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If you are buying new hiking boots before a trip there is a break in period before the boots get comfortable and you don't want to go on a long backpacking trip with brand new boots. Time will depend on the person and how much time they can spare for breaking in and distance can depend on the terrain but there should be at least an average value for this.

On average how long/how many miles do you need to put on a pair of hiking boots before they are broken in?

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    I'm not sure there is an answer. I am happy after 2 or 3 weeks of walking but I have a friend who needs 3 or 4 times as long – Rory Alsop Jun 29 at 23:10
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    @RoryAlsop If nobody else answers, I pull the recommended break-in times from the outdoor backpacking companies I know off. That's probably as good as its going to get – Charlie Brumbaugh Jun 29 at 23:16
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    This will depend both on the person (both "psychologically" and physically like foot shape) and even more so on the type of boot - different materials differ a lot in how they adapt (or not) with time. – imsodin Jun 30 at 9:26
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    While there is an average value, the distribution is likely so wide (and so individually dependent) that the average is essentially useless. Deciding when boots are "broken in" is a purely subjective question. – John Hughes Jul 1 at 19:10
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    My experience with a certain brand is that I need zero break-in time. I can take them out of the box and hike 30km with no issue. Did it with 2 pairs of the same model. Its the only brand with which it happens, but it's an example that there is huge variability between brands and models. – Gabriel C. Jul 2 at 16:07
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It depends. For the boots I had, and military/long walking events experience:

  • Tougher boots take longer to break in, simply because the material is less flexible and takes time to 'form' around your feet (if they do it at all, hence some plastic kind of snow boats).
  • Depending on the person, some people can use new boots right away, although this is kind of rare. Some take much longer, how long depends on person by person, and by how much distance they walked to break in the shoes.

I hard there are some tips to lower the break in time (or the consequences):

  • Some people fill their shoes with water and leave it for a day; than remove the water, and put (thin news)paper inside to soak up the remaining water (do not dry them in front of a heater).
  • Wear good or even two layers of socks.
  • Special boot/trekking socks, which have extra cushioning around the rub spots (see comment Adonalsium).
  • Tape in your feet or parts of it, in case you expect blisters from not well enough broken in (is that English?) shoes?
  • Do you have a reference for the 'make your feet harder' point? (and what do you mean exactly by 'harder'?) – stijn Jul 2 at 12:32
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    @Stijn I tried to find a source, but I cannot find one... I heard it very long time ago, so maybe it's not true (or not anymore). I meant the production of more calluses. However, I will remove the line, since I cannot find any source anymore. – Michel Keijzers Jul 2 at 12:41
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    Buying specific 'boot socks' is another viable tip. They have extra cushioning around the common rub spots. – Adonalsium Jul 2 at 16:40
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    @Adonalsium Thanks I added your good comment ... actually I should have added it myself, since I have quite some of those socks. – Michel Keijzers Jul 2 at 16:50
  • @stijn: I tend to blister at the side of the heel (andolasium's rub spots, even with cushioned socks. Note that cushion = warmer = more wet feet). This is much less of a problem if I keep my feet used to the boots and more if I suddenly go hiking after months of wearing basically nothing but sandals. This is not outright callus, just getting skin that outside boots is basically never "touched" to be a bit stronger. – cbeleites Jul 4 at 8:54
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With modern footwear, the only thing you should have to worry about are blisters. If you get a good pair of boots, there shouldn't be a break in period for the shoes, just your feet. As for the blisters, I have tried wearing pantyhose style stockings under my regular socks, but I didn't like them as they were too tight and allowed my feet to slip inside my boots.

Now, when I get new boots, I carry a few different sized bandages (Band-Aids) with me for the first couple trips. As soon as I notice an area rubbing on my foot, I apply a bandage. I also apply the bandages the next time I use them, but everything is usually OK, by the third day. (I have also tried using moleskin for this but I like the regular bandages better.) Also, I find I need to apply the bandages longer for hiking boots with full leather uppers, but the time needed will be determined by how stiff the leather is.

As described above, I have also tried soaking my leather boots, letting them dry for a bit, and then wearing the damp boots for several hours. This does allow the leather to conform to the legs more quickly, but I still usually need to use the bandages to get past those first couple uses.

That said, I still prefer to start wearing my boots the traditional way, without soaking. If I have the time, I'll apply saddle soap, mink oil (is my preference), or any other leather conditioner very liberally and let them sit for a couple days to a week with a towel or application rag covering them. (Dust will collect on the boots and dry the leather conditioner if they are not covered). I'll wipe them clean and then do it again. I'll do this 2-4 times, until the leather is buttery soft. This will also make them completely waterproof.

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As a boy, I bought Raikle boots from REI. I wore them daily to school, and on my paper route. A new pair would take about 3-4 weeks to break in.

One way I read about in a hiking book was to take a long warm bath with your boots on, then wear them until they dried, walking half the time.


The break in period is going to be very dependent on the design of the boot. Mountaineering boots are going to take longer than trail runners.

The break in period also depends on your feet. If you have a common foot, the boot is closer to the shape of your foot. If you are like me, having a thick foot, and one that is wider (EE to EEEE) then your first challenge is finding a boot that fits at all.


I recently bought a new pair of work boots. Wolverine. Not top of the line. Not walmart cheapies. They fit right away. But I buy work boots a half size big to wear two pairs of heavy socks. And I wouldn't want to go backpacking in them. Too heavy.

Backpacking I now use low top Merrell's. They fit me. They provide just enough support.


Buy your footwear a month before the trip. Wear daily.

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