We all want to know how to break in Doc Martens as quickly as possible after purchasing a pair of these trendy boots, to save our poor ankles and heels weeks of blisters. As a long time fan of the brand I’ve been breaking in different pairs of Doc Martens for over 10 years and boy do I have a bunch of tips and tricks to share.
In this guide you will find 10 ways to break in doc martens super fast, including a nifty overnight method if you’re really in a pinch for time. I’ve also included a breakdown for a few popular Doc Martens styles other than the classic boot, to cover all bases, plus photos and a video of me showing how I broke in my own boots (namely my 1460s, my Jadons and my Mary Janes).
Here’s a table of contents so you can either read about the universal breaking in methods or skip directly to breaking in the alternative styles of Doc Martens like the Jadons or the Mary Janes.
- How to Break in Doc Martens Fast
- 1. A shoe stretcher
- 2. Silicone Gel Heel Cups
- 3. Wonder Balsam
- 4. Super chunky thick socks/ blister-proof socks
- 5. Band-aids
- 6. Shoe Stretch Spray
- 7. How to Break in Doc Martens Overnight (Freezer Method)
- 8. How to Break in Doc Martens With a Hairdryer
- 9. How to Break in Doc Martens Painlessly (Plastic Bag Method)
- 10. Homemade Heel Pad
- How to Break in Doc Martens Sandals
- How to Break in Doc Martens Mary Janes
- How to Break in Vegan Doc Martens
- How to Break in Patent Doc Martens
- How to Break in Jadon Doc Martens
- How to Break in Sinclair Doc Martens
- A note
- Related articles
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How to Break in Doc Martens Fast
The quicker we can break in our Doc Martens the better right? Here’s how to save yourself weeks of painful blisters…
Break in Doc Martens fast by applying a leather conditioner to the boots and manually stretching and pulling the leather for 15 to 30 minutes. Next use a shoe stretcher or stuff the boots with tightly rolled old t-shirts to help mold and stretch the boots for a further 24hrs before use.
Getting this process right is crucial before you start wearing your Docs, as it really speeds up the initial ‘break in period’.
**PLEASE NOTE there are a number of alternative FREE methods to breaking in your Docs if you aren’t able to purchase a leather conditioner before you want to wear them. Skip to the next section for my handy overnight method that requires a fridge freezer (sounds weird right? But it works!), or for my hairdryer method if you don’t have space in your freezer.
Here’s how to properly use a leather conditioner and a shoe stretcher (and which ones to buy) to really speed up the process of breaking in your Docs.
Trust me when I say I’ve done it the hard way – I powered through endless days of sore heels breaking in my first pair of docs and I have the scars to prove it! I wish I had known to try these methods to rescue my poor feet. It’s really worth grabbing a few inexpensive products to help you break in your boots, especially when you’ve invested quite a bit of money into buying them.
Here are the products I recommend and how to use them:
1. A shoe stretcher
A good shoe stretcher will shave weeks off your ‘break in period’ and do the work for you when your docs aren’t in use. Stretch out your Docs whilst you sleep!
This shoe stretcher (4-Way Shoe Stretcher Pair from the Lanney Store) provides 4-way stretching, which means it not only stretches out the ankle area, but can also expand the toe area and the instep area, to help you combat blisters there too.
It’s worth the investment if you’re a Docs fan and plan on owning more pairs in future, or if others in your household need to break in shoes too.
I own this exact shoe stretcher in the grey color, and it works well on any new pairs of Docs that I buy. Here’s a picture of mine:
Here’s how to use it:
- Unlace your Doc Martens and pop the boot stretcher inside. You can wrap the stretcher in cloth or in newspaper to protect the inside of the boots if you wish.
- Use the largest setting you can on the stretcher and make sure it’s snug inside your Docs.
- Lace your Docs back up really tight, to create as much resistance as you can for the stretcher to work against. If the boot is loose then the stretcher simply won’t do anything.
- Boost results by using a boot stretching spray on the inside on the Docs first.
If you do not want to purchase a shoe stretcher you can use newspaper or old clothing to stretch out your Docs. How you ask? Tightly stuff your Docs with balls of old newspaper or rolled up old t-shirts or other clothing when your boots aren’t in use.
