Most footwear needs to be broken in, and running shoes are no exception. There are a couple of different reasons why shoes don’t just fit comfortably straight away, but it mostly comes down to the fact that everyone’s feet are shaped differently and pressure is applied unevenly, so the shoe will need time to adjust.
ANSWER: On average, most runners spend between 2-3 weeks breaking in a shoe before it is fully comfortable. Some models might take longer or shorter, and the length of the process can change based on how often the shoe is used.
Here are some tips on how to break shoes in, as well as a more in-depth explanation of why it’s important to make sure the shoes are comfortable.
How to Break in Running Shoes
The simplest answer to the question “How to break in running shoes?” is also the most obvious: they need to be worn.
However, this shouldn’t be done continuously and should instead be a gradual process over a period of several weeks.
The general consensus among athletes is that the shoes should be work for increasingly long periods of time and introduced to more rough terrain and runs after the user has time to get used to the new material and shape.
Some of the tips below explain how this process can be simplified and carried out with as little pain to the runner as possible.
Why Running Shoes Need to Be Broken In
There are a few different reasons why running shoes should be broken in. First, the material that makes up the shoe will most likely be stiff and inflexible. When the material hasn’t softened or doesn’t have a lot of give, it’s easy for friction to develop and the runner to get blisters on their feet.
Blisters as raised pockets of skin filled with fluid that often develop from ill-fitting shoes. Even if a runner buys the exact same make and model of footwear as they always use, these new shoes will not have the same give or contours of the used set.
- 6-count pack of Band-Aid Brand durable adhesive bandages for heel blisters with 6 benefits in 1 bandage. Provides an optimal healing environment and all-purpose wound care protection in semi-translucent bandage material that blends with your skin
- The hydrocolloid bandage is designed for long term wear and shows you that the healing process has started. This bandage helps prevent formation of scabs which prolongs healing
- Multi-purpose bandage is suitable for many wound types and can be used anywhere on the heel of the foot that stays on even through showers
- This waterproof bandage provides the optimal wound healing environment, and is designed to provide cushioning against painful blisters or wounds and shields from further rubbing
- Advanced first-aid bandage prevents wound from drying out and locks body's natural healing power in with its dual action seal, sealing out dirt, germs, and water
That old pair of shoes had time to adjust to the intricacies of an individual’s foot and running pattern, and the material would gradually wear down. Spending too much time in shoes that don’t have these developments can result in the uncomfortable bubbles that are blisters.
Blisters might not seem like a big deal, but they can become extremely painful and even become infected when popped. This is because they can fill with bacteria and leave sensitive material exposed.
They also interrupt the flow of a runner’s exercise regimen since they make shoes fit awkwardly, leave socks disgusting, and again cause pain
Besides blisters, there’s also the inconvenience of general chafing and bleeding. When shoes rub against a foot the wrong way, they can peel away layers of skin and leave raw, sore spots prone to bleeding.
In case you are curious, I go with the Balega running socks as a top choice to help prevent blisters
- No-show cushioned running sock provides comfort and performance during extended training and activity
- Proprietary Drynamix wicks moisture away from skin, and specially constructed, reinforced microfiber mesh ventilation panels keep feet dry
- Hand-linked seamless toe box minimizes friction, preventing chafing on top of the foot; reinforced heel and toe for durability
- High heel tab and extra deep heel pocket prevent socks from slipping down; enhanced Elastane provides additional no-slip security
- High-volume impact resistant cushioning and plush 200 needle-count fabric offer race-tested foot protection
These can be a major nuisance and painful. Shoes which are not broken in can also lead to the faster development of calluses and muscle pain throughout the legs, hip, and back.
The muscle aches are caused by the new stance runner’s need to develop when trying on a new pair of shoes. Even if the footwear are the exact same make and model as before, the lack of breaking in means the foot is forced into new angles that runners aren’t used to.
All of these problems can be avoided or solves by gradually breaking in running shoes, a process that shouldn’t take more than a month and can typically be completed in a few weeks. This video provides a 1 minute overview on how shoes can be broken in.
Do Different Materials Take Longer to Break In?
In general, the softer or more flexible a material is, the less time it requires to break in.
For runners, this means that shoes designed to be lightweight and made from simple cloths should be easier to get ready for regular use than footwear made from lots of polyester or other synthetic materials.
Thankfully, most runners don’t wear leather shoes, which can take months to make comfortable.
I have experience with Asics and Brooks running shoes and they have been fairly easy for me to break in. If I had to choose, Brooks is my favorite!
Tip #1: Walk in the Shoes before Running
Even race organizers like the Castle Triathlon Series recommends walking around in new shoes before running so an individual has a better understanding about how the footwear fits and potential limitations.
These experienced runners recommend wearing new shoes around the house or out and about for a few days so the feet have time to adjust, the sole can loosen, and the wearer can determine if there are any seams which might be uncomfortable.
For the best results, individuals should wear the shoes in a variety of environments and keep them on for at least an hour during a walking session.
Some great ways to complete this step of the breaking in process is to wear the shoes to the grocery store, on a short outdoor walk, or even on a beginner’s trail.
Most professional resources recommend that the shoes not be worn for more than half an hour for the first few days, so runners should build up to that hour long session.
Tip #2: Alternate between Wearing New Shoes and Old
This is a simple tip for runners but one that can save them a lot of pain. One of the best ways to break in new running shoes without disrupting an exercise schedule is to alternate between wearing new and old shoes while on the same run.
This means that the new ones can be worn for about half an hour or so (usually at the start of a run) and then swapped out for an older, more comfortable pair.
Tip #3: Consider Using Duct Tape or Talcum Powder
Like many of the other steps or tips to break in shoes, the use of duct tape or talcum powder primarily functions as a way to prevent blisters and maintain comfort while the footwear is stiff.
Talcum powder is also known as baby powder and can be found at stores throughout the country. Samuel Merritt University, among other sources, recommend covering the feet with the powder to decrease friction and moisture when trying out new shoes.
The duct tape and powder should be applied to key points on the foot where skin will repeatedly rub against the inside of the shoe. Some of the most common places are around the balls of the feet, the heel and ankle, or even the center of the foot.
Using duct tape or talcum powder while breaking in shoes can make the process more comfortable, and duct tape has the added benefit of stretching out parts of the shoe where friction will be common.
Remember, slow and steady wins the race when it comes to breaking in new running shoes. Although people want to use them as quickly as possible, then can just lead to pain, suffering, and even injury for the runner who wants to go to fast.Take things slow, consider using some additives on the feet, and never wear a new pair of shoes to a race.
Last update on 2021-01-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API