How Long Does It Take to Break In Running Shoes?

Young woman trail runner tying shoelaces on new running shoes
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If you recently bought a pair of running shoes and you're experiencing sore feet or blisters, do you keep trying to break them in? Or do you give up on your new shoes and return them? Having comfortable shoes that fit well is essential for your health and comfort—and not just for your feet. Shoes that don't fit well can cause pain in your legs and back, too.

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.

Break-In Time for Running Shoes

Properly fitted running shoes 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 right out the door for a long endurance run. 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 been wearing, 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 should not cause changes to your gait that can disrupt your stride and cause problems on your run.

Still, keep the mileage on your very first run with the new shoes 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.

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

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 two- to three-week break-in period.

First, wear your shoes around the house when you first get them. This is especially important if you purchased 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 your new shoes on a treadmill if possible. Many running stores, even online retailers, allow you to return shoes if they have not been worn outside. Running on a treadmill will help you to get a sense of how the shoes 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. 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 shoes that have only been worn a couple of times.

Problems With New Running Shoes

If you're switching to a shoe that's brand-new to you, be careful. There are a couple of common problems that lead to shoes being the wrong choice.

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 buying shoes that are bigger than your usual 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. The last is the mold on which the shoe is built, and it will vary from model to model and manufacturer to manufacturer. The last determines the overall fit of the shoe.

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 your old shoe was working well for you).

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 or 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.

But online stores and other retailers (like big sporting-goods chains) may only take returns of unworn shoes, in which case you are out of luck. If you're trying a shoe that's pretty different from your previous pair, buy from a store with a generous return policy.

A Word From Verywell

Don't delay in deciding that your new shoes aren't going to work. 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 can't return them for a refund.

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Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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