How to Break In Running Shoes

Running shoes

Verywell / Amelia Manley

While a new pair of running shoes is an exciting opportunity to extend your running journey, don't pound the pavement too hard, too fast. Taking time to break in your new shoes is worth the break in mileage or racing.

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, leading to longer-term injuries.

Properly fitted running shoes that are right 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 you break in new running shoes.

How to Break in a New Model of Your Favorite Shoes

If your new shoes are the same model as those you've been wearing, they are not likely to need an extensive break-in period. Your feet are already accustomed to the cushioning and stability that they provide. Wearing them should not cause changes to your gait that can disrupt your stride and cause problems on your run.

Still, being considerate of the mileage on your first run with the new shoes is a good idea. Generally, there are changes from one version to the next in a running shoe; sometimes they're subtle, but that doesn't mean you can ignore the break-in period. If your new pair is an upgraded model, you may notice changes in how they feel. Keeping your first run relatively short will help you to see 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.

How to Break in a New Model of Shoe

If you get a different running shoe model ​than you've worn in the past, it will take two to three weeks to break them in. A few strategies can help you 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 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, if possible, wear your new shoes on a treadmill. Running on a treadmill will help you understand how the shoes perform without damaging the tread to prevent a return or exchange. Many running stores, including online retailers, allow you to return shoes if they have not been worn outside.

If the shoes pass the home and treadmill test, take them out for a spin on the open roads. They might feel slightly different at first, but eventually, your feet should feel adjusted and ready to go.

If you're developing blisters or feel pain or discomfort, take the shoes 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 brand-new shoe, be careful. There are a couple of common problems that you might experience.

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 wear running shoes that are at least half 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 at 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 last that was in your previous running shoe. This may help determine the type of last to look for or to avoid in future shoes.

Wrong Type

Most running specialty stores have a salesperson who can look at your feet and do a gait analysis to get the right running shoes for you. For example, you may need a motion control shoe because you overpronate.

If you don't overpronate, you may find a stiffer shoe 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.

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 notably 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is there a fast way to break in shoes?

    It's best to not forcefully speed up how long it takes to break in a new pair of running shoes; going too many miles too quickly may cause injury. Instead, wear the shoes around your house, then on a treadmill, then for a light 2-5 mile jog outside. It should only take 5-10 miles to break in a pair of shoes.

  • Is it normal for new shoes to hurt?

    It's normal for new shoes to require an adjustment period, it is not normal for new shoes to cause more than a slight discomfort to your feet. If you're finding yourself getting excessive blisters or feeling pain as you wear the shoes, it's best to return them for a different style or brand.

  • Should toes touch the end of running shoes?

    It's best to go up at least half a size when buying running shoes—feet swell when you run, so you need room to "grow" into your shoes as you pound the pavement. If your toes touch the end of your running shoes when you first put them on, you need bigger shoes.

2 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.
  1. Malisoux L, Ramesh J, Mann R, Seil R, Urhausen A, Theisen D. Can parallel use of different running shoes decrease running-related injury risk?. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2015;25(1):110-5. doi:10.1111/sms.12154

  2. Vincent HK, Vincent KR. Five key characteristics to consider when purchasing a running shoe. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2015;14(5):358. doi:10.1249/JSR.0000000000000185

By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT
Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach.