How to Break in Boots and Avoid Blisters
Blisters can be an absolute nightmare, and while you might have grown used to a few days of pain, red raw skin, and damage every time you buy a new pair of boots, it doesn’t have to be that way! It is entirely possible to break in a new pair of boots without having to get a blister or three if you are willing to make sure you take the time to condition the leather and wear your boots around the house for a few days in order to break them in properly without hurting your feet. But how do you do that?
If your boots are more than about a half size too small, there is nothing you can do to break them in. Breaking in boots that are too small can be a nightmare, and if your toes are crammed into the toe box, and the sides of your feet hang over the edge of the sole, there is nothing you can do. No amount of water or oil or leather conditioner will help here, unfortunately.
Similarly, if your boots are more than a half size too big, you will have problems. If your boots are only a little too big, then you can simply wear thick socks to pad the space a bit, but if they are too big for that, then your feet will simply slide around in your shoe, causing discomfort, blisters, and red, raw, bruised skin on your feet. Even the best boots won’t work if they are the wrong size, no matter how much you like the style.
Different brands of boot run to different sizes. You might find that some options are best when bought half a size smaller than usual, but other brands fit best at a slightly larger size than usual. The best option is always going to be to try the shoes on and walk around a bit to get a sense of how they fit. Unfortunately, there is no one answer that applies in every situation to be found here, as some leather boots are designed to stretch more than others.
It is worth putting in the effort to search for shoes that are actually the right size. To make sure you get a pair that fits your feet properly, you could try ordering a couple of different sizes and returning one if you are ordering online. The best option, though, is to go to a shop in person, try on the shoes, and walk around the shop a bit to see how they feel before being broken in.
Stretching New Boots with Thick Socks
Most people agree that one of the easiest options for stretching out slightly tight boots and other footwear a little bit is by wearing them around the house with thick socks to stretch and soften the top leather. No need to click on complicated guides about shoe adjustment products for men if your boots are only a little too small! All you need to start with is a sturdy pair of socks and a little time, as well as a few good tips and some patience and care.
Fresh leather out of the box is at its stiffest and most dry. With a combination of heat, light pressure, and a little moisture, you will find that the leather becomes a little more flexible around the upper. That is part of why boots can be easier to fit into during the summer – warm weather and damp, sweaty feet combine to soften the top leather and help it to fit your foot better and feel comfortable.
Heavy socks mimic this to some extent, warming up your foot and pressing against the stiff leather upper of your boot, helping to make the leather soften a small amount without needing a leather conditioner or other products.
A new pair of boots is great, but you may want to ensure you don’t get rid of your old pair until you are sure you have broken the new boot in properly. If you only wear your new leather boots until you break them in, your foot is going to hurt. Instead, get used to switching between boot choices. It is not just your foot that will appreciate that – it will also help your boot to stretch properly. It takes more than a single night for the water from your foot to evaporate from a leather boot completely, and you will want to ensure that your boot manages to dry out completely.
Have a day or two in a different pair of boots to give yourself and your footwear a break, and you will find that things are easier when you go back to your new boots the next day. You may also want to use a shoe tree in between wears to help the water evaporate faster from the leather. Read the instructions on your chosen shoe tree before you use it, and search for a model of shoe tree that people agree is good! You don’t want to stretch your boot too far, so it is important to do it right.
Take Care of your Feet with a Band-Aid
After wearing your new boots around for a short while, you will be able to feel where blisters are likely to start appearing. Sore spots, red skin, and chafing are a sign of blister formation, particularly around the heel, ankle, and toe of your foot. You will find that your life will be much more pleasant in future if you take care of these first before they start to become a problem.
Most people agree that a preventative band-aid can make a huge difference to comfort, particularly on the heel or ankle of your foot. The first day you try wearing your new boots out of your home, never mind if it is just popping out to the store and back, you may want to put a band-aid on any sore spots to prevent blisters from developing.
The best option here is to use the larger fabric style of band-aid, as the plastic style can get a bit slippery and often don’t stay in place as well as the fabric type, particularly when combined with the heat and moisture of sweaty feet and a thick leather boot!
Bend the Leather and Sand the Heel
Boots for men made from leather are stiff and hard to bend at first, and one of the best tips you can follow after buying new boots is to work on the difficult parts of the upper a bit more than the rest of the boot. All guides agree that the most important areas are the ankle and the point just below the ball of your foot. Don’t worry about the heel or the toe box for this step – read the rest of our guide for the answer to what you need to do with these parts of your shoe!
Once you have worn your boots a bit on their first day, remove them and work the leather at the crease point. Bend it back and forth for a while, using the heat from your hands to help condition it properly. You don’t have to worry about damaging the leather when softening it this way, as it is stronger than you think, and there is never much risk of damage if you approach it right. Keep bending it back and forth for a while, and give it a while to soften up as much as possible.
In addition to working the upper and stopping your boot from being too tight at the bend point, we would recommend sanding the heels of your boots. You can do this straight out of the store before you wear them, unlike most of the other tips on our list, and you may like to make this a priority when you get your boots home.
A blister often comes from things like heel slippage when you wear a leather boot. This causes friction, which causes a blister to form. If you wear a boot for a while, the heel will start to deform to fit you, and that reduces the friction. But can you speed up that process and avoid the blister? You may be pleased to read that the answer is yes, you can!
Simply find a piece of fine-grained sandpaper and lightly sand the inside of the heel of your boot to give it some more grip. Don’t worry about areas like the toe, and just focus your attention on this single area. This will scuff the leather right up, allowing it to grip your sock somewhat better while it is still dry and stiff.
Treat Your Leather
You may have read about people talking about using water to treat leather, but this is not the best answer. We have found that the most efficient way to make shoes for men softer is to use conditioner or other treatment products to soften the fibers. While moisture like water will indeed help your boot to stretch, water is much less effective than oil products. Professionally made leather conditioners or mink oil products are the best options, although you may have to read a few online store sites and click about for a while before you find the ideal product for you.
Once you have found a product like this and you click buy, all you have to do is put some of it on your boot, covering the whole thing from heel to toe in a very thin layer, and flex the material about for a while.
It is always better to take your time making sure your boots are well-fitting and pain-free than it is to tough it out and risk staining your new shoes red with blood! Take your time and be patient. A few hours of wearing your new boots in the privacy of your own home can save you a lot of pain and red skin later!
Expert Tip by Alexis DeSalva Kahler
Treat leather shoes with a conditioner (especially oil based) over water.