hardline_42

Honors Member
3,495
United States
New Jersey
Mount Holly
Most leather footwear break-in procedures are done over the course of several months, wearing them as often as possible and suffering the whole time. This is effective, but it's no fun and not always convenient. That's why I like to speed up the process as much as possible. The idea behind this break in procedure is to replicate many cycles of wearing, sweating, and drying into one day. This will work for any leather boot, from hiking to riding, but Bean Boots require a few special steps. Here's how I do it:

1) Start with a fresh pair of Bean boots and remove the laces. Bean's taslan laces are pretty terrible. They're always too short and they puke their guts out in no time. In the pic below, the Bean laces are on the right and the laces in the foreground are donors from a pair of Hoffman pac boots that I'll be using for break-in. Use laces that are long enough to reach the top eyelets.


2) Grab a (mostly) clean 5 gallon bucket. In fact, any bucket deep enough to accommodate the shaft of your boots will do.


3) Find a pair of sacrificial hangers and some pliers/cutters. You don't hang your clothes on wire hangers anyway, right?


4) Cut the hook off the hangers and straighten them. Thread the hanger wire through the bottom eyelets, around the boot and twist them together behind the heel counter.


Form the tail ends into hooks that face up.


5) Hang the boots with the soles up using the toes and hooks to keep the rubber bottoms level. Fill the bucket with warm water so that it covers the leather completely and let them soak for ten minutes. Then, dump the water and let them drip excess water into the bucket. It might seem like a lot of work, but keeping the rubber bottoms and insoles dry greatly speeds up the break-in process and make it much less uncomfortable.


6) While the boots are soaking, grab two pairs of socks. My preference is to use a pair of liner socks and a pair of wool boots socks. The two pairs of socks will slip over each other, preventing blisters.


Here's a pic of the boots after soaking. They should be a good deal darker (notice the original color leather at the bottom of the right boot) and wet all the way through.


7) Lace them up tightly, all the way to the top, even if you never plan to wear them this way. Take special care to make sure the gusseted tongue lays as flat and even as possible as you go. I use over under lacing. Wear them until they're dry or as long as you can. This can take a few hours or longer depending on the weather. Also, I won't apologize for my polar bear jammies. It's Christmas.


8) While you're wearing them, there are a few movements you need to perform in order to break them in properly. Do these as often as you can:

a) Sit on your heels. This will define the heel crease. You should end up with a single fold across the heel counter, just above your heel. If you end up with two folds that don't meet, reshape it with your hand into one. Otherwise, the leather will pinch your foot. Forever.


b) Crouch. Again, you want to establish the instep crease. Try and keep it continuous across the top and the tongue. This one is less critical because you can always adjust the pressure over your instep with the laces.


c) Twist your ankle inward. You should get a wishbone shaped fold that connects the heel fold, holds your ankle and connects your instep fold.


That's it for the break-in procedure. After you take them off, store them in a cool, dry place for 24 hours until they're completely dry. The next step is to seal the welt (more like the leather/rubber interface) and sno-seal the upper. I will update this thread on that process later.
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
30,975
Harmony, FL
United States
Florida
Harmony
Very interesting. I've seen and used a similar process applied to accelerate the break-in period for pairs of leather combat/field boots, but never for breaking in a new pair of LL Bean Hunting pacs. May you long wear those Bean boots and may you do so in good health!
 

hardline_42

Honors Member
3,495
United States
New Jersey
Mount Holly
Thanks, eagle. They should be nice and dry by this evening, so I can post up the next few steps.
 

drlivingston

Connoisseur
7,051
United States
of
America
Thanks Hardline for taking the time and effort to put together a most informative post. I have the Bean mocs but have been contemplating the purchase of the full boots. If bought, I would definitely utilize your awesome method.
 

Trevor

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
296
United States
NC
Belmont
Great Post. I read about this method and a few others when i first purchased my redwings. I felt like i was gonna die wearing them for the first few weeks!

Does the water change the color of the leather at all after it dries?

My Bean boots should hopefully be here in a week or so :D
 

hardline_42

Honors Member
3,495
United States
New Jersey
Mount Holly
Thanks Hardline for taking the time and effort to put together a most informative post. I have the Bean mocs but have been contemplating the purchase of the full boots. If bought, I would definitely utilize your awesome method.
I have a separate method for wet-forming the tongue and laces on the mocs that I described in this thread. So far, they've never come untied and slipping them on and off is effortless.

Great Post. I read about this method and a few others when i first purchased my redwings. I felt like i was gonna die wearing them for the first few weeks!

Does the water change the color of the leather at all after it dries?

My Bean boots should hopefully be here in a week or so :D
The water will not change the color of the leather, but Sno-Seal (or any other wax/oil based water repellent treatment) will definitely darken it.
 

godan

Advanced Member
2,581
United States
Colorado
Northern Colorado
Very interesting. I've seen and used a similar process applied to accelerate the break-in period for pairs of leather combat/field boots, but never for breaking in a new pair of LL Bean Hunting pacs. May you long wear those Bean boots and may you do so in good health!
I learned a similar method in the Army. Hardline's excellent post is more sophisticated and probably superior, but we were in something of a hurry back in those distant times.
 

Bjorn

Moderator
4,849
Sweden
Sweden
Balsta
If you urinate on them, the urine will soften the leather a lot. Not saying that method is as good. Just saying...

That's how they broke in really though boots back in the day.
 

hardline_42

Honors Member
3,495
United States
New Jersey
Mount Holly
If you urinate on them, the urine will soften the leather a lot. Not saying that method is as good. Just saying...

That's how they broke in really though boots back in the day.
I've heard this plenty of times. Don't know if it's any more effective than warm water, but I'm not about to try it.