Do Dr. Martens Hurt To Break-In?

If it isn’t your first time breaking in a pair of Doc Martens, you must still have a memory of how painful it is to break into one. I know because I still hadn’t forgotten how much the blisters hurt when I had my first docs.

Dr. Martens hurt to break in because it is made of stiff leather and has thick soles. It would take a few weeks to break into one through the traditional method, but you can speed up this process by softening the leather through Wonder Balsam, massaging your docs, using a boot stretcher, and others.

These days, docs breaking in experts are all over the internet. While some offer great tips, there are also a few who share techniques that can damage your docs. 

Luckily, I got you covered in this guide! This will help you break in those big boys in no time without worrying they’ll get bruised in the process. Let’s get started!

Dr. Martens 2976 Platform Chelsea Boot, Black Polished Smooth, 4 UK (Women's 6 M US/Men's 5 M US)

Dr. Martens Unisex 2976 Slip Resistant Service Boots

Why does Dr. Martens need breaking in?

The best and worst part of owning a Dr. Martens is that it is made of leather. Sure, it is durable, but it also hurts like hell when you use one for several hours. It won’t be possible for you to take those decent #OOTD photos when you’re crying in pain, trust me.

This is where breaking in becomes useful. When you work those boots up before wearing them for prolonged periods, or you follow various techniques to soften the leather, it will be comfortable to wear.

Does it hurt to break in your Dr. Martens?

Yes, it would hurt to break in your docs since it is made of thick leather. Some even say it’s like wearing a piece of medieval torture equipment on your feet. 

Kidding aside, expect a few blisters here and there because your docs aren’t really shaped according to your feet. The leather would have to stretch in some areas, thus causing extreme discomfort.

Can you skip breaking in your Dr. Martens?

Technically, yes. You can skip breaking in your docs if you would hire someone to break into them for you. However, it would be a bit tricky because that would mean you have to find someone who has the same feet size and shape as you. Sounds like Cinderella, eh?

You can also skip breaking in if you can find old shoe shops that still have those machines that can soften the leather. They can stretch your docs for you for a few dollars. But then again, there’s no 100% guarantee to this process.

If you really don’t like breaking in, maybe it’s time to consider other boot materials like fabrics or vegan leather. You can also choose different alternatives to classic lace-up boots like brogue styles of Mary Janes.

How long does it take to fully break in your Dr. Martens?

I think most people would agree with me that it takes three to six weeks to break in a pair of docs, but it would take a year to really wear them comfortably and without any hint of pain.

Of course, this can be sped up if you employ different techniques such as softening the leather through Wonder Balsam, using heel grips, and hammering the heel and sole. All of these methods along with some others will be discussed in a later part of this guide, so do not settle for the traditional process just yet.

Dr. Martens unisex adult Chelsea Boot, Gaucho Crazy Horse, 5 Women 4 Men US

Dr. Martens Unisex Chelsea Boots

How do you break in your Dr. Martens traditionally?

You’re probably doing the traditional method of breaking in without knowing that you’re already doing it. But maybe, you skipped a few steps; that’s why you’ve been having a hard time even after a couple of weeks. 

Well, let me help you with that. Here’s the simplest and the most traditional way to break in your Dr. Martens.

Step 1. Get the right fit

No matter how much you try to break in, if you get the wrong fit, you are doomed. Make sure that you buy the perfect size by checking out Dr. Martens’ size guide. 

The rule of thumb is if it hurts when you first try it on, especially in terms of width, it is the wrong size for you. It should only feel tight but not uncomfortable.

Step 2. Put on thick socks and keep the laces tight

Wearing thick socks before putting on your docs makes a whole world of difference. This will help stretch or widen out your docs faster and also protect your heel and ankle from unavoidable friction.

You have plenty of sock options from Dr. Martens that you can choose from. You can also wear double ordinary socks for better protection.

Once you have worn your socks, tie your laces tightly, so your Dr. Martens adjust to the shape of your feet. 

Step 3. Wear your docs for short periods

Wearing thick socks doesn’t mean that you are 100% protected from the pain of breaking in. That is why it is recommended to wear your docs for short periods. 

You can try to walk for five to ten minutes, with one to two-hour intervals. Expect that it’ll hurt since the leather is still hard and tight. If the pain becomes unmanageable, remove your docs and try again after a few hours.

Step 4. Repeat the process for a few weeks

Use your docs for short periods of time inside your home. The key is to be consistent. You can gradually increase the number of minutes or hours you’ll be wearing it every day for more progress. Use it outside for a few minutes as well.

As mentioned in one of the sections above, it would take three to six weeks to break in your Dr. Martens, so you have to pack a lot of patience.

Dr. Martens Men's Combs 8-Eye Boot Black Extra Tough Nylon/Rubbery 5 B(M) US / 4 D(M) US

Dr. Martens Men’s Combs Washed Canvas Combat Boots

How do you break in your Dr. Martens more quickly?

If you want to break in your docs quickly because you’re planning to wear them on a special occasion or you are the impatient type, there are some ways to speed up the breaking-in process.

