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with today's lightweight boots, you don't read much about breaking in boots. when all-leather boots were the standard, most people couldn't just take a new pair of boots out of the box and go hiking. break-in meant starting to wear boots gradually, on smaller hikes at first, so the leather would soften a little and form to your feet a little.
today's footwear may not present the same kinds of challenges, but they do require a similar approach sometimes. for me, water shoes, minimalist shoes and sandals in particular require a similar kind of gradual approach. if i take any of these out the box and just wear them on a half-day hike, i'm usually going to bruise or blister something.
i think some of the old-school approach still works, though:
-start gradually with any new shoe. for me, it is almost inevitable that tight-fitting minimal shoes & water shoes will give me hot spots the first couple of times I use them. eventually, wearing any shoe will cause them to yield a little. also, even if your feet get a little raw, gradually increasing usage allows your feet to recover and toughen up. a callus here and there isn't necessarily a bad thing.
-when wearing a new pair of shoes, be sensitive to foot pain. if your toes are getting whacked, if you are developing hot spots or blisters, picking up on that early can save you more pain later. i carry a pair of safety scissors, some clear surgical tape, and a good-sized piece of moleskin. they have saved me a lot of pain over the years.
-socks can make a difference - make sure yours work with your shoe/boot of choice. this doesn't work for water shoes, obviously, but wearing toe socks with vibram fivefingers completely changed (improved) the experience for me.
-treat your feet well after you hike. have a comfortable pair of shoes for camp. if you are home & your feet are banged up, soaking them in an ice bath (big pasta pot with cold water and a bunch of ice cubes) helps heal bruising faster, and there are a number of products that can help heal your skin. i have been happy with bag balm, badger balm, lanolin ointment (eg lansinoh, marketed for a different purpose), shea butter.