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How Do You Break In Tactical Boots? | 11 Most Effective Ways

Now, you’ve got a new pair of tactical boots home. And the first thing to do, of course, break in them! How to break in tactical boots is not only a common question for newbies, but also a classic problem for all boot fans around the world.

One challenge for tactical boots fans, however, is that tactical boots are made from a variety of materials. Among them, leather, suede and nylon fabric are the three most popular materials.

Because of the various materials, the method for breaking in tactical boots will be different for each type as well.

So how to break in tactical boots? We will tell you now!

How do you break in tactical boots?

When you’ve got a brand new tactical boot, you won’t be able to experience full comfort in the first place. Instead, you may feel a bit cramped, a bit stiff, or it appears a bit of heel slippage.

Don’t worry, this is normal. When the tactical boots are new, they can be stiff, resulting in making you uncomfortable, and hurting your feet.

When you put on tactical boots in the beginning, your heels and the ball of your feet can feel cramped and uncomfortable. Don’t return your boots immediately, you need to break them in.

The aim of breaking in tactical boots is to make them softer to fit better. Once you feel more comfortable when you put your boots on, heel slippage may disappear.

There are many ways to break in tactical boots, but the methods for breaking in tactical boots made from leather will differ from that of nylon fabric boots.

In the methods below, we will guide you through and outline the method should apply to which kinds of tactical boots.

Let’s get started!

Method 1: Wear them a lot

This is the most common and effective way for breaking in tactical boots. This method can be used for any tactical boots regardless of the material they are made of.

Use tactical boots continuously from the moment you receive them. Wear them for walking, jogging, hiking, etc. Wear them until you feel they are really fit (no heel slippage left), pleasant and softer.

Usually, the minimum time to return the tactical boots to the manufacturer is 30 days. During that time, you can wear them a lot to break them in.

After that, if the tactical boot hasn’t gotten better and doesn’t get along well with your feet. You can then return them.

You might wonder if the tactical boots can hurt your feet before they are broken in. Of course, they do! So I recommend using thick socks for this method.

Thick socks will ensure your feet are comfortable and smooth when you wear your tactical boots a lot to break them in.

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Last update on 2023-03-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Method 2: Use the conditioner

Using a conditioner is one of the best ways to break in leather tactical boots.

Leather tactical boots usually have a specific conditioner to care for them, which is not usually found in tactical boots made of nylon or suede (or very little).

Conditioner can make the leather of tactical boots softer and smoother, thereby speeding up the break in process.

Just clean the boots with the leather cleaner and the horsehair brush, then apply the leather conditioner to the boots and use as usual. It’s done!

In fact, whether you want to break in tactical boots fast or not, you should have a conditioner in your home as this is an essential item to care for boots made of leather.

Conditioners will help your leather boots last longer, retain their color for a long time,…

Read more: How To Condition Leather Tactical Boots?

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Method 3: Use boot trees

One of the other effective methods is to use boot trees. Boot trees can be used for all types of tactical boots, no matter what they are made of.

If you cannot wear your boots continuously to break them in, use boot trees. Put boot trees into the tactical boots when you cannot wear them.

Boot trees are designed to replace your feet and shorten the break in time of tactical boots. You can break in the toe box and the heel of tactical boots very well with this method.

Besides the effect of breaking tactical boots, the other advantage of boot trees is that they can keep the boots in shape.

When you use tactical boots for long periods of time, they can shrink or lose shape after going through rain or snow. Boot trees can take care of this problem, they help remain the form of your tactical boots.

In addition, the boot trees have a very good moisture absorption to keep the tactical boots dry. In this way, they can prolong the lifetime of tactical boots.

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Last update on 2023-03-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Method 4: Use the boot stretcher

Another effective way is to use the boot stretcher to break in tactical boots. This is the method you can use for all tactical boots, including leather, nylon or suede material.

If your tactical boots are cramped at first, it can take a long time to break in. You should think of the boot stretcher then.

The boot stretcher will help your tactical boots stretch quickly, making them better fit your feet. From there, you can shorten time for breaking in tactical boots.

Put the boot stretchers inside the tactical boots and adjust the stretch you want. That’s it!

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Last update on 2023-03-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Method 5: Use boot stretch spray

In addition to using the boot stretcher, another method you should think of when breaking in the tactical boots is to use the boot stretch spray.

This is the type of product that can make leather (and suede) stretch faster after a few times of application.

All you need to do is spray it directly onto the tactical boots where you want them to stretch. Then use as usual (or you can combine it with boot trees or boot stretchers).

However, the downside of this approach is that some boot stretch sprays can darken your tactical boots. So, be cautious, reading the user reviews is quite helpful for you (but I know you always do that, right?).

This method is probably only applicable to leather.

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Last update on 2023-03-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Method 6: Steam inside tactical boots

One of the classic methods of breaking in boots (including tactical boots) is to steam inside boots to make them softer, more resilient.

You can use this method for tactical boots made of suede, nylon fabric, or leather. From our experience, it is more effective if you apply to leather or suede boots.

For this method, you can take advantage of the steam from the home kettle. Turn the tactical boots upside down and catch the steam rising from the kettle.

Some cobblers tend to steam tactical boots, then use some leather stretch spray and then put the boot stretcher in tactical boots to stretch them. This way, it can shorten the break in process very quickly.

But if you don’t have enough “tools” like a cobbler, you can steam inside tactical boots, wait for them to cool down, put on a pair of thick socks and slip on your cool boots, then walk a few laps around the house.

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Last update on 2023-03-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Method 7: Makes the tactical boots wet

One popular way is to dip all of your tactical boots in the tub. But, nahhh, we don’t think that’s a good idea!

