Good hiking boots can last for years, but no gear will last forever, and sooner or later every hiker finds themselves having to invest in a new pair of hiking boots. It is a bad idea to purchase new boots right before a big and challenging hiking trip. Why? Because hiking boots need to be broken in, and this can take up to two to four weeks.
How Long Does it Take to Break in Hiking Boots?
Getting ready for a hiking trip is exciting, and perhaps you have already packed your duffel bag, figured out what to do on the long plane ride to your hiking destination, prepared all your outdoor adventure gear, and bought new hiking boots?
But, aren’t you forgetting something? Hiking boots need to be broken in, or it is almost guaranteed that your hike will be anything but fun.
Experienced hikers caution against going on longer hiking trips without first breaking in the boots, and it can take a total of two to four weeks for a pair of hiking boots to be ready for your next (big) outing.
Best Way to Break in Hiking Boots
Now, let’s have a look at how you can best break in your boots before the day of the hike. It may seem like an easy solution to simply walk around the house in your boots; to wear them while you cook, put the kids down for the night, or while watching TV.
Unfortunately, this might not be enough.
The issue is that the floor inside your house is likely flat. What happens when you go outside for the first time, walking uphill, downhill, and in a different terrain?
Hiking shoes that you thought you had broken in might suddenly cause pain and discomfort, ruining your hike, just because you didn’t break them in the correct way.
Instead, go outside and take walks and short hikes in your hiking boots. Start with short walks around the block, and work up to walking a couple of miles or a small portion of the bigger hike you have planned.
Let Your Feet Adapt
Remember, your feet also need to adjust to the new boots, and you might have to experiment with different socks to make them as comfortable as possible in the beginning. When your feet start hurting, take a break, and try a longer walk the following day.
Do Hiking Boots Stretch Out?
Provided you have picked out the right size, new hiking boots should stretch and adapt to the size and shape of your feet. This doesn’t mean you should get boots that feel uncomfortable or are too small when you first put them on, as boots that are too small won’t magically stretch to fit.
You also have to take into consideration that there is no guarantee your boots will stretch, and it is recommended that you choose wisely when picking both hiking boots and size.
How Tight Should Hiking Boots Be?
Hiking boots should fit snug on your feet, but without applying uncomfortable pressure.
These types of boots are made to walk in difficult terrains and need to hold your foot securely in place, as you could easily twist an ankle if your feet are sliding around too much.
You also need to take into consideration how flexible the sole is, arch support, ankle support, and the weight of the boot. The type of boots you need depends on where you intend to hike, but comfort should always be your main priority.
It is a fact that your feet are more swollen at the end of the day, which is why it is convenient to try on your new hiking boots after work or when you come home from school, to make sure your hiking boots fit you well also when your feet are at their biggest.
The general rule is that you want snug hiking boots, but not tight, and you need to be able to comfortably wiggle your toes. If you are asking yourself if you should go up a size when ordering or purchasing hiking boots, then the answer is probably now.
However, you could benefit from choosing boots that are half a size bigger than you would normally wear, to make room for thick socks in case you will be hiking in cold weather. Hiking boots that are too loose won’t do you any favors, but a little bit of extra wiggle room for your toes can be a lifesaver.
Best Methods to Maintain Your Hiking Shoes
Take good care of your hiking boots right from the start, so that you won’t have to worry about purchasing new ones anytime soon. A common mistake is to wait until you see the first signs of wear and tear. You want to prevent damage, rather than trying to repair it once it is already done.
- Whenever you come back from a hike, make it a habit to remove the insoles from the boots, clean them off and hang them in an appropriate place to try. Insert them into the boots again before embarking on your next hike.
- Use reinforcing spray products to improve the waterproof qualities of your hiking boots. This helps to further protect them from moist and water damage when you are out in wet terrain or when it rains.
- Depending on the material – wipe or rinse off your hiking boots after use, and let them dry in an open environment (and not in a bag).
- Hiking boots need to dry properly both after a hike and after you wash them, and it is not recommended to place them in direct sunlight. Instead, put them somewhere dry and reasonably cool, and if you are in a hurry – fill your boots with absorbent newspaper.
- In a situation where your boots have gotten very wet or where you have needed to deep-clean them, it is a good move to remove the laces and let them dry on their own, to allow for appropriate airflow.
Storing Hiking Boots
Avoid any type of box or bag that does not permit free airflow, as this is almost guaranteed to make your hiking boots stink. It doesn’t matter how new they are, and instead, you should clean and dry your boots properly before storing them, and opting for an open space like a closet shelf or in a storage unit when they are not in use.
Give your feet time to get used to new hiking boots before going on a longer hike, and try to acquire them at least 2-4 weeks before you are scheduled to head out. If you can give yourself more time to break them in – great, as it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Nobody enjoys hiking in uncomfortable or ill-fitting boots, and it is key to break in your hiking boots properly no matter how comfortable they may seem when you first put them on.
Once you start using your new hiking boots, keep them looking and feeling great by applying proper care after each hike. Clean the boot, remove the laces and allow them to dry before storing them in a ventilated area.