How to Break in Hunting Boots?

Exploring the exciting world of hunting requires a great pair of hunting boots that can withstand the challenges of the wilderness. 

If you’re wondering about the “How to Break in Hunting Boots?” process, you’re in the right place. 

Hunting boots are more than just footwear; they are your reliable companions during outdoor adventures, providing comfort, support, and protection during long hours in the field. 

Whether you’re a seasoned hunter looking for a refresher or a newcomer eager to explore the outdoors, let’s dive into the art of breaking into hunting boots and ensure your next adventure is comfortable.

Break in Hunting Boots THREE EASY STEPS

1. Around the House and Yard

First, if you’re a Western hunter, the first step is to ensure your boots have the necessary waterproofing. While your shoes may sport labels like Sympatex or GORE-TEX, considering the strain and distance you’ll cover, applying a waterproofing treatment is wise.

Begin by gently cleaning them with a soft-bristle brush, then, depending on the boot’s materials, condition them to withstand the impending weather conditions. Allow everything to air dry for a full day.

Now, let’s move on to the main focus of this section: breaking into your new hunting boots within the comfort of your home.

This serves as your warm-up phase, and though it may not seem as crucial, it’s the most pivotal step (pun intended) in breaking into hunting boots. The objective is to detect foot discomfort or issues that might arise while wearing the shoes indoors.

Wearing Within the Right Context

While your indoor setting differs from the wilderness, context remains vital. Don’t just slip on your boots with ankle socks and shuffle around with them partially laced. Instead, put on your hunting socks and lace your shoes up snugly. 

If you plan to use insoles in the future, insert them now. Pay attention to any pinching sensations or a loose fit.

Don’t Overlook Sitting

This is where many hunters make a mistake – remember to spend some time sitting with their boots on after walking. Most people put them on, roam around indoors briefly, take them off, and declare the boots ready for action. 

While western hunting often involves a lot of walking, during breaks or at day’s end, you’ll find yourself seated with your boots on.

Don't Overlook Sitting

After spending time on your feet, the blood vessels in your feet naturally expand to accommodate the activity. However, when you sit down, this is when your feet tend to swell. Ensure your boots can handle these fluctuations without causing discomfort. Walk around, but also take the time to sit as you would during an outdoor expedition.

Gradual Progression

Consider this your initial test drive. Securely lace up your boots and move about your house, perhaps assisting with neglected chores or lifting heavy boxes in the basement. Explore various surfaces – from the fancy bathroom tiles to the hallway’s hardwood and your driveway’s concrete. 

Observe how your boots respond to slippery or uneven terrain. Start with short distances and stable surfaces, gradually increasing the challenge as you go. Remember, this principle applies throughout the entire breaking-in process.

2. Hit the Road

We recommend hitting the road – yes, that’s right, it’s time to take your boots outside. After subjecting them to indoor wear as much as possible, the next phase transitions you to the great outdoors. While still relatively gentle, this stage brings you closer to the terrain you’ll encounter while hunting.

Starting with Short and Level Walks

This stage involves short walks on primarily flat terrain. If you live in a suburban area, it might begin with strolls around the neighborhood blocks. For those residing in rural settings, it could be a walk to the mailbox or nearby trails. 

As you progress, your walks can become longer, incorporating some inclines. However, don’t mistake this for embarking on a rigorous 9-mile hike just yet. 

The primary purpose at this stage is to ensure that increased steps and varied terrains aren’t causing any unnecessary friction – the kind that can be problematic when you’re out in the mountains.

Exploring Different Surfaces

Diversify your walking surfaces beyond your well-maintained yard. Take your boots on journeys through pea gravel, dirt paths, sandy areas, and more. Parks, playgrounds, and even high school tracks are excellent locations for this purpose. 

The goal is to expose your boots to surfaces that mimic the firmness and cushioning variations you’ll encounter in the wilderness.

Adding a Backpack

The final test during this phase involves donning your backpack. While tackling similar mild conditions, the added weight on your back offers insight into how your boots perform under pressure. 

