How to break in your rucking boots

A lot of times, ruckers are concerned about what ruck they should use. Rightfully so. But at the same time, your ruck is not the most important part of your rucking gear. Really, it’s your boots and you need to ensure you break in your boots.

You’re putting in mileage through your feet. Taking care of your feet and by extension, your boots is important.

Making sure you break in your boots will help you when it comes to your recovery and your overall comfort while you’re rucking.

There are multiple ways to break in your boots, depending on what your boots are made of.  In this article, we’re going to look at why you should break in your boots and the various methods to break them in.

Why should you break in your boots

While modern boots don’t require as much breaking in as years before, going through the process definitely helps.  Breaking in your boots is an overall smart decision. 

It’s going to save you a lot of pain down the road (literally and figuratively) and helps extend the life of your boots.  Considering how much you may spend on them, that’s an added bonus.

Breaking in your boots refers to shaping your boots to your feet.  Manufacturers are making their boots according to generic sizing charts.  They don’t know that your feet may be a little wider than most, or that your toes are longer than others.

This can make walking in the boots painful.  That pain is going to affect your pace.  It’s also going to affect how you move and that can affect your knees.  It can also affect your back and give you back pain after you ruck.

When you consider you’re going to be trekking for miles and miles in the boots, comfortability is important.

But that comfortability extends beyond the ruck itself.  

Reduce Blisters and Hot Spots

When your boots are uncomfortable, it’s because with each step, they’re rubbing against parts of your feet that they shouldn’t.

When your boots are broken in, you have molded them to your feet.  This will reduce the number and severity of blisters you will get as you ruck. 

Blisters can take between 4-6 days to heal properly.  Picking up a blister will interfere with not only your training schedule but also your regular life, as walking generally can and will be painful.

Additionally, it will reduce the number of hot spots.  Hot spots are burning spots that will appear on your feet due to repeated rubbing on that area. 

The spots will be sore and red and quite painful.  They get their name as the initially, it feels as though someone brought a match close to that area of your foot.  No matter what you do, you can’t get the pain to go away.  

That’s the kind of pain that will affect your posture as you ruck.  Posture has great importance when it comes to avoiding injury while training.

Doesn’t sound like something we should try to experience, especially if it’s avoidable.

Best ways to break in boots

Wet Method

New boots can take somewhere between 80-100 hours to break in if you just put them on and start walking.  That’s a lot of time and you’re going to be going through it while you break them in. 

Luckily, there is a faster and less painful way, especially if you’re pressed for time.

Breaking in your boots using the wet method is the fastest guaranteed method to breaking in your boots.  This method won’t work if the boots’ uppers is not made of leather. 

Be sure to check the materials used in making your boot which should be on the box or on the back of the boot’s tongue.

The Wet Method is as follows:

  1. Place your boots in a bathtub or washtub.  The washtub is the better option to save water and time.
  2. Fill the bathtub or washtub with water until the boots are totally soaked. 
  3. Pour the water out of the boots.
  4. Put on two pairs of socks and then put on the wet boots.  The two pairs will ensure that you still have room in the boots and that they’re not too tight on your feet.
  5. Wear your boots for the rest of the day.
  6. Take out the insoles to let them dry separately from the boots.

This process is easier with boots designed for summer usage, as they generally have vents to help with sweating and moisture release.

The Wet Method is also a process that may need to be repeated more than once.  It is, however, faster than the various dry methods.  

While walking around in the boots while wet will be initially uncomfortable, it’ll save you a lot of time in the long run.

You should try to take the boots off every couple of hours to let your feet completely dry.  You may also want to change out the outer sock layer for a fresh sock.

All leather boots will shrink as they dry, helping to form the fit around your foot.  This is what is meant by molding, as the leather shapes itself around your foot.

Dry Methods

If you have more time, consider using one of the dry methods below.  While not as fast as the wet method, these dry methods can allow you to have greater control over how your boot shapes itself.

Walking around

This sounds basic enough, because it is.  As stated above, new boots generally take between 80-100 hours to be fully broken in if you’re not using the wet method and you’re putting them on straight out of the box.

But that can be painful.  So we want to start slowly.  Slowly increase the amount of time you’re wearing the boots, starting from 1 hour.  

See how that feels and go from there.  Some ruckers will get their next pair of boots as the current pair is starting to get worn down.  This gives them time to properly break in the next pair.

When you do wear the boots, making sure to wear an extra layer of socks.  Make sure that they’re nylons or some other thin material.  They’ll help you avoid blisters and hot spots as you form the boots.

Boot Conditioner

Another way to break in your boots is to use a boot conditioner.  This may seem like a weird option, and this may be the first time you’re hearing that boot conditioners exist, but they do.

A boot conditioner is exactly what it sounds like.

The conditioner will make the leather softer, allowing you to break in your boots faster.

Whether you use the boot conditioner on the boots or not, conditioner is generally a great thing to have handy and use over time.  It’ll help extend the life of your boots.

Boot Trees and Stretchers

Boot trees and stretchers are also tools you can use to speed up the breaking in process.  While they’re tools more used with regular boots, they can still provide use here.

A boot tree mimics your feet, acting as if they were in your boots.  You place the boot tree into the boots and let the boot trees handle the work.  

They have other benefits as well beyond just helping to shape and mold the boots.  When you ruck in different weather environments, the weather will affect the boots.  Boot trees help you make sure the boots retain the shape you want them to.  

Boot stretchers follow a similar idea.  Just like boot conditioners, the name kind of explains it all.  These are a little more active in their use but accomplish the same result.  

Consider them as alternatives to the wet method or walking around with the boots on.  Combined with a boot conditioner, they can be incredibly useful.


Breaking in boots is an important part of being prepared to ruck.   As stated above, there are a lot of things that are affected by the conditioning of your boots.   

Your feet experience a lot of wear and tear as you walk and you want to make sure they’re well taken care of.

Blisters are not something you want to have to deal with during your recovery.

Making sure your boots are properly broken in will go a long way in keeping those types of injuries at bay.

Remember, if you take care of your boots, they will take care of you.  

Happy trails.