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!


  1. Thanks Hannah, this is really timely. I’ve been struggling with a pair of Vejas, and am bracing myself to bring out some shoes I just didn’t wear last year for the very reason!

  2. Although I have been known to wear heels on the odd occaision, I’m really a flat shoe kind of girl. And yes they can hurt! The worst were a pair of Clarks flat sandals about 25 years ago, so much so I never really broke them in properly before I got rid of them! I tend to wear my shoes around the house, but it’s not always enough. I will try the hairdryer trick though!
    Blister planters are my best friend, even after a blister has formed. Compeed also do a balm stick thingy (technical term), that you’re supposed to put on the bits of your feet that might rub. I did buy one, but am a total failure in terms of remembering to use it!

    • I reckon it would do the same thing as the antiperspirant. I’m the same – I have one but I’ve never used it! Do be careful with blister plasters on blisters. I was in pain for DAYS and had to wear the one pair of socks I’d brought with me with Birkenstocks over the top of surgical pads strapped to the soles of my feet. It nearly ruined my holiday! And was NOT a good look!

  3. My feet rip to shreds in anything so will try these tips. I completely agree about the blister plasters on firmed blisters but it has only caused me agony when they have been on the soles so never put them on there now. I’m also always cautious of socks and heat and making shoes too baggy or out of shape. I think there are some shoes that just never break in though or will always rub no matter what you do and once I have had blisters and blood give up on them.

  4. I am trying to wear in some new leather ankle boots I recently bought from &OtherStories; I am hoping that thick socks will help, but will have to try the hairdryer trick soon. (They are exactly my size and I don’t want to have to send them back!)

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