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How to break in boots?

4 Answer(s) Available
Answer # 1 #

Forget what you’ve heard about the leather stretching — there’s nothing you can do about a pair of boots that’s too small, back-to-front. If your toes are cramped or the width of your foot hangs over the footbed, no amount of breaking in is going to fix it. On the other hand, too-big boots will never be more than blister machines. Blisters are formed where there’s friction, and if you’re sliding around with every step, you’ll never get past the break-in stage.

If you’re not sure exactly what size you are, go to your local shoe store and get measured on a Brannock device. It’s a helpful starting point, though not all manufacturers are true-to-size. If possible, try on boots in person before you buy them, and experiment with a half size larger and smaller than your actual size. If you have to buy online, be sure to read our reviews and consider ordering a couple of sizes and returning one of them when you’re confident. A lot of boot brands are designed to fit best when you go a half size down, but not all! Luckily, our reviews have you covered.

[Learn more: The Ultimate Guide to How Boots Should Fit]

The Dayton Service Boot is one of my favorites of all time — but that break in…

Start with the thickest sock you have (or two if you can manage it!) and wear your new boots around the house. This will help you figure out if they’re the right size without getting them dirty, so you can still return them. It’ll also begin stretching the leather.

Out-of-the-box leather is as stiff as it will ever be, and softens and stretches best with a combination of gentle pressure, heat, and moisture. That’s why boots are easier to break in during summer months — the combination of warmer outside temps and increased moisture from your sweaty feet (gross but real) is the ideal set of conditions for loosening the leather fibers. The bulky socks will mimic some of this by warming up your feet and pressing on the upper, helping it mold to the shape of your foot.

Once you’ve worn your new boots for a bit, it’ll be pretty clear where blisters will form on your foot. You don’t have to be a martyr to them – just note those places and slap on a band-aid the first few times you wear your new boots out in the world. A little bit of preventative medicine goes a long way here. Large, fabric band-aids work best for this, as the plastic ones tend to get slippery and don’t stay in place as well.

My first pair of boots, the Red Wing Moc Toe. Break in was not fun.

Don’t commit to a 12-hour day in your new boots. No matter how comfortable they may be in your house, your arches will need a break after a few hours. It’s best to wear new boots early in the day, when your feet are fresh (your feet expand throughout the day as the weight of your body presses on them), and take them off after 2 or 3 hours. Leave your old boots by your desk or in the trunk of your car and swap them out when you start to feel discomfort.

[Best: 10 Best Boots for Wide Feet]

As tempting as it may be, don’t wear your new boots many days in a row.  The moisture from your foot takes more than a night to evaporate fully, and giving the leather a day or two in between wears will not only give your feet a much-needed break, it will give the boots time to dry fully before you wear them again.

As an added bonus, using this method throughout the lifetime of your boots will keep the foot-stink to a minimum. We recommend using shoe trees between wears to help draw out the moisture and so the boots retain their shape. I get that this might be tough if you need to break in new work boots, it’s not like you can just take a day off of work because you need to break in new pair of boots.

[Learn more: 3 Reasons Your Boots Need Shoe Trees.]

The Thursday Vanguard boot.

There are two main places where boots bend: at the ankle, and just below the toes, at the ball of the foot. Those are the places that the leather will flex as you take a step, and need some work during the initial break-in. When you’ve worn your new boots for a while, just after you take them off, hold the boot in your hands and work the leather, bending the sole back and forth at the crease and crushing the leather fibers around the heel and ankle. Don’t worry about being too gentle with them either. You’re not going to ruin your boots, you’re just speeding up the process that would naturally happen as you walk around in them.

Heel slippage is a super common problem (especially with boots that have a smooth leather lining) and as we know, friction causes blisters. Over time, wearing the boots creates a “heel pocket” in the inner heel area, which is why boots don’t give you blisters forever. You can speed the development of the heel pocket by taking a piece of fine-grain sandpaper and lightly sanding the inside of the heel area. You might be cringing at the thought of damaging the leather, but you don’t need to go crazy with it – just scuff it a bit so that the boot can grip your sock a little better and reduce the friction.

This method is most useful if the leather upper feels too tight: adding moisture in the form of a leather softener, like Tenderly Leather Softener, or a conditioner like Venetian Shoe Cream, can increase the give of the fibers. Remember: moisture helps leather stretch. Just be careful not to over-condition, which can make the material floppy. A little conditioner goes a long way.

