Fiona is the editor of Plantpuree. With over two decades of experience in the wellness and fashion sectors, plus a degree in philosophy, she brings a unique perspective to her editorial role at Plantpuree. Whether it’s discussing ethical issues around veganism or pushing for eco-friendly fashion choices, her thoughtful and analytical approach ensures that readers are empowered with accessible, reliable information and knowledge they can trust. She delights in unearthing exciting facts and figures that surprise even the most seasoned experts!
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Are you looking for an easy and fast way to break in your new Vegan Doc Martens and avoid weeks of painful blisters? If so, you’ve come to the right place! As an avid Docs fan, I’ve gone through the process of breaking in countless pairs over the years. I used to suffer with endless blisters and pain around my heels until I discovered a few simple tricks to make the process faster and much more comfortable.
My tried and tested method to stretch my Vegan Doc Martens quickly includes wearing thick socks with heel grips and blister plasters and using a leather stretching spray with shoe stretchers – it really is that simple!
With a little patience and the right amount of stretching and softening you can easily break in your new vegan Doc Martens and make them fit like a glove!
Table of Contents
- Choose the right size and style
- Avoid blisters by using thick hiking socks, heel grips & blister plasters from day 1
- Use a leather stretching spray suitable for vegan leather
- If you are on a budget use heat, steam, and shoe stretchers
- Docs tied too tightly or too loosely cause blisters – keep them snug
- Think about paying a cobbler to stretch them if you are short of time
- Be patient and break them in gradually to avoid over stretching
Tools and Products You Will Need
Are Vegan Doc Martens Harder to Break In?
According to Dr. Martens, vegan Docs are typically easier to break in than regular Docs but I strongly disagree! Vegan Docs are harder to break in – and if you read the reviews of vegan docs on the Dr. Martens website – they match my own experience which is that the heel of the docs are much harder and pinch more than the leather docs. They do eventually stretch and mold to your foot but take a little longer than leather Docs. Here’s how I do it…
How to Break in Vegan Doc Martens
There are a number of methods I use to break in my Docs – many of which I combine to speed up the process and make it more comfortable. Here are my 9 tips to get you started.
1. Choose the Right Size and Style
This may seem obvious, but it’s important to make sure you’re getting a pair of Doc Martens that actually fit and are tied correctly. My first pair of Docs were way too small and trying to force my feet into a smaller size only made the breaking-in process more painful. Similarly, if they are too big, you run the risk of blisters and heel slippage.
The other thing to take note of is the width of the boot. This is the most difficult part of vegan docs to stretch. Make sure you buy a size that will accommodate your foot width, or be prepared to do some serious leather stretching (more on that later).
These principles also apply to how you tie your boots. If you tie them too loosely, your foot will move around more and the friction will cause more painful blisters.
Don’t forget to try your Docs on with a pair of thick socks too, as you are likely to wear them with socks most of the time.
2. Use Heel Grips and Blister Plasters
The first stage of breaking in a new pair of docs is understanding where your pain points are likely to be (usually the top of the heel, across the toes and around the tongue) by walking around the house for a few minutes. You’ll soon work out which areas need more cushioning.
For these areas, heel grips and blister plasters are a must for any Doc Martens breaking-in process and I always use them to protect my feet!
Blister plasters provide extra cushioning on the parts of your foot that will most likely rub against the boot and also contain hydrocolloid particles to help soothe and heal the skin. I also use heel grips on the back of my Vegan Docs as they provide extra cushioning and prevent blisters from forming in that area.
To further reduce my chance of blisters and heel slippage, I always wear heel grips along with thick socks in the first week.
3. Wear Them Around the House with Thick Socks
With the heel grips and blister plasters in place, I wear thick hiking socks to provide extra cushioning and help stop blisters from forming as I break them in. This is especially important for Vegan Doc Martens as the back of the heels tend to be more rigid than leather ones and grips quite tightly. If you are on a budget, swap your hiking socks for two or three pairs of regular athletic socks.
Step 1 – Insert heel pads or thick plasters at the top of the heel
Step 2 – Put on a pair of thick socks and your vegan Doc Martens.
Step 3 – To get started, walk around your house for a few minutes. Gradually build up the time. Just be sure not to wear them for too long at first, as this can cause pain and discomfort.
Step 4 – Repeat this process a few times until the Docs feel more comfortable.
4. Use a Leather Stretching Spray or Leather Conditioner.
To speed up the breaking in process, I always use a leather stretching spray or conditioner on the areas of my shoes where my feet normally rub before walking in them with socks, grips and plasters.
It’s important to check that the product you buy is suitable for vegan leather as most contain chemicals that may damage the top layer of the faux leather.
I always use a vegan leather stretching spray but you could also use a leather conditioner suitable for faux leather or Dr Martens Wonder Balsam. Simply spray or apply the conditioner to the inside and outside of your Docs. Pay particular attention to areas where you feel the most friction such as the top of the heels, around the ankles and around the tongue of the boot.
Although Dr.Martens have confirmed their wonder balsam is suitable for their vegan docs, if you are a strict vegan be aware that it does contain beeswax. I’d recommend using coconut oil instead.
Most leather stretching sprays and conditioners are not suitable for softening faux or vegan leather. You will need to read the label carefully to ensure the products can be used on faux leather.
The majority of leather stretching sprays are unsuitable for faux and vegan leather. FootMatters Boot and Shoe Stretching Spray is one of the few that can be used and comes in at a great price.
