You don’t go from day hikes to Denali. You layer hikes onto one another, getting progressively more ambitious with each new peak. The same approach is true for breaking in your new hiking boots. If you rush the process, there’s a good chance that you’ll end up with blisters. When it comes to how to break in hiking boots, there’s no fast way, but there is a right way. And it starts with the jaunt approach.
The First Jaunt
From the moment you leave the store with your brand new hiking boots, you’re no doubt eager to get outside and hit the trails. We get it. We’ve been there. In fact, a lot of us have bought some of these and were pumped to put them to the test. But before we did, we went through our protocol. It starts by slipping into the socks you plan to wear with your boots. Lace them up nice and tight, tuck the tongue and gusset material so they’re both lined up, and then fold them nice and flat. The creases you form on your tongue and gusset material come in huge in the long run. Now wear them around the house and the neighborhood like you would any other shoes. You can make your significant other happy and vacuum or sweep the floor. Take your dog for a walk. Mow your lawn. Take out the trash. Whatever it is, just move a bit. As you do those activities, slowly but surely the sole of your hiking boot is forming to your foot. It’s probably going to feel stiff at first, but that’s okay. Your only cause for concern at this point should come if you’re feeling any pinching, rubbing, or slight pain. If that’s the case, there’s a good chance you need to return them and try out a different pair that fits your foot better.
The Second Jaunt
First Jaunt - ✓ Now it’s time to take a few micro-adventures, which will be the first true test of your boots on outdoor terrain. At this stage, you’ll want to take a 2-3 mile hike through the foothills, or maybe around a lake or your favorite campground. During the second jaunt, blisters may come into play. They’re typically caused by one of the following:
- heat: a combination of your feet pressing against your sock and your sock pressing against your shoe
- moisture: increased heat increases sweat, softening skin and making it difficult for socks to gently slide against your skin
- pressure: being outside will increase the amount of dirt, sand, and rocks sneaking into your boot, increasing roughness inside your boot and causing more heat
Here’s how to best prevent blisters, along with some other foot maladies:
- Buy boots that fit (we talk about that here: Find Your Fit: How to Choose Hiking Boots)
- Strengthen the bottoms of your feet
- Walk barefoot around the house and outside, whether in your backyard or front yard
- Go with Benzoin, or a similar product, and apply to your bottoms
- For tough and elastic skin, use skin cream on callouses to avoid cracking and excessive build-up
- Trim toenails to avoid ingrown nails and sharp edges
- Get treatment for foot fungus, athlete’s foot, or similar foot diseases before a hike
- Rest your feet throughout the hike by taking adequate breaks
- If you didn’t go with breathable boots, like our GORE-TEX SURROUND® footwear, take off your boots and allow feet and socks to breathe during breaks
- Remove any debris that’s in your boot as soon as it gets in there, not later on in the hike
While you’re keeping blisters at bay, the second jaunt is also a great time to test out the features and benefits your pair of boots possess.
- Take a dip in the creek or puddle and test out the GORE-TEX membrane in your GORE-TEX Performance Comfort boots
- Kick off your GORE-TEX SURROUND® shoes and feel around your foot; it’s dry all around, isn’t it?
Whatever claims your boots might make in the store, make sure to put them to the test during the second jaunt stage. If your first hike was two miles, try to increase the distance for your second hike to three miles. It won’t be long before you start to feel like your boots are an extension of your foot and you won’t want to take them off.
The Third Jaunt
First Jaunt - ✓ Second Jaunt - ✓ It’s time to put your boots to a true test with a day hike or a weekend backpacking trip. And if you want, share some of your pictures with us on Facebook, or tag us on Instagram or Twitter. We’d love to see them! When You’re Not Wearing Your Boots How you treat your boots when you’re not wearing them is just as important as when you are wearing them. Explanation: kicking them off and cramming them in your closet isn’t good enough. After all, you’ve made an investment in boots that will protect your feet. You’ll get longer life out of them if you protect them, too. For now, just make sure to keep them clean and upright. We’ll elaborate more next week. Where You Can Go During the third jaunt, you’ll most likely want to find some ways to go on a real journey with your newly broken in boots. Why not try getting involved in your local hiking group? And if you have any advice on how you broke in your hiking boot, make sure to share with us in the comments. The more you share, the better!