[Related: The 5 Best Boot Conditioners On the Market]

If you’ve got a lot of tightness in the width of the boot (and you’re sure it fits right everywhere else) then a shoe stretcher is the way to go. It looks a bit like a cedar shoe tree, except with a crank that you can use to increase the width of the wooden foot. Best used in combination with a conditioner or leather softener to break in your new boots. You just insert it into the boot, crank it open, and leave it there for 6-8 hours.

The Oak Street Trench Boot

If you’re encountering tightness around your arch or ankles and want to give your foot a little more room to flex, skip some of the eyelets when you lace up your boots. After all, the point of the break in is to stretch the leather, not the laces. This can be particularly helpful when you’ve got a pair of boots with a gusseted tongue, which adds extra bulk to break in.

If you really can’t stand the idea of breaking in your own boots, then a cobbler can help. They have specialized stretching tools that can expand just the problem areas on a pair of boots, or add padding to an insole or arch. A quick Google search for “shoe repair near me” or “cobbler near me” will turn one up. Just keep in mind that you might need to leave your new boots with them for a few days.

A final word of warning: there are a lot of terrible DIY tips on the internet for “breaking in boots fast!” Don’t buy it. Wearing your boots despite the discomfort can cause problems. There’s a fine line when you break in new boots, you don’t want accidentally to damage them.

None of those methods are as good as taking your time.

We wrote an entire article on what not to do to stretch or shrink a pair of boots. Most of those articles on the internet are based on old-wives’ tales perpetuated by recycling content from old message boards, and most of those methods can hurt your feet or damage your boots.

This is often recommended for work boots and hiking boots. This myth is perpetuated by military types for quickly breaking in boots, and that might work if you’re in the military, but seems like it’s just bad advice that won’t die, because wearing wet boots has tons of down sides for your foot and boot health. Especially, if you own heritage boots with cork and other oldy-timey materials. Too much water can cause the leather and other materials (like cork midsoles!) to rot, warp, or shrink.

Work boots, military boots, and hiking boots are built differently from a pair of heritage boots. They have more synthetic materials like nylon, Poron, and EVA that are more durable if they get wet. These boots dry quicker and won’t rot as easily. Also, there’s less leather, or the leather has been treated to prevent it from drying out and cracking. If you need to break in a pair of work boots quickly, and you know they are mostly synthetic, just use the same advice we gave above.

You want to break in new boots, not your feet. Wearing wet socks can cause blisters. Also, it can cause your boots to get really stinky. As you wear wet socks and your boots heat up and bacteria will grow. When you leave your boots to dry overnight, you’re basically creating the perfect environment for mold and other microorganisms to invade your boots. These are really tough to get out, and you might be stuck with stinky boots. Also, wet socks are guaranteed to give you blisters.

This is one of the worst ways to break in new boots. New boots have a lot of oil in the leather to soften it and keep it from getting brittle. Boots basically come with leather conditioner already applied. Heat will remove these oils from the leather. That’s why a lot of these so-called tips recommend adding more conditioner to the leather after you blow dry them.

I’ve seen it touted as a way to stretch, shrink and break in boots. This is one of the worst ways to break in brand new boots. New boots have a lot of oil in the leather to soften it and keep it from getting brittle. So boots basically come with leather conditioner already applied to protect them from heat and dry air which remove the helpful oils from the leather. That’s why a lot of these so-called tips recommend adding more conditioner to the leather after you blow dry them.

This method also includes get your boots we to some degree. So you have all of the problems of soaking the boots combined with the additional problems of wet boots. The leather won’t stretch much, you’ll waste leather conditioner, your boots don’t break in as much as wearing them or bending them, and you may cause excessive damage to your boots.

A hair dryer will suck all the natural moisture right out of the leather fibers.

Spraying your boots with alcohol and water to stretch, widen, or soften up the leather in areas where the boot or shoe is tight, is something cobblers do. Fiebing even sells shoe stretching spray that is just water and alcohol, but for breaking in boots, just wearing them and bending them is much better. If you have a problematic spot where the leather is too stiff like on the ankle, a good cobbler can soften the leather in that spot.

You want to avoid the alcohol and water spray method because it also strips out the oils from your new boots. You need to use leather conditioner, which can be expensive. Also, you can cause the dye in the leather to fade. That may not be too important for a pair of work boots or hiking boots, but you definitely don’t want to damage a pair of $400 dress boots.

Alcohol will eat the dyes out of your boots. It will increase the brittleness of the leather, which can lead quickly to cracking and other damage.

The internet is full of terrible ideas – use your common sense.

