How to crack Doc Martens with minimal pain

If you’ve ever owned a pair of new Dr. Martens, then you know the blood, sweat and tears it takes to break them. The subject of many Tumblr-era bloodstained sock aesthetics and current TikTok memes, Docs is sacred. It’s like a ritual: everyone has to go through it, if you want to wear them. That’s why it’s good to know how to break in Doc Martens if you want to add them to your regular footwear repertoire.

The old adage that style and pain go hand in hand is now outdated, and we’ve mostly (thankfully) moved away from the idea that enduring uncomfortable shoes is just part of fashion – except, it seems- he, when it comes to durable leather from Dr. Martens. However, the pain is brief and temporary if you take the right steps to properly break in your shoes and boots.

The best solution to busting Dr. Martens is to skip the process altogether by buying a pre-worn pair. It’s an incredibly durable option and you don’t have to worry about the long break-in process. But if you can’t get your hands on a second-hand pair of Docs at a thrift store or on a resale app like Depop, or just want a ready-made pair, then you’ll just have to do the dirty work yourself.

As someone who has experienced both used Dr. Martens and brand new Dr. Martens, I know what it’s like from both perspectives. My first (and favorite) Docs came to me from my mother, a pair of red and blue fish-patterned boots she bought in Ireland in the 80s, and the leather was perfectly broken in and soft by the time I I had them. My second pair, new black Mary Janes, was a different story, and I underestimated the amount of bandages I would need to stick on my heels because I hadn’t taken my time breaking them in.

The Docs break-in process may require painstaking patience as you wait for them to stretch and conform to your feet, but it’s worth it in the end. Dr. Martens are some of the most versatile and durable boots around, and owners who take care of their Docs will have them for years to come – re: my mom’s ’80s pair. And not all styles of Dr. Martens shoes require the same amount of break-in right out of the box. Vegan styles, in particular, are known to be immediately easier to wear.

If and when the time comes for you to add a pair of iconic shoes to your collection, you’ll want to be prepared and ready. Below you will find a few different tips and tricks for how to crack Dr. Martens.

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Layer socks

This is arguably the most important step when it comes to breaking Dr. Martens. Thin little socks are your enemy here. Opt for thick, wintery wool socks or even double socks that cover your entire ankle when you first wear your Docs to prevent your feet from rubbing against the tough leather. The chunky lane or layering will also help stretch the shoes, which is the ultimate goal.

Wear your Doc Martens at intervals

To fully break in your Dr. Martens, take it easy and prepare to be able to wear them comfortably for as long as you want. Start wearing your brand new Docs inside your home for 10-20 minute intervals a few times a day, and take them off as soon as they start to hurt, because you want to avoid blisters. You can then work up to walking outside with them on short trips to the store or walks in a local park. The most important step is to take them off and swap them out for something else as soon as they start hurting your feet.

The more you move while wearing them, the faster they will sink in. Eventually, the leather will stretch and soften on its own over time as it molds to the contours of your foot. The important thing here is that you don’t just wear them all day – it’s a recipe for blisters and bloody sock nightmares.

Put on preventive bandages

This one might be the obvious, but prevention is better than cure, so apply bandages or moleskin patches to the back of your heel and anywhere you’re likely to get blisters to stave off pain before it does not happen. Your heel is the area most likely to get irritated, so adding extra padding, even if you’re already double socks, is never a bad idea when breaking boots.

Eventually, your Docs will be at a point that doesn’t require you to be afraid of blisters, but until then, bandage yourself.

Stretch your documents when you’re not carrying them

What you’re ultimately trying to do by breaking your Dr. Martens is to soften the stiff leather. When you’re early in the process of wearing them at intervals, you can help the boots stretch while they’re sitting in the hallway or on the shoe rack.

When you take your Docs off, loosen all the laces and stuff them with socks or paper to help them stretch. You can also buy wooden shoe stretchers to do this job, but home supplies work too. Follow Docs enthusiast Sophie Seddon’s advice on TikTok and spend some time manually bending the heel once you’ve taken them off. This will help relax the area that is likely to be the most uncomfortable when lapping your Dr. Martens.

Use a hair dryer for break-in

You can speed up the break-in by heating your boots with a hair dryer while you wear them around the house. On medium or high heat, hold a hair dryer about six inches from your boots (with your feet inside) for 30 seconds, then move to a new spot on the shoe. Once you’ve warmed up all or most of your Docs, shop around until they’re back to room temperature, as fashion stylist Christie Moeller recommends. The thought process for this tip is that heat basically speeds up the process of conforming the shoe to your foot.

Apply leather conditioner to your documents

Using a waxy leather conditioner, such as Dr. Martens Wonder Balsam, on your new boots will also help them penetrate. Just knead and massage the product to soften the leather, like breaking a baseball glove. Leather conditioners also help moisturize and protect leather from natural elements.

There are plenty of ways to help break in a pair of Dr. Martens to avoid the dreaded heel disaster. Even if you’re eager to wear them as soon as possible – and who wouldn’t? – try to plan ahead and have some patience in the process. Breaking up your Docs properly will allow you to put them on with virtually any outfit whenever you want without hassle.

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