Most of these techniques are proven and tested by many Dr. Martens enthusiasts, so there’s no harm in trying them yourself.

Massage your DMs

To make your docs pliable, consider massaging them using your hands. The back of your boots can be pretty stiff so fold its spine in several levels a few times. You can also bend at the instep, but make sure to do it gently. This is an excellent alternative if you do not want to hammer your boots.

Hammer the heel and sole

Wrap the leather part of your docs in a towel and hammer the heel and the sole for 15 to 20 minutes. Ensure that there will be no missed hammer swing, so you don’t damage your precious pair.

Hammering your docs helps soften and stretch it faster. However, if you are terrified to do this, ask someone who has a better aim. Or you can use a hammer mallet for lesser possible damage.

Use a docs stretcher

You can use a boot stretcher or expander to break in your docs faster. Many boot stretcher brands are available on Amazon for a price range of $20 to $28. These are perfect in improving the fit of your docs, as well as extending it if you got a smaller size. 

Note, though, that most boot stretchers can only minimally expand your docs since it is made of hard leather.

Dr. Martens, 1460 Original 8-Eye Leather Boot for Men and Women, White Smooth, 9 US Women/8 US Men

Dr. Martens 1460 Smooth Unisex Boots

Stuff your DMs with newspaper

If you are on a tight budget, stretching your docs using newspapers is a great option. Remove the laces of your docs and pack as much newspaper as possible, especially in the toe box. You can leave your DMs overnight for a better stretch.

Use Wonder Balsam

Dr. Marten’s Wonder Balsam works wonders not only in making your docs protected and shiny but also in softening them. It combines coconut oil, beeswax, and lanolin which are vital ingredients in taming leather. Rub some inside your docs, and it will be soft in no time!

Lace them in a different way

During the breaking-in process, it is suggested that you lace your boots differently. How? Do not lace on the base of your ankle so your docs can easily bend. 

However, this does not mean that you should tie your laces sloppily. What I’m trying to say is that you should skip the eyelets near the ankle but maintain the tightness of your lace for better results.

Use heel grips

The top of your DMs’ heels is probably the hardest to soften. But luckily, you can use heel grips or heel pads to keep your feet in place. You’ll be able to avoid blisters when breaking in since your feet won’t slip at the back of your boots. 

Heat your DMs using a hairdryer

While wearing thick socks, slip on your docs and heat them with a blow dryer aiming at the tightest parts, such as the heel. For better effect, apply some Wonder Balsam to your docs before heating. Wear your docs until the heat fades.

Important: Only use low heat for five to ten minutes as high heat can crack or split the leather.

Remove the insoles

If you haven’t noticed, the inner lining of your docs or insoles is made of abrasive material that can put pressure and cause blisters to your feet. You can remove it while breaking in to lessen the friction, but still, do not skip the thick socks when you wear your boots.

Dr. Martens 101 Vegan Black UK 3 (US Men's 4, Women's 5) Medium

Dr. Martens Vegan 101 Unisex Fashion Boots

What to avoid when breaking in your Dr. Martens?

There are some breaking-in methods that can do more harm instead of good. Thus, you should avoid them at all costs. Here are some of them:

  • Soaking your Dr. Martens in water. Sure, this can make your docs more pliable. But it will also damage your boots, especially the stitching.
  • Rubbing Vaseline or oil. This doesn’t work like Wonder Balsam that softens the leather. This will only make your boots greasy.
  • Heating your DMs using fire. As mentioned above, too much heat can crack or split your DMs. Using fire to soften it would end up being disastrous.

Again, if your goal is to soften your docs for an easy break-in process, use Wonder Balsam or any of the non-traditional methods I mentioned above.

Dr. Martens Tarik Gunmetal Extra Tough 50/50/Ajax UK 8 (US Men's 9, US Women's 10) Medium

Dr. Martens Tarik Boots

How do you take care of your feet as you break in your Dr. Martens?

So you started breaking in your docs a few hours ago, and now your feet hurt more than you expected. Worry not because I got some tips for you to manage the pain and prevent further feet problems.

Avoid scratching your feet

Wearing thick socks, especially those ribbed ones, can leave patterns or impressions on your top feet. These will be very itchy but do your best not to scratch them as they can cause irritation and bleeding. Tap gently with a dry towel to remove itchiness.

Soak your feet in a footbath

If your feet feel pinched, soak them in a basin filled with foot soap or salts. This will help ease pain and possible muscle cramps from wearing your docs. After the footbath, towel your feet dry and massage them.

Give your feet time to recover

There’s no point in faking bravery when your feet really hurt. If you are uncomfortable and you know you already have blisters, remove your docs and let your feet recover before wearing them again. It is suggested to use bunions or moleskins on those parts that have blisters.

Final thoughts

Breaking in your docs won’t be easy, especially if you got brand new ones. However, there are now countless ways to break them in faster, and most of them really work!

You have to remember that not every method will work for you. If you think heel pads make your feet feel worse, don’t use them. If you are afraid of hammering your docs, then don’t! Always choose techniques that you are comfortable doing. After all, it’s your feet we’re talking about and not anyone else’s.

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