Most work boots will always require a period of breaking in before they become truly comfortable to wear. When you break in a pair of boots, you are essentially molding the inside of the shoe to fit the particular shape of your foot. The boot conforms to your foot, creating a custom fit that is much more comfortable than the out-of-the-box fit.
Preferences on how to actually go about doing this tend to vary depending on the individual, with many people swearing by their own particular (often absurd) method, such as sticking the boots in an oven. (Don’t do that) Here are our do’s and don’ts for breaking in new work boots fast.
Have you ever played baseball? If so, you probably have gone through a similar experience with breaking in your new leather mitt. It’s just expected that you will have to dedicate some time to break it in. So you oil it, pop a baseball in it, and put it under your best mattress while you sleep. Then you…alright, you get the picture.
Anyway, there are quite some similarities between breaking in a new baseball mitt and a new pair of boots. Yea, there are even those people that swear by certain “urban” legend style techniques. But I’m not going to explore that too much. In fact, I’m going to give you 3 simple at home ways to show you how to break in boots. But first, something that we should all do first.
Maximizing Break In Effectiveness: 2 Simple Pregame Tips
Trim your toenails, before they become hangnails
Before jumping to conclusions about the boot fitting, ask yourself, “When was the last time I cut my toenails?” If you can’t recall, then you need to get out the ole’ nail chompers and give them a clip or two.
Not only will this give you a better indication of the boots’ fit, but it will serve you well when you implement one of my steps mentioned later. Basically, if you have some long nails, especially on the big toe, you risk having that nail rub up against the toe box. This can eventually lead to you losing your nail, and increasing the pain of breaking in your work boots. Heck, it could even mean putting your break in methods on hold for a few weeks.
So take heed, and just clip your toenails!
Determine Your “Problem Area”
Pretty easy to comprehend, but vital to breaking in your work boots effectively. Because for 2 of the 3 steps I’m going to throw your way, you will need to determine your problem area.
So, let’s get those stiff boots back out of the box and give it another shot. This time, get some tape, preferably scotch or masking tape. You don’t need anything heavy duty, as it will just be used as an indicator.
Slide the boots back on your feet, with the socks that you would normally wear to work, and walk around your house for a bit until you start to feel where the boots are stiff and causing pain. Once you have a good understanding, bust out the tape. You want to tear a small piece of tape off and place it in each area that your boots are causing discomfort. Don’t forget, each foot is unique and is shaped differently, so focus on one boot at a time.
Now you’re ready to learn how to break in boots…
6 Tips on How to Break in New Work Boots Fast
1. Make Sure They Fit
Most people assume that any discomfort they feel from a pair of work boots will disappear after they break them in. This is not the case. Breaking in a pair of boots will not solve issues of pinching, support, hot spots, and so on. When you purchase a pair of work boots, select a pair that only causes discomfort because it has not yet adjusted to your foot.
It is usually pretty easy to tell the difference—an ill-fitting shoe will likely hurt, while a shoe that only needs to be broken in will feel a little strange and uncomfortable, but will not cause any extreme pain.
2. Test Drive Them At Home
It is best to break in work boots before you have to actually work in them. No one wants to spend their workday with uncomfortable feet; breaking them in beforehand can save you a lot of grief. Put on a pair of thick socks and your work boots, and wear them for increasing amounts of time each day. Make sure to do plenty of walking and moving around so that the boots have an opportunity to stretch out.
3. Put your boots in the freezer
Do you have kids? Because this could be a 2 for 1 project. You can not only learn how to stretch leather boots, but it can be your kid’s science fair project. I have to admit, until very recently, I had no idea that this was such a popular method for breaking in your boots. But people swear by it! And this can be used on all different types of materials: leather, suede, distressed leather, etc.
The true science happens as the water freezes and turns to ice, which then expands in your boot and stretches out the material. Regardless, I had to do my own research and write about it. And there are basically 10 easy steps to it:
What you’ll need for each boot:
2: Quart or Gallon Sized Freezer Bags
1: Cup Water (Use more for added stretching action)
***Repeat if necessary.***
4. Use a Good Leather Boot Conditioner
Work boots are often very stiff and unyielding at first; to combat this, we suggest using a leather conditioner to soften the boots and make them more comfortable. There are many products that are available for this very purpose, with many offering extra benefits, such as waterproofing. Make sure to choose a conditioner made for the specific type of leather used in your boot and to follow all directions.