Go slow, pay attention, and remember that breaking in quality boots is a process that takes a couple of weeks, tops – hardly a trade-off when you think about the years of comfortable wear you’ll get out of them after it’s done.

[Related: My list of The Best Boots for Men]

Curtiss Holland
Website Content Writer
Answer # 2 #

So, this is one of the most popular questions that we get asked almost every day. How do you break in new boots? Can I break in boots quickly? How long does it take to break in boots? Knowing how to break in new boots to your exact specifications can make them feel comfortable for years down the road, which is crucial whether you spend hours on end on your feet at work or just like to tromp around the woods for fun.

A sturdy pair of boots should be built to handle whatever obstacle you throw at them while still being comfortable to wear all day. Brands like White's, Frank's, and Drew's are all known for their balance of function and all-day comfort. The Drew's Linecutter II and the White's Smokejumper are two fantastic examples of highly durable all-leather construction that can be worn in a variety of environments.

Finding the right boot size is the foundation of comfortable footwear. If your boots are too small, they can cramp your feet on the front and on the sides, which can cause bunions, corns, and in extreme cases even hammertoes and crossover toes.

Check if you have enough space for your toes without them feeling squished. If you have wider feet, you will need to find a boot fit specifically designed for wider feet. Breaking in medium-width footwear with wide feet will not yield a comfortable fit. They will still be uncomfortable no matter how long you wear them.

Finding the right calf fit can make all the difference, too. As a rule of thumb, there should be about two fingers of space (or roughly one inch) between your calf and the boot's leather. If necessary, you may use wraps, bandages, or long socks to prevent blisters around that area. However, if a boot is too large, it can slide around, creating friction and blisters.

Breaking in new boots does not happen overnight. And it is not possible to break them entirely in just a few days, either. Do not expect to buy your boots and wear them out to work the next day because they will not be very comfortable to wear. For best results, we recommend wearing them at home for a few days before taking them out and about. After wearing them at home for at least a week, you can continue the breaking-in process outside of the house.

High quality leather boots are made with very thick leather, so they will take time to break in. Normal break in time on these types of boots is an estimated 80-120 hours of active wear. That is about 2-3 weeks of full time active wear before these are fully broken in. Not to worry, we have some great tips and tricks to help you along through the process.

Liner socks are made of a soft, thin, and breathable material that provides an added comfort level, even if your socks rub against the boot material. Opt for moisture-wicking fabrics like polypropylene or Thermax if you wear thick socks with your new boots.

The first thing that we recommend out of the gate is to wear the proper socks to protect your feet against the leather. For best results, we recommend wearing thick socks, preferably Merino wool, with your boots. Wearing a thick pair of socks can fill out the space in your boot and help the stretching process in areas where you need it most.

We see many people try to wear these types of boots with athletic cotton-based sports socks. We typically find that these are not thick enough to give you a good cushion around your foot, ankle, and calf to help ease the break in process, and do not fill up enough space in the boots to ensure proper fitment.

We recommend more of a midweight Merino wool sock with leather boots of this quality. Socks like these help the break-in process, and are also comfier to wear after the boots are fully broken in as the boots are designed and fitted with these types of socks in mind instead of a sports sock.

Leather conditioners and oils can help soften and relax your boot’s leather fibers. By softening the fibers, your foot will not have as hard of a time fitting comfortably and stretching the leather. Keep in mind that there is such a thing as applying too much leather conditioner. A little conditioner goes a long way. When you over condition the leather, it can backfire and overly stretch your shoes, creating a floppy mess.

How do you use leather conditioners? Always refer to the label’s instructions but generally, you may apply the conditioner liberally on the upper of the shoes. Leave it on for a few hours. When the conditioner has worked into the leather fibers, you can wear them, and the shoe will begin to mold to your foot shape. Remove the excess oil or conditioner with a damp cloth.

Conditioning leather can also improve your boot’s water resistance. Conditioning your boots increases their ability to last you longer. It also typically increases the amount of resoles and rebuilds a boot can sustain.

Putting on a few bandages or blister pads might not hurt if you plan to regularly wear your boots to break them in. Apply them underneath your sock on the areas most susceptible to forming blisters, such as the pinky toe, side of the big toe, heel, top of the foot, and inside the ball of the foot.

You may only need to wear bandages for about a week before they become more comfortable. If you do not go with the bandage treatment, you can increase your risk of creating friction in vulnerable spots and causing pain with every step. If you form blisters, the breaking-in process will be delayed until your foot is fully healed.

