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How to Break in Shoes to Avoid Blisters & Pain – A Guide for New & Leather Shoes

How to Break in Shoes to Avoid Blisters & Pain – A Guide for New & Leather Shoes

The aches and pains associated with a new pair of shoes can be brutal. This is why I want to teach you how to break in shoes (and avoid pain and blisters!). No matter what they say, pain is never fashionable!

If you’re anything like me, you love getting a pair of new shoes. And usually, you can’t wait to slip them on your feet and let the world see their splendor.

However, wearing that new pair too soon — and for too long — can cause some serious drama to your feet. Ouch

There will be a few different methods & tips for breaking in new shoes that we will get into. From using a potato (yes, really) to plugging into your blow dryer! Sounds weird, right? But these tricks actually work to break in shoes to make them more comfortable! 

Of course, many methods to break in shoes require some stretching. However, keep in mind that you won’t want to try expanding them more than half to a full size. 

Read on to find out how to break in shoes, new shoes and leather shoes – including boat shoes – below. I'll also touch upon just how long it takes to break in shoes, so be sure to read until the end!


Before breaking in new shoes, check these 3 things:

1. Did you buy the right size? If not, you could find your toes feeling pretty pinched no matter how much you try to break in your new shoes. 

2. Are the shoes right for your feet — good for your foot shape, foot problems, etc.? 

3. Are there any spots inside the shoe that have an uncomfortable seam? If so, breaking in the shoes will not help. (Unfortunately.)

How to Break in Shoes, Especially New Shoes

Text reading How to break in shoes 9 easy hacks over images of woman standing on sidewalk adjusting her heels.

Let’s face it, some shoes just aren’t meant to be broken in. And some shoes aren’t made for comfort. (Think sky-high stilettos. Or shoes crafted from a super tough material.)

Breaking in new shoes — especially the wrong shoes — is no walk in the park. But it’s worth it.

How Long Does it Take to Break in Shoes or New Shoes?

First of all, the time it takes to break in new shoes will depend on a number of factors. What is the quality of the shoe? What kind of material are they made from? Do they fit well already and just need a bit of stretch? 

Also, keep in mind that the longer you plan to wear the shoes, the more comfortable they will be. And that could mean that it'll require more time breaking them in!

There is no pain quite like sore, blistered, pinched feet at the end of a long day wearing the wrong shoes. 

Stiff, non-broken-in shoes can also cause heel slips out of shoes (I have a whole post on that, so click the link to read!), blistering your feet and making it difficult to walk.

1. Break in New Shoes by Wearing them at Home

You’re in the safety and comfort of your own home. Wear them for as long as you can stand. This way, you can take them off anytime you think it's getting too much to bear.

But don’t get to the point of hobbling. There’s no judgment at home for taking your shoes off and finishing the day barefoot!

2. Look After Your Feet

Contrary to what you might think, blisters aren’t inevitable! There are a few steps you can take towards avoiding them. If not altogether, then at least the really bad ones:

  1. You can stick moleskin on areas that you know are blister-prone. 
  2. Second, if you happen to get blisters on your toes, put a bit of petroleum jelly with a bandage to promote healing. Or use an anti-friction product like Foot Petals‘ Blisstick where your foot is likely to rub onto the shoe and blister. The latter will most definitely make heels more comfortable!

3. Use Thick Socks to Break in New Shoes

The extra padding of thick socks will not only protect your feet from blisters, but it will help breaking in new shoes.

For tougher shoes like boots, try a pair of chunky knit socks — the kinds meant for harsh winters if your shoes are in need of a good stretch!

For heels or flats, try a pair of no-show socks, like the well-padded ones from Skinnys Socks. These will help stretch both the heel and toe areas nicely.

Added bonus: they won't show in your loafers, flats or many heels, so you can actually wear them with these shoes, stretching them out simultaneously!

The best time to try the sock method is at night. After walking around all day, our feet are at their biggest in the late afternoon or evening. So, putting on thick socks will help expand your shoes even more.

Don't have thick socks, no problem! Just double or even triple pairs of thinner socks 🙂

4. Use Padding for Any Spots That Are Rubbing Your Feet

Have you ever had shoes that continuously rub the same spot on your foot? With every step you take? It’s the worst.

Thankfully, there are pads you can buy to stop this from happening! Or if you don’t have specific blister pads, simple Band-Aids can work in a pinch. 

5. For Optimum Results, Break Shoes in Slowly

To get the best results, breaking in new shoes should be a gradual process. Remember: slow and steady wins the race!

If you try to break in new shoes too quickly, you could risk damaging them. And then they’re no good to anyone.

Another good tip is to bring a pair of sneakers, or foldable flats such as the very popular Flat Out brand or other comfortable shoes.

That way, when your new shoes start killing your feet, you have something else to change into. No more suffering! They say beauty is pain, but who wants to deal with that?

6. How to Break in Shoes Using Ice Bags

Breaking in new shoes with ice seems strange. And what’s even stranger? Putting them in the freezer! But trust me, it works. And it's one of my top tips on how to stretch shoes!

That's because this process of stretching new shoes is effortless, letting the magic of water do its thing.

