First of all, if you want to avoid hiking with sore feet, check out our two helpful guides here:
Most people think that before your new hiking boots can feel comfortable you have to “break them in.” This idea, which most hikers believe to be true, isn’t really the case anymore since most shoes are now made from synthetic materials. Only traditional leather shoes still need breaking in to make them more comfortable.
How do you soften traditional leather shoes?
If you’ve chosen to go with traditional leather hiking boots – which are typically rigid and built with a high upper – expect them to soften a little and deform slightly depending on the shape of your foot during the first few outings with them.
As with any boot, you’re planning to walk long distances in, we recommend you start breaking these in with short walks first. This will help you identify and adjust any hot spots where friction can cause problems before you head out on a multi-day trek in the mountains.
As you wear them, your leather shoes will gradually adapt to your feet and become more comfortable. However, if you’ve chosen a shoe that doesn’t properly match your foot and you feel discomfort in the few first meters of walking, odds are no amount of breaking in will fix your shoes. So, make sure to watch out for any painful friction points when you’re trying on hiking boots.
Synthetic-Material Shoes - Comfort Out of the Box
Modern shoes made from synthetic materials have the advantage of being comfortable straight out of the box if they’re chosen correctly (check out our tips for choosing the right hiking boots). The materials used don’t have to even be supple like leather. It’s the small adjustments, for example in the insole or added linings, that help make them fit just right.
As always, you’ll want to try on your hiking boots on shorter walks first before heading out on more ambitious routes. If after your first few outings you still have problems with blisters, try our tips to stop them before they start in our guide “How to avoid blisters when hiking”.
Breaking in your hiking boots is necessary only if you’ve chosen traditional leather hiking boots. Thanks to new technologies and the development of more efficient and dynamic synthetic materials, it’s finally possible to feel good in your hiking boots from day one.