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I have a pair of Blacks (own brand) leather hiking boots - they were probably a poor choice to begin with to be honest.

They look a bit like this: http://www.brasher.co.uk/catalogue/products/new-supalite-ii-gtx-r-with-pittards-leather-b-supaiimncbk-b-supaiimna62

I have probably worn them 10+ times, for a reasonable amount of time each go (2+ hours of walking/physical activity for example). They still hurt, rub and give me blisters, on the top of the foot where the tongue rubs and at the heel and all sorts. I have tried two types of hiking sock, one pair was wool (which made the problem worse). I don't know if I'm just tying the too tightly/loosely (although I think I have tried all measures of tightness) or if I just need the right sock, or of they still haven't broken in yet, or most likely if they will just never fit properly.

I don't know whether to persevere with the breaking in, buy different socks, soak the boots in water, try different tricks, or whether there is really no point and there is no need to inflict further pain on myself trying to make them work.

Any advice is greatly appreciated; I can't really afford new boots, especially since this experience has taught me I probably shouldn't buy cheap ones, but I really do need some as I keep missing hiking and walking activities. On the other hand they hurt so much that I really don't want to wear them anymore unless there is a chance they will stop hurting.

Thanks.

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Where did you buy them? –  hillsons Mar 13 at 17:34
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More of an addition to the good comments below. Feel inside for loose tags, leather, and other non-essential bits. Trim or file these down smooth. Just be careful not to trim/file a structural seam. –  Russell Steen Mar 13 at 18:59
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Check out: m.blacks.co.uk/terms-and-conditions in the 'if things go wrong' section –  Pureferret Mar 15 at 12:12
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There's some good advice below, but if I was in your shoes (ha ha) I would sell these boots on eBay (or equivalent) before I invested any more time, money, and pain into them and just use that money toward a properly fitting pair of boots. So...I guess that is giving up. Sorry. –  manoftheson Apr 19 at 7:26
    
Problem I've always found with Blacks/Millets (I believe they are the same company now) is usually in-experienced staff (teenagers on a Saturday job) though the occasional decent guy turns up. My other half and I got our boots from a local place called Foxes Outdoor - and though my boots are fine he literally wears 3-4 pairs of socks, including one hiking pair, as his ankle bones are always rubbing against the boot (he is on his 3rd attempt and tried on goodness knows how many). Good place to try next time is Cotswold Outdoor as their staff seem more knowledgable and helpful than Blacks :) –  Aravona Jul 7 at 11:18

10 Answers 10

Any advice is greatly appreciated; I can't really afford new boots

Well there goes my #1 piece of advice - I don't want to rub it in too much at all, but it just goes to show how important it is to make sure your boots will be comfortable before committing. At this point it sounds like they're just a poor fit, they shouldn't be causing that much pain after wearing for that long.

However, there are a few things I'd try:

  • I've never needed to do it myself, but I've heard of others soak their boots in warm water, put them on, and walk in them until they're dry. This may help to mould them around your feet a bit better, but obviously if this is too painful to practically do then there's no use pushing it!

  • It sounds from what you're saying as though they're perhaps a bit tight in certain areas - one thing you might want to try to give you a bit more space is removing the supplied innersole, and replacing it with a much thinner one. You'll probably lose some of the shock absorbing capabilities of the shoe through this, but if this results in the rubbing significantly decreasing, I'd say it's a worthwhile tradeoff.

  • May sound stupid, but how tight are you tying the laces? They don't need to be that tight. I've seen people ridiculously over-tighten laces to the point of it causing pain, then never even considering that that may have been an issue.

  • You say you've tried more than one type of sock, have you tried two thin pairs of socks? This may help with the rubbing a lot more than one thick pair.

In short, it sounds like the boots will unfortunately never be a great fit, but I wouldn't discard them just yet - there's still a few things you can try to see if they can become acceptable.

To add to the (good) comment below, it's also worth mentioning more expensive isn't necessarily better. One of my favourite pairs of hiking shoes cost £20 in the sale, lasted me years and were incredibly comfortable. if you try cheaper pairs, you may be pleasantly surprised!

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"I don't want to rub it in too much at all, but it just goes to show how important it is to make sure your boots will be comfortable before committing." Agreed. I'd also like to point out that more expensive boots don't necessarily mean that will fit better "out of the box". I have a pair of $100 boots that have lasted me years and fit better than any other pair of boots I've owned. –  Blackbear Mar 13 at 15:15
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+1 for different lacing. The lacing around the top of your feet needs to be a bit loose but the lacing at the top of the boot, around the ankles, needs to be quite tight. Most boots have a locking ring halfway up to help with this. If not, feed the lace the wrong way through one set of rings and pull the lace behind itself to lock off the lower lacing from the upper lacing. Alternatively, use two short laces. –  Greenstone Walker Mar 23 at 23:40

Any advice is greatly appreciated; I can't really afford new boots, especially since this experience has taught me I probably shouldn't buy cheap ones, but I really do need some as I keep missing hiking and walking activities.

