posted in: Outdoors, Review | 10

I often talk about boots that are comfortable “straight from the box”, that is, with little or no breaking in required. It’s something of an advantage of the lighter mesh and material boots – if you choose a traditional leather hiking boot you are going to have to put in a little effort before they are ready to wear out on the trail. Leather is much stiffer when new, and while they might arguably last longer and be more comfortable in the long-run, there is this breaking in period to deal with first.

Splodz Blogz | Brasher Country Master Hiking Boots from Millets

Brasher Country Master Leather Hiking Boots.

Brasher have a great looking pair of leather hiking boots in the Country Master, a traditional shaped boot in that yellowy-brown suede that has been associated with hill walking for generations. While my first wear of these was not uncomfortable, I knew they were never going to be day hike ready straight from the box like some of the other boots I’ve tested out recently. I received mine from the guys over at Millets, who sell a wide range of hiking boots for all kinds of hiker. After choosing the lighter material boots for many years, they wanted to know what I thought of a more traditional pair.

I’m sure you’ve heard of Brasher, the name has been synonymous with hiking boots for many years. The Country Master is their three season hiking boot designed for stomping around in town or on the trails. Brasher have promised that the leather and suede upper is super hard wearing and fully waterproof thanks to the EVENT lining, that the shock absorbing PU midsole provides comfort for day after day on your feet, and that the Vibram sole means you have plenty of grip when out and about.

Splodz Blogz | Brasher Country Master Hiking Boots from Millets

Brasher Country Master Leather Hiking Boots.

They are not as heavy as I thought they might be, but they are a substantial boot which, when compared to something like the KEEN Terradora, weighing in at 700g (or there abouts, I’m not sure how accurate my bathroom scales are) per boot for my size sevens. The weight isn’t an issue to me at all, and now mine are broken in I can confirm they are super comfortable and very stable on the trail. And that bright yellow upper? LOVE it! It’s just what a hiking boot should look like, in my opinion, and means the photos taken in the corn field just look great!

Breaking in Leather Hiking Boots

But how do you actually break in a pair of leather hiking boots?

Well to start with, wear your boots inside the house. I tend to do this for an hour or so each day for about a week, you know, while I’m doing the chores, cooking the dinner, and even lounging around. Make sure you wear the socks and insoles (if applicable) you’ll be wearing on the trail from the first day, and over the course of the week gradually lace up the boots righter until you are at your preferred tightness. This wearing inside allows the area around the laces and ankle to soften up so you can tie the boots properly and will know for sure that these are the right boots for your feet. It also means you get used to the weight of the boots and how they feel before you head out onto the trail.

Splodz Blogz | Brasher Country Master Hiking Boots from Millets

Brasher Country Master Leather Hiking Boots.

The next step is to take them outside on some short walks. Really short walks! Head off around the block or around town, be gentle with the type of terrain (and the weather!). Again this is about knowing how the boots feel on your feet, allowing the leather to soften up where it needs to and mould to the shape of your feet before you are relying on them to be perfect for long day hikes. It’s this moulding to the shape of your feet and in line with the way that you move when you walk that will mean they will be your favourite boots

And finally, just go hiking! Lace up your boots, grab your pack (and probably a waterproof coat…) and head out on the trail. Whether it is a new trail or your favourite well trodden path, the more you wear your leather hiking boots the more comfortable they will be. And if you are fortunate to have a really good pair, you will have happy feet for thousands of miles before you need to go through the process of breaking in a new pair again.

Splodz Blogz | Radford Signpost

It’s amazing what you spot when you go for a bimble. My family name! 

I have heard a lot of people suggest short cuts to breaking in leather hiking boots, such as heating up the leather and manipulating, using a tennis ball to work the stiff parts of the leather, and other things. I am sure that these techniques do work in some cases, but I maintain that nothing is quite as effective than putting the boots on your own feet and spending time in them before you rely on them for any serious walking. It’s just the sensible thing to do.

Oh and if you have a new pair of Dr Martens boots, going through this same process will be a very wise move!