If you keep this up each time you put your docs away after use, they will begin to stretch gradually when in storage. This method isn’t as effective as a proper shoe stretcher that’s designed for the job, but it works pretty well if you can’t get your hands on one.
2. Silicone Gel Heel Cups
Gel heel cups are an awesome hack for breaking in Doc Martens, as they completely shield the skin on your ankles. I know they look a little weird, but stick with me.
Simply slide them on over your heels, then wear a pair of socks on top. Heel cups are favoured by athletes as they are an easy way to prevent blisters when moving around excessively. Hey if it works for them, it works for me!
Take a look at the brand I use here.
I like to use them when I’m walking out and about in a new pair of Docs for an extra layer of relief from the rubbing.
Here is a video of me showing how I broke in my own Docs, including FREE tips for breaking in Doc Martens if you aren’t looking to spend any money and want an easy fix:
3. Wonder Balsam
Wonder Balsam is an excellent leather conditioner that will help soften your Doc Martens without causing unsightly creases.
It’s a great product to apply and massage into the leather before using a shoe stretcher on your Docs overnight.
Here’s a Wonder Balsam by Dr. Martens themselves, along with an ultra protector spray to keep your Docs protected from rain and dirt and a useful buffing cloth to remove grime and keep your Docs looking amazing:
Dr. Martens Kit 1 Shoe Accessory, Black
This kit is specifically designed for use with Doc Martens, making it a perfect choice for softening your boots. Pair this with a good shoe stretcher to help mold the boots after conditioning.
4. Super chunky thick socks/ blister-proof socks
The next step in breaking in your docs quickly is to wear them with super thick socks. Chunky socks will help stretch out your docs as you wear them and protect your feet from rubbing.
I often find wearing two pairs of socks at once really helps to speed up the ‘break in period’ when walking around in your Docs.
Walking socks, military socks or blister proof socks are really good for this. Here’s a full guide on the best socks to pair with Docs if you want to pick some up: BEST Socks To Wear With Doc Martens – Comfort & Style Review.
Personally I like to break in my Docs with military socks, as they are super heavy duty. The brand I use are Fox River, and here’s a photo of my newest pair of their wick dry socks:
They aren’t the most fashionable socks, but they are really worth it for saving your ankles – just the blisters scars I got from breaking in my first pair of Docs without them! I’m not sponsored by Fox River, I just really like them for my own use. You can take a look at their current price here if you’re interested.
I suggest wearing your Docs in intervals with your thick socks, until the boots start to soften. After using wonder balsam and a shoe stretcher (or a spray and stuffing your boots with old t-shirts) start wearing your Docs for 1-2 hours at a time with super chunky socks over the course of a week.
After a week your Docs will be much softer and you’ll be able to wear them for a full day.
Please don’t skip this step when breaking in your Docs!
This is a super simple tip that will really help your ankles when wearing your Docs the first few times. Purchase a pack of large band-aids and wear them on the back of your ankles as a preventative method against blisters.
Band-aids paired with thick blister resistant socks are a serious game changer.
If you aren’t able to purchase a leather conditioner or a shoe stretcher, at the very least get some band-aids to protect your poor skin before trying to break in your Docs on your own.
Many of these things can be found around the house, but if you don’t already own them it’s better to spend a couple of dollars on band-aids, a stretcher or wonder balsam than retiring your lovely new Docs to the back of the shoe closet to gather dust.
6. Shoe Stretch Spray
If you’re looking for something a little more affordable to help stretch out your Docs you should consider purchasing a shoe stretch spray.
They are available to purchase online, or in shoe stores, so shop around until you find one that meets your budget. You can often get a good shoe stretch spray for under ten dollars or so.
Apply it to the inside of the boots until they are slightly damp and then stuff with old t-shirts, packing them in as tightly as you can. Whilst somewhat effective I find this method doesn’t work as well as a manual shoe stretcher and a leather conditioner, so bear this in mind.
7. How to Break in Doc Martens Overnight (Freezer Method)
After buying a pair of Doc Martens we all want to wear them as soon as possible. There’s nothing better than the instant gratification of receiving a new pair of boots in the mail and styling them as part of your outfit for the next day.
But a problem arises when we try to do this with Docs – they simply hurt too much and need breaking in. This dilemma has left making of us asking if it’s possible to break in Doc Martens overnight.