When it comes to using a boot oil to break in work boots, it seems that products like mink oil are often the most recommended. Now, while they certainly break in your work boots, they can also break them down. The key to all things boots is, you want to balance comfort with durability. And although mink oil will offer comfort, it will certainly take years off your boot. So, I don’t recommend it, nor do I recommend any animal fat product.
Then, what should you do? Simple! Use Leather Honey. This product is a leather conditioner that not only protects your boots, but it breaks them in the proper way. Because this product penetrates all the way through the thick layer of the leather, it really helps to soften up the leather without breaking them down. Not to mention, it will condition the leather and create natural water resistance.
Some great features of this product are:
- Breaks in and protects new leather boots
- Restores used leather boots
- Absorbs into air pockets in leather, creating natural water repellant
- Made in the USA, since 1968
- No Chemicals Used
- Can be used on all leathers, including Nubuck (Not For Use On Suede)
- Unlimited 100% satisfaction LIFETIME guarantee! If you’re not satisfied, return the product AT ANY TIME for a full refund
This is a product that I also talk highly of in my “How To Care For Leather Boots” article. But if you are just interested in breaking them in for now, continue to read on.
And the product is really easy to use. Here are the steps that I discuss in my other article:
6 Simple Steps:
- Remove the laces
- Clean boots thoroughly with Saddle Soap, and let fully dry. (Conditioner works best when the boots are dry and can fully absorb the oils)
- Pour a bit of Leather Honey on a lint free cloth
- Apply the Leather Honey onto the boot in a consistent back and forth motion, covering the entire boot
- Let the boot sit for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight
- Once absorbed, wipe away any excess Leather Honey from the boot
You can, and should, repeat this process as much as you want. But I recommend that you apply it until the boot stops absorbing the Leather Honey all the way. Because as long as it is absorbing all of the Leather Honey, it is evident that your leather boots are thirsty for more.
5. Use a Boot Stretcher Solution
For this, you can either buy a product specifically designed for the purpose of stretching out boots, or you can make your own using alcohol and water. Apply the solution to the inside of the boot, paying particular attention to areas that need to be stretched out the most, then put them on and go about your day.
6. Man up and wear them: Well, Kind of…
While you may think that you can just tough it out and break in your boots, I’m going to caution you and say, yes. Or at least, to a certain degree. And you thought I was going to tell you flat out, no. But the truth is, that wearing your new boots to work is one of the best ways to break those suckers in. Just hold it a second! Did you cut your toenails? OK, good.
So where is the helpful advice? Bring a backup pair of shoes with you. For those of you who are not new to your trade and just replaced a beat down pair of boots, just bring those old beat down pair boots. As for the rookies out there, scrounge together whatever worn in footwear that you can find that will meet the safety requirement of your job. Another option would be to wear a thicker pair of socks, or double them up, as to pad your feet from the areas that are irritating you.
The thing is, you want to wear your new boots as much as possible without hurting your feet and getting blisters. So, wear them until you feel some pain on-setting. Then, replace them with your old torn up boots or maybe your fathers hand-me-downs that you are embarrassed about. This will help to get those boots broken in faster, without compromising your health and comfort. The focus is to keep increasing the amount of time you wear your boots until they are fully equipped to be worn the entire course of the work day.
Whether you read this to learn how to break in boots, or to just find out how to stretch leather boots, you should be on the fast track. I understand that there are a ton of different ways to go about it, but I really just focused on the methods that I know first hand. But if you have found a solid way to get it done, or have used one of these methods successfully, please send me a comment. Maybe I’ll even add it to this article. Until then…
What Not To Do When Breaking in New Work Boots
Do not Apply Heat Directly to the Boot
We are not totally sure why this seems to be a popular method, because it does not make much sense. Remember that leather is essentially just animal skin that has been treated and processed. When heat is applied to skin, it dries out and cracks.
Considering that there are other ways to break in boots that do not require taking such a risk, we advise against using ovens, hair dryers, space heaters, and the like to break in boots.
Do not use Water
Some people say to totally submerge boots in water, others advise walking around in wet boots in order to break them in. We say: do neither. Leather, even waterproofed leather, can only take so much moisture before it starts to warp.
A pair of well-fitting boots can make the difference between a bearable workday and a miserable one. Breaking in boots is essential if a comfortable fit is desired and choosing the correct method is critical if you wish to maintain boot integrity (and protect your investment).