Brogues, lace-ups, ankle boots and more covered shoes will be everywhere for Autumn Winter 2014, and while they’re lovely to look at and wear (especially if you’re heading somewhere cold for a winter break) they can be horribly painful if you’re more used to flip-flops and sandals.
Covered shoes are totally on trend for AW14 like these fabulous loafer-pump hybrid shoes from Jamie Wei Huang AW14-15 collection. Image: Showbit
STRETCH YOUR SHOES TO FIT
Most blisters come from ill-fitting shoes when the material rubs up against each person’s individual bumps and lumps, so the quickest way to break in your shoes is to gently stretch them to fit your own peculiar foot shape.
Remember it’s often easier to get a perfect fit in a shoe if it’s made of leather (since leather stretches) so buy the shoe size the feels a little tight rather than one that’s too big. If your shoes are made of a synthetic material going bigger is better ‒ then you just need to add in-soles to “fill up the gaps” so to speak to get the shoes to fit better.
So, to save your delicate feet from nasty blisters, here’s our list of tips on how to “break in” your new shoes before you head out on the town.
1. WEAR YOUR SHOES AT HOME
This is kind of obvious and also easy ‒ especially if you don’t need to wear the new pair immediately since the more time you take with this option the better it will work. Simply wear the shoes while doing the housework, cooking or even watching TV. If the shoes are bit tight or have bits that seem to rub more than others, wear a double pair of socks ‒ synthetic fabrics are best as they “slide” more smoothly over the bumps.
As long as the shoes are leather (make sure they are genuine leather) you can also add heat via a hairdryer; heat the tightest spot on the shoes and move your feet back and forth as though you were walking to help ease the leather into the shape of your feet. Turn off the heat but leave your shoes on until they’ve cooled then try with your normal socks or bare feet. Keep doing this until your shoes fit, then protect the leather with a bit of shoe conditioner. Be wary of using this method, however, if there’s a lot of glue used in the design ‒ it will melt and ruin your shoes.
2. STRETCH IN THE FREEZER
This was a new method to me but it makes sense. Basically you get a couple of plastic bags, fill them with water (about half full) and then shove the bags into your shoes. You then place the shoes in the freezer ‒ yes, the freezer ‒ and leave them there overnight. The next day take them out of the freezer, let them thaw a bit so you can get the bags out, and try them on. Repeat until the shoes are stretched enough to fit. This works best with leather shoes but softer faux leather vinyls will work too, but you won’t get as much stretch out of them as you would leather. If the shoes are expensive then “double bag” so that you don’t get any water escaping into your new shoes.
3. STRETCH WITH SOCK BALLS
Again, rather obvious, but it can work. Just get a whole lot of socks, roll them into balls, and then shove as many as you can into your shoes, adding especially to areas that are extra tight like the toes. Leave the “sock balls” in place at least overnight and then check to see if it’s made a difference. Repeat until the shoes fit. This method is particularly good for delicate shoes as the soft socks won’t damage the shoe material.
4. STRETCH WITH NEWSPAPER
Right, if your shoes aren’t particularly expensive and of a more “rough and ready” design you could try this method. Basically get a bunch of newspaper, wet it, and then stuff it into your shoes. Use as much as you need to fill the whole shoe but remember to make sure the shoe shape doesn’t get too distorted. Again, this method is best with leather shoes. Once the paper dries, try on the shoes and then repeat if necessary. There is reportedly something in the ink that newspaper is printed with that helps in the stretching.
5. STRETCH WITH RUBBING ALCOHOL SPRAY
If your shoes are not leather you can try this method. Make up a mix of 50 percent rubbing alcohol and 50 percent water, add to a spray bottle, shake to mix then spray the inside of your shoes. Slip your shoes on before it dried and then wear them around the house for about 30 minutes. Repeat as needed until you get the shoes to fit better.
6. STRETCH WITH THE PROFESSIONALS
There are numerous “shoe guys” dotted around Singapore who can do job for you professionally for relatively little cost. The difference is that a machine stretching will make your shoes larger overall but may not focus on particular areas where your feet need the extra room, so your shoes might just be a bit bigger which could lead to rubbing that will cause blisters. If your feet are mostly uniform in shape and you just need a bit of extra room, then a professional job should be fine. It usually takes about 24 hours or so to get it done.
PREVENT BLISTERS BEFORE THEY HAPPEN
Wearing socks is one of the best ways to protect your feet in covered-up new shoes like this pair from Yohji Yamamoto AW14 collection. Image: Showbit
Basically we get blisters because our feet are rubbing against the shoes so the best thing is if you can ensure you choose the right size shoe.
Always remember that while you might be a particular size in one brand or even type of shoe (sandals are cut differently from brogues for example), you won’t always be the same size, not even if it’s the same brand, so take time to try on a variety of sizes when shoe shopping.
It’s best to have around 1-2cm between the end of the shoe and the beginning of your toes in covered shoes; if you have a high arch you’ll need more support – either top or bottom ‒ to ensure that your feet don’t move around too much; and if you have corns, bunions or any other sort of foot issues make sure the shoes don’t place excess pressure on these areas.
7. WEAR THE RIGHT SOCKS
Make sure you choose the right socks, especially when wearing covered shoes. Wearing two pair of thin socks synthetic socks can be helpful to reduce rubbing; cotton socks are actually rough on the feet and while they absorb moisture they leave your feet damp with in turn can lead to more friction and therefore more blisters. If you’re worried about sweaty feet try sports socks that “wick” away the moisture and leave your feet dry.
8. TOUGHEN YOUR SKIN
After years and years of wearing ill-fitting shoes just because I loved them and often ending up with feet that “looked like raw meat” as one friend once remarked, I agree that if your feet are tougher, you’ll end up with less blisters. I’ve now got callouses where the blisters were – not exactly attractive but it works. For a less extreme way to toughen up your feet try painting “tincture of benzoin” directly onto your feet; or walk around barefoot more.
9. USE LUBRICANT
Yep, those Foot Glide sticks really do work. You just have to remember to apply before you pop on your new shoes and head out the door; apparently you can also use stuff like petroleum jelly but personally I’ve found that it makes a terrible mess of your shoes. If you tend to get sweaty feet and you aren’t wearing socks, try foot powder or talcum powder to keep your feet dry and to reduce friction in your shoes.
10. USE PLASTERS BEFORE YOU GET THE BLISTERS
If you know which areas of your feet are prone to getting blisters, cover them up before you wear the new shoes. My personal favourite foot saving plasters are the Hansaplast Foot Expert SOS Blisterplaster; these really do SAVE your feet once the blisters have begun (they’re amazingly soothing and do seem to help the blister heal faster as it claims) but they’re also perfect for anti-blister protection too. They’re not cheap but they stay put really well and will keep out dirt and moisture perfectly. Just ensure that you place them so that the edges aren’t rubbing against your shoe edge otherwise they get all sticky and nasty. But the cushioning effect of them is great for padding out your bony or lumpy bits and protecting them from rubbing.
Foot Glide and Hansaplast Foot Expert SOS Blisterplaster are available from most pharmacies and supermarkets.