- Can be used when you walk or with wooden shoe stretchers
- Works on synthetic, faux and vegan leather
- Easy to use
- Includes a dispenser
- 100% coconut oil - no added ingredients
- Paraben free
- Sulfate free
- Cruelty free
5. Use Shoe Stretchers
I’ve always used shoe and boot stretchers combined with a leather stretching spray to help me soften and break in my footwear. They come in different sizes, so make sure you get the right size for your Doc Martens.
When you’re buying shoe stretchers, keep in mind that some come as a pair while others are single units that can stretch both boots. There are also shoe stretchers tailored for various types of footwear, such as flats, heels, and shoes. Just make sure you purchase the right tool for the job. There is a huge range of highly reviewed shoe stretchers at different price points on Amazon for you to choose from.
How to Use a Shoe Stretcher to Break in Vegan Doc Martens
Step 1 – Spray the inside and outside of your Doc Martens with a liquid shoe stretch spray. This will help to soften the faux leather and make it more pliable. Let the liquid absorb for a few minutes.
Step 2 – Place the shoe stretchers into your Docs. The stretchers should be as wide as the Docs can handle.
Step 3 – To stretch your Doc Martens, turn the knob on the shoe stretcher until you feel resistance.
Step 4 – Leave them in for a few hours or overnight.
Step 5 – Remove the shoe stretchers and try on your Docs. They should be more comfortable.
Tip: If you leave the vegan Doc Martens on the stretcher for too long, they will start to over-stretch. To avoid this problem, try stretching them for a shorter period of time at first. Dr Martens that are too loose will cause just as many blisters as those that are too small.
Easy to operate wooden shoe stretchers which lengthen and widen. Also includes:
- 2 x Cedar Blocks which repel moths and leave your shoes smelling fresh.
- 4 x Shapers which can be inserted to stretch specific areas of your shoes
- Drawstring Bag
Easy to operate wooden shoe stretchers which lengthen and widen. Also includes:
- 2 Cedar Blocks which repel moths and leave your shoes smelling fresh.
- 4 Shapers which can be inserted to stretch specific areas of your shoes
- Drawstring Bag
6. Use Heat and Steam
I’ve used heat and steam to soften and stretch the faux leather on my Doc Martens and it does work but it’s not my favourite method – purely because I’m so clumsy and always burn my hands! That said, it’s a fast and efficient way of softening the leather. You can use a hairdryer or steam from a kettle, but be careful not to overdo it as too much heat will damage the material.
After 15 years of hardcore use I've just replaced my first Parlux hairdryer with the Parlux 3200. Yes, it's expensive but the durability, speed and finish this hairdryer offers is well beyond any other hairdryer I've tried.
- Most widely used hairdryer by professionals and salons
- 550 grams - lightweight to hold but extremely powerful
- 71 cubic metres/hour concentrated airflow
- Ionic ions and ceramic to reduce static and stress to the hair
- 3 meter cable
How to Use a Hairdryer to Break In Vegan Doc Martens
Step 1 – Put on a thick pair of socks and your Docs.
Step 2 – Turn the hairdryer on to the hottest setting and hold it about six inches away from your boots.
Step 3 – Move the hairdryer around so that the heat is evenly distributed.
Step 4 – Do this for about five minutes or until the vegan leather is warm and pliable.
Step 5 – Remove your boots and socks and let them cool down for a few minutes.
Step 6 – Try on your Docs again. They should feel a bit more comfortable.
How To Use Steam to Break In Vegan Doc Martens
Step 1 – Hold your vegan Doc Martens over the spout of a boiling kettle. Make sure the steam is directed at the inside of the boots and there is no contact with the water.
Step 2 – Leave them for about five minutes, or until you can tell that they have softened up.
Step 3 – Remove the Docs and let them cool down.
Step 4 – Try on your boots. They should feel more comfortable now than they did before.
7. Pay to Have Them Stretched by a Professional
If I’m in a hurry and have some extra cash to spare, I pay a cobbler to stretch my boots for me. This is the quickest and easiest way to break in your vegan Docs.
Any shoe-repair shop can do this for you. It saves your feet from having to do the hard work and avoids blisters and sore feet the first few times you wear them. Secondly, it ensures an even stretch, so your docs will be more comfortable to wear. This is because the professionals have the proper tools and techniques to stretch them without causing damage.
8. Walk Them Around Outside
Once you’ve broken them in a bit, it’s time to take them for a walk around the block. This will help stretch out the fabric even further and make them even more comfortable. If possible, try walking on different types of surfaces so that your Doc Martens can really stretch out. For example, walk on both concrete and grass or pavement and carpet. This will help ensure that your Docs are as comfortable as possible!
9. Be Patient
Ultimately, I’ve found the best way to break in vegan Doc Martens is just to give them time and do it gradually. The more I wear them, the more they conform to my feet. So, be patient, and eventually, they’ll be as comfortable as any other pair of shoes!
Breaking in vegan Doc Martens can be a bit of a process, but it’s definitely possible! With a little effort and patience, you can make them just as comfortable as any other pair of shoes and learn how to care for them. Just remember to take your time, be patient, and use one (or more) of the methods above. With a little effort, you’ll have a pair of comfortable Docs that you can wear for years to come.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you follow the advice given in the above article on how to break in vegan docs, your vegan Dr. Martens will definitely stretch! The key is to be patient – it can take a few days for them to fully stretch out.
BEFORE YOU GO... Breaking in your Vegan Doc Martens is just the first step. Read my next article about how well your Docs stand up to wet weather! ARE VEGAN DOC MARTENS WATERPROOF OR WATER RESISTANT?