At their best, athletic shoes and socks feel like an extension of your body – whether you’re jogging through the neighborhood, mastering spin class or setting a personal rebound record, you reach your peak potential when your kicks are so flexible that you hardly know they’re there. Like any worthwhile relationship, you and your athletic shoes have to invest a little time together before you can work in perfect unison.
Learn to Walk Before You Run
When you score sneaks that are both cute and functional – like the rainbow-hued Nike Relentless 4 – you’ll be glad to know showing them off and breaking them in go hand-in-hand. Wear your shoes around the house, and then to stroll around town for a few days before you hit the track with them.
Sock It to ‘Em
Amp up your break-in period by layering on a few pairs of thick socks before sporting your shoes to have a short walk, take out the trash or check the mail a couple of times. The added thickness helps give your trainers a little extra stretch.
Do Your Warm-Ups
To accelerate your break-in, warm up the insides of your shoes with a hair dryer – using low heat only – until they’re nice and toasty. Then slip them on before you run a few errands. Just a bit of heat helps soften the material for more flexibility.
Before your sneakers make their debut on the field, treat them to a massage. Find the flexible points on the rubber outsoles – usually the indented portions between the raised sections – and give the shoes a few good bends at each flex point. Balance is key to any workout, so do numerous reps on each shoe.
Go the Distance … but Not Yet
If you’re a distance runner, plan your shoe purchase well in advance of your next marathon. Shoes like Nike’s Flex 2015 RN are built to run, but you want to make sure they’re plenty flexible before the race. Physiologist Susan Paul of Runner’s World recommends keeping the first three or four runs in your new shoes under 6 miles each.
Don’t Trip Up!
Any good teammate deserves respect, and your soon-to-be-favorite athletic shoes are no exception – treat them with care, even as you break them in. When you flex the soles, focus on the fronts of the shoe and don’t bend the all-important arch. Avoid the temptation to toss your shoes into the dryer, which can shrink them and weaken essential adhesives.
Sporting new shoes at the gym or unveiling them for the big game feels great, but remember to take it slow before you debut your new workout partner. As shoe developer Steven Beccia tells The Wall Street Journal, wearers “want to take a pair of shoes out of the box and wear it like it’s a pair of their old best friends right away. But it takes some time.”
Runner’s World: The Importance of Breaking in New Shoes
xoJane: How to Break In a New Pair of Shoes Without Breaking Your Feet
YouTube: How to Break Your Running Shoes in by Dr. J.D. Hasenbank, CSCS, CCSP
The Wall Street Journal: How to Make New Shoes Feel Comfortable
Times Union: The Runners Blog: How to Dry Your Running Shoes