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You Asked: How Do I Break in New Hiking Boots?

Dear FitSugar,

Your recent hiking post reminded me of a problem that I am having with my new hiking boots. I am trying to break in the shoes in preparation for the Half Dome hike in Yosemite next month. Unfortunately, I got terrible blisters on the back of my feet (under the Achille's tendon area) after hiking the first day. Desperately needing to break in the boots, I just bandaged the already punctured blister and went hiking again the next day with 2 pairs of socks, even though it was quite painful. After the second day, the blister got bigger and even more painful. Should I ignore the wound and keep hiking or wait until the blister heals before wearing the boots again? Is this common when breaking in new hiking boots or is there something wrong with my boots?

That's a great question since it is hiking season and lots of people are shopping for new boots. The key to breaking in new hiking boots is to take things slowly. Different kinds of boots will require different amounts of time to break in. Lightweight models might not need much breaking in time at all, while the heavier, stiffer, all-leather boots could take weeks to soften up and form to the shape of your feet.

Want to hear my advice? Then

The boots you buy should feel snug with 1 pair of socks (preferably ones that wick). It sounds like since you could wear 2 pairs of socks, that your hiking boots might be too loose. They will stretch out slightly as they break in, so you don't want to start off with a loose boot - if your foot can move around with each step, that friction will definitely cause blisters.

If your boots do feel good and snug, start breaking them in by wearing them inside for short periods of time. Be sure to wear the kind of socks you'll be wearing on the trail. If you feel pinching, rubbing, or pain right away, take those boots back. If they still feel good, wear them out and about like to the grocery store, or for a short walk.

Gradually increase the distance and time you wear your new boots, until eventually you can go for a long hike with a pack on your back. It does take a while to break in your boots, but it's worth it since they'll last you for years to come.

Fit's Tips: If you have a blister or a sore spot that is getting rubbed, Dr. Scholl's Moleskin Plus Padding is great. You can cut a piece to fit the area you need covered, and it's self-adhesive, so it'll stick to your skin and offer more padding than a regular band-aid.

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pandacn pandacn 9 years
I did the Half Dome hike in Yosemite this past weekend and I didn't get a single blister! I used the Dr. Scholl's Moleskins, wicking sock liners and hiking socks that cushion pretty well and it all worked! So thanks for the advice, FitSugar, and for making my hiking experience an enjoyable one, not a painful one.
Midnightkiss4u09 Midnightkiss4u09 9 years
Good advice.
tfredhead tfredhead 9 years
I work at an outdoor gear store in Colorado and fit LOTS of hiking boots. Sorry to say, I disagree with some of the suggestions. Here's how we fit boots: Put your boot on (and don't tie the laces), stand up. Skootch your foot up in the boot so that your toes touch the front. Can you fit a finger in behind your heel? Do you have enough room to wiggle it? If so, that's a good thing! If your boot is too close-fitting, that's when rubbing of the boot and your heel happens, which leads to blisters. So you actually do want some room in there! Another test: with your boots on, tap your toes on the floor behind you. Not a light tap - not a super hard tap either though. Does it hurt? If so, go up 1/2 size. This movement simulates what would happen if you were hiking down a hill or mountain. Crunched toes don't feel good!! Like others have said here, good socks are essential too. Smartwools, Tekos, Thorlos. Some people really like to wear sock liners as well (i.e., my fiance!). Some people don't (i.e., me!). Good luck!
pandacn pandacn 9 years
Thanks for the excellent advice and everyone's comments! I think my boots are lightweight (Columbia Ludaman Pass). I will definitely try the moleskin padding and wicking socks. I think I tried to break in the boots too fast. My feet aren't happy with me, but I will try to remedy that with all of your suggestions. Thanks!
txhottie txhottie 9 years
Johnson and Johnston have come out with some new products, like the blister band aids, which speeds healing and coushions the area so it doesn't get mroe inflamed. http://band-aid.com/footcare.shtml, http://band-aid.com/advanced_healing_prod.shtml Also, they now have Blister Block stick which helps prevent blisters. I haven't used it in hiking boots, but have with my strappy summer sandels with great success. This was mentioned by Fabsugar http://fabsugar.com/227126 and you can go get a coupon now at https://www.bandaid.com/couponBlisterBlock.jsp after taking a short quiz. Here's to happy feet!
juju4 juju4 9 years
I highly recommend wearing a sock liner as a first layer, and then a wool sock over that. It will keep friction and moisture at bay. My husband and I LOVE Yosemite (he proposed there) and we hike every weekend. We've already done over 65 miles this spring to prepare for a 5 day back-packing trip in Sequoia/Kings Canyon.
juju4 juju4 9 years
I highly recommend wearing a sock liner as a first layer, and then a wool sock over that. It will keep friction and moisture at bay. My husband and I LOVE Yosemite (he proposed there) and we hike every weekend. We've already done over 65 miles this spring to prepare for a 5 day back-packing trip in Sequoia/Kings Canyon.
SU3 SU3 9 years
Great advice! I had somewhat of the same problem although mine didn't sound nearly as bad! I had the lightweight model (North Face) and used Foxriver wick dry socks, but then changed to Thorlos because they were SO comfortable. I started wearing them for short periods of time and then increased it after that. And I absolutely agree, if it *still* rubs your feet in the wrong way, return them!
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