Breaking in Combat Boots for Running and​ Rucking

A soldier's boot is shown after an eight-mile ruck march.
A soldier's boot is shown after the eight-mile ruck march of the U.S. Army Reserve Best Warrior competition at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., June 25, 2014. (Sgt. 1st Class Ryan C. Matson/U.S. Army photo)

When you buy or get issued a pair of boots, you have to break them in before you run or​ ruck for miles in them. Over the years, I have tried many methods. Here is one method that worked for me for at least 10 pairs of combat boots.

Get them soaked and walk in them for a day. Soak your feet and boots in some form of water (ocean, lake, river, bathtub, even shower with them). Just get them soaked. Then take them off after about 30 minutes of walking in them and replace your wet socks with dry socks, so your feet do not get too soft and start to fall apart. See my video here:

Take a pair of thin socks under your thick pair of socks. I like a polyester/rayon blend that cling to your feet and​ lower legs like a pair of stockings. If you ever played baseball and used baseball socks, you will know the kind I am talking about. A better picture may be your grandfather wearing a pair of shorts with his dress socks and shoes; that is the sock I am talking about. Then put on the outer sock. This is whatever you are issued -- Army green or Navy dive socks, for instance.

Continue walking and picking up the pace to a slow trot occasionally to start breaking them in the way you walk, run and ruck. If you can keep a pair strictly for rucking and one for running, you will see a difference in the way they feel as you ruck differently than you run. This is not necessary, but it could save you from some overuse injuries.

Make sure you do a freshwater rinse and polish them with leather softener/shoe polish for extra protection and comfort.

Take care of your boots, and they will take care of you.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

Want to Learn More About Military Life?

Whether you're thinking of joining the military, looking for fitness and basic training tips, or keeping up with military life and benefits, has you covered. Subscribe to to have military news, updates and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

Story Continues