How to Break in Shoes – 11 Practical Tips

It is always exciting to get a new pair of shoes. But, before you can wear them out and about, you need to break them in. So, what do we mean by breaking in shoes? Breaking in is a simple process to help the shoes conform to the shape of your feet.

When you get new shoes, they might feel stiff and tight at first. Not only are they uncomfortable, but they can also cause painful blisters and lead to sore feet. This is why it is essential to break in your shoes before wearing them for an extended period of time.

How long do shoes take to break in?

There is no specific time frame for how long it takes shoes to break in. It varies depending on the type of shoes and how often they are worn. However, you can expect to break in your shoes within a week or two.

New leather shoes, in particular, can be tough to break in. However, with a little bit of patience and some easy steps, you can quickly break in your new shoes.

Before we go into more detail, here is an overview of 11 tips on how to break in shoes –

  1. Wear your new shoes around the house
  2. Wear thick socks when wearing shoes
  3. Direct some heat using a hairdryer or blow dryer
  4. Place a water-filled plastic bag inside your boots and freeze them
  5. Place a big potato
  6. Use a shoe stretcher
  7. Submerge the boots in water
  8. Apply a shoe stretching spray
  9. Spitz some rubbing alcohol
  10. Tie your boots tightly
  11. Stuff your boots with some newspaper or cloth

Wear Your New Shoes Around the House

Wearing new shoes.

The best way to break in new shoes is by wearing them around the house. This method does not damage your shoes in any way.

Before you wear your shoes outside, wear them inside for a couple of hours first. This will help the shoes conform to the shape of your feet and make them more comfortable to wear.

Start by wearing the shoes for 15 minutes and gradually increase the amount of time you wear them. If the shoe pinches the ankle, place a cotton ball or tissue inside the shoe. Doing this will prevent any blisters or sore feet from developing.

We recommend that you walk on a rough surface when wearing new shoes. This will roughen up the outsole and prevent you from slipping. Check out this guide for more tips to keep shoes from slipping.

When to Use

Before moving on to other methods, you should always use this method to break in your shoes. Most shoes will break in within a couple of days.

This method is highly recommended for new dress shoes and leather shoes. These shoes are prone to get scuffed and scratched, so breaking them in slowly is important.

Here is a guide that will give you some tips to protect leather shoes from getting scuffed.

How to break in shoes without wearing them? 

To break in shoes without wearing them, follow any of the following methods –

  1. Place a plastic bag filled with water inside the shoe and place it in the freezer.
  2. Use a large potato
  3. Use a shoe stretcher
  4. Stuff your shoe with some crumbled newspaper or a cloth.

Wear Thick Socks

Wearing thick socks before putting on shoes.

Another way to break in your shoes is to wear thick and comfortable socks with them. Thick socks will help the shoes stretch out and make them more comfortable to wear.

If you don’t have thick socks, you can also wear two socks together. It might feel uncomfortable, but it will help stretch out the shoes.

Wearing socks when wearing shoes is always a good idea, as it helps prevent blisters. Wearing socks will also help absorb sweat and keep your feet dry.

When to Use

Try this method before moving on to any heating or freezing methods to help break in your new shoes.

Wearing thick socks is perfect for breaking in new hiking boots or running shoes. These types of shoes require a lot of breaking in before you can wear them comfortably.

Use a Hairdryer or Blow Dryer

Hair dryer placed near a pair of leather shoes.

If you want to break in shoes quickly, you can use a hair dryer or blow dryer. This method will heat the shoe material and help them to stretch out.

To begin, wear your new shoes with socks and walk for about 10 minutes. Then, please turn on the blow dryer and set it to the highest setting. Direct the heat towards the toe box, heel counter, and any other tight spot of the shoe. Direct the heat for about 15 seconds.

After heating the shoe material, start walking in them again. Repeat the process twice, and you will see a difference in the shoes.

However, make sure you hold the heating device about six inches away from the shoe. Also, please remember to move the device continuously around the shoe. This will ensure that the heat is evenly distributed rather than concentrated in one area.

When to Use

This is an excellent method to use when you are in a hurry and need your shoes to be broken in as quickly as possible. This method is very effective for breaking in new suede, leather, and athletic shoes.

However, avoid this method if your shoes are made from vegan leather or other synthetic materials.

Here is a complete guide on how to protect vegan leather shoes.

The Freezing Technique

A plastic bag filled with water placed inside the leather shoes.

Solid ice is another way to break in boots. It’s a slow process, but it definitely works.

Fill two sealable plastic bags with water and ensure they are only 3/4th filled. Seal the bags and make sure there are no air pockets. Place the bags inside each boot and make sure they are correctly inserted. Next, place the boots in a large plastic bag and put them in the freezer for 12 hours.

As water freezes, it will expand and solidify. This will put pressure on the shoe material and help it to stretch out. After 12 hours, take the boots out of the freezer and remove the water bags. Thoroughly dry your boots with a towel, and they will be ready to wear.

When to Use

In this method, your shoes are placed in the freezer for a long time, during which they may become wet. Therefore, this method should only be used with water-resistant footwear like nylon sneakers, mesh shoes, and running shoes.

Please avoid using this method if you have suede, chamois, or nubuck leather shoes.

Here is a complete guide on taking care of suede shoes.

Use a Large Potato

Large potatoes placed in a pair of white loafers.

Yes, you heard it right. A giant potato can help you break in a new shoe.

Firstly, make sure to wash and then dry off the potato, or else your insoles will get dirty. The potato should be slightly bigger than the opening of the shoe, but not so large that it distorts the toe box. Also, make sure the shape of the potato follows the shape of the shoe. If not, cut the potato accordingly.

Do you have dirty insoles? If so, our cleaning guide will help you out.

