You have to take a lot into account when purchasing a new shoe: type, style, quality, how often you’ll wear them, and, perhaps most important, comfort.
I think we can all agree that while buying shoes is fun, breaking them in is decidedly not.
Breaking in shoes can take a lot of time, but don’t fall for the potentially shoe-damaging tricks like throwing your new purchase in the washing machine or the microwave (yes, that’s a thing). These tips have had some success in the DIY world, but they definitely aren’t the best option if you’re looking to make your new pair last.
Instead, here are some ways to help speed up the break-in process without sacrificing the integrity of your shoes, so you can rock those new shoes without all the blisters and bruises.
01. Protect The Hot Spots.
Breaking in shoes is always a little harsh on your feet, but some of the usual blisters can be prevented if you know where to look. Your heels are an obvious spot, but other common hotspots include the sides and tops of your toes. If you’re not sure quite where your problem spots are going to be, walk around your house in the new shoes for an hour and you’ll definitely figure it out.
Blisters are caused by friction between your foot and the shoe. To reduce friction, moisture is key—dry skin will rub a lot more than hydrated skin. Keep your skin moisturized with lotion, and use petroleum jelly on the worst spots to reduce friction even more.
However, there are also some more unconventional ways to prevent friction and blisters. Antiperspirant is one known option, especially in the summer months. Unlike deodorant, antiperspirant actually lessens sweating, so applying the product directly to your feet prevents the foot sweat that can make your blister situation a lot worse.
Another unusual method of blister prevention is applying paper surgical tape to your hotspots. In a study done by Stanford University researchers, using paper surgical tape went a long way toward preventing blisters, especially for runners. The tape is very smooth and thin, so even if you get a blister, removing the tape will not be a super traumatic experience. The best part about this new shoe hack? It can be found for about 69 cents at your local drug store.
02. Chunky Socks
If your blisters persist, it might be time to work on stretching out the shoes rather than protecting your feet. Put your chunkiest socks over a shoe shaper and stick them in your shoes overnight to gently stretch. If you don’t have a shoe shaper, try using a potato! If you’re in a pinch or dying at work, try wearing super thick socks with the shoes during your downtime or secretly under your desk at the office. Instead of walking around getting blisters, you’ll be slowly stretching the shoe material with the bulkiness of your socks.
03. Blow Dry
You don’t have to wear new shoes long to know that the type of shoe matters when you’re trying to break them in. This particular trick works best for leather—and definitely make sure they’re leather so you don’t end up damaging synthetic materials.
If you’re feeling some tightness in a particular spot, like the joint of the big toe, grab your hairdryer and those chunky socks we mentioned before. Put the new shoes on your feet (chunky socks and all) and blow dry over the tight spot for about 20 to 30 seconds, far enough away that you don’t burn your feet. Then, take a quick walk around the room to loosen the shoe material while it’s still hot and flexible. When you think they’ve stretched enough, remove those chunky socks and test them out!
04. The Ice Bag
If heat doesn’t seem to be working, or your shoes aren’t made of leather, there’s a great way to stretch your shoes overnight. Fill two plastic freezer bags with water and place them in the toe of each shoe. Then stick your shoes in the freezer overnight. The water will freeze and expand to stretch out the toe. This method might take a little trial and error, since you don’t want to overstretch the shoes but you also need to fill them with enough water to make a difference. In the morning, take them out of the freezer and you should have well-fitting, ice-cold shoes for the hot summer day!
05. The Water Bucket
And finally, here’s a tip for those new strappy leather sandals you’ve been dying to wear, but which are slowly killing your feet. If a shoe doesn’t seem to be molding to your foot and you find yourself applying a fresh band-aid (or strip of surgical tape!) every hour, this one’s for you.
Put on those new sandals and dunk your feet into a bucket of water, shoes and all. Make sure to towel off the shoes to prevent discoloration but leave them slightly damp for the next step. Then walk around for an hour or two in your wet shoes. The water will soften the material and allow the shoes to mold to your feet more than they would while dry. Again, this tip is best for leather, and we recommend testing a spot on your shoes with a little bit of water before dunking them just to make sure the water doesn’t damage the color.
Although it may be time-consuming and somewhat unpleasant, breaking in your shoes properly and thoroughly can truly make a difference in finding that new pair of boots or go-to ballet flats. There’s nothing like strutting in your new kicks blister-free!
Photo: Nadine Ruiz