Do you have high arches? You may experience discomfort at the top of the foot where the boot rubs your foot. Avoid the pain by skipping a few eyelets with your boot’s laces in the areas rubbing against your foot. This can help relieve the pressure and help you break in other areas of the boot.

If your heel is killing you, you can use a hiker’s crossover lacing around the area where the ankle bends. This technique can keep your ankle snug and secure and reduce friction during the break-in process.

Something that can help the break-in process for the internal leather footbed of your boots is water. If you fill your shoes entirely full of water, lace them up around your feet, and wear them until they are dry, the break-in process for the leather footbed will be a lot easier. The water combined with the wear will help the leather footbed mold and shape to your feet at a quicker pace, making the rest of the breaking in of the boots feel a lot easier.

You can also try soaking boots in warm water for 30 minutes to 1 hour to loosen the leather fibers. After soaking them in, you can wear the wet boots with socks and keep loosening the fibers to your specific foot shape and size. Avoid keeping your boots submerged in the water for too long which can damage your footwear material.

Wearing your boots is the best way to break them in, but wearing them for too long at a time can be bad for your boots and feet. When you wear your boots for several hours, your feet can become sweaty. When the boot is not allowed to properly dry, the excessive moisture can cause more friction, blisters, and discomfort.

For best results, wait about a day or two between the times you wear your boots. If you are worried about moisture, invest in a shoe tree. Shoe trees are placed inside shoes and help them keep their shape and absorb moisture and odors. We prefer cedar shoe trees due to their pleasant aroma.

New boots can cause pain due to the stiffness of the hard leather. The harshness of the material can create friction, blisters, and pain. This method is generally not recommended but can be a good way to offset the discomfort from the hard leather, particularly in the heel area.

Use fine-grit sandpaper to gently scuff up the inside of the boot in the heel area. Remember to scuff it up gently and not aggressively to avoid damaging the leather and reducing the boot’s longevity.

How does this work? Scruffing up the leather exposes leather fibers, which can grip your wool socks. This trick allows your heel to rub up against the soft sock material than the hard and painful leather.

Heat is a common tool to loosen the leather fibers alongside various other techniques. Be careful not to apply excessive heat or hot heat for extended periods of time, which can permanently damage your footwear. If necessary, you can use a hairdryer on low heat to heat all sides of the boots and loosen their fibers. After heating your boots, you can wear them with socks around the house or outside to speed up the molding process.

While this method is hotly debated among boot owners, in moderation, applying isopropyl alcohol to your new boots may work to soften the leather fibers. Apply rubbing alcohol with water onto the parts of the boot that require more breaking in. Let the boots sit for a few hours. Afterward, wear the boots, clean the rubbing alcohol with a wet cloth, and dry it with a hairdryer.

If you want to speed up the breaking-in process, you can stuff your boot with a wet towel or newspaper. This works especially well when you use a boot conditioner or boot stretching spray before filling your boots with wet newspaper or towels.

Apply the conditioner or the boot stretching spray to the boots and stuff a wet towel or wet newspapers inside the boots ensuring that as much space inside is filled. The moisture will penetrate the boot fibers and the conditioner or spray. This will speed up the breaking-in process. Some users leave the material in until the moisture is completely gone. Then, you can remove the towel or newspaper and finish off the drying process with a hairdryer.

The breaking-in process is primarily focused on creating a comfortable fit around the ankle and toes, the main areas where the boot bends. Wear your boots for a few hours to start creating that bend in the area.

Before it feels too uncomfortable, take the boots off and reinforce the creases in the ankle and toe area with your hands. This is not the most effective option but can be an excellent way to speed up the breaking-in process when you are not wearing your boots.

Try to really break those boots in by crouching and bouncing slightly to start forming creases that follow your natural foot shape and size.

We do not believe in quick fixes, but sometimes, you need a little extra help breaking in your new boots. Boot stretchers are a last-ditch effort to assist during the process. Watch out, though, since using them too much or improperly can create a stretched-out look. Go slow and gentle, and use low heat and moisture to assist the process.

There is a shoe stretching spray called Drew’s Boot Stretch that we recommend to help break in the leather that surrounds the top of your feet, ankles, and calves. Spraying this on liberally every day until the boots are broken in helps soften and mold the leather to your feet and legs. This will help alleviate any "boot bite" and make the boots feel closer to a glove-like fit much more quickly.

Breaking in boots can take a toll on your feet. That is why you need a reliable pair of old boots by your side when your new pair of boots and your feet need a break. Always have an old pair of boots around to help you complete your project without working through the pain of breaking in new boots.

