Hiking is an enjoyable and healthy activity. However, with ill-fitting footwear, this beneficial activity soon turns into a nightmare.
Before traveling on any hiking trail, make sure your footwear is properly broken-in.
There are three basic types of hiking shoes: long distance hiking shoes, boots for backpacking, and boots for day trips. The breaking-in steps for each type of shoe is slightly different. For all hiking boots, however, the shoes should feel comfortable in the store. If any part of the shoe irritates you in the store, choose a different shoe model. No amount of breaking in will transform a poor fit into a good fit.
General Break-in Instructions:
Wear the shoes around the house with the socks you plan to wear on the trail. Watch for any signs of discomfort. Always lace the boots up firmly and keep the tongue aligned in the front of the shoe.
Take your boots out around town after wearing them in the house for 3-4 days. Gradually increase how long you wear the boots and
how far you travel in them. If you notice any pain at any stage, take a break for a while.
Add in a little extra weight (to mimic the weight of a hiking backpack) after wearing the boots out. Gradually increase the weight of the pack and the distance you travel. Your boots should fit comfortably at every stage. If not, take the boot to the store where you purchased them and ask them to stretch the boot to remove any remaining hotspots. Once your boots feel comfortable traveling several miles around town, you are ready to take them onto the trail.
Breaking in Lightweight Hiking Boots
In the store, look for shoes that have a flexible sole with an aggressive tread and as much cushioning as you can get while still
maintaining a lightweight shoe. The theory goes that one pound of weight on the foot equals five on the back, so lightweight shoes are essential for long hikes. Try to find hiking boots under two pounds, if possible. If any part of the shoe pinches or feels uncomfortable, choose a new style.
Breaking in Moderate and Heavy Weight Boots
Moderate and heavy hiking boots are perfect for hiking in tough terrain. However, they take longer to break in than lightweight hiking shoes. Expect to wear your hiking boots for several weeks around the house and town before they are ready to take out on the trail. You will know the shoes are ready when they flex easily and are slightly larger around your feet.
Proper preparation is the best way to break in any hiking boot. Do not try any quick breaking-in tactics, as these could ruin your hiking boots. Be patient, and remember that the more time you spend breaking in your shoes at home, the more comfortable you will feel out on the trail.
How do you break in your hiking boots?