The good news is yes! Here’s how I have done it with my Doc Martens in the past:
You can break in Doc Martens overnight by using two zip locked bags of water and a freezer. Simply line your Doc Martens with plastic bags for protection, then put a zip locked bag of water into each boot and freeze overnight. The water will expand slightly as it freezes, stretching out your Docs by a small amount. In the morning remove the frozen bags of water and your Docs will be ready to wear.
**PLEASE NOTE if you don’t have a freezer or simply don’t have the space in your freezer to try this method then please refer to the previous section for more traditional methods for breaking in your docs. Alternatively read on to the next section for an easy hairdryer method.
Sounds pretty simple right? Not quite – you need to make sure you follow these steps completely to get this method right.
- Make sure you line your Docs correctly with plastic bags, to create a preventative barrier should your zip locked bags of water leak before they are frozen.
- Make sure you use zip locked bags that will be large enough to stretch your Docs when frozen. No itty bitty bags that won’t touch the sides of the boot shaft. You want the bag of water to fit snuggly in the boot, around the ankle area.
- Only fill your zip locked bags up three quarters of the way, to allow the water to expand when it freezes – you don’t want the bags to burst.
- Once your Docs are ready to go in the freezer place the pair inside another large plastic bag to protect the outer side of the boots from getting frosty.
Leave your Docs overnight to expand and then take them out of the freezer the following morning. Remove the bags of ice and allow the Docs to warm up to room temperature before putting them on.
They will have stretched out nicely, but not too much – the water won’t have expanded by very much when freezing, so you don’t have to worry about over stretching the leather.
This technique has been used for years to stretch out leather ever since freezers were invented. Previously people would boil their leather to soften it, which I don’t recommend nowadays!
If you aren’t able to try this method read on to learn how to break in your Doc Martens with a hairdryer.
You may also like: How Much Height Do Doc Martens Add? (PHOTOS & Height Chart)
8. How to Break in Doc Martens With a Hairdryer
Breaking in a pair of Doc Martens with a hairdryer is a simple and easy way of speeding up the stretching process. It results in softer and more supple leather that’s much more comfortable to walk in.
Here’s how to do it:
- Wear two pairs of the thickest socks you can find and stuff your feet into your Doc Martens. Be aware this may be uncomfortable, but it will only be for a short period of time.
- Grab your hairdryer and switch it on to a medium or high heat. Heat is the key component here!
- Hold your hairdryer around 6 to 7 inches away from your Doc Martens and begin to heat one patch at a time. Heat for around 30 seconds or so, whilst moving your feet and toes inside the boot as much as you can, to get the leather to stretch and move.
- Once you have heated once part of the boot move on to another patch and repeat. If this becomes too uncomfortable then only do one patch at a time, allowing it to cool completely before moving on.
- After you have warmed up the boots leave them on until they cool. Removing them too early won’t result in an effective stretch. The boots need to cool and mold to your feet.
- After they have cooled remove them and apply a leather conditioner to prevent any cracks.
Repeat this process several times over the course of a few days. It’s best to take a few days to do this, instead of rushing and overheating the leather. Use your judgement and take your time.
Heating your Docs with a hairdryer like this will help the leather stretch and mold to your feet much quicker than just walking around in them. It’s a great method for speeding up the process and preventing a lot of pain and blisters!
9. How to Break in Doc Martens Painlessly (Plastic Bag Method)
If you’re really worried about getting blisters when breaking on your Docs but can’t afford blister proof socks, or you just want a quick free fix, then check out this plastic bag method.
Simply slide a plastic bag over your socks before putting on your Doc Martens. The plastic bag will create a barrier between your heels and the boots, reducing chaffing.
Your feet will slide around inside the bag, stopping the formation of blisters. The plastic bag will also help to break in and soften the leather more quickly, as it creates movement inside the boots.
I love this tip and have used it myself many times in the past to break in my Docs. I heard it from a Doc Martens retailer when I was shopping for a pair and I thought it was an excellent idea. In practice it works really well.
10. Homemade Heel Pad
Another pain-free tip for breaking in Doc Martens is to create a home made heel pad out of a women’s health item. See the below picture of me demonstrating how to do this:
Simply trim the pad to size and using the stick back press it into the heels of your Docs to create a quick and effective heel cushion which will help prevent pain.