Work boots can go through some wear and tear. Dust, dirt, mud, and grime can stick to your boots and stiffen the leather fibers. Keeping them clean is one of the best ways to properly break them in and ensure they are in working order for years to come.

Leather boots can be cleaned with regular brushing and leather shampoo for tough-to-remove stains. After cleaning your boots, you can use a leather conditioner or mink oil to continue with the breaking-in process in certain parts of your boots.

At the end of the day, the big thing to remember is that these boots take a long time to break in. They are made of thick, heavy-duty leather that needs to be molded and manipulated over many hours to be comfortable to wear day-in and day-out for long hours.

Leather work boots are a big investment that require great care and maintenance to keep around for years to come. Breaking in new boots takes time. Avoid falling into the trap of using too-good-to-be-true methods that promise to break in your boots in no time. Not only may this not work, and you will lose out on money, but you can end up damaging your boots.

If you do not want to risk damaging your boots or need any other advice on breaking in your boots, reach out to a reliable cobbler to handle your new pair of tough boots. Cobblers have stretching tools that can work on tough parts of the boot. They can also provide padding for an arch or insole.

Baker’s Boots is here to help you find the right boots for you and give you advice on how to break them to ensure a comfortable wear day in and day out. Stop by or check out our online boot inventory for an array of boots in any style.

We hope these tips helped, and if you have any questions, feel free to email us at or give us a call at 1-800-722-0393.

Post Sahir
Answer # 3 #

I love boots because they’re sturdy and stylish, but the stiffness of the leather and thickness of the sole often comes with a cost. The first few weeks can feel like you’re wearing a medieval torture device instead of a modern shoe.

But once you break those bad-boys in, you’ll have a durable, beautiful pair of boots that fit your foot perfectly. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

I’ll break down how to break in your boots quickly and do so without causing any damage.

I don’t care what trick your dad taught you about breaking in boots—baseball bat, flamethrower, saying the name of the brand three times in the mirror—if your boots don’t fit well, there’s not much you can do to ease the discomfort.

Most people check to see if they have enough toe room and call it a day. There’s a lot more to finding the right fit. If you have naturally wide feet, you’ll need a wider boot. Yes, the leather will stretch a little, but not enough to make the experience comfortable. You’ll be spending your days with crowded pins-and-needles feet.

There are a lot of considerations that go into finding the right size boot—in fact, we wrote a complete guide about how boots should fit.

If you want all the juicy details on getting the right fit, check out that article, but if you want the quick version: there’s no substitute for trying the boot on in person. However, that’s not always an option.

Go to a shoe store anyway and have your feet measured in one of those metal Brannock devices. You can find your foot’s true length and width. Sure, it may seem inconvenient, but once you have it done, write your sizes down. Now you can go online shopping with confidence.

Pro tip: if you go to get your feet measured, go in the afternoon. Your foot can swell a half-size throughout the day. Buy your boots at your larger foot size.

Hard leather is the main reason your boots hurt like hell. 90% of breaking in a boot is stretching and softening the leather in those areas where your foot is shaped a little differently. Maybe you have high arches, or the ball of your foot is especially wide. The leather will stretch around those areas.

A great way to speed the process is to wear a thick pair of wool socks under your boots. My favorite pair of thick wool socks is the Camel City Mill Heavyweight. They’re designed as work socks, but you can wear them casually, too and they have a 10-year guarantee, which is awesome.

Sure, it may feel a little tight, but in exaggerating your foot-size, you’re stretching the leather much faster than by letting nature take its course.

We recommend doing this for a few hours around the house before venturing outside for the first time. If you start in the morning, at lunch you’ll know whether you need to return the boots. Because you didn’t venture outside, they’ll still be clean enough to send back.

If your feet are getting the pins and needles feeling, they’re too tight. If they’re not, then you know you’re just dealing with a tough break-in period and you’ll have to bust out some other tricks.

Treating your leather with oils and conditioners is the equivalent of giving your boots a spa day. They’ll relax and soften up.

By relaxing the leather fibers, it’s much easier for your foot to get in there and stretch the material to the correct size.

Of course, you can over-condition your leather. At that point, the leather is too relaxed and develops a significant flop-factor. Applying too much conditioner risks creating a depression in the leather where there shouldn’t be one.

One of the saddest deaths a boot can face is when the toe cap sags. Sure, they still function fine, but the style becomes sloppy. So with that warning, we trust you understand that a little conditioner is all your boot needs.

