How Should I Break In My Work Boots?

Buying a well-made pair of work boots can be a serious investment. After spending time researching and finding the best fit for you, taking good care of your boots is essential to protect yourself and your investment.

There are a few common approaches to breaking in work boots, but also some controversial methods that may actually do more harm than good. Which ways are safest? Which are risky? Because ShoeBuy love boots and wants the best for our customers, we're joining the debate to help set the record straight.


moisturizeMoisturizing using a cream, oil, or liquid may be the safest, most effective way to break-in your work boots. When leather is moistened, it bends and is more malleable. Rather than totally saturating the upper, a conditioner will encourage the leather to gradually shape to your foot. Be sure to purchase new pairs in advance of when you'll actually need to use them. For best results, apply the conditioner, let them air-dry, and wear your boots around the house a bit before taking them to work – your job's hard enough, so this'll make your first few shifts more comfortable.

Risky Shortcut

direct heatWhile some people suggest applying direct heat by using a hairdryer or even an oven (please don't!) to speed along the break-in process, simply air-drying is your best bet. Aside from the obvious blunders that could take place, intense heat dries out and even risks cracking and ruining new leather – that's no fun!

Chilling Results?

cold waterThe cold-water treatment aims to stretch the leather. This risky method calls for filling plastic bags with cold water and inserting them into your boots. If you're brave enough to try this despite our advice, make sure the water bags are positioned where the boots pinch, then stick the boots in a freezer overnight. As the water turns to ice and expands, it stretches the boots. In the morning, remove your boots from the freezer and allow the ice to melt completely before removing. However, freezing temperatures can be detrimental to leather, so proceed with caution if attempting this method. Of course, if your boots aren't waterproof, this is even riskier.

Don't Get Burned

hot waterHot-water treatment, the military's advanced maneuver of choice, involves immersing new, waterproof boots into a bucket of warm water and allowing them to sit for about 30 minutes (or longer if the boots are made of finished leather). Our advice? Unless you're military-trained, avoid this method. But, if you insist: Once saturated, empty any excess water from the boots and then put them on (with socks, naturally!) for another 30 minutes to an hour. Just be careful, as leather can only handle a certain amount of moisture – if that level is exceeded, it may begin to warp, potentially making your new purchase un-wearable!

Key Takeaways

key takeaways

We think the easiest and best way will always really be whatever's safest. So, simply moisturize your work boots with a leather conditioner, let them air-dry, and start breaking them in at home before wearing them on the clock. But the right boot care really depends on the material type and construction – please always be sure to read the manufacturer's warranty and care instructions before treating your boots.