How to Break In A New Pair Of Shoes Without Breaking Your Feet

A new pair of shoes can be super-exciting… and super-painful! Here’s how to keep your feet safe when you wear 'em.
Publish date:
May 27, 2014
foot pain, new shoes, omg shoes, breaking in shoes, Seychelles, How-To

We’ve all been there been there: You rush home with your shopping bag, eagerly grab the box, rip out the little pockets of tissue paper and plastic, and carefully slip your new shoes onto your feet. There isn’t really anything quite like those first few moments with a new pair of beautiful shoes is there? They make old outfits seems totally new, infusing life and excitement into your boring old wardrobe. They can even change the way you walk -- sometimes for the better and sometimes because of the pain of breaking them in.

Almost every single pair of shoes needs to be broken in before they can be comfortably worn for a decent length of time. I made the mistake of going for a long run with my new Nike ID sneakers, and ended up getting blood from my ankles all over the fresh white leopard print fabric (and yes, I nearly cried as I limped home).

My feet are particularly bent out of shape and sad, so I have a really hard time with new shoes, and every footwear purchase I make promises a certain degree of pain and suffering. Not all feet are made the same, so it makes sense that almost every shoe needs to adapt to perfectly suit the foot of its wearer -- but does it have to hurt so much?

After working a short stint at a fancy shoe store and buying as many shoes as possible with my discount before quitting, I can tell you that there are ways to avoid bleeding all over your new footwear. Here are my best three tips:

1. Start with baby steps.

Wear your new shoes around the house, and on short outings several times before taking them on a long trek. When you break your shoes in short spurts, it's a lot less painful -- you can take them off right when they're starting to hurt. Also, wear thin socks, if possible, for extra foot protection!

2. Get professional help.

If they're feeling a bit tight, have your shoes stretched at a shoe repair shop, or even a fancy shoe store. The shoe store I used to work in at the mall had a shoe stretching machine in the stockroom, and we used it to make customers' (and our own) shoes fit more comfortably. This service should be free if you’re purchasing a pair of shoes, or cost under $5 if you’re taking in an old uncomfortable pair. If you would rather D.I.Y., try layering a pair of socks or two over a men's shoe shaper (for dress shoes) and squish them into your shoe for at least 24 hours. If the shoe is still too tight, add a thicker sock and repeat this process until it fits.

3. Apply heat.

If your shoes are really, really tight in certain spots, try warming up the material with a hair dryer (on low setting), then slip your feet in with two pairs of socks on. The pressure combined with the heat will help the shoes loosen up and contour to your feet. Be careful using this method with synthetics though, as you can melt the plastic a little too much if your hair dryer is on too high! I recommend slowly warming from the inside, then slipping your feet into those toasty soles.

How do you protect your feet from the mutilation of new shoes?