It is so funny that I am writing an article on how to break in tactical boots!
Funny because I used to pay $20 to anyone (must wear similar or higher sized boots) who would wear my new boots for the first five days. They would often come back sufficiently broken in!
Well, anyone was mostly my neighbor’s son, but you get the idea. He loved trying on new boots, albeit with an incentive.
However, most people (to my knowledge) don’t fancy handing out their boots to someone else: much else, new boots.
How should they break in tactical boots? Let’s see!
Breaking in Tactical Boots – The Process
A quick online search would reveal various ‘trusted’ methods of breaking in boots.
I wouldn’t or couldn’t put my boots in water—especially $200 or more boots. Waterproof or not. My skin crawls just thinking about it.
It is best to keep it safe for the boot’s sake… and mine. Mostly the boots since I want them to last a long time.
Enough said. Below is my complete and ‘trusted’ procedure for breaking in tactical boots when I am not handing them out to my neighbors:
It is worth noting that timing is crucial in breaking in boots, particularly if you hate dealing with blisters and soreness in your feet. What do I mean by this?
It would be best to buy boots earlier than you have or want to use them. Never buy new tactical boots a day or two before a planned day of hiking, rucking, or hunting.
Give yourself time to ease into your boots before wearing them for 12 hours straight. A well-planned and executed breaking-in period will save you lots of pain. Literally!
Good Fit Boots
We should not have to mention that a well-fitting boot makes for a better experience overall. Nonetheless, for the sake of emphasis, we will.
Boots should fit you well. Not too tight or loose; the right fit. A good-fitting boot feels snug all-round with a little wiggle room for your toes.
Yes, toes must have wiggle room. I know since losing a toenail or two. Not literally, but a black toenail is not something you want to see.
It would be best if you had something to soften up your boots. Something that will do the job and not harm the boot while at it.
A good leather conditioner will work great. There are lots of conditioners to choose. My recommendation is mink oil.
Mink oil is an excellent conditioner for leather. Typically, we use mink oil to rehydrate worn-out boots. It softens, moisturizes, and protects leather.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like the right combination of conditioner to use on boots when breaking them in.
As you apply mink oil to your boots, ensure the heater is on. Any other source of heat will also do. The heat helps with the absorption of mink oil in leather.
Mink oil takes around 10 minutes to sip into the leather. It takes more time in older and dryer boots.
There are other conditioners one can use on their boots. Whichever way you go, don’t use alcohol and water spray.
The spray may soften up your boots. However, alcohol will strip out oil from your leather. Yeah, not great. Keep away where possible.
Stretch and Flex
After conditioning the leather, stretch the boot in various areas. Stretch the outsole, upper, toebox, etc.
Ensure that the boot softens and flexes where possible. It should not feel snug and rigid against your feet when you decide to put them on!
Before trying them out
Your boot is now soft enough for you to put on. Nevertheless, there are two things you need to do or have before you put them on.
Don’t worry. I promise you won’t hate me after this! These are two tiny but vital details. Here you go:
Do you remember the stuff about losing toenails? Well, what about a black toenail?
Yes, it’s very real. So real that it’s my recommendation to clip your toenails before testing and breaking in your new boots, especially if you’re going to be standing for a long time.
Although our boots are all soft and dandy, we still have to play it safe.
Put on a good and thick pair of socks. You can never be wrong about this. I mean, you can have on two pairs of socks if you don’t mind.
Thick socks add much-needed comfort and cushion inside the boot. Furthermore, they are an added layer against blisters or worse injuries.
Breaking in the Boots
Once you have all the above covered, you are ready to rock your new boots. I recommend easing your way into the boots. Slow always works best.
Wear your boots for a short time. Walk around your compound or neighborhood. Short walks on the boot would stretch and slowly get them comfortable around your feet.
Breaking in new boots can take a few days or weeks(depending on who you ask). It should not take you long since you did all the prep work.
The time it takes to break in boots is why I regard planning important. Please, don’t put in a long shift on new boots. You’ll hate it.
Here is a quick summary of how to break in tactical boots:
- Time the process adequately. Set enough time to break in the boots before you use them for an extended period.
- Buy fitting boots. They shouldn’t be too snug or loose—just the right fit.
- Use a good leather conditioner to soften and protect the boot leather.
- Stretch the boots gently enough to soften them. Make sure they can flex in all the right places.
- Get a pair of thick socks and clip your toenails while at it (where necessary).
- Ease your way into the boots. Wear the boots on short walks to fully break them in.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Are tactical boots supposed to be tight?
A. No. Tactical boots should feel snug around a foot and leave an inch(or two) of space for the toes.
Q. What is the fastest way to break in new boots?
A. Refer to the process. That is the fastest way to break in new boots safely.
Q. Do combat boots need to be broken in?
A. Yes. Thoroughly.
Q. How long does it take to break in new military boots?
A. A week or less. Modern boots are easier to break in. A few miles on the boot should do the trick.
Q. Do boots get looser?
A. Yes, they do. It won’t be enough to correct wrong sizing, but boots definitely stretch over time.
Jesse is the main author of Tactical Angle. He’s also an avid survivalist, backpacker, and fishkeeper. He spends time setting up/maintaining my fish tanks, hiking, hunting, and climbing mountains.