How Long Does It Take to Break in Running Shoes?

running shoe shopping
gilaxia/Getty Images

If you recently bought a pair of running shoes and you're experiencing sore feet or blisters, you may wonder how long it takes to break in new shoes. Knowing when it's time to give up on a pair of shoes and return them to find ones that fit better is important for your foot health and comfort.

Break-In Time for Running Shoes

Properly-fitted running shoes (and ones that are the right shoes for your feet) shouldn't require a substantial break-in period. They should feel relatively comfortable starting with your first run.

Of course, that doesn't mean that you should take your new shoes out of the box and out the door for a long endurance run.

Properly breaking in your shoes can prevent mild running-related injuries (such as blisters) that can put a damper on your training. In severe cases, running in ill-fitting new shoes may even cause changes to your gait that can lead to longer-term injuries.

There are a few factors to keep in mind when running in new shoes.

New (Old) Shoes

If your new shoes are the same model as the shoes that you've worn previously, they are not likely to need a break-in period. Your feet are already accustomed to the level of cushioning and stability that they provide. So, wearing them will not cause changes to your gait that can disrupt your stride and cause problems on your run.

Still, you may want to keep the mileage on the first run moderate. There are generally changes from one version to the next in a running shoe. If your new pair is an upgraded model you may notice changes in the way that they feel. Keeping your first run relatively short will help you to notice any changes and make adjustments (such as a thinner or thicker sock) if needed.

New Shoe Model

If you get a different model of running shoe ​than you've worn in the past, there are a few strategies that can help you to avoid discomfort or even injury during the break-in period.

First, wear your shoes around the house when you first get them. This is especially important if you bought the shoes online and did not try them on before buying. By wearing them at home, you'll notice any immediate issues. For example, the shoes may feel too big or too small. Or they may rub in areas that can cause blisters.

Next, wear them on a treadmill if possible. Many running stores (and online running companies) allow you to return shoes if they have not been worn outside. Running on a treadmill in your new shoes will help you to get a sense of how they will perform without damaging the tread in a way that will prevent a return or exchange.

If the shoes have passed the home test and the treadmill test, take them out for a spin on the open roads. But keep your old shoes just in case.

Studies have shown that alternating your old shoes with your new shoes for several weeks can decrease the possibility of running-related injuries.

They might feel a bit different at first, but eventually, your new shoes should feel comfortable. If you're developing blisters or feel pain or discomfort, take them back to the store. Most good running stores will give a refund or store credit for running shoes that have only been worn a couple of times.

Problems With New Running Shoes

There are a couple of common problems that lead to shoes being the wrong fit for you.

Wrong Size

If you're getting blisters or the shoe feels uncomfortable, they may be too small. Your feet swell when you run, so you should make sure that you're wearing running shoes that are at least a half size to full size bigger than your regular shoe size.

It may feel weird at first buying shoes that are bigger than your dress shoe size, but your feet are not the same size by the end of your run as they were when you started.

You may also want to look for wider shoes. Some brands now offer narrow, regular, and wide widths. If you are experiencing rubbing or blisters, see if a wider shoe will work better for running.

Wrong Last

Shoe models are shaped differently. Some have a wider toe box, some narrower. Some have more volume, some less. Some will fit you snugly in the heel, others won't.

These variances are due to the last the shoe is created on and it will vary from model to model and manufacturer to manufacturer. The last is the mold on which the shoe is built. The last determines the overall fit.

When you buy a running shoe at a running-specific store, the sales specialist should be able to tell you the kind of last that was in your previous running shoe. This may help determine the type of last to look for in future shoes (if you liked your old shoe).

Wrong Type

Most running specialty stores have a salesperson that can look at your feet and do a gait analysis so you get the right running shoes for you.

For example, you may need a motion control shoe because you overpronate. But you may have problems if you buy a neutral shoe instead.

If you don't overpronate, you may find a stiffer shoe to be less comfortable. If you bought a minimalist shoe but your foot needs more support, you won't be comfortable in the unstructured shoe.

If you bought a shoe that doesn't fit, causes blisters or other running related issues, don't hesitate to bring them back. Know the return policy of the store or online vendor where you bought the shoes. A local specialty running store probably has a generous return policy and you can bring back your shoes after a few runs.

But online stores and other stores may require returning only unworn shoes, in which case you are out of luck. It's smarter to buy a new model of shoe from a store with a generous return policy.

A Word From Verywell

Don't delay in deciding that the shoes aren't going to work for you. If you are having problems after a couple of runs, it's unlikely that things will get better. In the meantime, you may get blisters or develop other problems from wearing the wrong shoes. It's better to stop using them now, even if it means you end up donating them to charity because it's past the return date.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

  • Malisoux, L., Ramesh, J., Mann, R., Seil, R., Urhausen, A., & Theisen, D. (2013). Can parallel use of different running shoes decrease running-related injury risk? Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 25(1), 110–115. doi:10.1111/sms.12154