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Lessons I Wish I Knew: How to Properly Break in New Shoes


Lessons i wish breaking shoes

While I’m not sure about you, I know for a fact that I am a sucker for a pair of cute pair of shoes. However, as I leave the store, already contemplating how to style them, I remember I have to once again repeat my least-favorite task: breaking in shoes.

Now, I have plenty of new shoe-related horror stories (which I’ll share below) and memories of blisters all over my feet, but I have also learned the “tricks of the trade,” so to speak. I no longer have to struggle (well, not as much, anyways) to break in my shoes.

Here, I’ll share three methods I’ve used to break in new shoes, as well as my missteps along the way:

1. Using Thick Socks

Lessons i wish thick socks
Product Information: Left to Right – Banana Republic, J.Crew, and Sperry Top-Sider

Growing up, I always shopped with my mom. She had a rule: any time I wanted to buy a pair of flats, she would check the back for stiffness. If they were very stiff, she would insist I leave them behind for the sake of my feet.

Unfortunately, as I aged, I slowly strayed away from shopping with my mom. With this new freedom, I was granted access to any shoes I wanted. I remember trying on the cutest pair of flats from Steve Madden and leaving with them minutes later. As soon as I returned home, I realized my mistake: due to the all-over studded design, the pair of flats were completely stiff and inflexible. I was determined to break them in, for the sake of proving my mother wrong.

For the rest of the day, I stomped around the house in those flats and the thickest pair of socks I could find. The next day, I deemed the shoes comfortable enough for a day’s wear… I lasted an hour (looking back I’m very surprised I even made it that long!) at school. The socks had helped, but Mom, you won this battle.

2. Using a Blowdryer

Lessons breaking in shoes blowdryer
Product Information: Socks – Target, Shoes – Steve Madden, and Blowdryer – Bloomingdale’s

After my brief battle with the shoes mentioned above, I left them in the closet until I was ready to attempt another wear. This second time, I was more prepared. I was going for the blowdryer method.

Now, if you’re familiar with my past articles, you know that my stories don’t often end well. But for once, this is one of the few times that I succeeded.

My only problem was actually attacking my shoes with a hairdryer. Looking back, I don’t understand why I was scared I would ruin the shoes; I have literally taken a hammer to shoes before (it actually fixed my problem, too!). I was definitely scared that using heat on a pair of shoes would ruin them, so it took me a while to decide to do this.

Nonetheless, I later had to give in: I wasn’t willing to wear the shoes again if they were still as painful as the first time, and either way, my money was wasting away in the corner of my closet. So, I slid on socks, slipped on those shoes, and aimed the heat toward the areas that needed work. It was a success!

3. Using Cushions

Lessons i wish foot cushions
Product Information: Left to Right – Macy’s, Nine West, and Nine West

This does cost a bit of money (under $10 for each pair of shoes), but it’s the easiest and least worrisome way to go about “breaking in” shoes. By using a cushion, you can simply ignore the breaking in process and go right ahead and wear those new shoes.

My first time using these had gone well: I bought them for a pair of leather flats I didn’t want to try the blow-dryer technique on. The cushion made the shoes feel completely broken in, and I was foot-pain free for the whole day.

However, I did once have a problem with cushions that inspires a warning for all of you: For a Valentine’s Day dance my sophomore year of high school, I already had my dress picked out, and I realized I needed a pair of heels to match. Knowing the magic of the cushions, I gave myself the freedom to pick a pair of shoes that looked painful to break in.

The night of the dance, I put the cushions into place and slid my foot into the shoe. Or, tried to anyways. Turns out, the cushions took up too much room in the shoes and made my feet feel very uncomfortable.

I pushed through it (for the sake of wearing really nice heels that matched perfectly with my dress), but please, ladies, learn from my mistake: make sure to test out shoes with the cushions before a big event. Don’t wait until the night of like I did!


Have you also had a rough time breaking in shoes? What methods to you use to break in new shoes? Any blister horror stories? Let us know what you think in a comment below!

Posted on on February 19, 2014 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , ,

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7 Responses to “Lessons I Wish I Knew: How to Properly Break in New Shoes”

  1. 1
    February 19th, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    Instead of individual cushions, you can also buy this stuff called moleskin. You can find it in the foot care aisle right along side the insole and cushions. It comes in a pack of two or three squares that you cut to fit your shoes. There’s a sticky back, so you don’t have to worry about gluing them or anything. I can normally get three pairs of cushions out of one pack and they cost around $5.

  2. 2
    February 19th, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    I use alcohol along with the thick socks.

  3. 3
    February 19th, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    Whenever I need to break in shoes, especially heels, I use water. I fill 2 large gallon ziploc bags with water and put one in each shoe. Then I put the shoes in the freezer and wait for the water to freeze completely. Water expands when it freezes and gently stretches the shoes. :)

  4. 4
    February 20th, 2014 at 11:31 am

    When I have to break in new shoes that are going to blister my heels, I smear a thin layer of vaseline on my foot where the shoe rubs. It decreases the friction and I don’t get blisters. If you’re terribly worried about the shoe be careful, but I’ve used this on two pairs of dance heels and my boyfriend has used it on his new dancing shoes with no problems for the shoe or for our feet.

  5. 5
    February 20th, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    GREAT article! I was just thinking the other day about how much I HATE breaking in shoes.

  6. 6
    February 20th, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    Rule no 1: if the shoes don’t fit when you buy them…they won’t ever
    Rule 2: Do Not buy synthetic leather…your feet will sweat and they will be uncomfortable, If you want vegan, buy fabric.
    Rule 3: only suede and patent leather stretch.
    Rule 4: have your feet measured regularly…they change
    Rule 5: if you’re wearing flip flops all the time, your arches will let you know
    Rule 6: always buy the best quality shoe you can, cheap shoes =sore feet( maybe not now, but soon)
    Rule 7: try on shoes at the end of the day (after your feet may have swollen)
    Rule 8: no matter how cute the shoe, and how good a sale, if they hurt, they’re expensive if you only wear them once.

  7. 7
    March 4th, 2015 at 6:05 pm

    I have to be honest here. I have never come across ‘breaking in’ shoes before, ever, and I don’t really get it. When I buy a new pair of shoes I am incredibly fussy. I will never buy from clothes shops that also sell their own shoes (New Look, H&M) and will only go to shoe shops. Sometimes I will go to a branded shop, Timberland being the prime example, or a shop that sells lots of brands but only shoes and shoe accessories (shoe polish, laces and so forth.)

    Once there I will try on a lot of styles in a few sizes before I am happy and am not afraid to leave and go somewhere else. I will only buy a pair of shoes once I have walked round the shop for a while and am happy they fit well. When I have decided the buy, I buy brands I know I can trust, and I buy expensive. I do have to save up for a while but you get what you pay for and I know they will last.

    I have a pair of Timberland boots which I have owned for about 3-4 years. They have been through huge amounts of mud, a few streams as well as road salt and road grit. They have also been scraped by thorns and holly bushes more than I care to remember. I’ve never had a problem as I did not buy till I was happy with the fit and I know Timberlands are built to last and the last pair were only replaced because I got them as a child and outgrew them.

    In my view, if you wear a pair of shoes for a while and they hurt, or you need special gel things or whatever, you have wasted money on a pair of shoes that do not fit and you will only damage your feet in the long run.

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