We all love buying new shoes … until we put them on and remember what a pain (literally) it is to break them in. But it does not have to be an uncomfortable process. There are hacks available to break in your new shoes without putting your feet through the ringer. We share three main problems you’re bound to face with any new pair of footwear, and show you three easy solutions to help you find some relief and rock those new shoes comfortably.
Problem 1: The soles are too slippery
New soles of expensive shoes tend to be more slippery because they’re so smooth. This is problematic because you have to spend more effort gripping onto your shoes with your toes, which places a lot of strain on your feet. And nothing is more embarrassing (and painful) than slipping and landing on your derrière, or worse, twisting your ankle while brisk walking to your lunch spot.
Solution 1.1: Use sandpaper
While this technique is easy and inexpensive, it’s also going to break your heart if you had splashed out a huge sum on that pair of designer shoes. Still, it gets the job done. Simply file the soles of your shoes with sandpaper. This will soften the soles and create marks and nooks that are necessary for a better grip, which in turn gives you more traction and reduces the likelihood of sending you tumbling to the ground.
Solution 1.2: Spray on a layer of anti-slip coating
If your expensive shoes sport coloured soles (think Christian Louboutin) and you balk at scuffing that beautiful surface with sandpaper, here’s an alternative: Coat the soles of your shoes with an invisible adhesive spray. It’s not cheap, but it’s a great option that doesn’t leave any noticeable trace.
Solution 1.3: Hairspray your way
A cheaper alternative to an adhesive spray would be your good old bottle of hairspray. They work the same way when you spritz them on your soles. But there’s a caveat — it’s a temporal solution and will wear off once there’s direct contact with water, so you probably have to reapply it on a daily basis. But hey, every extra dollar you save is another step closer to another new pair of shoes.
Problem 2: A size too small
We’ve all done this before. I’m talking about the times when we stubbornly went ahead with a shoe purchase even though they ran out of our size (drats!), simply because we’ve been coveting it for too long. Still, while your cramped toes should be a painful reminder that we should never succumb to impulse again, there are ways to make the pair work.
Solution 2.1: Blow dry method
This is a method most people swear by. Put on some chunky socks and grab your hairdryer. Slip into your new shoes and aim your hairdryer (set to warm) at areas that feel particularly tight for about 30 seconds. While your shoes are still hot and malleable, start walking around your room briskly for a minute to loosen them. Continue blow-drying and walking for a few more times until you feel they are comfortable enough for an afternoon out. The heat will loosen the fabric of your shoes, while the socks will stretch it out. Give it a try.
Solution 2.2: Freeze it overnight
If heat didn’t work, try the other end of the temperature scale. Fill two plastic bags with water and squeeze them inside your shoes until they reach the toe areas, but be gentle. You don’t want to cause the bags to tear. Stick your shoes in the freezer overnight. The water will freeze and expand, stretching the toe areas in a fuss-free manner.
Note: Fill the bags with water up to the midway point to give it some space for expansion. Fill too much and they might burst, which means you can say good bye to your new shoes. Also, we recommend starting small with this method in case you overstretch your shoes.
Solution 2.3: Invest in a shoe-stretcher
If you have a spanking new pair of leather shoes (lambskin, cowhide and suede works best) and you’re afraid of trying out the above two methods for fear of ruining them, seek the right tools. And by that, we mean buy a shoe stretcher that does the same job. Stick the shoe stretcher into your shoes and leave them overnight. You might also need to coat the shoe stretcher with a shoe stretching liquid or spray which will help to saturate the material and allow it to work better. Leather is known to be supple, so the shoe stretcher will help expand the material and give more room for your feet.
Note: This only works if you wish to expand your shoes by half a size. Any larger, and you’ll probably need a new pair of kicks.
Problem 3: Giving you unnecessary blisters and/or cramps
Sometimes even when a pair is in the perfect size, chafing still occurs because of friction between your feet and your shoes, causing painful blisters or abrasions that make walking an excruciating task. Don’t fret, there are ways to soften your shoes to reduce friction and make them more bearable.
Solution 3.1: Applying petroleum jelly on necessary areas
Before you put on your new pair of shoes, apply some petroleum jelly on potential problem areas (on both your feet and in your shoes), such as your heels, little toes and the edge of the balls of your feet. The jelly acts as a protective barrier against any potential friction, ensuring your strolls are pain-free. We recommend Vaseline — it’s made up of 100 per cent petroleum jelly so it’s safe for your skin and shoes. Grab these in pocket sizes so that you can keep them inside your purse at all times, in case you need to reapply throughout the day.
Solution 3.2: Dip it in a bucket of water
This method works better for dark coloured hues so don’t try this with your light coloured shoes. Dunk your new shoes into a bucket of water for five minutes before immediately towelling them dry to prevent any chance of discolouration. Wear them out after that, preferably for at least an hour. With this method, the water molecules absorbed by your leather footwear would aid in the molding of the shoes, allowing them to expand faster.
Note: Before attempting this method, give it a test run by dropping a bit of water on a small area of to see if the colour runs. Try this on the insides of your shoes so if it happens to stain, it won’t be visible.
Solution 3.3: Tape your toes
Ever wondered why ballerinas tape their third and fourth toes together before every practice? These toes have more sensitive nerve endings, which will contribute to more pain. Taping them together will redistribute the pressure, allowing them to dance for longer hours.
Shoes that have closed and pointed tips naturally cause the most pain as they squeeze your toes tightly together. Hence, we’d suggest you use paper tape — the kind you can find in a first-aid kit — when wearing these type of shoes to secure your third and fourth toes together. This will reduce the stress asserted on your toes and at the same time, reduce friction caused by toes rubbing against each other. It also acts as a barrier against the inner surface of your shoes, thus preventing blisters.
Bonus tip: If all else fails, there’s always professional help in the form of a cobbler. Tell him or her your problem and they’d be able to advise you on the necessary changes — for a fee of course. Hey, forking out a few extra dollars is a small sum to pay, as long as you get to eventually flaunt your favourite shoes.