Protecting Your Leather Hiking Boots

One additional step I would take from the first time you wear your leather hiking boots outside would be to take time to clean and protect them properly. Just as you would polish a pair of good leather shoes with shoe polish and a brush, you should do the same for your hiking boots – especially if you have chosen a lovely fine suede pair like my Brasher Country Masters. This will make sure that they last as long as possible.

I’m often asked for my recommendations, so here’s one: the STORM Beeswax Rich Leather Protector is a great little product to help protect your boots and keep them as waterproof as possible. It’s a simple paraffin cream you rub onto clean and dry boots with a cloth or brush. This stuff does darken the bright browny yellow of these boots, but after a few wears along footpaths in Lincolnshire they are pretty dark from the mud and rain anyway, so that doesn’t bother me. There are other similar products on the market, but this is one I’ve been using for a while and it’s certainly doing the job I’m asking of it.

Splodz Blogz | There's a storm coming

There’s a storm coming…!

Choosing Leather Hiking Boots

Choosing leather boots over other materials is a personal choice. You can do all types and distances of hiking in either these days, and so your decision will be totally based on personal preference and comfort. If you like the feel/look of leather over textile then that’s all you need to know. Good hiking boots are an investment, so spend some time doing your research and trying on lots of different pairs. Remember that different brands produce boots with different fits and styles, and don’t be pushed to one particular boot based just on looks. And if you choose leather hiking boots then give yourself plenty of time before your first day hike to break them in.

Splodz Blogz | Brasher Country Master Hiking Boots from Millets

Brasher Country Master Leather Hiking Boots.

*I was gifted a pair of Brasher Country Master boots by my friends over at Millets, but this is not a sponsored post and words and photos are my own.



10 Responses

  1. Linda Henley

    My Brashers CMs just will not break in and are so painful to walk in. The flexible construction promised is not evident, they remain closer to diving boots than hiking boots. Ive had them since summer so how much longer if ever? So disappointed. At the moment a waste of a lot of money.

    • Splodz

      Oh wow that really is taking a long time, I’ve never known boots to stay super stiff for that long. I mean, the Country Master is a solid leather boot designed for stability and support, it’s not going to become massively flexible like a lighter or thinner boot, but it should be comfortable for all day wear by now. Maybe speak to Brasher directly, they might have some additional tips?

  2. Martin Bewley

    Hi, I need advice on long term care and cleaning of my new Country Master boots. If the leather is suede, the advise seems to be against using conditioner. Wash in warm soapy (not detergent) water ? Beeswax yes ok. Plus use a silicone liquid or spray ?

    • Splodz

      I would take the advice and wash in water (I’ve never used soap to wash leather boots, I don’t mind the stained look!), and then use a spray re-proofer on it. Those sprays are good because you can actually use them on all your footwear, not just your suede or nubuck boots.

  3. Rachel Lord

    I loved these boots I bought them from Millets last November so they were beautifully worn in for a five day hike I have just completed in and around County Durham. However on the second day of the hike I was lacing up the boots and one of the lacing eyelets came off. I managed to continue the walk minus one eyelet but at the end of the walk on removing the boots another eyelet on the same side also came off. I have returned the boots to Millets and exchanged for another pair and contacted Brasher to inform them of the fault. My friend has also had the same problem with the mens version, wondering if anyone else has experienced similar.

  4. patrick belas

    Love The boots in every way apart from a crease formed across front of right boot across line of toes. Had painful blisters on top of and behind little toe, on side of foot as result last Summer during a week of coastal camping/ walk. Left foot problem free. I had worn them in slowly during months preceding as you advised. I’m also a regular walker and old boots before (lasting 10 years!) gave me no problems at all. Although they’re a year old I’m going to contact Brasher for advice. Any other ideas ?

    • Splodz

      Ah that sucks! What a shame! I would definitely be contacting Brasher as it sounds like there’s something not quite right with your boots. I hate it when a product you spent lots of money on doesn’t live up to expectations.

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