What you’ll need to do is get two Ziploc bags and fill them with water. Then, place them into your shoes and put them in the freezer (best with a bag to not solid anything inside!).

As the water freezes, it expands, causing your shoes to expand. For best results, leave them overnight. Great breaking in shoes slowly and hands-off.

Make sure the baggies are sealed so there is no risk of them leaking and ruining your beautiful shoes!

7. How to Break in Shoes with a Blow Dryer

This is a fast way to break in shoes! You can extend out your shoes with a blow dryer in just a few minutes! The heat from the blow dryer allows leather in particular to soften, which makes breaking them in a lot easier.

For best results, put on a pair of thick socks, then your shoes, and then fire up the blow dryer!

Heat up the areas that are particularly tight, but don't hold the hairdryer too close. Otherwise, you might burn your shoe and/or yourself!

Once the material is nice and toasty, walk around in the shoes for at least 15 minutes. Repeat if necessary and wear thicker socks if the shoes need more breaking in.

8. The Potato Method. Yes, Use a Potato!

This sounds extremely bizarre, but it works. Well, for a modest amount of stretch anyway. What you’ll want to do is peel a potato, shape it to the toe bed of your shoe, pat it dry with paper towels, and then stuff it inside.

Leave it overnight and by the next day you should have a bit more space than when you started. Just don't make me explain the science of it!

How to “Break in” Shoe Outsoles, to Avoid Slipping

One thing you definitely want to avoid with new shoes, is slipping. Ouch. Unfortunately, this can be an issue with a brand-new pair. One of the best ways to break insoles is just to wear the shoes! The more scuffs they have, the more traction. 

If you’re in a rush, you can use sandpaper to speed up the process. Just be careful of going not to go too hard on your soles!

Finally, you could add grip pads or rubber patches to the bottoms of your shoes to give them a sturdier stride. Take a look at my dedicated post for more info about how to make shoes less slippery!

How to Break in Leather Shoes, Specifically

Leather shoes are arguably the most comfortable footwear. Once you break them in, that is. Depending on the type of leather, they can be pretty tough at the start.

However, the whole goal of leather shoes is to mold to your foot and become the most comfortable option possible. 

So, how to break in leather shoes? Since leather is a natural material, you’ll want to be extra careful when breaking it in. Give your shoes a little extra TLC when going through the process. 

3 Ways to Break in Leather Shoes:

  1. Wear them gradually, for short periods at a time. Start at home
  2. Wear thick socks! And use extra padding on sensitive areas
  3. Try stretching them out with a cedar shoe tree. More info here on how to stretch shoes with a shoe stretcher!
  4. Use one of the 9 methods listed above, proceeding with extreme caution, as leather shoes stretch out more easily and quickly than other shoe materials.

How long do leather shoes take to break in?

Although leather shoes can be broken in quickly, I’d always recommend taking a little extra time to avoid ruining or tearing your leather shoes.

It can take anywhere between 3-4 wears — or 1-4 weeks — to start feeling like your leather shoes fit properly. Just remember: wear them for short periods of time!

How to Break in Leather Leather Boat Shoes

Close up of woman wearing boat shoes and black pants on sailboat.

Wondering how to break in leather boat shoes? It’s easy! Fill a bucket with warm water. And add a little salt if you prefer a more weathered look. Then, place your leather boat shoes in the water for 12-24 hours. 

Put them on while they’re still wet, towel-dry them, and then walk around in them until they are completely dry. They’ll conform to your feet for a comfy fit, preventing blisters and other associated pain.

How to Break in Patent Leather Shoes

Patent leather shoes look incredible. However, with that beauty comes a price. Because of their lustrous finish, they’re pretty inflexible and hard to extend.

So, when choosing a patent pair, make sure you get the right fit to begin with. This will make things easier! Of course, if your patent leather shoes are a bit tight, you can take a few precautions:

  1. Start by wearing your patent leather shoes gradually and at home
  2. Wear comfortable socks that will protect your feet from blisters
  3. If blisters are unavoidable, make sure you carry Band-Aids with you
  4. Gently heat the leather with a blow dryer

Final Words on How to Break in New Shoes

I hope this post about how to break in shoes has given you many ideas. Including info on how to break in new shoes of all kinds, including leather shoes, patent leather shoes and boat shoes!

There are many methods and I would love to hear which ways you prefer. I always revert to wearing them at home for a bit, then with socks if they need some extra softening!

And don't forget to bring a pair of foldable flats whenever you're wearing a pair of new shoes that aren't fully broken in yet! This will save you pain and potential blisters. I like the brand Flat Out for their affordable and stylish selection of colors and styles.

Woman in a white shirt holding a up a pair of foldable pink flats.
Foldable Flats from Flat Out

Disclaimer: Attempting any of the above methods to break in shoes – old or new – yourself may cause irreparable damage to your beloved heels & boots. ShoeTease and its partners are not liable for any damages to persons or property arising from any of the advice given in this post. Please Follow advice at your own risk. For best results, take your precious footwear to a professional specializing in making shoe alterations. This is highly recommended for your pricey Louboutins & Valentinos!

xo ShoeTease

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