5 top tips for breaking in new shoes

Because even flats aren’t always comfortable…

People often equate the fact that I don’t wear heels with something else: that I don’t get blisters. Well, I’m here to tell you that this just isn’t true. Sure, in general flat shoes are FAR more comfortable than heels, in my opinion, but I’ve had my fair share of discomfort too. However, as someone with a large shoe collection who has worn in a LOT of new shoes in my time, I’ve learnt a few tricks along the way which mean that I rarely get caught out these days. Here are my top 5 tips, which work particularly well with stiff leather shoes, but in most cases can be applied to everything.

1. Don’t expect too much

If you’re investing in a pair of quality, sturdy leather shoes, the chances are that they will take some wearing in at first. And it will be worth it, because they will likely last you for years. So, never, EVER, make the first time you wear them a day when you will be walking for hours. NEVER wear them without socks until you have sussed out just how much wearing in they will need. And ALWAYS carry either fabric plasters or blister plasters with you just in case. Which brings me to…

2. Plasters are your friend

If I’m wearing a pair of dress shoes – e.g. brogues, loafers, Chelsea boots – for the first time, I’ll usually wear a blister plaster on each heel (under socks) for good measure. They also come in handy when you are ready to progress to a bare ankle, as socks provide more of a buffer than we often give them credit for. Do beware of the blister plaster though – I once used them on blisters that had already formed and they essentially ripped off the bottoms of my feet. On holiday. It was not pretty. So once it’s too late for a blister plaster you need a heavy duty fabric plaster, which shouldn’t make matters worse. I like the multi packs with various sizes as they also come in handy for smaller areas like toes. The reason I favour fabric plasters is that they have very good staying power. No one wants to find their plaster on the outside of their shoe…

3. Reach for the hairdryer

If the leather just isn’t softening, a good insider trick is to warm up the insides of your shoes with a hairdryer for about a minute, and then wear them with thick socks. This will help to soften the leather and also stretch it a little bit if it’s too tight. You can do this a few times around the house if your thick socks aren’t your thing! Only do this with leather shoes, as it may damage synthetic materials.

4. Never make assumptions

This applies mostly to trainers. I’ve had numerous inconsistencies which have resulted in me being caught out – both times involved blood! I think because the big sports labels make their trainers in so many different factories in so many different countries, the quality isn’t always the same. I have two pairs of Stan Smiths, one dreamy and one excruciating (the pair pictured at the top made my feet bleed on the day this picture was taken!); the same with Vans slip-ons (actually, I have had four pairs of these over the years and only one pair was painful). So it’s always a good idea to potter around the house or to the shops before you head out for a long walk in a new pair of your favourite style, just in case. As someone with small feet who can fit into kids’ trainers, I’ve also found that the adult ones are more comfortable. Perhaps they make them with a bit more care and attention, or maybe I’ve just been unlucky!

5. Don’t sweat it

I actually haven’t tried this one myself but it makes sense and is a good option for summer shoes that will show if you wear plasters. Because not everyone likes socks and sandals like I do! I find that a lot of summer blisters occur more from my feet sweating and making the shoes rub more than they would if my feet were dry. So this tip makes sense to me, since it involves rolling antiperspirant on to the parts of your feet that you think might rub. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve tried this one out!