Once again, take small steps in this part – begin on level terrain and introduce slight inclines and declines after you’ve logged a mile or so in your new boots.

3. Hit the Trails

By now, you’ve likely logged a few miles in your newly acquired boots. It’s time to expose them to terrains that closely mimic the real deal or as close as possible based on your location. Typically, this means hitting the local trails and progressively ramping up the challenge with each outing.

In a simplified approach, the following sequence is an effective way to break in your boots for your upcoming hunting trip:

  • Light 3-Mile Hike: Begin with a short hike, covering around 3 miles, while carrying a lightweight pack.
  • Medium 3-5 Mile Hike: Repeat the previous hike, this time with a heavier pack (loading it up with your gear or an equivalent weight if possible). Extend the hike by an additional mile or so.
  • Wet 3-Mile Hike: Although not every hunter’s favorite stage, it’s a crucial one. Before hitting the trails, intentionally get your boots wet. This will provide the best insight into how they will handle the actual conditions of your hunt, especially how your feet will fare afterward.
  • Packing Out Hike: As you rarely return from the mountains empty-handed, prepare by adding more weight to your pack and embark on a 3-5 mile trail.

The objective is to accumulate 12-16 miles on your new boots during this phase. Combined with the distances covered in the earlier stages, this mileage will get you closer to feeling confident wearing your new hunting boots in the backcountry. This leads us to the most common question about this process.

Don’t Rush It – Plan Ahead

Each boot and every individual are unique. Whether your shoes are made of leather, synthetic materials, or a hybrid combination, numerous factors come into play when determining the proper method for breaking them in. 

However, when you tally up the mileage covered in all three stages mentioned earlier, you should reach a milestone of around 20 miles.

This amount of wear and tear provides a reasonable basis for determining if your boots are adequately broken in. Ideally, allocate yourself three weeks to complete the entire process. This timeframe allows you to identify and address issues without overburdening your feet.

In fact, during the final stage, you could even incorporate them into your fitness training routine. This will help you assess whether they are in the proper condition. 

Feel free to conclude that your boots aren’t suitable by the end of this process. While it may not be ideal, your comfort and trust in your footwear in challenging environments are paramount.

If you need to improve your boots’ readiness, it’s wise to consider using last season’s pair. Give them a thorough cleaning and prepare them for your upcoming hunt. 


  1. How do I start breaking in my hunting boots?

Begin by applying waterproof treatment if necessary, and wear your boots indoors with hunting socks, lacing them up snugly. Pay attention to any discomfort.

  1. Why is sitting with my hunting boots on important during the breaking-in process?

Sitting with your boots on allows you to assess how they accommodate your feet when they naturally swell, ensuring comfort during extended wear.

  1. When should I start taking my hunting boots outside?

After indoor wear, start with short walks on flat terrain, gradually increasing the distance and terrain difficulty to expose your boots to different surfaces.

  1. What is the purpose of adding a backpack during the breaking-in process?

Adding a backpack to your walks simulates added weight and pressure, helping you assess how your boots perform under actual hunting conditions.

  1. How do I transition to more challenging terrains when breaking into hunting boots?

Progressively increase the difficulty by starting with a 3-mile hike, then a 3-5-mile hike with a heavier pack, a wet hike, and a hike with added weight to accumulate around 12-16 miles.

  1. How long should it take to break in hunting boots properly?

Allocate around three weeks and cover approximately 20 miles during the breaking-in process to ensure your boots are adequately prepared for hunting in challenging environments.

Final Words 

Breaking in hunting boots is essential for comfort and performance. Begin indoors, wear them gradually outdoors on different terrains, and aim for about 20 miles of use over three weeks. Prioritize comfort and safety; your boots will become trusted companions for hunting adventures. 

Take your time with the process and allocate about three weeks to complete it, ensuring your boots are adequately broken in without overburdening your feet. 

If you have doubts about your boots’ readiness, consider using a trusted pair from the previous season and always prioritize your comfort and safety in challenging outdoor environments.

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