How can I hasten the process of breaking in my new boots?

There’s something awesome about a new pair of boots - shiny, perfect, spiffy, and beautiful. Also, stiff, blister forming, and pinchy.  Here’s what you need to know about breaking in your new boots - and a few ways to speed the process up!


  • For any style of boot, the best idea is to purchase the pair that best fits you.  Custom boots, while awesome and exact, are usually more expensive.  Starting with a good fitting pair will ease your break in period.  Try them on using the same socks that you typically wear to the barn.


  • Paddock boots are usually the easiest to break in.  The leather is typically softer than a riding boot, and because they only cover your ankle they are much easier to walk in.  When I have a new pair, I will wear them a few hours at a time at the barn, and if I feel a blister coming on, I’ll switch to my older pair.  


  • Field boots are stiffer than paddock boots, and require some time and wear in order to “sink” down and soften around the ankle.  The top of the boot will drop, too, and become personalized as your knee works the leather at the top.  Expect that the average field boot will drop 1-2 inches.  This makes your knees prime targets for blisters until those boots have dropped at the ankles!  



You can also take your boots to a cobbler for zippers, gussets, and other creature comforts.


  • Dressage boots are typically the stiffest boots around, some liken them to concrete.  They are designed to not drop, although there will be some breaking in that is required at the ankle.  For the most part, dressage boots are best broken in by riding, as you usually want them to remain as stiff as possible.  


So what works for breaking in boots? 


  • Wear them around the house (paddock and field boots) or ride in them (dressage boots.)   You want dressage boots to remain as stiff as possible, so walking around in them isn’t the best idea.  


  • You can leave the boots out in the rain or dunk them in a tub of water.  This will soak them and make the leather pliable and moldable.  Then you must wear them as the leather dries so they form a perfect mold to your foot.  I’m too chicken to try this with field boots and definitely not dressage boots!  But, a rainy day is perfect for wearing new paddock boots.  




  • You can also wear wet socks to walk around and ride in your boots with.  This softens the leather from the inside and makes it more pliable and moldable.  But maybe a little weird feeling.


  • Spraying the inside of your boots with water accomplishes the same thing, but you may need to do this longer than if you decide to try wearing wet socks. 


  • Your local cobbler can also help you stretch or adjust your boots. If you are having zippers added to a pair of tall boots, this is the ideal time to have your cobbler work on the fit for you.  Zippers often alter the fit, so be sure your cobbler measures you before he begins work.  



"Borrow" a tack cleaning sponge (preferably new and not goopy...) for those blister prone areas. 


  • To protect you skin from the blister possibilities, have some band aids applied where the boots rub you.  Ankle bones and the tendons behind your knees are popular locations.  You can also use some vet wrap, or a cut up polo wrap.  Chop about 8-10 inches from the hook and loop end of a polo wrap for a quick and easy cushion for your knees.  


What works for you when breaking in new boots?