How to Break In New Basketball Shoes

New basketball shoes are kind of like a gift you know you got but can’t open just yet. It’s not like you can’t put them on and go play right out of the store, but it’s not a good idea. Unless you love having blisters on your feet.

You probably know that new basketball shoes (and pretty much any other sports shoes) should be broken in before using them for their intended purpose. But why do we need to do this? Regular shoes/sneakers never blister my feet when I wear them brand new?

You know how regular shoes/sneakers feel way more comfortable after a week or two of walking in them? That’s because new shoes will always have a bit of stiffness in them. After a week or two, you will have used them enough to reduce that stiffness.

Walking is a low-impact activity, so any slight discomfort or resistance regular shoes offer won’t have a huge impact on your feet. On the other hand, running at full speed and jumping are both high-impact activities and you will feel the stiffness bothering your feet 100%. Here’s how to avoid that.

Make sure the shoe bends comfortably

If you stand on your tiptoes, you’ll easily notice that your shoe will have a bend somewhere between the shoelaces and the tip of the shoe. Sometimes, the shoe will bend in a way that bothers one or both of your feet.

Fortunately, you can use your fingers to change the exact pattern on the bending in a way that’s more comfortable. Once you know how you want it to bend, sit down and use your fingers to force the appropriate bending pattern while raising your heel off the ground a few times.

You can also keep your heel raised for a few seconds for best results. Once you’re happy with the bend, we can move on. Just make sure to use the same or similar socks to the ones you play in when trying the shoes.

Most of the bend should happen on the top of the shoe. Some bending on the side is fine, but if you’re seeing lots of it, you may have picked the wrong size. The material of the shoe can also influence the bending, so they won’t all bend the same, even if they are the same size.

Try to squat down, walk, and jog a bit in the store if possible, just to make sure that the size is right. Some of the nastiest blistering you’ll ever see happens when you play in shoes that feel perfectly fine to stand in but are actually a size too small.

One final thing to keep in mind is your lacing. Different tightness of laces will also influence the bending pattern, so lace the shoes as tightly as you would for games when trying them on.

Timing

Breaking in basketball shoes takes time. The exact amount of time needed to break in shoes greatly varies and most advice lands in the 1-3 week range. Somewhere around 2 weeks is usually enough in my experience.

You’re probably wearing thick socks for games. This is good since it will help cushion your feet against irritation in the early stages of the breaking in process. Two weeks is also plenty of time for the shoes to adjust to the shape of your feet, and that’s a huge part of comfort.

 Basketball Shoes

Activity plan

Start out slowly. Put on the right socks, lace your new shoes up and just walk around in them for a bit for the first couple of days. You can wear them around the house while you’re going about your day or you can walk outside.

Whatever you do, make sure to wash the soles of the shoes at the end of the week to remove any dust and other residue that will weaken their grip on the hardwood.

Start out with around 20-30 minutes of walking on day one and add 10-15 minutes every day. Jogging towards the end of week one should be perfectly fine. Use the same progressive increase in duration for jogging. Start out relatively light and ramp up from there.

By the mid point of week 2, you can probably introduce sprinting, quick changes of direction, and jumping into your preparations. I wouldn’t recommend doing this portion on pavement because it can quickly wear out the soles and make your shoes lose much of their grip.

Use this plan as a guide but don’t feel obliged to follow the exact timings I outlined here. If you don’t yet feel comfortable jogging in your shoes by the end of week 1, that’s perfectly fine. Some shoes will simply take more time to break in than others.

Keep doing the previous activity and increase its duration until you feel comfortable with the next step. Even if the whole process takes three weeks, that’s still better than blistered feet that can sideline you for an extra couple of weeks.

Final thoughts

Once you’re comfortable doing the regular basketball drills in your new shoes, the next and final step is playing. Doesn’t matter if it’s 5 on 5 or 3 on 3, playing will put your shoes through a whole range of movements and, unlike drills, your movements won’t be pre-planned.

You’ll probably feel no discomfort if your shoes are properly broken in, but a minimal level of discomfort is no cause for concern. Your first couple of games are the final step in the process.

But what if you can’t be bothered to go through this whole thing and want to play right away? You can do that, and I’ve done it a couple of times without bad consequences, but that’s pure luck and I wouldn’t recommend taking that gamble.

Blistering is always a risk when wearing stiff shoes, and it’s usually not worth it to take that risk. Blisters hurt and they’re generally annoying. Not to mention that you’ll probably be right back on square one once your blisters pass.

If you really have to do it, loosen the laces just a little bit to give your foot some more wiggle room and wear a second pair of socks for extra cushioning. This will come at the cost of some performance, especially when changing direction.

All in all, think of breaking in shoes as an investment in your durability, and that’s one of the best investments you can make when it comes to your basketball career.