19 November 2016

Breaking in Dr. Martens - the HARD way

It's time for me to make the post I thought I'd never make. As we all know, Dr Martens are the coolest shoes, also known for being one of the shoes hardest to break in, especially for people who usually buy cheap shoes, like me.

The reason I bought Docs in the first place is as follows: I've been having some orthopedic problems for a while this year, which ended up in me having to get a pair of orthopedic soles. And if you've ever had orthopedic soles or having to wear some now, you know that the only possible way of wearing them is to wear shoes at least one size bigger than what you usually wear.
And so I had to face the fact that aside from a pair of falling apart sneakers, literally none of my shoes was fitting the soles. Not even my winter shoes, which I thought were initially wider/longer.

It was already the beginning of Autumn and I realized I had no proper winter shoes (and no proper shoes in general). And since I have to wear my soles at all times anyway and having some money put aside - I've decided it was the perfect time to invest in some proper shoes that, with the price taken into account, will last me a long time and will fit my soles.

So with that being said, I am a size 38/39, and bought my Docs a size 40, which fit perfectly with the soles in.

Trying out Docs in the store and actually wearing them for the first time are 2 completely different things. This was my first pair of Docs ever, and I braced myself for what was to come.
I looked up some "how-to"s on how to make the breaking in process easier, and decided to refrain from hitting them with a hammer of filling them with wet newspapers (as some tutorials suggest).
Instead I thought the most reliable method was to actually wear them, little by little; to suck up the pain and just let the damn shoe get adjusted to my foot.
This was indeed the HARD way, but how are you going to break in shoes by not wearing them?!

Breaking in shoes is an individual process, so listen to your feet when you're doing it and see which places scream "help me" more than others!
In my case, the first to "scream" were the backs of my heels, especially the lower part. The hardest part of a boot is the back part and the bridge just before your toes start, so it's not surprising. My heels were the only part that had trouble, my pinkie toes usually suffers as well, but with Docs it was not the case! I was impressed...

1. Stack up on plasters/ band-aids
I never though the world of plasters was so diverse up until I had to search for some quality ones. The only plasters you will be buying are gel-plasters, the ones that create a gel barrier between your skin and the shoe. I bought these 2 kinds:

The one on the right is a plaster for high heels, which I've also used, as they are especially made for the back of your heel. And yes, there were times where I wore both kinds on top of each other.

I also had some "normal" plasters for milder calluses, but specifically waterproof ones, since they stay on the foot better and you can leave them on the skin for a longer while. Do yourself a favor and don't buy the classic brown with dots plaster, they sit poorly on the skin and are pretty much the worst plaster ever, might as well use them for the sake of "look at me I have a cut and I covered it up" scenes in tv shows...

2. Wear them for a little at a time
Going to town for errands ? Probably not the best idea to wear your new Docs (or any new shoe, for that matter). I read that you should wear them inside the house at first, and that's what I did. It was all nice and dandy when I just sat at home in front of my computer, but just a short trip down the stairs was a completely different story. We live in a student dorm campus and have a basement for laundry in a different building, makes for a 1 minute walk. So I took my Docs for a walk every time I had to do the laundry, and let me tell you it was hell compared to just sitting with them at home. Every slight various movement of your feet will alter your shoe tremendously, so go out for short trips: take out the trash, check the mail, etc... (I don't drive so I don't know how it is to drive with your new Docs).

The first actual walk with the shoes was terrible, not because of the back of my heels - that part was plastered safely, but because of the front lacing: simply lacing them up felt a bit uncomfortable at first, but that goes away quickly compared to what my heel had to endure. 
Also, different movements of your feet will bring different pain sensations: just when I thought the back of my heels were getting better, I attended a concert with the shoes and while rocking to the music back and forth, experienced a different irritable sensation in the front where the lacing ends.

I pretty much wore them only with plasters for the first 2 weeks. There was no going around it - my skin was very irritated and the gel plasters helped to make it heal. If that sounds gruesome then you should also...

3. Have soft backup shoes
As mentioned before, the only shoes that fit my new soles were old sneakers, which I comforted myself in every time the back of my heels started to look grim (of course you can wear any other type of comfortable shoes you have in between wearing the Docs, but I literally had no other option). This gave my feet the chance to relax and the skin to get (a little bit) back to normal. After the first couple of short "breaking in" trips with the Docs I stopped wearing them for a whole week to let my feet relax.
But the fact that I had to wear either my ragged sneakers or my awesome Docs has speeded up the breaking in process, as I didn't retrieve to other stylish shoes that might have fitted better with my outfit/the weather.

4. The Socks
I think this is the most individual part of breaking the Docs in. I read that you should wear the thickest socks in the world and you will be pain free. I've tried that, but it felt horrible - thick socks usually sit quite loose on your feet, and it made my skin rub even more and the shoe feel especially tense. I also read that you should in no way wear normal stretchy socks (like the kind you can buy in every clothing store) because they will rub your feet as well.
The best solution I found was to wear stockings and 2 pairs of "normal" socks on top. The stockings provided a kind of barrier and 2 pairs of regular socks really don't make your foot that different, while still being soft enough against the shoe. Make sure to wear socks that sit tightly and don't move around.
If you feel like wearing really thick winter socks helps you more, then keep doing that.

