How to Break in Hiking Shoes

Going on a hike is like going on an adventure, you get to see wonderful sights and take a break from the hustle and bustle of your daily life. Hiking brings out the inner explorer in you as you can choose to follow a trail or make your own if you’re an experienced hiker. Here we discuss how to break in hiking shoes in our article for your help..

Putting experience aside, there are a few essentials a hiker must have, such as a pocket knife, water, food, a backpack or rucksack, proper clothing to match the weather, a first aid kit for emergencies and most importantly, a good pair of hiking shoes.

Types of Hiking Shoes

Shoes are one of the most important parts of our lives, there are different types for different occasions and hiking shoes are no different. There are a few types but the way to break them in are more or less the same.

If you’ve just bought a new pair of hiking shoes and have no clue on how you’re going to break them in, then this article is for you. Read below to find out how to break in hiking shoes.

There are three main variations of the hiking shoe and each of these shoes are made with a specific purpose in mind. However, the ways to break them in are more or less the same. 

  • Hiking Shoes: A hiking shoe is made for short day hikes and they’re often low cut versions of hiking boots. They’re light and feel like a pair of rugged sneakers. These shoes are perfect for trail runners and ultra-light backpackers.
  • Hiking Boots: These are a little sturdier and taller than hiking shoes; they provide good support and are perfect for short backpacking trips.
  • Backpacking Boots: Boots such as these are the choice of serious hikers and backpackers, they’re tall and as sturdy as a rock, and they support and cushion the feet under load and are perfect for anyone that likes exploring off trail.

Finding the Right Hiking Shoes

When you’re planning a hike, ask yourself two questions. How long will I be hiking for? And where am I going to hike?

First, let’s go over the length of a hike. The longer it takes to complete a trail or simply cover a set amount of distance, the sturdier your choice in shoe should be. Hiking shoes are perfect for short day hikes and small distances, a boot should be what you think of if your hike takes longer. 

Secondly, the where you hike will affect your choice of shoe. Damp, muddy locations require shoes with waterproofing technologies, dry and rocky terrain mean that you need to have shoes with strong soles.

Breaking in Hiking Shoes

In order to acclimatize with something new, perhaps a new activity or new item we have to experience it over and over until we become used to it. The very same applies to shoes. 

The first things to do with hiking shoes are to simply wear them around the house. Simply wear the socks you plan to hike with and throw on your hiking shoes and then do your daily chores in them, vacuum the floor, take out the trash, make lunch, as long as your chore has you moving about, you should do it. All the movement will make the insole slowly form to your foot, it’ll fit a bit stiff at first but that’s fine. 

Now that you’re used to wearing your shoes, take them out into the real world by going on a short, 2-3 mile long hike. This will be the real world test of the shoes and will be a major factor in properly breaking in the shoes.

Whilst on your short little hike, take the time to test out all the features of the shoe, from its waterproofness to the complete fit and feel around your foot. During your little hike, make sure to take plenty of breaks, especially if your shoes aren’t the breathable type.

Just letting your feet breathe will make the hike feel a little shorter than it actually is and it won’t be long till your shoes start to feel like an extension of yourself. 

The last thing on your list should be by taking the shoes on a day long hike or backpacking trip.

What to Keep in Mind

An uncomfortable shoe makes for a tiring hike. When you’re hiking, the last thing you should think of is your feet and how they feel in your shoes. 

Here are a few things to look out for when you’re breaking in hiking shoes.

  • Hot Spots: When a certain part of the shoe rubs against part of your foot it gets hot and creates more friction than needed. It can lead to blistering, which doesn’t make for comfortable walking.
  • Toe Cramping: The ideal hiking shoe will leave a little wiggle room at the front of the shoes, so as to cushion against frontal and top impacts. If you find your toes curling up more than normal, it’ll lead to cramps and discomfort.
  • Traction: Are you able to walk at a normal pace in your hiking shoes? Do they provide enough grip on different surfaces? Make sure to keep track of this when testing your shoes out.
  • The Fit: How do your shoes feel when you put them on? Are they tight? Are they loose? A good way to feel this out is to stand upright in your shoes whilst they are unlaced. A good fit should make your foot feel as if it is held snugly but with a little space left for movement.

All about Blisters

Sometimes a hiking shoe can be a little stiffer than normal, especially if it’s made entirely of leather, which takes a little getting used to and should feel comfortable after a while of constant wearing. The worst thing that can happen to your foot when breaking in a shoe is blistering. 

Friction during shoe wear is normal and usually fades away after the first few weeks of usage. Something that may turn you off hiking is blistering. A blister forms when there’s a little too much friction on a certain spot on the skin.

The constant rubbing tears off the upper layers of skin and fluid builds up in the resulting void. The sensation is uncomfortable and quite painful. 

The first step to avoiding blistering or excessive rubbing is knowing how your shoe fits and where it rubs on your feet. Lacing affects the fit of your shoe and there are different styles of lacing, all of which factor into the final fit of your shoe.

Socks are another thing to look at, thin socks can cause excessive rubbing and thick socks may make the shoe feel tighter than normal. 

Moisture is another factor when it comes to blistering. If you sweat a lot or are hiking in wet conditions, applying something like Gold Bond Powder may help as it’ll keep your foot dry and cool, Vaseline and Body Glide are also good ways to prevent chafing. 

What if you get a blister or have one already? How do you treat it? You can apply a bit of surgeon’s tape over it, the adhesive is gentle so it won’t hurt when you peel it off. You can also go for Moleskin, which is recommended for treating blisters.

Simply fold in half and cut out a circle roughly the size of your blister and then apply, the material sticks well to the skin and will keep the friction to a minimum within your shoe. There are also several types of blister bandages with gels and pads for added cushioning if the blister is too rough.

Right Time to Break in Your Hiking Shoes

Now that you’ve learnt the how, you should know when. Breaking in hiking shoes take a little while and should be done a while before a hike. Trying to break in a new pair of shoes just before a hike can lead to discomfort during and after the hike. You may even get blisters, which is again, quite discomforting. 

The fact of the matter is that the initial stiffness of the shoe and unfamiliarity with it can and will lead to problems on your hike. 

The best time to break in your hiking shoes should be at least 2 to 3 weeks before your planned hike. It may take a little longer if your shoe is made completely of leather or so you know the ins and outs of your shoes, such as how it feels on different surfaces and what it’s like when it’s wet. You may not notice it at first but these simple things are crucial to how hiking shoes feel on your feet.


Breaking in hiking shoes is crucial if you’re to enjoy a weekend hike or a short jaunt outdoors. With the knowledge of how and when to break in your hiking shoes, this article should prove adequate if you want to know how to break in hiking shoes.

You can also read: How to Clean Hiking Shoes

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