How To Break in New Shoes

Woman wearing high heels with chains around her ankles

There’s nothing quite like that niggling doubt that tickles the back of your brain when you purchase a pair of shoes without trying them on. It’s an unfortunate reality that buying footwear online is usually a bit of a risk, but sometimes those deals are just too amazing to pass up.

So what happens when you try them on, only to discover that they don’t quite fit just right? That they just…well, they only kind of fit. But you don’t really want to return them because you just love them? Don’t go printing a return slip just yet. Here are some tricks that may help you make the most of your purchase and avoid buyer’s remorse at the same time.

How to Break in New Shoes — 5 Ways

1. Wear Them Inside

A solid trial run is often an effective way to break in a new pair of shoes. This is particularly important if you’re planning to wear them to a special event. Pull on a pair of thick white cotton athletic socks and slip into the shoes. Give them a good workout by wearing them on different household surfaces and climbing the stairs. It’s not unusual for new shoes to be a bit slippery, so be sure to scuff the bottoms with sandpaper to make them safer.

2. Heat Things Up

how to break in new shoes with a hair dryer
Heating shoes up with a hair dryer can help break them in.

Heat should soften the material of your new shoes, which makes them more malleable and easy to stretch out. To accomplish this, slip into a pair of your fuzziest, thickest socks and step into your shoes. Then aim your hair dryer directly at your shoes and blast them with high heat. Move the dryer back and forth so that every section is evenly heated, then walk around for a bit. The combination of heat and the socks should help relax and stretch the material.

3. Or Get Chilly

Sometimes you actually need a little cool air to make your shoes more comfortable. Clear some space in the freezer for this trick! Fill freezer bags with water and place them inside the shoes. Then put your footwear in the freezer and allow them to freeze. Remove them after they’re completely frozen and let the ice thaw. Once you remove the bags, you should notice the shoes are easier to wear.

4. Try Some Water

We don’t normally recommend getting your new shoes all wet, but there’s an exception to be made for new leather footwear that doesn’t fit just right. Warning: don’t try this with a pair of costly, high-end shoes, or anything that is light-hued.

First use a waterproofing product to protect the material. Then soak the shoes underwater for a couple of minutes. Wear a pair of thick white socks and walk around your house until the shoes dry. This should allow just enough time for the shoes to mold to your feet.

5. Use a Stretcher

When all else fails, purchase a shoe stretcher. These handy devices are designed to make your snug shoes far more comfortable. Bear in mind that you’ll usually need to leave the stretcher inside the shoe for up to two full days to feel true results.

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    Tanya is a seasoned journalist based in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Specializing in fashion, beauty, and travel, she loves to explore new places, read as much as possible, and scour the web for fabulous finds — all in the name of research, of course.

    Blog Comments

    When I was working in a shoe store last year, we found the shoe stretcher options to be the safest with most shoes, but the other ideas seem interesting too.  Another problem women run into when they buy new shoes, especially those with leather soles, they are slippery beyond reason.  Some suggest taking a piece of sandpaper to the bottoms, or going out on the cement and rubbing the soles on that.  I personally find the idea horrifying.  Instead, I’ve been using these little rubber pad things that I found a local drugstore to stick on the bottom of the sole.  I found they work better when it’s icy outside too, and much better for your shoe.

    I have used regular rubbing alcohol to stretch out my leather shoes that were a little too snug.  All I did was pour some alcohol on the outside of the shoe on parts that were bothering me.  Then I wore the shoe to mold them to my feet.  It actually works.  I tried it on a black pair of ballet flats.

    These are great tips for someone whose feet like to miraculously grow and shrink between size 10 and 11…lol. My homegirl in Ottawa – who is a stylist – says to wear the shoe for at least half an hour a day until the shoes feel completely comfortable. For me, depending on the shoe, if its leather it may take a week, if its a different material, maybe less. But she says have fun with it, as you get more comfortable, try on different outfits with the shoe and have your own mini runway show – you know you do it when no ones watching…lol

    So by the time you hit the club with your shoes, you will already know how to master dancing and walking and strutting your stuff with thoes sexy heels – like Beyonce!!

    I find that the shoe pads that stick to the bottom are great for slippery shoes 🙂

    I have a pair of sling backs that I got at Bakers.  I love them, but I find that I have to scrunch my toes just to keep them on…any suggestions?

    If you have problems with your shoes slipping and sliding, try foot petals. They have a web site and some of their products are sold at Target. They are GREAT. They make little pads that keep your heels from slipping and pads that keep your soles from sliding. They even have inserts that keep toes from scrunching. They also have full inserts. And what makes them even better? They are all designed to work in any shoe, even open toe high heels! AND they come in designer colors that match just about every shoe color.

    If you were going to buy a golf club, you wouldn’t walk into a store and buy the first one you see, would you? Of course not; especially if you want to improve your golf game! You’ll want to hold the club, take some practice swings, hit some balls if the store has a practice spot, and look at the price, of course. If you are considering buying running shoes, you need to go through a similar process and take the time to find the perfect shoe.

    I must try these tips! I bought a new pair since everything is on sale but the shoes are killing me! I hope one of the tips here work for me, too!

    Hi there,
    Come back and let us know how it goes!

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