I wouldn't characterize those boots as cheap. 150 pounds is $250, which is a lot of money.

If expensive, heavy boots aren't working for you, why not just do your hiking and walking in comfortable, cheap, lightweight running shoes? As you get into heavier and heavier footwear, it gets more and more difficult to stay comfortable and avoid blisters.

The other thing is that you may simply have bought the wrong size. Your feet expand when you hike all day, so often you want to buy shoes or boots for hiking that are much larger than you'd otherwise buy. In US sizes, people often buy a full size larger.

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"Feet swell during the day. If possible, buy shoes in the afternoon or evening." Quote from a FiveTen climbing shoes box. –  Vorac Mar 18 at 12:26
  • First I recommend "moleskin" this is a padding with a adhesive back that you can cut to size and stick to your foot for the problem areas. It is used for blisters, but if you have a problem spot you can let it get worn down first instead of you foot.

  • Wear two pairs of socks, but two different types. The first pair being a thin "dress sock" type or something like nylon. The second pair use a thicker sock like your wool (or polypropylene - very nice but expensive).

The type of shoe in the picture looks problematic as well, It looks like it comes up right under the ankle joint and probably rubs really bad there. I usually buy boots that go higher up to avoid rubbing around that area - however since you already have this pair, it might help taking a spoon and rubbing the inside of the shoe where it usually rubs on your feet, assuming this is not initially a size problem.

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IMO a pair of boots that fits properly shouldn't require heroic measures such as these. –  Ben Crowell Mar 20 at 22:24
    
Of course, that has been substantially covered in other answers. But These can also help for less extreme cases as preventive measures or something to remember for a longer trip, as it is better to be prepared. –  Mateo Mar 20 at 22:39
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+1 for blister prevention. I use Leukoplast Blue tape on my heels where the boots rub. I put it on the night before, allowing body heat overnight to set the glue. Tape like this should last at least two, maybe three, days. Take the tape off in the shower after getting home. Also see this question. –  Greenstone Walker Mar 23 at 23:42

With shoes, if I find a pair I like - I wear them for a good 10-15 minutes in the store. Standing up, sitting down, walking, climbing stairs (if possible) - all to get a sense of how they feel doing these different things. If they're painful in the store - they'll be painful everywhere else.

There's a thing about feet that isn't necessarily true of any other body part - size isn't the only factor. I can be assured that a 34-34 pant will fit, but a 12 shoe might not. In some brands I need a 12W, other brands assume I have higher ankles (the shoe rubs the underside of my ankle bone), some brands assume I have no arch while others assume I've got more arch than I actually have.

You may be able to salvage your relationship with these shoes if you can find a good cobbler. It sounds old fashioned, but I've had work done to shoes to fix minor annoyances - and I think a good cobbler might be able to find a solution to your problems without too much fuss (or money).

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I agree with your 10-15 minutes trial in a store. I do the same. I am sometimes in a hurry when shopping. But, it is really worth it to take time and walk around in boots like this. I sometimes go shop in a different department with them on and wait until I relax and can honestly evaluate how they feel. –  rt.hawk Mar 15 at 16:32
    
I was really trying to emphasize the importance of feel vs fit. However long it takes to get that sense of feel, it's as important as fit. –  Michael Mar 15 at 16:35

I'm not saying that you should continue with the break in, but I can say that I bought a pair of Red Wing Boots some month ago, and the break in

  • took a lot longer than what you describe (at least 60 hours of walking I would say)
  • included one "session" as described by berry120 - making them completely wet, and wearing them until they were dry

The whole thing was, to be honest, a really horrible experience. At one point, I had really bad blisters; I took a two-week vacation from the break-in, which is what I highly recommend to you before continuing. Let your feet heal completely, then do the wet-to-dry session.

Also, always wear two pair of socks, a pair of very thin on the inside, with very dense material, and a pair of thicker socks on the outside.