A second benefit of conditioning your leather is that it becomes more water resistant. Knowing how to properly care for your boots is a big factor in increasing their longevity and allowing them to evolve into beautiful, patina-coated masterpieces.

If you’re going to dive straight in and commit to wearing your boots out for the day, put a few band-aids on the vulnerable parts of your foot. Trust us, you won’t regret it.

The most problematic and friction-prone areas are along the pinky toe, the side of the big toe, the inside ball of your foot, the heel, and the top of your foot.

Usually a fresh pair of boots will irritate at least one of those spots. And sometimes, you get a boot that rubs all of those places and your foot stings enough to consider checking into a hospital.

Wearing a band-aid or blister pad underneath your socks in those areas can be a foot-saver. Remember, you won’t have to always wear these band-aids—just for the first week or so.

If you go without the band-aids, you can wear the skin down, making it painful to wear the boots again anytime in the following few weeks. That’ll slow the break-in process considerably. So go ahead: splurge on some band-aids. You’ll be glad you did.

Yes, the best way to break in your boots is to wear them everywhere you go. But as you wear your boots, your foot releases moisture.

If you wear them too many days in a row, the leather doesn’t have a chance to dry, and the extra moisture can cause more friction (i.e. more blisters/ howling pain).

So let your boots rest for a day or two in between wears. Even better, toss a shoe tree in your boot when it’s not in active-duty. Shoe trees absorb the excess moisture and help keep the shape of the boot.

We like cedar shoe trees the best because they have the added benefit of smelling nice. What clamps are to woodworkers, shoe trees are to boot-lovers: you can never have too many.

What’s worse than rubbing your toes and heels raw for four hours straight? Continuing for another four hours, that’s what.

When you’re ready to take your boots out into the world for the first few times, bring an older, already broken-in pair of boots (or other comfortable shoes) with you. The most important thing is that you don’t allow your foot to blister or rub raw.

Sure, wearing your boots for a few hours may cause tenderness—that’s expected—but once you go to the blister/raw stage, your foot takes significantly longer to heal. That’ll put a limit on how much you can wear your new boots and only lengthens the time they’re not broken in.

If you have a second pair of boots with you, you can change out of your news boots as soon as you start feeling discomfort. Little by little, you’ll be able to wear them for longer periods of time.

Folks with high arches often experience uncomfortable rubbing at the top of their foot. If that sounds like you, skip a few eyelets with your shoelaces where you’re experiencing the rubbing. This’ll ease some pressure and allow you to break in other parts of the boot.

Similarly, if your heel is stinging too much, you can do a hikers crossover lacing where the boot bends at the ankle. This simple move keeps your heel secured in place until the leather softens up.

Both may look a little funky, but it’s important to remember that breaking in your boots only takes a week or two. After that, you can tie your laces however you want.

If stiff leather causes the most friction and pain, there are a few drastic measures you can make to soften it up. While we’d never recommend this next method on the upper, it’s an excellent trick if the hard leather heel is wreaking havoc on you.

Take a fine-grit sandpaper and gently scuff up the inside of the heel. We’re not suggesting you go to town and grind away at your boot.

But a little scuffing will expose leather fibers, which will grip your sock. As you walk, your heel will rub more on the soft cotton of your sock rather than the hard leather.

If you’ve ever gone out for the night with a new pair of shoes, only to end up hobbling around with raging sore spots on the backs of your heels, this tip is definitely for you. Of course, you can add some leather heel grips, which are already soft. Be careful though, as adding a grip can change the fit of your boot.

This is another drastic measure as you can never go back. If you stretch a boot too much and it becomes floppy, then you become the proud owner of a floppy pair of boots.

A lot of folks think they can only stretch their boots through a professional, but you can find a quality shoe stretcher like this one that’ll do the trick nicely for under $60.

We’d only suggest this method for the stiffest, most stubborn boots. Again, because you risk altering the fit, it’s best to go little by little.

Leather loosens best when gentle heat and moisture is applied. A great source of gentle heat and moisture is your foot, so it’s naturally the best way to stretch your shoe.

But if your foot just can’t get the job done, a shoe stretcher is a suitable way to go.

Your foot naturally bends in two places: the ankle and the toe. These are the two places you need to focus on mostly when breaking your boots in.

After you wear your boots around the house for an hour or so, the leather will crease where your foot bends.

At that point, you can take your boots off and use your hand to continue reinforcing those creases.

This isn’t a perfect method, but it’s one way to wrestle tough work boots into submission.