Pictures like this have horrified me in the beginning, as in no way I could wear 1 layer of fabric underneath my boots, not to mention fishnets! But wearing socks over stockings really does the trick for me, and I still wear my boots that way.

There were time where I was desperate - my calluses were horrific an my feet were hurting, and I thought that nothing in the world could make these shoes from hell any wearable. But as I wore them more and more things got easier, and the really fit you like a glove!
Here are some final thoughts:

  • Breaking in Docs will take you about a month, at least. I haven't tried other methods except for just wearing them, maybe someone out there has other tips and tricks?
  • I haven't tried lacing them up differently each time, I heard it helps. But what I did notice was lacing them all the way up made them fit my feet better. I personally love to leave 2 holes unlaced at the very top when wearing boots, but that made matters worse. Even that little change of lacing the 2 holes has made all the difference for me.
  • I wouldn't recommend buying second hand shoes, as every shoe fits the person and their feet (and feet are very different, so are the shoes that fit them, even if they all look the same). In my case this was essential since I needed a solid shoe to be wearing my soles with for orthopedic purposes.
  • There are vegan Doc Martens out there, the ones I bought are leather. I don't know how the vegan version feels like, so sorry about that.
  • This post was about the classic Doc Martens boot. I own another pair of the original 3-eye which are yet to be broken in, and the only times I've tried to wear them I've faced different challenges than with the boots, so I will wait before my boots will be completely worn in before I'll start working my way towards the 3-eyes, which look stunning! 
After all this time and pain I can say that I've managed to break in the shoes quite well. It will still be a while before they will give in completely, but it has been 2 months after purchasing them that I am plaster and double-sock free. And of course they look badass with everything I wear, no question there.

Do you wear Docs? How long has a pair lasted, and do you own multiple models?



  1. Yeesh... Everyone I know who has owned these shoes has them sitting in the closet as they wear something more comfortable. I know they are an iconic look, but you could get a really good pair of comfortable shoes for that price. Let us know how the breaking in goes... I'm curious if anyone has success with this

    1. I actually see a lot of people get these out as soon as Autumn rolls in so it seems like they're the go to shoes for every Berliner. I will keep an update on how my shoe/feet situation is doing hehe.

  2. I'm a size 9 and I bought a pair true to size, they have always been comfortable; hearing from other people makes me think I'm one of the lucky ones?

    1. I guess it really depends on your feet?! At the same time I think that you're never wrong with quality shoes, and Docs do get softer with time, they should last forever so it's no wonder breaking in is such a big deal.

    2. You have delicate feet! I really hope you van make them work for you!

  3. How strange. I have worn the same pair as yours for years and never had pain at the beginning. I also have the creeper-like ones and they have perfectly fitted since the beginning.

    1. That's great! It's not surprising that I got pain in the heel area, I mean that's how my feet react to any shoe. We'll see how things turn out!

  4. I wear Docs. I have two styles, but they're both the soft nappa leather and didn't need any breaking in.

    You make a good point about the socks. Loose socks can cause too much friction.

    With fishnets, I reverse the usual order and wear socks underneath. That way, I don't feel the little diamond pattern on my soles, plus my toes don't stick out through the fishnet.

    1. Good idea with the fishnets! I always wear socks over stockings so I never thought about it hehe

  5. I wear docs all the time. Once broken in, they are the most comfortable shoes/boots I have ever worn. Breaking them in can be a bitch and I remember the blisters and bruises. It is weird because I bought a new pair last fall and they didnt hurt my feet at all. I also bought them in my size.

    1. Great to hear! Some materials were softer than others in different shoe styles, but I really just wanted the classic design, so there was no going around it.

  6. I wear docs almost everyday to work, with thick socks usually, I'm 38,5 but my docs are 39 and comfy :) these boots are hardly jogging/long distance boots but I survived in them while strolling around the city for several good hours. I also have a gel soft insole in mine, only 7,99€ spent at deichmann and your feet will be so much happier :) enjoy, I have 3 pairs so far, my ultimate emerald green ones, brown (some sort of harsh suede leather) both are classic 1460, a pair of 9733, a 14eys boot with two front zippers and this year as a present to myself for my bday I ordered the bxb 8761 boot with the metal toe ;) you gotta love martens, they really go with and elevate any outfit

    1. I definitely wear mine everyday, and I fortunately don't have any problems wearing them for a long period of time anymore.

  7. I break mine in like this: Out of the box I give them a thin coat of lanolin on the outside. Then put my bare foot and walk until I find the pressure spots. Remove the boots and apply two layers of Leokotape to my foot over the sore spots. Then put on a thin pair of dress socks. I apply a light coat of sweet almond or coconut oil to the socks. Put the boots on. Wear them around the house for a couple days, or on short trips. By day 3, no more pain. By day 7, I can wear them comfortably all day doing whatever.

    1. Sounds interesting, I never thought to put oil on the inside.
      At this point I've worn my docs for a year long and they're already starting to fall apart. I'm shocked, honestly. I have a huge crack right in the middle of my sole on one of the shoe.
      So much for shoes that are supposed to last a few good years. So disappointing.