Should I break in shoes?



I have a pair of brand new Specialized Expert XC mountain bike shoes. They fit great except they are tight on the outside of my foot. The anatomical term is the tuberosity if the 5th metatarsal. The bone that pokes out a bit midway between the heel and toes - at least on my boney feet. Has anyone had a similar problem and have you found that your xc shoes break in after a week or two? Or if a shoe causes discomfort, should it immediately be returned? I haven’t ridden them yet, so they can still be returned. I feel faster when I put them on, so very conflicted.



Shoes are such a personal thing, and also very product and manufacturer specific.
My rule of thumb has been to find a pair that fit like a glove with no pain out of the box. If its uncomfortable after 10min in the store it’s unlikely to feel better 6 hours into a ride.

That said, you can get shoes punched out similar to dress shoes, hockey skates or ski boots. Any decent cobbler will have a punch and be able to stretch them out if there is a tight spot or you have an oddity on your foot that needs to be addressed. Even with synthetic fabrics you can still stretch a tight spot out. But none of those options allow you to return if it doesn’t work.


Rondal, thanks for your reply. I typically don’t deal with a shoe that is uncomfortable either, as I find they don’t get much better with time, and they can cause long lasting issues quickly. However, the tightness is in a new spot for me - it’s normally near the pinky toe or an uncomfortable sole. I was thinking that the mid foot is much stronger and could actually form the shoe in that outer spot. Probably best not to risk it though.

Both of my feet are oddities in their own right. Size 13 as well which makes it more difficult to find shoes to try on locally. I’ve got a few more options in the mail to try this week, a wide specialized comp MTB and 2FO Cliplite. If those don’t work out, I have a fallback model to go with, the Shimano MT5 or MT7.


I unfortunately have found the same thing with specialized shoes. Don’t know what it is but i get a tightness in a weird spot. I wish they would fit as they make from all accounts a great shoe, but i get a weird spot. So i stick with ones i know fit.


One thing about the Specialized shoes is that traditionally, the half sizes don’t actually make the shoe longer, just wider. Having sold a ton of these Specialized shoes at the shop, I’ve found that for people with a little bit wider foot or a foot that doesn’t perfectly fit into the shape of the shoe, going up to the next half-size will usually yield a much more comfortable fit. Also, those Expert XC shoes are pretty stiff, and I feel like you’ll find the 2FO or MT5s a bit easier to make fit comfortably over that midfoot area.


That is interesting information, thanks for sharing your experience. Most brands don’t make half sizes above 46, so I’m stuck with 47, 48 or 49, with a 48 usually working for additional toe room but providing a loose fit. I spoke with specialized customer support and they make wide sizes for the Comp XC and S-Works. I’ve got a 47 wide Comp on the way to check out as well as the 2FOs. I’ve tried about 15 pairs of shoes and have about $800 worth of shoes to return right now. :sweat_smile:



I use what I call “The Two Hour Test.” As an endurance MTB racer, if anything is uncomfortable within two hours of using it, “Houston We have a problem.” Straight out of the box, if it is uncomfortable, it gets returned. Period.

I ended up going with Lake for my MTB shoes because they specifically make a wide shoe for people like me who have Barney Rubble feet. Lake also has a basic measurement process which will have you trace around your foot on a piece of paper. For you, you will need a large piece of paper for the tracing. After I completed my trace and took the measurements, I was able to select the correct shoe. Out of the box they felt incredible. After two 12 hour MTB races, I can officially pronounce them as awesome. At a minimum, the tracing should point you in the right direction concerning which brands and shoes within those brands that should work for you.

Also, most companies skimp on their insoles. Make sure you look at the insoles and conduct some experimentation with different versions. This will require assessing your feet again to determine your arch and if you are pronator versus supinator.

Best of luck to you! Shoes, seats and helmets are extremely personal. Slow and smooth in the selection process should make you fast and comfortable on race day :).

Be Well!


If your feet are tight in the toe box section of the shoe you could get pain or numbness in the little toes, i had this problem and had to change my shoes with a pair that had a bigger toe box. Brands like Lake have bigger shoe boxes.



Seems like a rule I should adopt. I’d like these shoes to do everything from 1 hour XC races to an all day bikepack or endurance race, likely having a few sections of hiking. I will have to consider the Lakes as many have recommended them. I’m definitely in the insole game. I have two pairs of superfeet, but I find they don’t fit well in shoes that have an arch, since they are rigid insoles. They teeter-totter and end up pressing up into my feet in the front. What types of insoles do you recommend?



I completely agree. Tight toe box is the first thing I assess and is the number one reason most shoes don’t work for me. Giro shoes have been the worst in this regard so far.


I just went through something very similar in the past few weeks with a pair of Fizik X5.
They are beautiful shoes but my feet are just a tad too wide and there was just something weird with the shape of the sole.

Replaced them with a pair of Shimano XC7’s and they fit pretty much just like my old shoes.

Googling suggested that if the material is synthetic they won’t stretch very much if what you’re hoping for is the shoe to magically get wider I don’t think it will happen.
Whenever I’ve had shoes break in in the past - it’s more for me the section around the ankle at the top of the tongue that seems to get more comfortable with use.


Agreed that synthetics don’t really stretch, but I was hoping for less stretching and more forming as the materials potentially soften. I think that riding these shoes for a few weeks would have a chance of working, but probably shouldn’t take the risk based on past foot issues and not wanting to waste the money.



I ended up using the stock insole from Lake. However, I also have a pair of Sole insoles which are semi custom. The Sole insoles are designed to be heated and then formed to your foot by placing them in the shoe while they are still warm and then assuming your cycling posture. They will also simply form to your foot over time and without placing them in the oven.

Next, you may want to consider two different types of shoes. The Lakes are my MTB “racing” shoes, and I will find another less expensive version to support bike packing and other “leisure” activities. Seriously, I have a pair of Northwave road shoes which I’ve had for going on nine years. They fit well and are worthy of my protection :). I recommend the same treatment when you find a MTB racing shoe that works for you.

Be Well!


Thanks @gordon50, I think that is great advice.


An update to put an end to struggles for now. I ended up trying and/or buying many, many shoes - maybe 20 pairs. I ended up finding a pair of specialized comp shoes on a mannequin at a local bike shop. Ok, it’s not like I spotted them on the mannequin…they saw them in inventory, but I did have to help pick up the mannequin while they were removed. They look like they are about 2-3 years old and were marked down 30%. They don’t have the same narrow mid-foot as the comp and expert specialized shoes seem to now have. I went to a hockey store today and found some insoles that I think will work well as the stock insoles were not working with my left arch. Thanks for all the advice!


Now that is a good story!

It stinks for you to go through so much effort, but in the end it will be worth it :smiley:. Comfortable feet while training and racing are important. If it is uncomfortable at two hours, then it will be painful after six hours and downright debilitating after 12. Great effort!

Be well, Ride On and Enjoy the Shoes :smile: