tips for breaking in shoes

The great and terrible thing about owning a dog is all the walking.

No matter what the weather, Teddy the Westie is ready for action.

We’re lucky to live on the coast, and there are miles of beach and sand dunes to explore. But walking on soft, uneven ground is hard going on your feet. I started to worry this year that my ankles and feet weren’t getting the support they should on our daily walks. Not to mention the fact that a wet morning soon meant I’d be walking with soggy feet.

I needed proper shoes.

brasher boots

Millets offered to send me a pair of Brasher walking shoes to try out. The pair I received were women’s Brasher Country Master Walking Boots. With an RRP of £150, this is more than I’d usually spend on walking boots, but Brasher has an excellent reputation, and the shoes are currently available at £130 on the Millets site.

The Brasher boots themselves look great and are brilliantly sturdy. The higher profile means your feet will stay dry when splashing through water, and the leather means the boots are really weatherproof, and will keep you feet warm and dry.

But – oh my gosh – they were uncomfortable.

The tough leather felt really inflexible and I found the outside of my feet would be sore for hours after taking the boots off. Honestly, these are shoes that take a HUGE amount of breaking in.

brasher boots

Breaking in new walking shoes is the WORST form of torture I think we voluntarily inflict on ourselves, isn’t it?

After a month or so, the shoes softened enough not to be painful – although I’m still not convinced they’re more comfortable than the Merrell walking shoes that I also bought at Millets.

If you’re also suffering through new winter boot syndrome, today I’m sharing my top five, hard-earned tips for wearing in new shoes.

Allow Enough Time

What I learned this summer is that you need to give time to break in boots. The Brasher boots are leather, and pretty thick leather at that.

So wearing them every day for 30 minutes or so, I’d say it was a month before they stopped hurting my feet. Build up gradually, too. So I’d start by wearing them inside the house for 30 minutes, then a short walk, then a longer walk.

Wear the Right Socks

What I’ve found is there’s little point wearing great boots over your average pair of trainer liner socks. You need socks with a decent thickness and ideally also some heel padding for the best performance. And it gives you a realistic impression of what the boots will feel like on an actual walk.

Get ‘Em Wet

On one of my first outdoor walks with new boots, I make a point of walking through the shallow sea water. Get your shoes good and wet (stand in the bath if you need to!) and let them dry out thoroughly. I think the salt water helps to soften the leather and speed the process of the shoes moulding to your foot shape.

Stuff with Towels

When you’re not wearing your new boots, stuff a rolled-up hand towel inside them – it helps them to keep the shape you’re painstakingly creating when you’re wearing them.

Know When to Quit

If you’ve worn boots in for more than a few weeks and they’re still painful – they’re not the boots for you. Each boot maker has a slightly different idea of what a ‘normal’ foot looks like, so different brands will suit different feet. Got high arches? A wider foot? Go try on lots of different brands.

Some outdoor shops will let you take the shoes home and try them indoors for a day or so, before making up your mind. It’s worth taking time to get a good fit, and switching if you need to.