can come undone if there’s any tension on it). If they’re not tied correctly now, they won’t be when they’re wet or muddy either!

Wear Thick Socks When Breaking in Hiking Boots

While hiking boots are fantastic for long hikes and rugged terrain, they’re not necessarily meant to be comfortable. They can be stiff and tight at first, which can lead to blisters if you don’t break them in correctly.

Your hiking boots should feel like a second skin by the time you begin your hike—but how do you know when it’s time to start breaking them in?

While there is no one-size-fits all method of breaking in new hiking boots, we recommend wearing thick socks while doing so. 

Thick socks provide cushioning between the foot and shoe, making it easier on your feet during the break-in process. 

They also keep your feet warm (you’ll want this if you’re hiking somewhere cold!) and prevent blisters from forming during that first hike. 

Finally, thick socks are more comfortable than thin ones because they fit snugly around each part of your foot instead of just sliding around inside as thin ones do!

Proper training is key to preparing your body for the physical demands of a hike. Our guide on how to train for hiking provides pro tips on how to increase strength, endurance, and agility for a successful hike.

Stretch Your Hiking Boots at Home and in the Store, Too

For best results, you should stretch your boots at home and in the store.

Put on a pair of thick socks (or two).

Put the boots on over them. Make sure they are laced up tightly.

Walk around the house for a few minutes. Repeat this process several times until you feel that the boots have stretched out enough to accommodate your feet comfortably with no pain or discomfort whatsoever

Don’t Replace Hiking Boots That Aren’t Broken, Even if They Are Old

Many people replace their hiking boots before they really need to. Although it’s important to have a backup pair of shoes, there’s no need to replace hiking boots that work just fine if you don’t have any problems with them. 

If you think your old hiking boots need replacing and start looking for new ones, go through the steps below first.

  • Perform basic maintenance on your hiking boots
  • Break in new insoles or orthotics if necessary
  • Get used to walking in your new insoles or orthotics

Hiking can be a great way to get exercise, enjoy nature, and reduce stress. If you’re a beginner, it’s important to start small and build up gradually. Check out our guide on getting started hiking as a beginner for tips on what to wear, where to start, and how to stay safe.

Get an Extra Pair of Liners If You Live Somewhere Cold and Wet Often

If you live in a cold, wet climate and you’re going to be hiking every day, then I recommend getting an extra pair of liners.

It is so important to keep your feet dry! If you get them wet, they will be cold and damp for hours and that can lead to all sorts of painful problems like blisters and trench foot (aka: frostbite). The best way to avoid this is by having a backup plan.

The downside with the liner system is that it’s easy for one pair of liners to get lost or damaged while out on the trail. 

So if you want some extra protection against this happening, bring an extra pair of socks just in case one pair gets dirty or damaged during the hike.

Table: Advantages of an Extra Pair of Liners in Cold and Wet Climates

Increased warmthHaving an extra pair of liners can help provide extra warmth for your feet, which is essential in cold and wet conditions.
Quicker drying timeHaving two pairs of liners means you can alternate between them, allowing each to dry thoroughly before your next hike. This is important to avoid cold, damp feet that can lead to blisters or other foot problems.
Better hygieneSweaty or damp liners can harbor bacteria or fungi, which can cause foot odor or infections. Having an extra pair of liners allows you to rotate them and keep your feet clean and healthy.
Cost-effectiveBuying an extra pair of liners is often a much cheaper option than buying an entirely new pair of boots.
ConvenienceHaving an extra pair of liners on hand means you can quickly switch them out if one pair becomes damaged or lost. This allows you to continue hiking without interruption.

Wear Your Hiking Boots to Work Instead of Driving or Riding in a Car

Here’s a good way to break in your hiking boots: wear them to work.

You could walk or ride a bike (or take public transit), but that is not what we’re after here. We want you to get used to the feel of the boots on your feet while you do something useful, like going about your day-to-day business.

There are plenty of places where you can walk, so try this tip and see how it works for you!

