Reviewed & updated: March 28, 2023 by Jamie Wilson BA
New shoes are the best; breaking in shoes is the worst.
Even if you know how to soften leather shoes, this might not stop the shoes from rubbing. There’s nothing worse than heel blisters when you’re trying to rock a new pair of shoes, but fear not – there are a few things you can do to speed up the breaking in process.
We’ve tried and tested a few methods to help stop shoes from rubbing your feet raw. So if you need to know how to break in shoes, look no further. Here are five simple ways to break in your new pair of shoes. They can all be used on their own, but for the best (and quickest) results, combine a few of these methods to break in your new shoes fast, but without damaging or overstretching them.
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This is one of the most popular methods for preventing new shoes from rubbing, mostly because it’s so simple. All you need to do is put on a really thick pair of socks before putting on the shoes, and wear them around the house for a few hours to stretch them out. When shoes rub, it’s generally because they are too small in some places, so this method will evenly stretch the leather until the shoes fit perfectly and blisters are a distant memory.
If you don’t have enough downtime to do this or you need the shoes for the following day, you can put the chunky sock over a shoe shaper and leave them in the leather shoes overnight, for a great homemade shoe stretcher. Ski socks or thick woolen socks work the best for this method, but if you don’t have any to hand, you can just layer up lots of regular pairs to get the same effect.
Hydrate Those Heels
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Blisters are caused by friction between your feet and your shoes which leads to rubbing that damages the skin on your foot. The friction is worsened if your feet are particularly dry, so using a thick deep moisturiser, like petroleum jelly, will help to prevent your feet from getting blisters. As you wear the shoes in, you can add more to spots that are particularly sore or where you can feel the shoes rubbing.
There are a few other similar methods you can try which prevent rubbing in well fitting shoes that just create friction on your feet. Sweat can increase the friction and therefore the rubbing between your feet and your new shoes, so if you spray your feet with antiperspirant before you put the shoes on, this can help to reduce the friction as well.
The Hair Dryer Method
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Methods that use heat to stretch out the material work better on leather than on synthetic materials like canvas shoes or trainers. Heat can damage other materials, so only use this if you’re trying to prevent leather shoes from rubbing.
With the shoes on, you should be able to feel where the tighter spots are on your feet. Most commonly, this will be placed on your feet such as the heel, ball of your foot, and top of the toes. Grab your hair dryer and concentrate the hot air onto the parts of your shoes that fit too tight or are rubbing. Do this for 20 to 30 seconds on each part of the new shoes that need loosening. Make sure you’re close enough to heat up the leather, but not so close you burn your foot.
For the best results, you can combine this method with the chunky sock method to make the tight spots stretch out even quicker. It can make it easier to avoid burning your foot as well.
The Freezing Method
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If you’re looking for a method that works on canvas shoes or other shoes that aren’t leather, the freezing method might be just your bag. All you need for this is a couple of water-tight freezer bags and running water. Fill two bags with water (but be careful not to overfill them) and then seal the bags. Slide each of the bags of water into each of the shoes. Then pop them in the freezer overnight and the water should expand as it freezes and stretches out your new shoes.
You might want to try this a couple of times to get the right amount of water. You can use less water if you just want to stretch the toes of the shoes or fill them up more if you’re trying to stretch the full width of the shoes. Be careful not to overfill the bags as this could cause more stretching than you want. After a little trial and error, you should be able to find the perfect amount of water to stretch the material of your pair of shoes just the right amount for the size of your feet.
Give It Time
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The method most people use, which is painful yet effective, is just wearing your new shoes in by wearing them a lot and giving them time to stretch to the shape of your feet. This will probably give you a few blisters, but eventually, you will undoubtedly get shoes that fit the exact shape of your feet.
Again, this method is long and annoying, so combine it with some of the other methods above to speed up the process and prevent causing too much damage to your feet or too many blisters. But by the end of the process, you should have some perfectly fitting shoes.
How To Stop Shoes Rubbing
- Wear your new shoes with a thick pair of socks to stretch them out. This way, you will enjoy both comfort and without any irritation.
- Rub your feet in petroleum jelly or thick moisturizer to prevent dry skin causing worse blisters.
- Put the shoes on and blast them with a hairdryer to stretch the shoes out to the shape of your feet and mould them into better-fitting shoes. Watch out for the back of the shoe.
- Put bags of water into the shoes and freeze them to expand the material and make them less tight on your foot. This can also help with an infection.
- Wear the shoes whenever you can (preferably just around the house) until the shoes stretch out to the shape of your foot.
Having Said All Of That
So, who says that you need orthotics help? The truth is that proper fabrics and comfy footwear can be easy to wear, just take a look at the padding. The back of your heels can handle the pressure. At all costs avoid tight shoes and discomfort. Go for one size up when possible and wear socks (right socks) to avoid wicks and ill-fitting shoes. Ready to get comfy?