Fed up of blisters with brand new cleats?
In this guide, we’ll show you how to break in football cleats more quickly.
Apart from simply wearing your new cleats in a bunch of games/training sessions, there are some methods you can use to break them in more quickly. These techniques are especially useful if you’ve just bought cleats and have an important game in a few days’ time.
There are a few different ways of breaking in cleats more quickly.
We’ll discuss 5 separate techniques, in order of easiest to hardest.
The secret to breaking in cleats
There are two main reasons new cleats give you blisters:
- The upper is too stiff.
- The inside of the shoe does not yet conform to the exact shape of your foot.
Therefore, to speed up the break-in process, you want to flex the shoe as much as possible. To do this, it can be worth using heat (as we’ll cover below).
After using a method to soften up your cleats, you will still need to wear them, to ensure that they begin to conform to the actual shape of your foot.
Remember also that it’s absolutely crucial to get the right size in the first place. If your cleats don’t fit properly, you’re going to have all sorts of issues with blisters.
1. Wear your cleats
Cleats normally break in after a couple of matches or training sessions. The issue with doing this is that during these sessions, you’ll get blisters, because the cleats aren’t yet broken in.
To get around this problem, you can wear your cleats out and about, while walking as opposed to running, in order to soften them up without developing blisters.
While they won’t break in as fast as they might if you ran around in them, this method ensures you avoid the painful blisters you’d otherwise get when breaking in new cleats.
Here are some activities you can do:
- Go for a walk in the park.
- Walk around your house in your cleats, assuming you have plenty of carpet as opposed to hardwood floors.
- Play a more leisurely sport, like golf, catch, or disc golf in your cleats. Make sure you have permission before using your cleats on the golf green though!
2. Flex your cleats
If you’re not in a position to wear your cleats around the house or take them to the park, there are other methods you can use.
In order to soften up the synthetics in the upper, you can try to give your cleats a really good flex.
Grab the toe and heel of the shoe, and bend it in as many different directions as possible. Keep doing this for around 10-15 minutes, or until you feel the shoe soften up.
The issue with doing this is that it won’t necessarily break in your cleats – at least not very quickly.
While it will soften the upper, it won’t do anything to the inner material. Ultimately, you want it to form to the shape of your foot, which is why it’s a good idea to actually use your cleats as you break them in.
3. Soak your cleats
Another trick you can use to soften the upper and make your cleats more flexible is to soak them briefly in hot water.
- A large bucket (big enough to fit both cleats).
- Hot water (not boiling, around 100-120° F).
- A pair of football socks.
- Old newspaper.
- A chair/stool.
First, put on your cleats, with your match sox on. This is important, because you want your cleats to conform to the exact shape of your feet as they would be in-game. Don’t use your typical dress sock – it’ll likely be too thin, resulting in a poor fit.
Next, place your bucket on the ground, and put both feet in it, with your cleats on and tied up. Sit on your chair/stool if you have one.
Now you can fill up your bucket with hot water. Remember, you don’t want it too hot, or the water could damage your cleats. If the water feels unbearable to have your feet in with your cleats on, it’s too hot.
The reason you’re doing this now, and not before putting your feet in the bucket, is because you don’t want the water level too high, nor too low. It should be just below where the laces/tongue begin.
If it’s too high, a lot of water will come inside the shoe. If it’s too low, you won’t be softening the entire upper.
As you’re sitting with your cleats in the water, keep flexing your toes and your heel. Doing this helps to speed up the break-in process, as the upper is more malleable when it’s hot.
The other benefit of doing this is it allows you to see how soft your cleats are becoming. Remove them from the water once you begin to notice them soften up. For most cleats, this should take about 10 minutes, but may take longer for shoes with an especially tough upper.
Ensure that the water remains warm throughout this entire process. Tip some out and add more hot water as necessary.
Ideally, when they’re ready you should have a quick run around in your cleats. This might feel a bit strange!
The purpose of this is to shape the cleats to the contours of your foot while they’re still a little soft, rather than letting the upper go firm again before you use it.
You can now dry them off by stuffing them with newspaper and waiting around 5-6 hours. When they’re dry, have another run around in them, and see how they feel.
4. Steam your cleats
This is similar to the above method, but doesn’t require wet feet. It is a little more tricky to pull off though.
Both football and soccer players use special steam machines to do this – there’s one in London at Nike’s flagship store.
If you don’t have one of these machines, you can still replicate the process at home. There are a few ways to do this.
The most popular method is steaming the cleats from underneath. Put them on a surface with open areas for steam to rise through, such as a cake/cookie cooling rack. Then, place a bowl full of boiling water underneath.
You may want to put an upturned box over the cleats to prevent the steam escaping. How well you can keep the steam enclosed will determine how long you need to keep them over the heat. Generally, if you are using a box, and very little steam is escaping, 20 minutes should be plenty of time.
Turn the cleats around if necessary mid-way to ensure even coverage. But try not to steam the soleplate directly – place the cleats laces-down or on their side. If the underside is exposed to too much steam, the adhesive attaching the outsole may begin to come loose.
Once the steaming is complete and you feel that the cleats have become softer, put them on and go for a run-around in them. Like with the hot water method, this helps the cleats mold to the shape of your feet after you’ve softened-up the upper.
5. Use moleskin
If all else fails, you can use moleskin to protect yourself from blisters as you break in your cleats.
Basically, this is a special material designed to prevent friction between your foot and your cleat. So even if your shoes aren’t broken in, you should be able to cover up any hot-spots and prevent blisters forming.
Simply cut out a piece of moleskin a little bigger than the contact area and stick it over the space on your foot (before you put your socks on) where you’re developing blisters. Ensure that the piece is roughly circular – this reduces the likelihood of it peeling off.
If you already have a blister, you’ll want to cut out a little hole around it in the middle of the moleskin. This ensures that the blister is protected from friction (ideally it shouldn’t poke out of the hole and sit above the moleskin) but without putting additional pressure on it, which could cause it to burst.
If it does sit above the moleskin, you can put another layer over the existing one for additional protection.
Ultimately, you want to soften up your cleats before running around in them a little to break them in. There are a few ways of achieving this.
If using your hands to flex them a bit isn’t enough, you can use heat to soften them up a little faster.
Got a method we haven’t discussed here! Drop us a comment below!
Tom is an accomplished writer, with years of experience producing buyer’s guides and tutorials for athletes online.
And it goes without saying – he’s sports-mad.