Table: Top Benefits of Wearing Hiking Boots to Work

Breaks in your bootsWearing your boots for long periods of time can help speed up the break-in process and allow your boots to conform to your feet.
Saves moneyWalking or biking to work in your hiking boots can save you money on gas, parking, and other transportation expenses.
Increases fitnessWalking or biking instead of driving can help improve your fitness and overall health.
Better for the environmentWalking or biking to work instead of driving reduces your carbon footprint and helps protect the environment.
Encourages outdoor timeWearing your hiking boots to work can encourage you to spend more time outdoors and explore nearby trails and parks.

Calf Stretches Before Getting Into Hiking Shape Can Help You Break In Hiking Boots!

Stretching is important for hikers. Stretching before and after a hike can help you get the most out of your hike, and stretching regularly can help prevent injuries and soreness that come from hiking in general.

Before you start any hike, it’s important to stretch your calf muscles. These are the muscles at the back of your lower leg that drive forward motion when walking or running on flat ground. If these muscles are tight, they may pull on other parts of your body during a hike and cause pain or injury.

After a long day on the trail, it’s also good to stretch out these same muscles again—especially if they were put under strain during an especially difficult climb or descent!

If you do this regularly before getting into shape for hiking season or breaking in new boots (which we’ll cover below), then there’s no reason why even beginners should have trouble with this part of their training as well!

Don’t Break In New Hiking Shoes for Long Distance or Overnight Backpacking Trips! Save Those for Practice Runs!

New hiking boots are not meant to be worn on long-distance or overnight backpacking trips, so don’t make that a habit! Instead, save those for practice runs.

Hiking boots can take anywhere from two weeks to six months to break in — it’s different for every person. When you start getting blisters or sore spots, though (and you will), take them off immediately! 

No matter how much you want to keep going, don’t let yourself walk around with blisters on your feet; they will only get worse and could become infected by bacteria in the environment if they aren’t treated properly.


We hope these tips help you break in your new hiking boots faster and more effectively. It can be a little frustrating to wait for them to feel perfect, but it’s worth the wait! 

As we mentioned above, don’t try breaking them in for long distance or overnight backpacking trips; save those for practice runs so you don’t waste money on shoes that aren’t ready yet. Remember: if you have any other questions about hiking shoes or boots, just ask us! 

Our experts are always happy to help make sure you get what works best for your feet and needs as soon as possible

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources on breaking in hiking boots:

REI: Expert Advice – Breaking In Hiking Boots: A comprehensive guide to breaking in hiking boots from the outdoor experts at REI.

BootSpy: How to Break in Hiking Boots: This article offers practical tips and advice for breaking in hiking boots quickly and effectively.

Backpacker: How to Break in Your New Hiking Boots: A step-by-step guide for breaking in new hiking boots, with helpful tips for preventing blisters and discomfort.


How long does it take to break in hiking boots?

Breaking in hiking boots typically takes a few days to a few weeks, depending on the boots and your own comfort level. It’s important to start slowly and gradually increase the length and difficulty of your hikes as your boots become more comfortable.

Can I wear my new hiking boots on a long hike before they are broken in?

It’s not recommended to wear new hiking boots on a long hike before they are broken in. Doing so can cause discomfort, blisters, and even injuries. It’s best to break in your boots gradually by wearing them for short periods at a time and gradually increasing the duration and difficulty of your hikes.

What are some tips for breaking in hiking boots?

Some tips for breaking in hiking boots include wearing them around the house or for short walks before hitting the trails, wearing them with hiking socks that provide support and cushioning, and using products like moleskin or blister pads to prevent discomfort and blisters.

How can I prevent blisters when breaking in hiking boots?

To prevent blisters when breaking in hiking boots, it’s important to wear them with thick, cushioning hiking socks and to wear them for short periods at a time. Using products like moleskin or blister pads on areas prone to blisters can also help.

Can I use any method to break in hiking boots?

There are many methods for breaking in hiking boots, but not all of them are effective or safe. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and consult with outdoor experts before trying any unconventional or untested methods for breaking in your boots.