The above is a great method if you are looking for some additional comfort when breaking in your Docs.
How to Break in Doc Martens Sandals
Doc Martens sandals are much easier to break in than the classic boot. This is because there is less ridged leather and no tall shaft to rub your ankles until they blister.
That being said Doc Martens sandals do need breaking in to be fully comfortable, especially if you intend to wear them when walking distances.
The best way to break in Doc Martens Sandals is to wear them around the house with two pairs of super chunky socks, before wearing them out. Take your time and wear them in during the course of a few days. To speed up the process heat the sandals with a hairdryer whilst wearing them and allow them to cool. This will help them soften and mold to your feet faster.
Here is a step-by-step breakdown of how to properly break in Doc Martens sandals:
- Wear two pairs of chunky socks and buckle up your sandals as tightly as you can comfortably manage.
- Take a hairdryer and hold it 6 to 7 inches away from the sandal straps and heat one at a time, for no more than 30 seconds.
- Allow the straps to cool and fit to the shape of your feet.
- Apply wonder balsam or another leather conditioner to the straps to soften them and prevent cracks from the heat.
- Wear the sandals around the house with your chunky socks for 1-2 hours at a time over the course of a few days.
Massaging a good leather conditioner into the sandals is a great way to soften them up quicker.
Take your time breaking in your sandals and they will be as soft as butter. Rushing the process, or not breaking them in at all before you wear them out for the day will result in very painful feet!
Investing in chunky socks and a good leather conditioner will ensure a great start to your relationship with these lovely sandals.
How to Break in Doc Martens Mary Janes
Doc Martens Mary Janes are super popular right now, and they look to be here to stay. Investing in a pair of these beauties is a good idea as they look great with a range of outfits. For the record I’m in love with my own pair of Mary Janes. Here’s how they look on me:
There’s just one slight problem – they can be a little painful to break in.
Here’s how to break in Doc Martens Mary Janes quickly and painlessly:
- Wear two pairs of thick socks and buckle up your Mary Janes as tightly as you can manage, without causing pain.
- Walk around your house in your Mary Janes for 1-2 hours a day until they begin to soften. Don’t rush this and wear them out too soon, or you’ll have blisters in no time.
- Speed up the process with a shoe stretcher and shoe stretching spray when you aren’t wearing your Mary Janes. Simply spray the inside of the shoes with shoe stretching spray and place a shoe stretcher inside. Don’t fully saturate the shoes, just add a little spray until they are lightly damp. Focus on the seams and around the ankles and toes.
- Use a leather conditioner like wonder balsam to soften the leather. Massage this into the leather whilst pulling and stretching it as much as you can.
Taking the time to properly break in your Doc Martens Mary Janes will result in a pair of supple shoes you’ll be wearing for years to come. Skipping the ‘break in process’ will leave you with painful feet and may dissuade you from wearing your Mary Janes in future.
Check out the How to Break in Doc Martens Fast section of this article (scroll up – it’s just under the introduction) for a recommended leather conditioner, shoe stretchers and more tips to break in your Mary Janes.
How to Break in Vegan Doc Martens
Breaking in vegan Doc Martens is a little different than breaking in the classic leather version of these iconic boots.
Learning how to properly break in your vegan pair of Docs is crucial before wearing these beauties out of the house for extended periods of time. Like their leather counterparts, they will rub your feet and cause painful blisters. It is worth noting however vegan Doc Martens tends to break in a lot faster than leather ones.
Here’s how to break in vegan Doc Martens the right way:
- Pop on two pairs of chunky socks and squeeze your feet into your vegan Docs. Lace them up as tightly as you can manage.
- Wear your Docs around the house like this for 1-2 hours at a time. You will feel the chunky socks start to stretch out the boots after a few wears.
- To speed up the process use a shoe stretcher overnight. Only use a shoe stretcher for 24hrs or so, to avoid creasing your docs.
- You can also use a vegan leather conditioner to soften your Docs before wear. Remove the laces completely and apply a generous about of conditioner to your boots and allow them to sit like that for 30 minutes or so before buffing them.
How to Break in Patent Doc Martens
Docs made with patent leather can be quite painful to break in, as the leather is much stiffer. I recommend really taking the time to slowly break them in. If you rush things and wear them out and about too soon the leather will wreak havoc on your ankles.
