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How to Break in Work Boots – Do’s & Don’ts

how to break in work boots
Written by Willie F Brodson
Last Update: August 23, 2022

It’s a general rule of thumb that everything – from a house to a simple pair of shoes – needs some getting used to. Though it might not seem like it, but properly breaking in boots can be quite a catalyst for them to last even longer than anticipated. Though the technique may vary amongst individuals since ballerinas are also known to break in their shoes uniquely.

Work boots on the other hand are more likely to be known as safety boots or steel caped boots which are reinforced to provide extra protection for our feet. Usually, they are designed with an extra protective layer to resist compression or any accident that may befall your feet.

Everyone user is free to concoct their own unique approach to breaking in their work boots, or one can simply try out these basic hacks.

Ways to Break in Work Boots

your work boots

1. Walk around and wear them at home

Wearing a new pair of work boots to our work-place is straight away not a good idea. We need to lace them up, walk and wear them around our home at least for a week. Its common sense to at least put them through a trial run before you start wearing them to work. During this one week, prefer wearing them with thick socks so that the in soul of your boots will have a chance to expand.

2. Bend the toe to the tongue

Bending the toe of your boot so as to touch the boot’s tongue and then the other way around, is similar to stretching the leather to fit your foot. If you have bought a new pair, repeat this daily to break in your shoes faster. This toe to tongue method will make the soul flexible and allow the boots to adjust more easily with your unique soul arch.

3. Use a shoe stretcher

The shoe stretcher is an ingenious device to fix any problems specific to pinching of toes. All you need to do put your work boots over a shoe stretcher and extend it till it fits tightly into it. This process helps in loosening the fibers. An alternative approach would be using a broom or a mop end. Such long sticks will help you to precisely stretch precise parts of the boots which is pinching your foot.

4. Check your shoe size

Shoe sizes is the biggest factor to determine your selection. Failing to choose the appropriate size of boots for your feet can end up hurting you toes and heel, in the long term. A simple tip on choosing the true size is trying out your boots in the morning hours, or test them in the evening if you are looking for a slightly larger fit.

5. Thick sock layering

Use thicker socks when wearing your new boots as the extra layer helps to eventually expand the material. It also functions as a good aid to prevent sweat from coming in contact with your boots as it can be harmful to the leather.

6. Leather conditioning agent

A leather conditioner is a softening agent that assists your shoes to conform to the shape of your feet. These conditioning agents come in various forms such as oils, creams, and so on. Using a leather conditioning agent will keep the leather hydrated.

7. Use insoles

Seeking help from insoles to make your work boots flexible will provide you the extra support needed.  Using insoles will help in molding work boots.  They make your new work boots more comfortable and flexible. It acts as a moisturizer for your work boots so that it’s easier to break them in quickly.

8. Inset a shoehorn

A shoehorn is a piece of wood which if inserted into your boots can helps stretch the material as it the wood expands. It’s quite a simple device to afford some comfort for your feet. You can try doing this a couple of times before you actually start wearing your shoes.

Things to avoid when breaking in your work boots

1. Soaking in water

Soaking work shoes in water will risk destroying the fabric quality of your boots. It is best that you remain hesitant in doing so. Leather can’t stand too much of water or moisture as it has a breaking point after which the original shape is lost.

2. Freezing overnight

This is one mistake that most new shoe owners do. If you think you can expand the surface area of your boots by stuffing them with ice bags and putting them in a freezer overnight, then there is a chance that you end up damaging your boots. This method may only work for 100% waterproof work boots. Otherwise, it’s best to have food in your freezer instead of shoes.

3. Applying direct heat

The rumors such as baking your new shoes in an oven or applying direct heat to break in new work boots is straight out a bad idea. It is not wise to apply direct heat to work boots as it dries the leather out. Leather when compared most organic material is sensitive to heat manipulation.

4. Don’t kick off your shoes

Kicking your shoes off at the end of your shift is not a good idea as its going to loosen up the fitting. Over a period of time, this may damage the soul of your shoes. The best way to remove your shoes is to loosen the lace and remove them using your hands. This way you will extend the lifespan of your shoes.

5. Don’t force it

It is very important for you to have patience while breaking in your work boots. If you are in a hurry and if you force your new boots, then you may damage the leather. Give your shoes some time so that they adjust themselves and fit around naturally.

How Do You Know When Your Work Boots Are Broken In?

When you don’t feel your feet in any kind of pain or discomfort and when there’s no pinching or blisters, you know your work boots are broken in

Tips & Tricks

  • Buy your boots well in advance

Do not wait till your boots become completely unfit to wear. It is always a good idea to buy the new ones at least a couple of weeks in advance. Also, keep the shipping time in mind and place your order well in advance.

  • Use moleskin

This is a kind of fabric made out of cotton. Moleskin prevents the formation of blisters. Applying it against your feet will keep your shoes rubbing against your feet. If your feet is already showing clear signs of blistering, then we suggest not to put moleskin directly on your feet skin.

  • Thick socks

During the breaking-in period of your work boots, wear a pair of thick socks to avoid blisters. You can also try two pairs of socks if you see the need.

  • Shoe stuffing

This isn’t to break in your new boots. This will ensure the longevity of your costly boots and maintain their shape.


1. What should be my first step to buying a new pair of work boots?

Ans. The first step is to know the right size of the boots that suit your foot. Unlike normal footwear, work boots run differently in size with the same number. The number and size of the boots may be different with different manufacturers. We recommend you do thorough research on different brands and their sizes before deciding which one to go with.

2. Effects of what happens when you do not break in new work boots?

Ans. The new work boots are tight around your feet. With every single step, they start pinching more and more causing blisters. So, it is important that you break in new work boots.

3. Should work boots fit tight or loose?

Ans. They should neither be tight nor be too loose. There should always be a gap of an inch in front of them. Also, there should not be any pressure on the sides of your feet. At the same time, your heel should not move so freely while you walk that it rubs against the back of the boot.

About the author

Willie F Brodson

Certified by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals and a master of Science in Occupational Safety Management from Indiana State University, Willie F Brodson is an occupational safety expert who believes in the age-old saying – “It is better to be safe than sorry.”

Willie’s areas of expertise include legal guidelines for health and safety, coding and construction safety, fire prevention and theft, and environmental technology. Over a span of four decades, he has provided safety training and consultation and developed safety manuals for a number of state-owned and private organizations.

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