Another route to soften the leather around those natural creases is to stay in a crouched position and bounce slightly. This will work better than doing it by hand, but you’re also not completely removing your feet from harm’s way.

Dirt and grime can stiffen up leather fibers, which is the opposite of what we’re going for when breaking in a pair of boots.

The best way to clean your boots is with saddle soap. There are a few other leather cleaners on the market, but in our experience, saddle soap does the job without removing any finish from the leather.

A horsehair brush will get into the creases and knock out anything that’s stiffening the leather.

If you don’t have any rags to apply the saddle soap, you can always just cut up an old t-shirt and use that for oils, conditioners, and buffing.

If you’ve tried everything on this list and you’re still having trouble breaking in your boots, you can always take them to a professional and explain where you’re having the most trouble.

They may be able to stretch only specific parts of your boot to allow for more room and less friction.

Though if you’ve tried the other methods on this list and they’re still not working, you may need to double check to see if you got the sizing correct.

Cobblers can likely get the job done, but you’ll be dropping more money on your boots and you won’t be able to see them for a week or two. And even then, you can’t be sure your boots will be comfortable when they come back.

Like we said earlier, the best way to break in a pair of boots is by wearing them. Don’t do anything that seems like it might damage the shoe.

We’ve heard it all: stand in a bucket of water for an hour and go for a run, spray the leather with alcohol, rub vinegar on the upper, blast your boots with a hairdryer, etc.

These are all bad ideas. Unless you want to ruin your new boots.

There’s no substitute for patience.

Take your boots on quick trips, and once they get too uncomfortable, switch them out. Tomorrow is another day.

Hopefully you’ve found a solution that works for you.

When we break in a new pair of boots, we start with the first six items on this list (and #11).

If things are bad, we’ll try #7 and #8.

It’s rare you’ll have to try the steps beyond (besides keeping your boots clean-—always do that), but if you need to go def-con, you know where to turn.

For a more visual guide to breaking in tough boots, check out this clip from our YouTube channel:

Sanyuktha Misra
Answer # 4 #

Now that cooler weather is here — and even chillier weather is on the way — it is undeniably boot season. No matter your personal style, there’s a pair of boots for everyone and you should know how to break in boots from outdoorsy hiking lace-ups to sleek Chelsea slip-ons, to heritage-style work boots. Unlike our cushy sneakers or slip-on shoes, though, just about all boots require some breaking in.

Wear ‘em right out of the box to work, a day out on the trail, or even for a long night on the town, and you’ll likely be rewarded with blisters, crushed toes, sore feet, or worse. Don’t blame it on the boots! Take a little time to get to know your new friends—and for them to get to know you— and you’ll be rewarded with years of comfortable wear. Here are a few tips that we’ve gathered to help you and your new boots get closer.

Most boots are made from leather, which may seem as strong as steel, but which is actually, similar to our own skin, made from fibrous layers of collagen. It’s been treated to hold its shape and be durable, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some flexibility. Breaking in a pair of boots so that they are shaped to and fit your feet best is all about molding those fibers, and really isn’t that different from ironing a shirt: It’s all about heat, pressure, and moisture.

First of all, quality really is imperative here. If you spend money on any one thing in your wardrobe, make it quality footwear. Cheap footwear will be made from cheaper materials that will be harder to break in. Also, if you find a brand that fits well, stick with it: Most companies have a last — the form they build their shoes or boots on — that they keep around forever, so if one pair fits you well, most others from that brand should work for you, too.

Be sure to start with the right size. If you’re just starting to wear boots, are getting into outdoor recreation, or have just started a job in or adjacent to the construction industry, this is the time to go to an actual brick-and-mortar retailer. Talk to a knowledgeable salesperson about your needs, and ask to be properly measured and learn about what to expect from the fit. They’ll be able to help you get a better fit if your feet are narrow, wide if you have arch problems, etc. Sure, once you’ve found a boot that fits and is comfortable, you can get away with ordering variations on that style online over and over again.

Once you’ve brought your new pair home, the hard work begins. Put on a nice thick pair of socks. If you’re already planning on wearing beefy boot socks with them, pull on another thinner pair under the boot socks. Put on the boots. Now, this is the tricky part: Hang out. Seriously. Watch TV. Make dinner. Play with the kids. Do a (quick) run to the grocery store. Don’t stay completely stationary, but, again, don’t head out on any major hikes. The simple fact is that wearing them around the house for a few hours a day for a week or so provides some heat and moisture to help the boots mold themselves to your feet. This is especially helpful if you can break in shoes during summer’s heat and humidity.