I don’t like the idea of dipping all my new tactical boots into the tub, it’s horrible. And I think many people will think like me.

You can do that with tactical boots that aren’t made of leather or suede. Trust me, don’t let your leather and suede tactical boots get wet, hell no.

Water is one of the potential dangers of leather, and it can destroy leather tactical boots slowly if you don’t know how to dry them properly.

So, we have a better recommendation for you: use a water spray. It would be better if you use warm water.

Spray the tactical boot where it hurts your feet. The warm water will help these areas relax, soften, and shorten the break in process of your boots.

Before putting the tactical boot on your leg and going outside, you can spray some warm water inside the boots.

Last update on 2023-03-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Method 8: Use lotion or alcohol

Why is there this strange method? Because alcohol or lotions have the ability to soften leather or suede.

Your wife probably won’t like this, but you can steal some of her lotion (or go buy some wine). Then scrub up any areas inside the tactical boot that’s annoying.

Lotion or alcohol will make the inside of the tactical boot softer, allowing to break in boots easier and shortening the break in process.

Method 9: Use ice

The most frustrating thing about wearing your tactical boot is that its toe box hasn’t broken in. That can hurt the ball of your feet and toes.

To break in the toe box of the tactical boot, insert a water bag (you can use a zip bag) inside the toe box, making sure it is a bit tight.

Then put all your boots in the freezer compartment of the refrigerator and leave overnight. You will be surprised the next morning!

This break in method is more effective for tactical boots made of leather.

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Method 10: Use hair dryer

You should use this method for leather tactical boots. Use the heat from a hair dryer to stretch the leather.

Don’t apply this method to suede or nylon fabric tactical boots, because high heat can damage them.

Use a hairdryer, set the adequate temperature and dry around areas where leather tactical boots are still hard and hurt your feet.

This will speed up the break in the tactical boots process.

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Method 11: Give the tactical boots time to rest

Yes, don’t be in a hurry to speed up breaking in the tactical boot, which can backfire.

Above all, when you go with any of the methods above, you should give the tactical boots a break.

During that rest, the tactical boots can relax, and they will slowly fit your feet.

Avoid rushing to break in your boots, or you might make the tactical boots over-stretch and loose unexpectedly.

Some notes when applying break in methods

Be careful and patient when using the methods above to break in tactical boots, as overusing them can result in making the tactical boots too loose.

If you use the wet method to break in tactical boots, remember to dry them out after you use them. Tactical boots made of leather or suede can deteriorate if they stay wet for a long time (discoloration, cracking…)

If you use the steam, hair dryer to break in the tactical boots, don’t overheat, which can cause them to crack.

How long does it take to break into tactical boots?

If you wear the tactical boots more than 3 times a week, they will be broken in within 2 weeks or at least 3 weeks.

But if you use break in methods such as using boot stretchers, boot trees, leather stretch spray, steam… in combination with using tactical boots quite often, you can successfully break in your boots for less than 1 week.

If your tactical boots are not broken in after a week to 3 weeks, you should consider sending them back. Most manufacturers have a return policy of at least 30 days.

In fact, today’s well-designed tactical boots, many of which are comfortable right out of the box. So don’t worry too much.

Some boots like cowboy boots without laces, take a lot of time and effort to break in. Tactical boots, on the other hand, are much easier to break in.

Do tactical boots pinch initially when you break them in?

Yes, the tactical boots might pinch initially when you break them in.

In the beginning, tactical boots can be painful in the foot because they are new with tough materials. Their elasticity and flexibility aren’t really great.

To avoid the feeling of pinching when you initially break in tactical boots, we recommend wearing thick socks that are higher than your boots (up to about mid calf).

That will make your feet more comfortable while trying to break in the tactical boots.

Alternatively, you can use a little lotion, alcohol or conditioner (if the tactical boots are made of leather) and apply it to the inside of tactical boots to make them softer.

Besides, you can also use some methods to speed up the break in tactical boots process such as using a boot stretcher, boot trees, steaming inside, …

These methods can make the tactical boots softer and avoid pinching initially when you break them in.

Read more: How To Break In Cowboy Boots?


To break in tactical boots, you can use a variety of methods to speed up the break in process such as wearing more, using conditioner, boot stretcher, boot trees, lotion, or steaming inside tactical boots.

However, be careful and pick the right method for the types of tactical boots (leather, suede or nylon).

After the break in, don’t forget to give the tactical boots time to rest, which will automatically adjust their shape to better fit your feet. Don’t overdo the methods or you will make the tactical boots loose more than necessary.

If you use the strategies above, your tactical boots will break in within a week. But if you just wear them in, it can take 2 to 3 weeks to break in them.

If the tactical boots aren’t broken in within 3 weeks, consider returning them.

Good luck!

2 thoughts on “How Do You Break In Tactical Boots? | 11 Most Effective Ways”

  1. Wait, wh’se going to take 4 week old sold boots back?
    How about stand in your boots in both a pair each of cotton socks and boot socks ,( my usual bootsock combo), on a tub or bucket of water that is higher than your boot tops for 15 mins. Then walk in your wet boots until they dry out completely. It usually takes 3 hours in southern Summer heat. And then change your wet socks for a dry set and your boots will fit perfectly on your feet.

    • Hey Vern, Thanks for your idea!

      Yes, I think your way works. It seems like a good way to break in tactical boots made from fabric. What do you think if I use your method to add to this article?

      However, is there any risk with leather boots (suede, full-grain, nubuck) when dipping them in water? I’m really not sure!

      What do you think about this issue?

      Thank you 🙂 !


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