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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hiking Tips: Steps for Breaking in New Hiking Footwear

Some things just can’t be done quickly. Homemade spaghetti sauce is one of those things. Breaking in hiking boots is another.

Blundstone Footwear
Image via Wikipedia
So, buy your new hiking footwear well in advance of any hiking trips you anticipate. Then, take your time and break in your new footwear properly so you’ll have no trouble on the trail. Don’t fall for quick-fix gimmicks like soaking your boots and walking in them for long distances. You will likely ruin your feet as well as your boots.
Take your time and do it right.
Breaking in hiking footwear varies according to the different types. The lighter the footwear the less time and effort it takes to break them in. The opposite is true for heavier boots. It could take weeks to really break-in a heavy pair of all-leather boots.
It’s a good idea to buy the lightest hiking footwear that you can get away with. Unless you plan to hike on very rough terrain with a heavy backpack, you can get away with lighter hiking footwear. Some people advocate using trail running shoes and others swear by regular old basketball shoes. Consider the terrain in deciding what to buy.
For the purpose of learning the break-in procedures, we’ll focus on the heavier, all-leather, boots.
Step #1: Take to your outfitter the pair(s) of hiking socks that you plan to wear on the trail. Or ask your outfitter to help you purchase the proper sock combination. Many experts recommend wearing two pairs of socks while hiking, a lighter pair underneath and a heavier pair on top.
Step #2: Get a proper fit while wearing your hiking socks. Make sure the fit is comfortable and snug, but not too tight. During break-in, most boots will stretch out a bit.

Step #3: Wear your boots around the house with the socks you plan to wear with them. When putting on your boots, flatten out the tongues carefully and lace up the boots snugly.
Step #4: Work out the stiffness of your boots by trekking around inside your house. Check for hot spots, pain or pinching. If you encounter any of these, consider taking your boots back to your outfitter to try on a different type or size.
Step #5: Broaden out your break-in trekking by hiking to the Post Office or local store in your new boots. Increase gradually the distances that you go. Make sure at each stage that your boots feel comfortable. Remove your boots immediately if you feel discomfort.
Step #6: Continue your break-in procedure by adding some weight to your back as you march around on flat ground.
Step #7: Graduate to more and more challenging trails while gradually increasing your distances.
Step #8: Get the help of your outfitter or a local shoe repair shop to correct small pinches or hotspots with a stretching device.
Step #9: Enjoy your new boots and your hiking.
by Richard Davidian, Ph.D.
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