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How to break in your new hiking boots

Nothing beats the smell of fresh-from-the-store hiking boots, but wearing them to wander in Yosemite straight out of the box? Disaster. You’re pretty much asking for blisters, bleeding and a crappy time.

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hiking boots
Like you needed a reason. Photo: HunterOden/Twenty20

Save your feet and your memories by taking a few days or weeks to break in your boots first. Here’s how.

Make sure they fit right at the store

Your boots will stretch a bit over time, but not enough to make your size 7.5 boots fit your size 8 feet. Ask a salesperson for help and take your time making sure the boots fit right before you check out.

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Tip: Bring thick wool socks with you to the store so you can test the boots for cold-weather hikes too.

Wear your outdoor shoes inside

Wanna get here? You're going to have to be able to walk comfortably out of the house first. Photo: Courtesy of Chris Greevebiester/Flickr
Wanna get here? You’re going to have to be able to walk comfortably out of the house first. Photo: Courtesy of Chris Greevebiester/Flickr
Lace your boots up tightly when you hop out of bed and wear them while you cook breakfast and get ready for work. They’ll feel a little stiff, but take notice of any severe pinching or rubbing; you might need to dig out that receipt and make a return or exchange.

Go for a short outdoor walk

Once your boots feel like they fit well, run some errands or take the dog for a walk while wearing them. Wear them for short periods of time often, until they start to form to your foot and the ankle support softens up a bit.

Heavy-duty leather boots will obviously take longer to break in than their lighter cousins.

Don’t ignore hot spots

hiking boots
It should feel good to take them off after the hike, but don’t let a bad fit keep you parking-lot bound. Photo: jtobiason/Twenty20
A little irritation at home can quickly turn into a deal breaker on the trail, especially once you add the weight of a pack. If you notice significant rubbing or pinching, you’ll want to exchange your boots, though some problem areas can be fixed at a shoe-repair shop.

Be prepared for blisters anyway

Educate yourself on basic first aid even if your shoes fit like a glove. If you’re a serious hiker or backpacker, you’ll be in the same boots day after day for long distances.

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Invest in high-quality shoes, but be ready for injuries anyway.