How to Break In Running Shoes [Expert Guide]

How to Break In Running Shoes [Expert Guide]

It's rare when a couple of short walks around the block is enough for a runner to break in a new pair of running shoes for their typical running routine. It's much more often that runners need a certain break in period, generally lasting 2-3 weeks, to make their shoes comfortable to wear. Otherwise, runners risk getting blisters, foot pain, and other discomforts that can hinder their performance. In this guide, we'll share practical tips to break in running shoes to ensure your feet stay happy on every run.

Wrong Size or Simply Need Breaking In?

Running resources often highlight the importance of getting the right fit in running shoes. However, if you're a beginner, this can be quite hard because besides simply getting your feet measured, it involves knowing your pronation type and arch type as well as taking into account your running style. Of course, the whole process becomes much easier when shopping in a physical running store where experienced staff can guide you and suggest a few options on the fly, and you are able to actually try shoes before purchase. Some stores even have equipment to analyze your stride (For instance, RunUnited uses 3D technology to analyze your arches, width, instep, and even pressure that can cause discomfort).

However, mistakes happen, and you can end up with shoes that aren’t comfortable. In this case, how do you know if they simply need break-in or you’ve got the wrong size in the first place?

First of all, you shouldn’t buy shoes that feel too tight or too loose in the first place. New running shoes that fit well should feel snug but not tight.

Here are signs your running shoes are the wrong size:

  • Toe Squishing: If your toes are being squished to the point where you have to curl them inside the shoe for comfort, the shoes are likely too small.
  • Lacing Issues: If you need to pull the laces excessively tight to feel comfortable, it's a sign that the shoes might not fit properly.
  • Foot Movement: Excessive foot movement inside the shoe can suggest they are too big.
  • Persistent Pain: If wearing the shoes results in persistent pain in your toes, arches, or heels or blisters even after multiple wears, they are likely the wrong size.

To avoid getting the wrong size:

  • Measure the length and width of both feet, as they may be different sizes.
  • Measure it in the afternoon since they expand during the day.
  • Try the shoes with the socks you'll be wearing on your runs.
  • Consider your pronation (inward roll) to know whether you need shoes with stability features to compensate for overpronation (excessive inward roll); your arch height to know whether you need special running insoles; and your running style (trail running; road running; etc.)

How Long Does It Take to Break In Running Shoes

Breaking in new running shoes generally takes about 2-3 weeks of regular use. This timeframe allows the materials to mold to your feet and you to get accustomed to any unique features the shoes may offer.

Several factors can influence how long it takes to break in your shoes:

  • Material:
    • Synthetic vs. Leather: Synthetic materials often break in faster than leather. Mesh and knit fabrics typically offer quicker comfort.
    • Sole Composition: The type of sole (e.g., EVA foam, rubber) can also impact break-in time. Softer foams may adapt faster to your foot shape.
  • Shoe Design:
    • Cushioning: Highly cushioned shoes might need a bit more time to settle, as the padding conforms to your foot.
    • Structure: Shoes with more support and stability features may take longer to become flexible.
  • Frequency of Use: The more you wear them, the faster they'll break in. However, it's essential to balance this with not overdoing it to avoid injury.

Tips for Breaking in New Running Shoes

Wear Them Around the House

Wearing the shoes around the house gives your feet a chance to adjust without the added pressure of a run. Start with 1-2 hours and extend it as your feet become more accustomed to the new shoes. This stage can take around a week giving you enough time to assess the comfort and fit of your new shoes without fully committing to outdoor runs.

If you notice blisters, persistent pain, or your foot consistently slips out of the shoe, it may be a sign that they are not the right fit for you. In such cases, consider returning them.

Bend the Toe Box

Gently bending the toe box can help soften the material and make the shoes more flexible. Hold the shoe in both hands and bend the front part upward and downward a few times.

Try Short Walks and Runs

Before taking your new running shoes on your typical run, try them out on a short walk first - 10-15 minutes is sufficient. At this point, the signs of wearing ill-fitting shoes should clearly manifest if you didn't notice anything at the previous stage.

You can then graduate to short runs - around 10-30 minutes or half the typical distance. If you don't experience numbness or tingling in the toes, knee pain, or blisters on the heel, slowly work your way up to your typical run.

As a reminder, new running shoes can be a little stiff, but if you still feel notable discomfort after the 4-5 run, we really advise against wearing them to prevent various long-term foot conditions.

Rotate with Old Shoes

Rotating between your new and old shoes can make the transition smoother. Use your new shoes for shorter runs while sticking to your old, reliable pair for longer distances. This helps your feet adapt without overwhelming them.

Transition to Typical Runs

Once you've worn your new shoes for a few shorter runs and they've started to feel more comfortable, gradually increase the distance. Aim to complete several mid-length runs before using them for your typical running routine.

Running Shoe Break-In Lifehacks

Use hairdryer

Using heat can speed up the break-in process. One method is to wear thick socks, put on your shoes, and then use a hairdryer to apply heat. Heat up each shoe for 5 minutes and then wear them for 10-20 minutes until they cool down.

Put them into the freezer

If your shoes are a bit tight, try freezing them. Fill zip-lock bags with water, place them inside your shoes, and then put them in the freezer overnight. The expanding ice will stretch the material, giving you a bit more room. Once you take the shoes out of the freezer, let them sit with bags in for 10 minutes, then remove the bags and wear the shoes around the house for 10 minutes more.


How long does it take to break in new running shoes?

On average, breaking in new running shoes takes about 2-3 weeks of regular use. This allows the materials to mold to your feet and for you to get accustomed to any unique features of the shoes.

Can I speed up the break-in process?

Yes, several methods can help speed up the break-in process: wearing the shoes around the house, gently bending the toe box, taking short walks and runs, rotating between new and old shoes, using a hairdryer, or freezing them with water-filled bags.

What should I do if my new running shoes cause pain?

If you experience persistent pain, blisters, or other discomforts after a few short wears, it may be a sign that the shoes don't fit correctly. Consider returning them and getting a professional fitting for the next pair.

Is it normal for new running shoes to feel tight?

New running shoes can feel a bit snug initially, but they should not cause discomfort or pain. If they are overly tight, especially in the toe or heel area, it may be worth trying a half size up.

How can I tell if my running shoes fit correctly?

Your running shoes should feel snug but not tight. Your toes should have enough space to wiggle, and your heel should not slip out when walking. You should also be able to lace them comfortably without excessive tightness.

How often should I replace my running shoes?

Generally, running shoes should be replaced every 300-500 miles, depending on factors like your running style, weight, and the type of terrain you usually run on. Pay attention to signs of wear and decreased cushioning as indicators for replacement.

What if my feet are different sizes?

If your feet are different sizes, measure the length and width of both feet and choose a size that accommodates the larger foot. You might need to use an insert or pad for the smaller foot to ensure a comfortable fit.

Jun 20th 2024 RunUnited