So you’ve purchased your new pair of work shoes. They look all nice and clean and you’re looking forward to wearing them. However, the pain and discomfort that’s probably going to follow won’t be much fun. This article will look at ways on how to break in work boots.
What does ‘Breaking in’ to work boots mean?
‘Breaking In’ to work boots employs a number of techniques and methods to ensure that your footwear is comfortable to wear. Its purpose is to reduce or ideally get rid of pinches, blisters or any pain associated with work boots so your feet are comfortable.
What happens if you DON’T ‘Break in’ to your work boots?
If your work boots are not broken into correctly, you may experience pain, discomfort and blisters.
Doesn’t sound like much fun does it?
There’s also a likelihood of possible damage to the leather as well as stitches becoming undone due to the leather not being stretched properly.
You should make it a habit to break into every pair of work boots you buy.
Ensure the Work Boots Fit
Do yourself a favour.
Ensure you get the right fit. Concentrate on ensuring the length is correct first and then the width of the boot.
Make sure the boots fit snug before you do anything.
Without correctly fitted boots, it’s unlikely you’ll ever be able to break into them correctly.
This is the most important step before you do the steps that follow.
Since your feet get flatter and wider over time, it’s worth getting your feet measured regularly to ensure you have the most accurate size.
Research also suggests that ill fitting boots can cause pain.
The other thing you need to find a boot with a good warranty.
At the time of writing this, brands such as TImberland, Ariat and Red Wing offer a 12 month warranty.
Make sure to check whether the warranty covers comfort and not just defects.
Ignoring Pinches and Hot Spots can be a sore point
When you buy a new pair of boots, its important to focus on areas that are uncomfortable.
Especially those areas that really pinch and hurt.
If you find that the pain is quite intense and not going away after 1-2 weeks then it might be time to swap or get another boot.
Please dont ignore this.
This is why I mentioned a good warranty above.
Try them at home first before you put them on at work
Don’t be heroic.
Try your work boots on at home as much as you can before you wear them to work.
Don’t just put them on for 12 hours a day for 2 days. This won’t be enough.
What you need to do is wear them for a longer period of time.
This will allow the leather to soften and mould around your foot.
Put your boots on and stamp on your heels. This is is going to help soften areas that could potentially rub against your feet.
Wear a pair of thick socks, or even two. There’s a few reasons for this. Firstly, the most obvious one. It will protect and reduce the number of blisters you’ll get as you wear your boots around the house.
Wearing thick socks will also allow the leather of the boot to stretch and mould slightly. You want gentle pressure, not brute force that can damage the leather.
Ensure that the socks are tight but not so tight where it becomes too uncomfortable.
While I totally appreciate that you want to wear your boots ASAP, the reality is that it can take a few weeks to get your feet used to new boots.
Believe me, it’s well worth the effort.
Your job is hard enough as it is, you really don’t want to be worrying about your feet hurting.
I’d suggest you get into them as soon as possible and start wearing them. Wear them out in the yard, to the grocery store, picking the kids up from school, watching TV, it doesn’t matter.
Things to do to Break In to your work boots
Wear them around the home
As mentioned above, break into your boots gradually at home.
This will give the leather time to stretch organically and fit around your feet.
Toe to Tongue
Push the toe towards the tongue of the boots every day. This will help soften the leather and speed up the break up process.
Just a word of caution, this may not be suitable for boots with a steel toe.
If you’re asking yourself “how should steel toe boots fit?”, then you should certainly take a read of the article.
Stretch with a Broom, Mop or Shoe Boot Stretcher
This is an option I would save until you’ve exhausted other methods. .
If you find that you still feel uncomfortable after a week or so then maybe worth using a boot stretcher, or using a broom to mimic the same action.
Be careful not to damage the leather inside the boot though.
When is the best time to check my shoe size?
Throughout the course of the day, your feet get bigger. This is because they may get swollen as you walk, they flatten out etc.
There’s tons of evidence for this.
If you want true to size then the best time is in the mornings. However, if you want to test your feet once they are slightly bigger then you should go try them on as late as possible.
A shoe shaper or a shoe tree might also help with stretching the leather.
Use Leather Conditioning Agent
A leather conditioner will gently soften the leather so it can shape around your foot more easily and naturally.
How do you revitilize your own skin when it’s cracking or dry? You moisturize right?
The same principle applies to leather.
Conditioning agents come in many forms such as oils (for example mink) and creams and their objective is to ensure the leather is hydrated.
You can use either but both come with pros and cons.
If you’d like to know the difference between leather conditioners and mink oil, then this article by Macwilliam K is a great place to start.
Seek Help from Insoles
If you need extra cushioning then you can try and use shoe inserts. These will make your work boots a lot more comfortable as you break into them.
Take them to work
Don’t forget to take your old pair of work boots in case you start to get uncomfortable in the new ones.
Take them as long as you need to.
Things NOT to do (AVOID) when Breaking In your boots
One thing that really worries me is some of the advice available online.
Below are things I DON’T recommend you do to break into your work boots.
Submerging Work Boots in Water
Whilst leather is a very strong material, submerging your brand new boots in either cold or hot water isn’t a good idea.
It can lead to permanent warping, damage to the shoe and leather.
This is another technique that shouldn’t be used.
It entails ice cubes being stuffed inside the boot and then the boot being put inside the freezer.
The hope is that this will somehow stretch your boot. This however seems to be an ‘old wife’s tale’.
If you don’t have a waterproof boot then this can cause damage to your shoes.
Applying Direct Heat
You’ve probably read about this one already.
In this scenario, you’re supposed to use a hairdryer, use direct sunlight or some kind of heat directly at your shoes.
So why is this bad?
Remember that leather is just dead skin.
It needs to be maintained well to be in the best condition.
When you apply an intense heat or prolong it to heat over time, the leather can dry out and cause cracks.
When you expose leather boots to heat, the fibers can be impacted due to water vapor.
Don’t kick off at the end of your shift
Unless your boots have a rear kick plate, you should use your hands to remove them.
Using your feet to pull your boots off may damage your heels over a period of time.
Don’t force it
Breaking into a boot by force is not a good idea.
Leather naturally expands and will eventually fit around your feet organically.
You risk damaging the leather if you force it.
How do you know when your work boots are broken in?
You’ll know, trust me.
No pain, no discomfort, no blisters and the world will be a happy place again with unicorns and rainbows.
Unfortunately there isn’t a quick way of speeding up the process.
Additional tips and tricks you should think about
Buy Your Boots well in Advance
We cannot stress this enough.
Don’t buy a pair of work boots as soon as your existing ones are finished.
Allowing yourself 2 to 3 weeks to break into them is a safe bet. Also factor in any shipping times.
I’d say a solid month is a good idea.
I know what you’re thinking and the answer is no.
It ISN’T made from mole’s skin.
Moleskin is a strong fabric that is made from cotton.
If your shoes are chafing (rubbing) against your feet then you can apply some moleskin against your feet.
This should prevent any blisters forming.
Just be careful not to put them directly on blisters.
Wearing either thick, moisture wicking or nylon socks is a good idea whilst you’re breaking into your boots.
If a single pair isn’t enough then put on two pairs.
This will help you reduce the chance of acquiring any blisters.
Although this isn’t necessarily going to help with breaking into your boot, it helps to maintain the shape and longevity of the shoe.
So in summary, make sure you firstly get the right shoes.
Buy them WELL in advance and not a few days before you need them.
Take your time breaking into the boots organically.
Once you have successfully broken into your boots, don’t forget to take your old pair with you to work.
Hopefully now you know how to break in work boots. Just don’t break them.