3 Tips for Breaking in Dr. Martens

5:00 PM

Chances are, if you have stumbled across this blog post, you bought a pair of Dr Martens and are wondering why it hurts so much to wear them. You might even be considering returning them or wondering if you’ve made a big mistake. Fear not, you did not make a mistake. You just need to break them in!

I have the 1460 Smooth Dr Martens. They were very tight and unpleasant when I first got them. I wasn’t aware that Dr. Martens need to be “broken in” before wearing.

People across the internet have done some crazy things to break in their docs. They’ve used hammers to beat the leather, fully submerged their shoes into hot or cold water, and ran their shoes over with their car. (I highly suggest that you don’t follow those suggestions!)

Please put away your hammers, here are some tips that helped me to break in my docs.


The “slouchy combat boot” style is really popular. Currently, combat boots look kind of cool when they aren’t laced up all the way. People usually lace them up all the way to the top when they wear their boots more for its utility. In terms of style, the more “relaxed” look is how people wear their boots.

However, when you first get your docs, you should lace them up all the way. This is because you have to break them in before wearing them. If you don’t lace your boots up all the way when you first get your shoes, they’re going to break in at a way that might not fully mold to the shape of your feet. This is why some people might say that their boots  “cut” into the back part of their heel.

When you lace up the shoe, some people say that you should lace them up tight. This is what I did. Of course, don’t lace them up so tight that you can’t feel the circulation through your legs. Just lace them up tight enough that the boot isn’t shifting around when you walk in them. By lacing them up “tight”, it prevents the shoe from rubbing against the back of your heel.


When you first get your docs, the front part of the shoe might feel very tight (specially where the “bridge” of the shoes meet).  You can stretch this part of the shoe out by wearing two pairs of socks. I would suggest wearing one thick pair of socks and one thin pair. First, place the thin sock on and then the thick one.

Yes, it might seem impossible at first, but eventually you can stretch out the front part of your shoes. This is where I had the most trouble. The top part of the shoe dug into my foot and it left marks on my feet. I didn’t actually think that I would ever stretch them out there, but it fits well now. After you have stretched them out, you can just wear one pair of socks with your shoes.


Don’t wear your docs for a prolonged period of time when you first get them. Chances are, if you haven’t broken them in yet, you’re going to hurt your feet. If for some reason, you get your shoes and they fit perfectly the first time without it being too tight, then go ahead and wear them for as long as you want. For those of you who haven’t broken your shoes in, wear them in intervals when you first get them.

When I first got mine, I stretched them out by walking around the house with them on straight out of the box. I haven’t worn them out yet so they weren’t dirty or anything. At first, I could only really wear them for a few hours. (It kinda sucks at first, not gonna lie.) Eventually I could feel them stretching out. So I tried wearing them out on short trips. The key is to wear them out if you know that you’re just making a short trip. If they’re hurting your feet, take a break. Don’t wear them for a few days, then try wearing them again.

Lastly, this isn’t really a tip, but something you can buy to help “soften” the leather of your shoes. Of course, this is optional and you can still break your shoes in without this.

Dr Martens Wonder Balsam Shoe Polish

There's a special shoe polish known as Dr Martens Wonder Balsam that you can get for your docs that might help soften the leather of your shoes. From everywhere I searched on the internet, it is pronounced “ball-some”. (If I am wrong, someone correct me.)

I bought the Balsam because I wanted something that could waterproof my shoes and maintain the leather. Some people say that this helped them to soften the leather around the shoe. I don’t know if it really softens leather. However, if you plan on maintaining your shoes, you might want to consider getting something similar to this product.  

It comes in a tin with a sponge applicator. Before you apply the polish, make sure your shoes are clean. You take off the laces of your shoes, and then you apply a generous amount of the polish on to the shoe. Wait for it to dry out before you wear shoes out again. This will make your shoes shiny and will possibly soften the leather.


At this point, you might be thinking “This is so much work for a pair of shoes. Why not just buy something else?”

Of course, you can just buy any type of combat styled boots. There are many different kinds of boots at different price points. I’ve had a couple of them.

What separates Dr Martens boots from the others is the style and quality. Dr Martens have original “yellow seams” around the sole of the shoe. Some of their shoes also have a unique loop at the back of the shoe to help you put them on. Lots of different boot companies try to replicate this look. However, Docs are the original of this style.

The shoes I’ve bought in the past don’t have the same look and typically broke down after several wears. Usually, it would break down in the back part of the heel. Dr Martens are supposed to last for quite a long time. They have one particular shoe that they boast are “for life”, meaning that they will replace the shoe if it breaks down.

With a unique style and quality of the shoe, I am very happy with my docs. There’s a sense of accomplishment and membership when you wear a pair of Dr Martens. Since it can be a somewhat “painful” experience breaking in the shoes, you just feel very accomplished once you’ve broken them in. Also when you see someone on the street with their docs on, you’ll know that they had to go through a similar experience of breaking them in.

On a personal note, what got me inspired to buy these shoes was from someone I admired in the past. I guess you can say that I had a bit of “style crush” on one of my former co-workers. She had this very cool attitude. She wore a lot of black, liked to watch documentaries on Netflix, and listened to cool indie bands that I’ve never heard of. Although we had work uniforms, she would wear Dr Martens to work. From that point, I was inspired. I knew that I wanted to eventually get a pair for myself in the future when I could afford it.

(End Notes: Not all of Dr Martens shoes require the process of “breaking in”. Research the type of shoe you’re going to buy before purchasing. This is not a sponsored post.)

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