How To Break In Work Boots The Right Way

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  March 20, 2022
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Wearing a properly broken-in pair of boots has to be one of the most satisfying feelings that there is and getting there is no easy task. But it’s just like losing weight or getting in shape.

The best path is just consistency and patience. Now, before we jump into different methods on how you can break in your boots, it’s important to know the mechanics of this whole thing.

In this article, I’m going to show you how to break in work boots the right way to the point where your boots will feel like slippers. Before I get into the methods on how you can break in your boots, it is important to know the basics first.


Understanding the Boot Mechanism

When you get a boot right, you expect them to fit the bell curve of your foot. For example, you buy a 9.5 size pair of boots. They are supposed to fit most people with that size foot.

Manufacturers don’t take it into consideration all of the unique issues that people have with their feet like high arches and wide feet. If they did, they’d have a massive inventory.

This is why it is important to understand the basic mechanism of a boot first.

  1. When you buy your boots, they come completely flat. You won’t see any creases or bending. They are stiff leather and meant to be broken in.
  2. In terms of stiffnesses and thicknesses, the break-in procedure will vary from company to company.
  3. The general work boots that are out there will have a similar leather, so the procedure will also be the same for most of them.
  4. What you really need to do is break in two areas where your foot pivots, and that is right here by the toe and up by the heel. These are the places where your foot naturally bends.
  5. The first step that you take in those boots is going to be the stiffest one of all. From then on, they’re going to loosen up and what’s going to happen is the top of your boot is going to crease in different ways.
  6. Depending on the leather you’re going to see, it will be a little bit more noticeable.

Comfort Is The Key

What we are really talking about here is comfort. You are going to get creasing at the point where your toe bends, which is perfectly normal for a work boot. When you step forward and then step back, you are going to have creasing that goes along the top section.

On any used work boot, you can see those creasing clearly. So, the two areas that we are really going to want to keep an eye on as we go on breaking in our boots. Now, let us start from the beginning.

If you are reading this, I assume that you probably bought a pair of boots you’re having a hard time breaking them in. And you’re looking for tips. Well, we are going to get to that.

But really, the best part and the essential part of breaking in boots and getting them feeling very comfortable is in the fit process. Let’s talk more about that.

Proper Fitting

To begin with, the boots have to fit properly because you’re never going to be able to break out or break in an ill-fitting pair of boots if your toes are jammed up against the front.

You are going to be uncomfortable forever. If you have got a wide foot and if they are just not wide enough, you won’t ever be able to stretch out the footbed so easily. So really, it comes down to the fit in the beginning when you get the boots.

I know a lot of people like to shop online these days, but it does pay to go to the store and try them on. Unfortunately, in some places, you just can’t do that.

Measuring Your Foot

For example, you want to buy some Thursday boots. You could go to the New York City store and try them on. But what if you don’t live close to a store that sells the boots that you want.

Well, in that case, the best you can do is get measured. Make sure you know your proper size and whether you need a wide boot or not. Also, be mindful that your left foot is probably a little bit different than your right foot.

So, always go with the bigger of the two but ask the guy to measure both feet. You know, just go there, and get measured. A lot of places have no problem doing it. Knowing your size is essential if you’re going to order boots online.

Going Custom

It might cost you more but if possible, go custom. I know they’re more expensive, but really, there is no better fit than a custom fit boot. So far, congratulations! You bought your boots, you have them in the right size, and you’re looking at them in your house. Now what?

Breaking In A Brand-New Pair Of Work Boots

Here are just a couple of the methods that work for me the best.

1. Wearing Socks

If I were you, I would put on the thickest socks that I can wear comfortably inside of my boots. So, if you have some thick wool socks and could still fit your foot in there without, you know, losing circulation, go ahead and do that.

The idea, in the beginning, is to stretch the leather. The best way to do that is sort of exaggerating the size of your foot by using a sock that’s a little bit thicker.


2. Wear Them

Now, what you’re going to want to do is wear them around your house for a few hours. I know it seems like a long time but imagine when you’re actually out for the day, you don’t want to be caught by surprise like when your heel is slipping, or you get a blister.

Wear them around your house. Just do some household stuff. Don’t get them dirty, though. I want you to walk around and feel how they mold with your feet. This is the time when you can sort of guess if you have gotten the wrong size. At that point, stop using them. Get a pair that fits your foot.


3. Keep Your Old Boots

When you feel like you could begin wearing them outside, do yourself a favor and bring your old pair with you when you venture out with your new boots. Throw your old boots in the back of the car with an extra set of socks.

With new boots, wearing them in the house won’t give you the real-world experience that you need to properly break them in. Things get rough when you actually go outside with your new pair of work boots.

If you get uncomfortable, you can easily swap out and wear your old boots and continue working.


4. Fixing High-arch Problem

There are times when the top of the arch will be pushing against the top of the boot. What I do to alleviate the pressure there is just skip the eyelets. It may look a little funny but trust me, it works.

Run the laces and then go over the point, which is really pushing into the boot because you don’t want those laces pressing down. You’re only supposed to be breaking in the leather, not the laces.

As a matter of fact, new laces feel great. So, just skip those eyelets and work around it.


5. Breaking In Narrow Boots

There are times when you may feel a little bit of pressure right behind your big toe on the outside or right behind your pinky toe. Most of the time, this means that you bought a boot that’s a little bit too narrow.

Now, this isn’t going to be a huge issue as long as your foot isn’t overhanging the actual footbed because the last thing you want is a welt underneath the ball of your foot. It’s not going to feel good at all.

You can use a product that I’ve had a little bit of success with. It is a leather softener that works like a charm. It is basically a conditioner that will help soften that leather in that area. You can also apply that to wherever the stress is, and over time, it will help.


Final Words

You may have a pair of work boot of a famous brand like the best timberland pro boots still you will struggle to break in the boot at the initial stage. The key point here is to give your boots enough time. Switching back and forth, and little by little, you are going to start feeling comfortable. It is going to take some time, so make it as easy as possible.

The idea of buying some boots, wearing them around your house, and then going out living happily ever after; just doesn’t seem to happen. Most of the time, you’re going to have an issue. The solution is patience. And that concludes our article on how to break in work boots the right way.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.