We Figured Out How to Painlessly Break in Your Doc Marten Boots

how to break in doc martens boots
How to Break in Your Doc Marten BootsDesign by Yoora Kim

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Dr. Martens boots, affectionately known as “Docs,” have been the popular shoe choice for ages. Just ask your parents about the boots that have been a huge part of the grunge and emo aesthetics for years — or take a look at your favorite celebs that wear them all the time. Megan Fox wore a pair of Dr. Martens to a hockey game with MGK, and Olivia Rodrigo loves her Docs so much that she even wore them to Sour Prom.

These shoes are magical because the leather of each pair eventually shapes to your foot, becoming as comfortable as a supple vintage leather jacket that'll last for *literal* decades. But ask anyone who has an emotional attachment to their now-comfortable Doc Martens and they'll tell you that before you reach that point, you have to break in your boots — cue the shudders of fear. Everybody knows about the dreaded, infamous “break-in” period where you soften the leather of your shoes by walking around in them for an extended time. It’s practically a rite of passage to transform your Docs from painfully tough to cushy and custom-molded to your feet.

But blink away those visions of bandaging up bleeding heels, because it turns out it’s possible to break in your Docs (whether they’re heeled Mary Janes or classic combat boots) with minimal pain and suffering. Grab a hairdryer, some socks, a couple of bandaids, and a leather conditioner — it's time to find out how to break in your Doc Marten boots until they're perfectly soft, once and for all.

Utilize leather conditioner

A leather balm will nourish even the crackliest leather (like your grandma's '70s leather couch with all those cracks in it) and ensure that the material stays super supple, so you'll want to condition your boots with a product like the Docs Wonder Balsam shoe protector. Well-treated leather will be easier to break in!

"Our balsam is formulated to nourish, condition and soften DM’s leathers, so it’s no surprise that it can come in handy when you’re looking to tame a new pair. Rub some into the inside of your boot to get the ball rolling," suggests the Dr. Martens team.

Socks are your best friend

A thick pair of socks or even multiple pairs of crew-length or taller socks will do the trick for stretching out the shoe while shielding your feet, especially around the ankle area or wherever the top of the stiff leather rubs against your skin. You might not plan on trekking around with two pairs of fuzzy socks under your Docs once you break them in, but they'll aid in the leather-softening process in the beginning.

Your thickest socks will do the trick just fine, but Dr. Marten offers special socks that are extra-reinforced at the heel, ankle, and arch if you're running into issues with regular ol' socks. "You might find they make a world of difference during those first few days," notes the Dr. Martens team in their guide to breaking in Docs.

Grab your hairdryer

Pop your shoes on over a pair of thick socks, set your hairdryer to medium heat, and give your boots the full blow-dry treatment. The warmth will soften the leather, making it easier to stretch it out even further.

You can focus the hot air on those extra-tight spots, but be careful with applying too much heat to one single area for an extensive amount of time. Taking breaks and keeping the blow dryer six inches away from the leather will help you avoid burning your shoe, and don't forget to follow up with leather conditioner!

Manually manipulate the leather

Trudging around while wearing brand-new leather is a great way to soften the material, but you can still keep the breaking-in process going while you're just sitting in bed and watching Netflix. "Massaging your footwear with your hands will simulate the effect your feet have on the leather when you first start stomping around," notes the Dr. Martens team. "The more you work it, the more the leather will soften."

You also can use everything from a soda can to a canister of hairspray to stretch out the leather upper of your boots. "When you’re not wearing your boots, you can keep working the uppers by filling them with something in place of your feet," the brand suggests. "We recommend a can or some newspaper. Try it overnight for best results."

Stock up on blister bandaids

Contrary to what you might assume based on their name, you'll want to stick on these babies pre-blister. The hydrocolloid gel is cushy enough to act as a preventative barrier between your soft skin and the tough leather, so you can wear your boots without tearing up your heels.

If you do end up getting a blister on an unprotected part of your foot, the hydrocolloid material will cushion the wound while keeping out bacteria, absorbing any of the yucky liquid inside, and creating a moist (we know, we know) environment for quick healing.

Dr. Martens also recommends sticking heel grips into your shoes, especially if you're breaking in a pair of loafers. "The top of the heel is often the spot that gives people the most trouble," they noted. "Our easy-to-insert heel pads tackle the issue head-on – giving the back of your feet a bit of breathing room while the rest of the boot softens up."

Take your time

We get it — you want to achieve that soft, supple perfection quickly. After all, that's when Docs are really at their best. But wearing new shoes that aren't the most comfortable yet for *too* long might give you some pretty gnarly blisters at first. "Some brave souls jump straight into their new DM’s, and don’t unlace until the new leather is molded to their feet," writes the Dr. Martens team. "But we don’t recommend that for everyone. Ease yourself in by wearing them around the house at first, then on odd days, etc."

To slowly but surely break in your new boots, pop them on for an hour while walking around your house, watching TV, or going for a quick stroll around the block. Gradually shift to wearing them for two hours, and then three hours, and then for quick outings — and don't forget to bring back-up shoes in case you want to give your feet a break. You'll be walking around in your perfectly comfy Docs in no time at all.

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