Next, place the potato inside the shoe and lace them up tightly. The large potato will put pressure on the shoe material and stretch it out. Leave the shoe for about 12 to 24 hours.

After 12 to 24 hours, remove the potato. Wipe the inside of your shoes with a dry cloth to ensure no potato residue is left.

When to Use

The method is very effective if your shoes are tight around the toe area. A large potato can be used to break in a fresh pair of ballerinas, high heels, and belly shoes. 

It is not recommended to use this method on shoes with a lot of stitching, such as calf leather shoes.

Calf leather is a delicate material. Here is how you can protect calf leather shoes.

Use a Shoe Stretcher

A shoe stretcher.

A shoe stretcher is a tool used to stretch the width and length of shoes. It is inserted into the shoe and then rotated or turned to increase the size of the shoe. After using a shoe stretcher, make sure you wear your shoes or they will lose their shape.

Soak the Shoes in a Bucket of Water

Pair of nylon shoes submerged in water.

Water can also be used to stretch out shoes. The shoe material will absorb water and become pliable.

Take a bucket and fill it with enough water to cover your shoes. Submerge your shoes in it and let them soak for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove them from the bucket and wear them.

Walk around in wet shoes for about 15 minutes. Repeat the process twice for significant results.

After you are done with the process, let your shoes air dry naturally. You can follow this guide on how to take care of wet shoes to dry them quickly.

When to Use

This method is best for stretchable materials like canvas, nylon, and other synthetic fabrics. Do not use this method on leather shoes or shoes that are not water-resistant.

Use a Shoe Stretching Spray

Spraying shoe stretching spray on a leather shoe.

Shoe stretching sprays are specifically made for leather shoes. They contain a leather softening liquid that penetrates the leather and relaxes the fibers. This makes the leather more flexible.

The process is straightforward. Just spray the inside and outside of your shoes and then wear them. Keep walking until the solution dries. As you walk, the leather will stretch and conform to the shape of your feet.

When wearing leather shoes, it is recommended to wear thick socks to speed up the break-in process.

Use Rubbing Alcohol

Spraying rubbing alcohol on a pair of nylon boots.

Like the shoe stretching spray, rubbing alcohol can also be used to break in shoes. The only difference is that rubbing alcohol should never be used on leather shoes.

Mix an equal amount of water and rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. Shake the bottle well, and then spray it on your shoes. Wear them immediately and walk around in them until the alcohol dries up.

Repeat the process twice for significant results.

This method is perfect for shoes made from nylon, canvas, and other synthetic fabrics.

Stuff Your New Shoes With Newspaper or Cloth

Black shoes filled with acid-free papers.

If you don’t want to use any of the methods mentioned above, you can always stuff your new shoes with newspapers or clothes. This will help them retain their shape and stretch out the material gradually.

Crumble up some newspaper or old clothes and stuff them inside your shoes. Make sure to squeeze them tightly so that the material can stretch out. Tie up the shoelaces to keep the newspaper or clothes in place. Leave them for at least 12 hours for best results.

When to Use

This is one of the best methods to use when you have time on your hands. It is a slow process, but it definitely works. Newspaper or cloth can be used for all types of shoes.

Tie Your New Shoes Tightly

Tying shoelaces tightly.

Another way to break in your new shoes is by tying them tightly. This will put pressure on the materials and stretch them out.

Ideally, this method should be used on shoes that have already been walked in a few times. Using this method on brand new shoes is not recommended as it may hurt your feet.

Once your shoes have stopped hurting your feet, you can start using this method. Simply, tie your laces a bit tighter than you usually would and wear them.

How to Break in Sandals

While we are talking about shoes, let’s also look at how to break in sandals. Here are some additional methods to break in sandals –

Note – You can use any methods mentioned above to break in sandals.

Using Steam

Using a handheld steamer on a pair of sandals.

If your sandals are made from a synthetic material, you can use steam to break them in.

Simply take a handheld steamer and run it over your sandals for about 30 seconds. The heat and moisture will make the material soft and more pliable. Please do not hold the steamer in one spot for too long as it may damage the material.

Put the sandals on after steaming and walk around in them for 15 minutes. This will help them to take the shape of your feet. Repeat the process twice for the best results.

Stuff the Sandals With a Damp Cloth

A pair of leather sandals and a damp cloth.

If you don’t have a handheld steamer, you can use a damp cloth to make your sandals comfortable.

Soak a cloth in hot water and wring it out well. Stuff the cloth inside your sandals and tie it up with rubber bands to keep it in place. Leave the sandals for a few hours. The heat from the damp cloth will help to soften the material and make them more comfortable to wear.

After a few hours, remove the cloth and put on the sandals. You should walk in them for 15 minutes to help them mold to the shape of your feet.

If your sandals are still uncomfortable to wear, repeat the process.

How to break in leather sandals?

You can break in leather sandals using any of the following methods –

  1. Wear thick socks when wearing leather sandals.
  2. Place a potato
  3. Use a shoe stretcher
  4. Spritz a shoe stretching spray
  5. Stuff your sandal with some crumbled newspaper or a cloth.

The Bottom Line 

Buying shoes and sandals are always fun until they start hurting your feet. Whether you buy high-quality shoes or not, they will still need some breaking in.

These are some easy methods that you can use to reduce the break-in period of your new shoes and sandals. Try out different approaches to see which one works best for you.

And most importantly, be patient as it may take a few days or weeks for the shoes to fully adjust to your feet.

If you are struggling with big and loose shoes, check out our blog “How to Make Big Shoes Fit.”

Also, check out 11 tips for stretching shoes for wide feet.

We hope these tips will keep your foot pain-free and help you make a new pair of shoes feel comfortable.

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