Do Running Shoes Need To Be Broken In?

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There’s a common theory that all new pairs of shoes, including running shoes, need to be broken in – but how accurate is that belief?

Owning comfortable footwear is important, especially for athletic activities. And the truth is while running shoes will loosen up over time, the “break-in” period should be relatively brief. Wearing comfortable, properly fitting shoes while running or doing other physical activities is key to your health and safety.

If you’re wondering how to break in running shoes, or – “do running shoes need to be broken in?” – let’s dig a little deeper in to this mythical process of breaking in new shoes!

Yes – Running Shoes Need To Be Broken In

Do running shoes need to be broken in?

Serious runners will notice a difference when they switch to a new pair of athletic shoes. Even if you buy a similar make model, there will be slight differences in the shoe’s structure, cushioning, and stability.

Generally speaking, there’s about a two-to-three week period in which one gets used to a new pair of shoes. Because running shoes are made differently, they feel different to run in. These changes can cause subtle disruptions in your gait or stride, which can lead to discomfort or even injury.

In fact, studies have shown that the chances of injury while using new shoes is reduced by alternating between wearing your old shoes and your new pair for the first few weeks of use.

If you happen to replace your running sneakers with the same model as the one you’re used to wearing, you can skip the break-in period – your body is already adjusted and you should be able to start running faster straight away with that much desired ‘New Shoe Bounce‘. Still, it’s a good idea to get used to the feel of this new pair before you do any serious, long-distance running.

How To Break In New Running Shoes

sport shoes placed in shelves of store

There are a few strategies for breaking in new running shoes with minimal discomfort:

Replace Your Shoes With a New Pair of the Exact Same Kind

The first, and most obvious, is to replace your old shoes with the same make and model, if possible. As stated above, even when using this strategy, you should use caution. Walk around in the new shoes and be aware of any subtle differences. You may find you need to lace them differently, or that you need thinner or thicker socks.

Break Them In With Gradual Use

Start by wearing them in low-impact indoor situations, like in your home. Note how it feels to just walk around in them. Try to identify any pinching or rubbing that could lead to problems like blisters.

Take Them For a Test Drive

The next step is to take the shoes out for a test run. This is best done with a treadmill and not outdoors. Most retailers will let you return shoes if they have not been worn outside, so it’s best to test out the new shoes in an indoor environment whenever possible.

If you don’t have access to a treadmill for running inside, go for a long walk around your neighborhood, and pay attention to how your body responds to the shoes. You should be able to tell pretty quickly if there are issues with the fit. After about three good walks, your shoes should be ready for a run. Start with short runs, and work your way up to longer distances.

Try a Few Break In Hacks

For example, wearing thicker socks is believed to help stretch out shoes faster. Some runners swear that they can break in their running shoes faster by blasting the insides with a hairdryer or sticking the shoes in the freezer with bags of water inside (which expands as it freezes). These tricks are a bit unorthodox but might be worth trying if you’re in a hurry.

Even New Running Shoes Should Be Comfortable

Running shoes are specially made to make running as effortless and comfortable as possible. If your feet are in any way uncomfortable when using new shoes, it’s likely a sign that the fit isn’t right for your foot.

Although there is a break-in period for running shoes, the shoes shouldn’t be hurting your feet. If you find that you’re experiencing foot pain or injury when wearing a new pair, try adjusting the laces or changing the thickness of your socks. If that doesn’t solve the problem, chances are, you’re wearing the wrong shoe.

Signs That Your New Running Shoes Don’t Fit

man trying mountain hiking shoes in modern sports shop

There are many kinds of running shoes out there, all designed with different needs in mind. Feet come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, so a running shoe that’s great for one person can be ill-fitting for another.

There are a few design aspects to look for when trying on new running shoes. These are fit concerns that cannot be fixed by breaking in the shoes:

The toe box is too big or too small

You should be able to comfortably wiggle your toes in the right running shoe. If your longest toe is touching the very end while standing, that means you won’t have any room for extension when you land. Alternatively, you don’t want to have too much room either. A toe box that is too big can cause other issues, especially if your toes aren’t underneath the toe guard at the very end.

The shoes don’t bend with your foot comfortably

Ideally, you want your foot’s natural flexing points to match the shoe’s design. You can see this without even trying on the shoe. Just hold the running shoe next to your foot and bend both. If they match, great. If they don’t, you know they won’t be comfortable.

The shoes are too tight/loose

If you need to completely untie the shoes to get them off, they’re too snug. If you feel your foot sliding side to side, or if there’s excessive heel movement, the shoes are likely too wide or loose.

After you first try out new running shoes, you may experience some pain and discomfort. Sometimes these issues can be addressed by adjusting the shoe’s fit, like by making the laces tighter or wearing thinner socks.

However, if you experience any of the following physical symptoms, chances are your shoes can’t be broken in because they are the wrong fit:

  • Numbness in your toes or the top of your foot. This indicates the shoes are too tight and are cutting off blood circulation.
  • Burning sensation in your toes or the soles of your feet. This is caused by issues with the shoes’ soles. Most often, it’s caused by inadequate cushioning or flexibility.
  • New and/or worsening pain in your knees and/or feet.

Why Do Running Shoes Need To Be Broken In?

Running shoes do need to be broken in, and it takes about two or three weeks to properly adjust to a new running shoe. This is the time it typically takes to ‘adjust’ to new high performance footwear.

Having said this, running shoes will not loosen much over time, and the wrong shoe is going to cause you significant pain or discomfort at any stage.

Many of the problems you may experience when running with a new pair of shoes could be the result of a poor fit – and that’s a problem that breaking in your running shoes will never be able to fix!

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