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How To Break In Trail Running Shoes

If you’re new to trail running, or if you’re considering making the switch from pavement to dirt, you might be wondering how to best break in your new trail running shoes.

Should you wear them around your home? Go for a few short jogs before your long run? Or just hit the trails for a 4-hour fiasco?

Or is breaking in running shoes just a myth? 

The goal of breaking in running shoes is to make your running as comfortable as possible. Some shoes feel great right out of the box. Some runners don’t need to go through these steps. Some people swear by them. 

As always, your mileage may vary. For us, we think of it like this: even if the produce you buy at the market has been pre-washed, does it hurt to give it a wash when you get home to be sure?

That’s how we feel about breaking in our trail running shoes. Once you find a process that works for you, going through it can help ensure you’ve picked the right trail running shoes and that they’re ready for the long trails ahead.

Here are a few tips to help you get started breaking in your trail running shoes.

Why you should break in your trail running shoes

There are a few reasons why you should break in your trail running shoes before hitting the trails. The main one? They’ll be more comfortable. 

When we’re talking about runs that’ll have you on the trails for two, three, or four hours, comfort and support should be your primary concerns.

Breaking in your shoes will also help them to mold to your feet better, which can help prevent blisters. 

Additionally, breaking in your shoes will help them last longer. So, if you’re planning on doing any trail running this season, be sure to break in your shoes first!

Differences in between breaking in running shoes and trail running shoes

There are a few key differences between breaking in running shoes and trail running shoes. 

For one, trail running shoes are typically more rugged and durable to withstand the harsher elements and terrain they will encounter. For breaking them in, this can mean they start off stiffer than your lightweight all-terrain running shoes. They may also be heavier, meaning it’s good to get your feet and legs accustomed to running with the extra weight.

They also usually have a deeper tread for better traction on loose or slippery surfaces. While this is ideal for gravel, dirt, and general off-road trails, the extra grip can be an odd feeling on your normal paved running spots. Take some time with your new trail running shoes to adjust to this extra grip.

Finally, trail running shoes typically have a higher ankle support to protect against rolled ankles on uneven terrain. Part of breaking in your trail running shoes will also be getting your feet used to the new material.

How to break in your trail running shoes

If you’re new to trail running, the thought of running on rugged, uneven terrain may be daunting. 

But with the right footwear, you can conquer any trail. Of course, some runners have gotten to the point of not wearing any shoes at all – but that’s a different story for a different day.

Here are 5 ways to break in your new trail running shoes. We recommend following them in order! 

  1. Wear them around the house – Wearing your shoes around the house is a great way to break them in gradually. This will help you get used to the feel of the shoes and how they fit. 
     
  2. Hit the treadmill – This will help you understand how the shoes perform without damaging the tread. If at this point something doesn’t feel right – maybe they are affecting your stride or you don’t like where your foot is landing – you could consider returning or exchanging them.
  3. Do a few short runs – Now that you’re confident these are the shoes for you, do a few shorter runs in your shoes to get a feel for them in real-world conditions. Try and keep these runs fairly level, with some slight ups and downs. It’s okay if these aren’t on trails. After all – not all trail run training happens on trails!
  4. Tackle a small trail – Don’t try to tackle a difficult trail right off the bat. Start with an easy trail and gradually work your way up. This will give you a chance to get used to the feel of your shoes and how they respond to different types of terrain.
  5. Be patient – Breaking in new shoes takes time. Don’t get discouraged if they don’t feel perfect right away. With time and use, your feet will get used to them and become your go-to trail running shoes.

How many miles does it take to break in trail running shoes?

Assuming you’re talking about new trail running shoes, it generally takes around 20 miles for them to start feeling comfortable. 

Of course, this varies from person to person and shoe to shoe. For example, some runners find that their shoes feel great right away, while others never really feel like their shoes are broken in, no matter how many miles they log. 

Ultimately, it’s important to go with a shoe that feels comfortable from the start and doesn’t require a lot of breaking in.

Do you have to break in trail running shoes?

There are a few pros and cons to not breaking in your trail running shoes. 

On the plus side, you won’t have to worry about blisters or hot spots developing on your feet. Additionally, new shoes tend to have more support and cushioning, which can be beneficial for runners who are new to the sport. 

On the downside, you may find that your shoes don’t fit as well after a few miles and they may not provide as much protection from the elements as a broken-in pair. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to break in your shoes is up to you and what you feel most comfortable with.

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