Whether you’re training for a race or just going hard in the gym, your shoes can make or break your performance. And as much as a fresh pair of sneakers can motivate you to lace up (and level up), breaking in shoes is key! Or, is it?
Traditional fitness wisdom tells us we have to properly break in our sneakers—but is that really necessary? And what does ‘breaking in shoes’ really look like, anyway?
The Evolution Of Sneakers
Good news: Shoes are made very differently today than in decades past, says Wil Cramer, general manager at specialty running shop Brooklyn Running Company. The sneakers of yesteryear often featured more rigid, less breathable uppers and foam soles with less give. As style and technologies have developed, though, companies have started to lean into more breathable materials and adaptive cushioning to give shoes a more sock-like feel. As a result, that ‘break-in period’ has changed. In fact, it’s pretty much disappeared.
“Shoes are made smarter these days,” Cramer says. “Better materials, fit, and construction don’t really require a specific break-in time or loosening.”
Still, though, you don’t necessarily want to throw on a new pair of sneaks moments before a big race.
If you are trying out a totally new shoe (a.k.a. a style you’ve never worn before), do a few shorter runs or workouts in them before any races or competitions, Cramer says.
It’s less about breaking down the shoe itself, and more about finding your comfort zone in unfamiliar territory and giving your body time to adjust to a new feeling, he says. After run or workout number three, you’ll be moving and grooving.
The Bottom Line: Breaking in Shoes
Ultimately, feeling at home in your kicks sets you up for success on race or competition day.
“Especially if you’re preparing for a race, there are so many other factors you have to worry about,” says Cramer. “The list is long: getting to the start line, checking your bag, figuring out what you’re gonna eat, getting to the bathroom. If you can ensure your footwear won’t be another thing on a list of other anxiety-inducing considerations, that’s a win.”
One caveat: Do your sneaks have multiple layers around the laces or heel? These types of shoes likely need some time to feel more flexible. “If you’re wearing a pair that has synthetic overlays that might crease or rub, then be conscious about them stretching out over time,” Cramer says. Give these types of shoes four or five runs to start feeling like home.