Dr. Martens are the first pair of non Birkenstock shoes that I bought in over a year. My purchase of the Dr. Martens was like opening the portal to an entirely new fashion dimension. Birkenstocks make me feel comfortable, happy, feminine, flirty, sporty, and luxurious. Dr. Martens make me feel like a strong, confident badass.
One has to be a badass to wear Dr. Martens because they are extremely difficult to break-in. Breaking-in Dr. Martens is the same as breaking-in Birkenstocks, but different. Kind of like “The Upside Down” in Netflix’s show, “Stranger Things” where everything is the same, but different.
For starters, breaking-in a pair of new Docs is much more difficult than breaking-in a pair of Birkenstocks. For those of you who want to complain about the pain associated with breaking-in a new pair of Birkenstocks, hold back your tears and suck it up. Unless you have broken-in a pair of Dr. Martens, you have nothing to cry about.
I broke in my first pair of Dr. Martens 27 years ago. It was such a painful experience that I still remember it today. I ended up having lots of blisters on my heels and aches on the top of my feet. Since I have become a wiz on breaking-in Birkenstocks, I decided to use the techniques that I have gathered, over the years, to make the process of breaking-in my Docs as pain free as possible.
If you have not already read my blogs, “How to Break-In Your Birkenstocks” and “How to Break-in Leather Birkenstock Straps”, I recommend you do so before ever slipping your foot into a pair of combat boots. These two blogs have provided the foundation for Gina Mama’s protocol for breaking-in Dr. Martens.
Gina Mama’s Protocol for Breaking-in Dr. Martens
1. Purchase your Dr. Martens from a legitimate retailer, there are just as many fake Docs being sold online as there are fake Birkenstocks.
2. Make sure you have the correct size of Dr. Martens.
3. Take them out of the box, bend and flex the shoes. A Dr. Marten sole should be somewhat firm, like a Birkenstock. If you can bend the shoe from heel to toe, then they are likely not authentic.
4. Put on the type of socks that you plan to wear with your Docs, then put your foot in the boot and lace them up. Lace your boots all the way up. Make sure they are not laced too tight. You do not want the laces to hurt your ankles or leg, just tight enough to keep the boot comfortably on your foot.
5. Walk around the house. The boots will be incredibly stiff. Make sure you have some room in the toe area and that you do not need a different size.
6. You do not want your feet to feel too constricted. If they do, then you may have the wrong size Doc.
7. Wear your shoes for about 5-10 minutes and take them off. Take note of the areas that might be tight or uncomfortable. Most people will feel pain in the heel area and on the instep seam, just below the tongue.
8. If your feet start hurting before 5 minutes, take them off.
9. After you take off your boots, remove your socks and pull out some moleskin or bandaids. Take preventative measures by applying a protective layer of moleskin to the areas that you felt immediate discomfort. I prefer to use moleskin over bandaids because moleskin stays on.
10. Once you have covered the sensitive areas of your feet, you are going to need to apply a leather conditioner to the entire boot. That’s right, you will want to apply leather conditioner to the outside and the inside of the boot. I used Dr. Martens Wonder Balsam because I bought traditional leather Docs. The Wonder Balsam will not work on suede or non leather Docs. Be sure to follow the instructions on the tin. The Wonder Balsam helps make the leather soft and supple. Thereby, lessening the overall break-in period of Dr. Martens boots.
11. Allow the Wonder Balsam to soak in 15-20 minutes. You can use an old rag to wipe off any excess balsam from the outside of the shoe after the allotted time frame. I left the extra balsam inside the boot and allowed my socks to remove the excess.
12. After the Balsam has worked its magic, put on the socks you want to wear with your Docs and then put on a second pair of socks. For my second pair of socks, I used the thickest LL Bean winter wool socks that I owned. The second layer of socks serves two purposes. One, it will help stretch out the leather and two, it will help prevent blistering during the break-in process.
13. Wear your shoes around the house for 30-60 minutes and take them off.
14. Add another layer of Wonder Balsam (or whatever leather conditioner you prefer) to the outside and the inside of your Docs. Let the leather conditioner soak in overnight. Wipe away any excess conditioner on the outside of the boot the following day.
15. While the conditioner soaks into your leather boots, slip on your most comfy pair of Birkenstocks. Your feet will need some Birkenstock therapy as they recover during the Dr. Marten break-in process.
16. The next morning, follow the aforementioned steps. If your moleskin has come off, re-apply. Put on two pair of socks, this time, wear your Docs a little longer than you did the previous day.
17. When the boots start hurting your feet, take them off. Put on your Birkenstocks, apply Wonder Balsam to the inside and the outside of your boot and allow the conditioner to soak in until the next day.
18. Follow these steps for the course of 2-3 weeks or until the Dr. Martens feel comfortable. You will know when your Docs are broken-in.
It took me about 2 weeks to feel comfortable enough to wear my Docs without moleskin and with one pair of socks. Every night, for nearly two weeks, I would put on my Docs in the evening while I prepared dinner and got the kids ready for bed. Once the kids were asleep, I sat down to watch an episode of "Stranger Things". As I watched the show, I removed my boots, slipped into my most comfy Bostons and then applied Wonder Balsam to my Docs. The boots were then set aside to soften up overnight.
As with Birkenstocks, Dr. Martens take a great deal of time to break-in. You need to allow your feet and body time to gradually adjust to the boot. The leather of your new combat boots need to soften gradually. Dr. Martens Wonder Balsam helps to soften the leather. But, your body weight and repeated bending of the shoes from normal wear is how the Docs and the AirWair sole will mold to the natural shape of your feet. Docs, like Birkenstocks, get more comfortable over time. I am very happy with how my Dr. Martens broke-in and I look forward to wearing them for years to come.
Is it so hard to believe that Gina Mama is happily wearing something besides Birkenstocks? Well..stranger things have happened.
Birkenstock blogger since 2016.