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Did you finally become friends with your shoes? Did the investment in the break-in phase pay out? –  Benedikt Bauer Mar 14 at 9:21
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Let me put it this way: There are now days where I don't think about my shoes while wearing them, just as one would do with "normal" shoes. I also start to feel comfortable when wearing them with only one pair of socks. There is one place on my feet (top side of my little toes) where they sometimes rub too string. I'm a bit disappointed (those where really expensive shoes), but overall I'm very happy with their quality and sturdiness. –  Manuel Kiessling Mar 31 at 19:02

Modern boots really don't need a period of breaking in like they used to many years ago. They should be reasonably comfortable as soon as you try them on when buying them. To be honest, it sounds like the boots just don't fit your feet properly. It doesn't matter how good or bad the boots are quality-wise or how much they cost: if they don't fit your feet, then they will always give you trouble. I'm not talking about the size of the boots. Boots are made on what are called "lasts" and these are different shapes even for the same size. Your best bet is to visit a good shop where the staff will measure your feet properly and help you choose a pair of boots which fit you properly.

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I know this post is probs a bit late for the original poster. However, I grew up thinking that walking boots had to be worn in and were supposed to be initially uncomfortable for the wearer. Having watched my father hardening his feet in surgical spirits before and after wearing what looked to be hard leathery walking boots, I wasn't looking forward to ever wearing a pair.

Still, I got to my early thirties, and having decided I liked the outdoors, decided to buy a pair. With a limited budget, I sat in Blacks trying on the cheapest own brand shoes (having never spent more than £40 on a pair of shoes). I tried on a pair of Peter Storm shoes, and yes, they were hard and unforgiving, but I thought that was what they were supposed to feel like at first.

I was about to buy them, when out of curiosity I thought I'd see what the fuss was about with the more expensive shoes. I tried a pair of Berghaus on at £80, well….what a difference! Like walking on a cloud of marshmallow pillows! I had to buy them, and that was a decade ago.

I have NEVER had a blister in those shoes, I've walked through peat bogs, up mountains, through snow (with one pair of socks), and been as warm, dry and toasty as if I'd been walking on my own living room carpet. The thing I learnt was that, with shoes, the cheapest option is usually a false economy. You don't need the most expensive option, but try and compare, because you may have to buy many cheap pairs before you find one that suits, and by then, you might as well have bought the better quality pair . I've since bought my poor Dad a pair of Berghaus Explorers, and he's very grateful :-)

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If it is consitently a particular area of the foot that is suffering then you could try a trick I was told of a number of years ago. I "suffer" from having very (or in the case of when I went to get a pair of climbing shoes: "stupidly") wide feet.

Anyway the trick is to tie knots in the laces at strategic points, this essentially allows you to pull the laces to different tensions along the foot. I knotted my boots just before it changes angle upwards to not put so much tension on the widest part but still allow the ankles to be tied up tighter. Works a treat and saved having to let the shop having a go re-forming the leather on a ski-boot workstation.

Ironically wear my Grubs far more often and find them more comfortable. Added benefit of being far more waterproof when out shooting and walking the dog.

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In my experience, if shoes aren't comfortable when I first put them on in the shop and walk about in them for a few minutes, they are probably never going to be comfortable (or making them comfortable is going to be more trouble than they are worth) so there's no point buying them. I refuse to put up with sore feet because shoes don't fit right - the onus should be on the manufacturers to make comfortable footwear.

That said, sometimes a specially made Shoe Last can be put into shoes when you take them off to keep them in shape or stretch them into a more comfortable shape, but from what you describe, these boots were made with stitching ridges and/or stiffeners in inappropriate places that are causing you the problems you describe, so you can't even trim them down without destroying the shoe.

As an option of last resort and insufficient funds, before I decided to implement my strict personal "If it isn't right in the shop, don't buy it" policy, I have added 0.5mm to 1.0mm thick cardboard (heavy plastic sheeting might do as well) cut to shape to the problematic areas, either inside my socks or between my socks and the shoes. In your case, a piece covering the heel and a piece over the top of the foot should help. Make sure the card you use is fairly flexible, or it will cause its own problems. If necessary, thicker card can be shaved down around the edges with a sharp blade to prevent them from being painful. When (not if) the cardboard pieces wear out, you might consider sending them to the manufacturer with a description of how you use them and ask them to consider what their shoes would have had to be doing to your feet for the card to get into this condition.

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I don´t agree with you blaming the manufacturers. There is a vast variety of form and size of feet, some even containing more or different bones than others, so it is just not possible to make a shoe comfortable for everyone. You just have to find the right shoe for your feet, but that´s nothing you can blame the manufacturers for. Accordingly, sending them the cardboard pieces will probably have no use - as a manufacturer I would just answer "buy a model that fit well next time". –  Paul Paulsen May 26 at 10:27

I have extremely wide feet which do not fit all shoes comfortably. I discovered a product at a shoe repair store, smelling something like nail polish remover, with which one wets the inside of the boot. The wet boot is then fitted onto the feet and allowed to dry. It shortens the time required to adjust the leather and works remarkably well.

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Would you please try to provide the name of this product? –  Mr.Wizard Mar 14 at 9:12

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