The art of manliness – the right way to break in a boot

March 31, 2017

Always buy only boots constructed out of aniline leather. Usually these variety are boots are slightly more expensive, but in the long run they do manage to deliver more bang for the buck – as since aniline or real leather responds well to nourishing techniques ONLY these types of boots can be broken in using the right and correct way.

Boots constructed out of synthetic leather or a combination of leather uppers and textile materials general cannot be broken in using leather nourishment techniques. They’re good for casual city wear but to get any serious mileage out of them in the jungle will always be hazardous and may even result in death or serious injury.

Usually I pour a whole cup of coconut oil into a brand new stiff boot and swirl it around so that it gets to all the areas – I pay special attention to the crunch zones such as the shank, vamp and ankle supports. A whole cup may seem like a lot, but you will be surprised how much oil parched leather can actually soak up.

I realise there are many recommended techniques out there in the internet that suggest filling a plastic bag with water and putting your boot in the freezer so that when the water freezes it will expand and force the leather to expand. Along with using strong chemicals such as isopropyl alcohol to help the leather to shape up. Or hammering it and using force or a shoe stretcher.

In my opinion all these lazy boy techniques will only end up destroying your boot and turning them shapeless and possibly creating a boot that will eventually kill you slowly – as all these short cuts don’t bother with what’s most needful when it comes to rendering stiff leather pliable and soft – nourishing the leather at a cellular level and all they’re doing is forcing the leather to either expand or stretch beyond its natural limits. Do that and you will shorten the working life of your boot considerably and render it useless as it’s the wrong shape.

Leather is essentially skin and by using oils to nourish the leather from within, it’s like lathering your hands with soap and criss crossing your fingers. Since they are slippery now, they can slide effortlessly over each other. Leather fibers are no different. By impregnating leather at a cellular level all that one is really doing is facilitating the fibers to roll over each other smoothly without stressing them to breaking point.

The boot should be turned up side down to allow the leather to permeate from the inside to the surface. Don’t be bothered if you notice your boot losing its aesthetics especially with brown leather boots that can appear black after this treatment – that’s only temporary.

What’s important is to pay very close attention to the crunch zones as these are the action segments of the boot that you want to suitably nourish before you begin to stretch them out.

Usually I leave my boots to stand for a full week turning them in different directions to allow gravity to work the oils into the leather.

At the end of the week. You may notice very ugly dark patches on your boot – again don’t be alarmed, that’s just the leathers way of distributing the oils to areas that needs it most. You may even find that in some areas the boot seems to be sweating excess oils. Again no worries that just means the leather in those zones are saturated. Just wipe the excess off.

If you don’t see these signs – then continue to add more oil to the inside of the boot to continue to nourish the leather. Remember always work from the inside out. Never try to nourish the leather from the outside, it just sticks to the surface….waste of time and energy and oil.

At the end of the week put on a pair of thick socks. Lace the boot tight and just go about your business. For me when it comes to work boots – I like to start a full half size smaller and stretch them out for the final fit. I find this method is very effective in moulding the leather to the shape of my foot.

Since all high quality leather boots can stretch out easily to at least a full half size quite easily. I usually get mine tighter than most people. I never ever buy my boots online. Even if it’s more expensive, I will make it a point to my always try them on for fit in brick and mortar shops as this is usually the most critical stage simply because IF the fit is wrong…then it’s no good.

After a period of regular use you will find that your boot will begin to acquire the shape and contours of your feet…some parts of the boot will stick out. Others will contract. By this stage the boot will be very comfortable and that is when you need to set or fix the final shape so that it doesn’t continue to expand and stretch out further. Otherwise you will end up with a very loose boot that feels as if you’re walking on tofu.

To set or fix the final shape of the boots – fill a bucket with boiling hot water. Add five to six table spoons of salt. Stir well and immerse both boots into brine solution for half a day and more. Doing so forces the excess oil to migrate out of the boot thru a process of reverse osmosis and this reduction in oil content in the leather has a fixative effect that sets the final shape of the boot for good….the boot will not expand or stretch out further after this treatment.

Let it soak in plain water for another half day with regular changes of water . Allow the boots to dry out in the shade for at least a full week. I usually use a fan.

Brush off the salt crystals deposits with a hard bristle brush. Followed by liberal application of either dubbin or mink oil. Rub it aggressively from the outside of the boot in circular motions to create a waterproof seal. Pay special attention to the welt stitching that runs along the sides of the boots. Use an old toothbrush to work it all in. Never use shoe wax on boots such as Kiwi. As they do absolutely nothing to nourish the leather and just gives the shoe a shiny cosmetic sheen…it’s useless in fieldcraft.

Take care of your boots. Just a few rules. Never wear the same boot twice in a row. Alternate them regularly. Remember leather is just skin, they need to air and ventilate to keep their shape. Never wear a wet boot. If it’s wet. Fan dry it.

Respect your kit and it will keep you free from injuries and back pain. That’s especially jugular for some of you who are preparing to serve your country as NS men.

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