Wouldn’t it be great if you could walk out of the footwear store, you’re at to buy a new pair of hiking boots and immediately wear them on your next hike and enjoy a terrific experience? The problem with that scenario, as seasoned hikers are well aware of, is that a break-in period is going to be required for a new pair of hiking boots.

Quite honestly, even if you’ve never hiked before, you probably already know this as if you’ve ever bought a new pair of shoes, you know that they fit better once you get them broken in. That’s why it can be so hard to part ways with your old sneakers!

The same goes with hiking boots. But then the question becomes, how long does it take to break in hiking boots? It truly depends on the boots that you buy because some will take longer than others. Burly, stiff leather boots may require weeks to break in, while much lighter and more breathable boots may only take a couple of short walks to feel perfect.

This may then lead you to prefer to buy hiking boots that will break in quicker and while this isn’t a buying guide for hiking boots, don’t let that stop you from buying the models that you truly want or need.

Fact is, breaking them in is all a part of the overall process, and doing so is highly recommended to avoid the first few hiking trips with them being miserable. No one wants to go on a 10-mile hike that may take a while with boots that are uncomfortable, after all.

It’s funny because answering this question with a simple, “it will take X days” would be a lot easier. However, more important than that question is the question of how you should go about breaking in your new hiking boots. After all, you’re going to be the best judge of when your new pair will be ready for hiking as you’re the one who’s going to feel everything.

Tips and ways to break in your new hiking boots

Walking boots
Photo by Annie Spratt / Unsplash

One of the most important things to remember is breaking in your new hiking boots shouldn’t be something that you attempt to rush through. Yes, some will take longer than others, but that doesn’t mean you should try to speed up the process of stiffer leather models.

Patience is a virtue, so just be prepared to put in some time to break them in, and here are some ways to do so:

  • Walk around town with them on: No matter what you do, wear the insoles and socks that you’re planning to wear on your hike while breaking in your boots. With that said, walking around town with your new boots is one of the most popular ways to go about the process. You can gradually increase the mileage and weight (wear your backpack while doing this if you’re going backpacking) as you see fit.
  • Walk on off-pavement: This is where some serious breaking in is going to occur and if you want, you can take short walks on dirt trails and such with your new boots.
  • Wear them inside your home: Clearly, this should be done first if you’re totally against anyone walking in your home with shoes on. With brand-new boots, do common household chores and activities with them on.

How long does it take to break in hiking boots using the above methods, then? Again, it depends on the design of the boots. But take it easy while you’re doing any or all of the methods, as you don’t want to put your feet through murder.

Should you perform the wet boot theory?

For the record, we’re not sure if this theory has an official name, but we figured we’d just call it the “wet boot” theory. You’ll see “experts” (and we use that word loosely) be on each side of the fence when it comes to the idea of breaking in your hiking boots with the use of water.

The idea is to walk in them either in the rain, with wet socks on, or with the boots partially or fully submerged in water and to wear them afterward. It can prepare you for different conditions that you’ll face, and some materials will also restrict or expand when wet.

However, looking at just leather, it can be dangerous to do so as water can dry out leather boots, and then they could end up being more prone to tears and cracks down the road. You want your hiking boots to last a while, so it makes sense to care for them properly.

If you were to ask us, we’d say to do so if the boots you have are waterproof. Yet, use your own personal judgment on this one.

How long does it take to break in leather hiking boots?

A hiking trip to Telluride, Colorado
Photo by Sheelah Brennan / Unsplash

It just seems that leather hiking boots are just different when it comes to breaking in, doesn’t it? It’s normal for the process to take two to four weeks to finally feel as if they’re broken in, but it just depends. Yet, due to the fact that leather stretches as it adapts to your feet and is an organic material, footwear made with it will require a break-in period.

So, while we just said the answer to the question of how long does it take to break in hiking boots made of leather is going to vary, we still found an excellent week-by-week guide that was put together by Undandy (a Portuguese shoe brand) that we wanted to share.

Week 1

  • On every 2nd day, wear your leather hiking boots for a couple of hours. This will allow both your feet and the boots to rest.
  • Wear them both in the morning and afternoon due to the fact that feet swell naturally during the day.
  • A bit of stiffness is to be expected.

Week 2 and 3

  • Continue to wear your boots every 2nd day but start to increase the time you wear them a little bit (nothing too drastic). By week 3, you should start to feel the boots getting more comfortable.

Week 4

  • After the 3rd week is over, the 4th week should be the week you find out the break-in period is complete.
  • You may get to week two or three and feel your hiking boots are ready to rock. Again, it all depends on how your feet and boots feel as you continue to break them in.

Should I be feeling pain or distress during the process?

Chances are, you’ve asked yourself this question either before coming to this post or sometime while reading this post. It’s a very important one, as should you be feeling pain while breaking in your hiking boots? There’s a difference between the boots feeling stiff and somewhat uncomfortable and them literally hurting your feet.

If you find that the boots make you feel pain, rubbing, or pinching, there’s a good chance that the size of the boots you have is incorrect. There’s a really good quote that we found from REI, and it goes like this:

The break-in process won’t turn a poor fit into a good one…

With that being said, it’s also important for you to be wearing your boots correctly. Lace them up tightly and make sure that you tuck the gusset and tongue material so they’re both lined up. Then, fold them flat. It could be that the boots are pinching because the laces aren’t tight enough.

However, it should be rather obvious if the fit isn’t right. If that’s the case, you can perform all the breaking in that your heart desires, it just isn’t going to matter as you need to ensure that they fit right!

Final thoughts

So, how long does it take to break in hiking boots? Such a simple question that had such an in-depth answer. But that’s usually the way it goes around here! Let’s face it, it’s not a one answer question.

Unless you buy super lightweight and breathable hiking boots, expect the process to take anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks. Some may feel ready to go right out of the box, but you can more or less forget about that with any remotely stiff leather models.

On the topic of hiking boots, a very popular brand of boots that often gets associated with the activity is Timberlands. Have you ever wondered to yourself if Timberlands are any good for long hikes? Even if you haven’t, we encourage you to click on that link to perhaps learn a little thing or two. Nothing wrong with that, right?!