Not so long ago, I ordered some top-of-the-line running shoes, and to say I was excited about their arrival would be an understatement. Knee troubles had kept me out of the game for a while, so I was bursting with energy and ready to reacquaint myself with all my favorite routes.
Not three seconds after the mailman knocked on my door, I had snatched the package from his hands and slipped the shoes on, and after a quick lacing session, was on my way, but it wasn’t long before I was stopped in my tracks.
Although my knees no longer hurt (hooray), I was struck with another issue… foot pain. “Whyyyyy?”, I cried into the heavens like a soap opera star, though the answer was crystal clear — I hadn’t broken in my new shoes before taking them for a spin.
I’ve since learned my lesson, and to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes, I’ve composed this guide on how to break in running shoes to perfection!
How Long Does It Take To Break In New Running Shoes?
On average, you should spend between 2 and 3 weeks breaking in your new running shoes, but here’s the thing…
The breaking-in process isn’t just about adjusting your shoes to your feet, but adjusting your feet to your new shoes, and this takes time, especially if your new shoes are very different to your old ones.
For example, if you’re transitioning from a standard drop to a lower drop shoe, the muscles in your feet need extra time to acclimate — we’re talking 1–2 months.
You Have To Be Able To Walk Before You Can Run
When those brand spanking new shoes arrive at your doorstep, feel free to try them on for size, but resist the urge to immediately go for a run as I did. Your first port of call is to simply wear them around the house as though they were a pair of slippers.
You may feel a little silly wearing your new sneaks with your He-Man jammies indoors, especially when answering the door, but this is the perfect way to acclimatize your feet to their new ecosystem.
During this period, you can…
- Assess if the shoes are causing soreness in any areas — If you feel they are rubbing, bandage or band-aid the area until the shoes stretch out a little.
- Experiment with different types of socks to see which is the most comfortable for your future run.
If it’s summer and there are some absolute scorchers coming your way, I’d recommend a breathable synthetic design such as these polyester/spandex Saucony no-show socks.
If it’s a little colder, you should opt for a wool-blend such as these Busy running socks, but whatever you do, stay away from cotton. It may be a great fabric in many ways, but it retains moisture, which means things get real swampy real quickly, which is a sure-fire way to get some monster blisters.
- Try them out without damaging them, so you’ll be eligible to return them if they’re not all they cracked up to be.
I recommend wearing your new running shoes inside for 2–4 days, increasing the duration as you go. For instance, if you wear them for an hour on the first day, try an hour and a half on the second, then two hours on the third, etc.
A Walk In The Park
Now that you’ve initiated the breaking process, you can take your new shoes for a spin around the block, to the park, or, if you have one, wear them while taking the pooch for a walk.
Aim to walk for around 20–30 minutes, and if you’re feeling confident and aren’t experiencing any pain, feel free to jog for a few meters every now and again.
Pro-Tip — If your old running shoes have any life left in them, throw them in a backpack and take them with you, just in case your new shoes are too painful to wear for the full walk.
In fact, keeping your old shoes isn’t a bad idea in general, as studies have shown that runners who use two pairs of shoes are 39% less likely to pick up a running injury. This is due to a balanced distribution of impact forces created by using differently designed shoes.
Running For Short Periods
Once your new shoes have passed the outside walking test, it’s time to use them how their creators intended and go for a run, but don’t throw all caution to the wind just yet. To smooth out the breaking-in process, you should keep your first few runs quite short — no 10-mile mega-runs just yet, I’m afraid.
Instead, wear them for 20–30 minute runs and see how you get on. When you get back to base, assess the situation.
Do you feel any aches and pains? Are there any blisters forming? If the answer is yes, you may need to take them on a few more walks or adjust your choice of socks. If the answer is no, congratulations, your job is almost done!
You’ve put in the effort, you’ve put in the time, and now it’s time to reap the rewards. Your new running shoes should now be ready for a nice long route! Keep the terrain quite gentle at first, then work your way across more unforgiving landscapes during future runs.
The jury is still out on whether you should run after having knee replacement surgery. As a high-impact exercise, it’s generally advised that running should be kept to a minimum, but there have been instances of people successfully transitioning back into full-blown running, post-op.
It all comes down to the problems you were having with your knee initially, the procedure (of which there are a few) that you have, and how you recover.
The bottom line is that, after knee replacement surgery, you may be out of action for a while, but never say never.
If it’s been established that some form of surgery is the only way forward for you, be sure to talk through your options with your doctor. Choosing the most appropriate procedure, and you just might be able to hit the trail, or at least, the track, again.
As mentioned earlier, switching between two pairs of structurally different, well broken-in running shoes helps to spread pressure across your lower body evenly, which will work wonders when trying to re-establish yourself as a runner after surgery.
And that’s all there is to it, folks — I know it’s exciting when those new running shoes arrive, but try your best to be patient, wear them around the house for a few days, walk in them first, and ease yourself back into long-scale running (and don’t throw out your old sneaks just yet, no matter how stinky they are!).