“Spending time in the boots is really what’s needed to break in a new pair,” says Heidi Dale Allen, Vice President of Marketing for Nikwax, a company that makes high-performance waterproofing, cleaning, and conditioning for all your best outdoor gear. “I like to wear mine around the house over the course of a few days for a slow break-in before I wear them outside or for a long period of time. Plus, if I decide they don’t fit, I can still return them because I haven’t worn them outside!”

Ever watched one of those movies where they show a woman being laced up into a corset? Doesn’t look very comfortable, does it? So imagine that corset is being laced around your feet. In effect, without some lacing tips, shoes tied too tightly (or too loosely), can end up causing blisters. Places where shoes are too loose, can also be a problem as it allows too much movement, and that part of your foot may be rubbing against the side of the boot causing a blister.

A cautionary note here. If you just spent big bucks on a pair of heritage leather boots, you may want to avoid this step: Boots made in a traditional manner with natural materials (like cork) may get ruined by being soaked in water. Check the product description. Some military and hiking boots are made from synthetic materials (in addition to leather), so this method is safer for them. Soak the boots in a bucket of warm water for 30 minutes to an hour. Dry them lightly with a towel, then wear them around the house, again with thick socks.

The heat from a blow dryer can help make leather more malleable, but it can also dry it out or even melt other construction materials. Apply this method sparingly: It’s particularly helpful for hitting specific spots, say where a toe may be rubbing or an ankle. Don’t get the leather super hot, just slightly warmer than body temperature, then use your fingers to push and prod the spot into shape.

OK, can we just say upfront that this product makes us nervous, although many have sworn by it? These sprays are often alcohol-based. Is it a good idea to soak your skin with alcohol? Sure, briefly, to kill germs, but not like you’d soak in it. That can’t be great for your expensive leather boots, either. Like the water soak, these sprays wet the leather so that it can stretch and mold to your feet, and similarly, the idea is to apply the product, put on a pair of socks, and wear them around the house for a bit.

Again, we know people who have used these and swear by them, but unless the stretchers are shaped exactly like your feet, we’re not sure that we see how they can help. They may give you some room from toe to heel, or across the boot; but are they going to compensate for your big ankles, your extra long toes, or your bunion? Not really.

We’re fully admitting that this might be an internet urban legend, but it’s one that just might make sense. Unfortunately, it may also require a lot of room in your freezer (On the other hand, winter is coming). Allow a cold pack (the squishy ones you can use for an injury, not the hard ones for the cooler) to melt. If you’re feeling particularly confident, fill a sturdy plastic bag with water (one that really seals and won’t end up leaking all over your boots). Push the pack into place in the boot wherever you need more room; i.e., in the toe box, or heel. Use a towel or rag to stuff the shoe and hold the pack in place. Freeze the boots. As the liquid in the pack freezes, it will expand, stretching out that part of the shoe.

In any case, as your boots begin to fit your feet, be sure to take good care of them. Mud, dirt, and salt can suck oils out of leather, so be sure to keep them clean with a regular brushing and occasional leather shampoo. After cleaning, or on new boots, use a good leather conditioner or mink oil two to three times a week, and focus on those areas that feel tight.

“Conditioner is a great product to use on new boots,” says Allen. “It softens the leather a bit and adds protection while maintaining breathability. When your new boots start to show some wear and dirt, Footwear Cleaning Gel is great for removing salt, dirt, etc.”

If you can, avoid wearing your new boots every day. It’s a good idea to give boots a chance to rest and allow perspiration to dry thoroughly from the inside out. If they do get wet in rain or snow, don’t dry them on a hot surface like a heat register or radiator (or let them get too close to a fireplace or woodstove). Those surfaces are too hot and, again, not good for the leather. It’s better to stuff them with paper or a towel and allow them to dry at room temperature.

Finally, trust the professionals. Ask your boot seller or cobbler for tips on boot care, and work with them to occasionally restore, resole, and rebuild your comfortable, broken-in boots.

Nikwax’s water-based formula is absorbed into the leather to condition and waterproof leather by replenishing tanning agents and lubricants. It also adds durable water repellency to smooth leather, maintaining breathability. It is non-flammable, contains no harmful solvents, and is free of volatile organic compounds or fluorocarbons.

Dirt on the surface of your boots can attract water, negating any kind of DWR coating. This gel cleans dirt and removes contaminants while revitalizing water repellence, causing water to bead on the outer surface.

Ganar Amacker