Breaking In Hiking Boots

/ September 21st, 2012/ Posted in Fitness / Comments Off on Breaking In Hiking Boots

Well, let’s see. We have our new Jack Wolfskin pack, a new Moonstone sleeping bag, a brand-new just-outta-the-box GPS unit, more Gore-Tex clothes than most people know what to do with, our trekking poles, and a new pair of hi-top, lace-to-just-below-the-midpoint-of your-shin, leather, Gore-Texed, Thinsulated hiking boots. WE ARE READY…

Or not. Twenty minutes into your hike, your heels feel like they’re riding against banana peels, forming rather disconcertingly large blisters and your toes are cramped tightly enough to allow for good rock climbing. The arch of your foot, most likely the foot you tend to favor, has become a source of severe discomfort. What the heck is going on? One hour later, you sit down, remove your $250+ boots and put on your sandals. Who cares about the snow on the ground when your feet HURT?

What just occurred is the common outcome of not breaking in your boots properly. Over the years, from Boy Scouts to now, I have heard many, many variations on the boot-breaking theme. Soak them in water, soak them in water with sticks stretching them sideways inside the boot, wear them while riding a bull (yes, I am from Texas), use saddle soap frequently as this will make the leather more “supple,” etc., etc. But I have shocking news for you. Veteran outdoors people already know this truth, but if the above story applies to you, hang onto something. This will amaze you … WEAR YOUR BOOTS A LOT.

Yes, that’s right. As frequently as possible, preferably before your big trek, or the above fictitious story may have you nodding in recognition and agreement. I’m not advertising for them, but my wife purchased me a new pair of Irish Setter hiking boots for Christmas ’99. I love these boots, now. They are soft, supple, supportive, Gore-Texed and Thinsulated ’til death do us part, amen. I DESPISED these boots new. They were hard, tall, difficult to lace, gave me blisters, and when I wore them, I felt like I was walking in moon boots. After a year of wearing them to every West Texas travel destination imaginable, and some I’ve made up; wearing them in knee-deep mud in a cotton field; and sitting on the couch rubbing saddle soap on them at an infrequent basis to maintain the “dark look” while watching TV; these are the boots I will die in. But the key is to WEAR them. I knew a fellow in Florida who bought a new pair of hiking boots to join me on a little trek up to Georgia. My boots then were pretty well broken, literally. His, so new they squeaked. Needless to say, after two hours of hiking and climbing, he sat down, removed his brand new boots, stuffed them deep in his sack, and produced a pair of well-worn cowboy-esque boots. I stared. He put them on. I started hiking to our pre-determined campsite, but he beat me there. Such is the power of comfortable footwear.

There are precautions to take while hiking to prevent blisters, hurt arches, pinched toes, etc. The most common of these is what we have already discussed. But a few small items can ease the pain if you have no other option. A small moleskin on your heel will come in handy for blisters. Arch support/odor-eaters will also be a nice thing to have, not to mention it will demonstrate your generosity toward your fellow hikers when you take your boots off.

These things can help ease the pain, but it is always better to practice preventive rather than corrective maintenance, especially on the trail.

Take care and I’ll see you out there.…

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