Here’s how to break in patent leather Doc Martens quickly and painlessly:
- Wear two pairs of thick socks with your Docs and lace them up tight. This will begin to stretch out the patent leather.
- Walk around your house in your patent leather Docs in short intervals over the course of a few days.
- If you really want to wear them out, make sure you cover your heels and ankles in band-aids to help prevent blisters and wear blister proof socks. Additionally try wearing silicone gel heel cups for an added layer of protection.
- To speed up the ‘break in process’ use a shoe stretcher overnight to help soften your Docs.
How to Break in Jadon Doc Martens
Jadon Doc Martens are super trendy right now – and with good reason! They look great as part of edgy outfits, and have a cool grunge feel. I have my own pair and I enjoy styling them often.
Breaking them in can be a little painful, so you want to make sure you get this process right to minimise your blisters (for full transparency my own pair of Jadon Docs are made with pisa leather, which is much softer than their standard option. This has meant that breaking them in was much easier for them, then breaking in my 1460s and Mary janes).
Here’s how to break in Jadon Doc Martens fast:
- Grab two pairs of chunky socks and put them on. Slip your feet into your Jadon Doc Martens and lace them up as tightly as you can manage, without it being painful.
- Wear your Jadons around the house like this for 1-2 hours a day for three days before wearing them out.
- Use a shoe stretcher and shoe stretching spray to speed up the process.
- When you do wear them out cover your ankles in large band-aids and wear blister proof socks to prevent rubbing. Consider using gel heel cups to protect your heels and ankles under your socks.
Check out the How to Break in Doc Martens Fast section of this article (scroll up – it’s just under the introduction) for recommended shoe stretchers, blister proof socks and more tips to break in your Docs.
How to Break in Sinclair Doc Martens
Sinclair Doc Martens will give you some serious blisters if you don’t break them in properly, or rush the process.
Here’s how to break in Sinclair Doc Martens quickly and painlessly:
- Purchase a shoe stretcher and shoe stretching spray. Apply the spray lightly to the inside of the boots and pop the shoe stretcher inside. Zip up your boots and leave it in for 24hrs to see results.
- Wear your Sinclairs with two pairs of super thick socks and lace them as tightly as you can manage. Wear them around the house like this for an hour at a time, until they begin to feel comfortable. This may take a few days to a week or so.
- Avoid blisters when you wear them out by applying large band-aids to your heels as a preventative method. Slip on some chunk socks or blister proof socks and only go out for short periods of time at first.
Are Doc Martens easy to break in?
Doc Martens are easy to break in when a proper ‘break in process’ is followed. This involves wearing the Doc Martens for short intervals over the course of several days to a week, with thick socks to avoid pain. You can speed up the process with a shoe stretcher and shoe stretching spray if you wish.
How long does in take to break in Doc Martens?
It will typically take 4- 6 weeks to break in a pair of Doc Martens by wearing a pair of thick socks and walking in short intervals. It can however take less than 2 weeks to break in a pair of Doc Martens if you speed up the process by softening the boots with a hairdryer, leather conditioner or a shoe stretcher.
Do Doc Martens hurt your feet?
Doc Martens will not hurt your feet if proper care is given to break in the boots. If you wear your Docs out too soon, your ankles may suffer from rubbing and soreness. Instead wear your Docs around the house for 1-2 hours at a time over the course of a week to gradually break in the boots.
Do Doc Martens feel tight at first?
Doc Martens will feel tight at first when they are brand new, as they will not be properly broken in yet. This is normal, and they will soften with wear.
How to Stretch Doc Martens That Are Too Small
The best way to stretch Doc Martens that are too small is with shoe stretching spray and a shoe stretcher. Apply shoe stretching spray to the Doc Martens until lightly damp (but not saturated) and insert the shoe stretcher. Leave for 24hrs. Apply a leather conditioner to avoid creasing.
Thank you for reading this guide to breaking in Doc Martens fast – I hope you feel confident to break in your Docs Martens quickly and painlessly!
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Lorna is a footwear geek and the founder of Wearably Weird. She created a YouTube channel in 2021 for fellow footwear fanatics, dedicated to detail-rich footwear reviews and info. She has a fashion media qualification (awarded in 2011).