No matter what kind of walking boots you have, it is absolutely essential to break them in before heading out on a trip. This process will soften the material, allowing the boot to mould perfectly to your feet. But, before you break them in, you need to find the perfect pair among the countless number of walking boots on the market today. This can be time-consuming, but it’s incredibly important to make a thorough search of it because our foot shapes are just as numerous as the lasts used by shoe manufacturers. For example, some shoes are a bit roomier or narrower in the toe box, whilst others are narrower at the heel or have an overall more compact shape.
In addition to the last used to construct the shoe, there are a variety of other factors you should consider when shopping for walking boots, such as the material (leather or synthetics), the height of the ankle support (e.g, mid or low-cut) and the stiffness or flexibility of the sole, to name a few. Once you’ve figured out what kind of shoe you want – be it a lightweight walking shoe, a trekking boot or a crampon-compatible mountaineering boot – it’s time to really start shopping!
Finding the perfect walking boot – the perfect size, width and shape
Only a walking boot in the right size and proper width and shape can be broken in properly. For walkers and hikers, it’s always a good idea to try on the shoes with the socks you’ll be wearing on your trip and using to break in the shoes. Walking socks are made out of all sorts of different materials, including merino wool, synthetic fabric and fabric blends. They should be comfortable, moisture-wicking and fit securely. Remember: your walking boot is only as good as your walking socks.
Once you have the right pair of socks, you can start trying on walking boots. You’ll notice that the walking shoes vary in size and width from brand to brand. The differences aren’t huge, but oftentimes it’s wise to try on a half size larger or smaller in order to achieve the perfect fit. If you’re having a difficult time deciding, it can be a big help to try on a size 9, for example, on one foot, and a size 9.5 on the other. That way, you’ll be able to compare them directly without having to take them on and off.
It’s also very important to tie the shoes properly, meaning the tongue should be in the centre and the shoes tied moderately tightly. Even though only you can know whether a shoe fits properly, we thought it might be useful to put together some important points you can tick off before making your final decision.
- Does the walking boot have the proper length? – Your toes shouldn’t rub up against the front, but you shouldn’t have too much room, either. This would cause your foot to slide forward, and you wouldn’t get enough support.
- Does the walking boot have the proper width? – You shouldn’t have too much room on the sides, nor should they pinch or feel too tight.
- Does your heel feel secure in the boot? – Your heel should not slip to the side or out of the boot when tied. You shouldn’t experience any pinching or unpleasant pressure, either.
- Is the collar comfortable? – Of course, you should be wearing a sock that extends past the collar of the boot. If the collar or upper is a bit stiff, no need to worry. You can usually break these in quite easily. But, if you feel any uncomfortable pressure anywhere, take the boots off and try on a different model.
Breaking in your walking boots properly
Once you’ve chosen the walking boots of your dreams, it’s time to get ready for your first steps in them! As mentioned above, be sure to wear the walking socks you plan on wearing during your trip and tie your shoes as you normally would. Your legs and feet are supposed to make the boots’ material more flexible, and your shoes need to be tied in order to do that.
Before heading outdoors in your brand spanking new walking boots, you should wear them around the house for a few hours. Once you feel that your feet have become accustomed to your new kicks, you can take them for a leisurely stroll in the park or on easy, flat terrain. With time, these mini adventures will turn into longer strolls and more intense walks with some elevation gain and more uneven terrain. Only after all that preparation will your boots be ready for all-day trips and adventures in the hills.
Breaking in leather or synthetic walking boots
Synthetic walking boots do not mould to your foot as completely as leather boots do. That’s why, breaking in non-leather footwear often seems less time-consuming. Leather shoes, on the other hand, need more time to loosen up, gain flexibility and adapt to your individual foot shape. However, you can do things to speed up the process. If you dare, you can venture out into the rain or in the morning dew. The water will soften the leather, allowing the leather to adapt more quickly and easily to your foot. Of course, you’ll need to walk in your wet boots for a while before anything happens. But, if your walking boots are waterproof, this shouldn’t be a problem.
There’s also the possibility of widening your leather walking boots after breaking them in, if you feel that the shoe is still too tight. A professional cobbler can usually stretch your leather boots by a couple of millimetres.
There’s really nothing better than really comfortable, broken-in walking boots. No blisters, pinching or general discomfort even after hours walking is the dream of walkers, hikers and trekkers everywhere. Thus, once you’ve found your dream pair of walking boots, make sure to care for them properly so that you can enjoy them for a long time to come. Proper care, proofing and shoe wax can really work wonders!