How to Break in New Shoes Without Killing Your Feet
From strappy sandals to sneakers, a podiatrist shares her tips for making footwear more comfy — and avoiding blisters.
As shoe lovers, we know what it's like to kick off our heels at the end of the day and feel a sense of relief. Despite their cute appearance, some pairs of strappy sandals, or even sneakers and slides, can be pretty painful, and admittedly we've spent hours massaging our achy feet and nursing extra-large blisters. In a handful of cases, it's simply a bad purchase; we should have just left that 'amazing deal' right where we found it. However, other times the shoe need to be broken in. A few more wears, and we'll no longer feel like crying with every other step.
But, is there right way to break in shoes? What are a few tips to keep in mind? And, when is it time to call it quits and accept that your shoes are just plain painful?
For these answers, we tapped podiatrist Dr. Emily Splichal, DPM, MS, CE, for her advice on how to break in shoes. Celebrity stylist Philippe Uter — who has dressed models such as Winnie Harlow, Jourdan Dunn, and Lais Ribeiro, as well as Milla Jovovich and Stranger Things actor Noah Schnapp — also weighed in, sharing his red carpet secret for uncomfortable footwear.
A Doctor-Approved Method For Breaking in Shoes
According to Dr. Splichal, breaking in shoes isn't something that will happen quickly. It takes time and is, unfortunately, a gradual process.
"I advise my patients to break in shoes — especially heels — by walking around their home and in a venue that won't require prolonged standing or walking," she tells InStyle via email, and suggests carrying around an additional, more comfortable pair to change into. "Always have a backup pair of shoes if you are going out all day and are concerned they may rub or irritate the foot."
Think About the Shoe Itself
Something else Dr. Splichal recommends is paying attention to the size of the shoe, as well as the material it's made of.
"Make sure that a shoe you are breaking in is appropriately sized; if it is more than half a size too small then it may not stretch or break in sufficiently to properly fit," she says. "Try to get shoes that are made of natural fabrics, as they break in better than synthetic materials."
How to Avoid Blisters From Shoes
So, you already know your shoe is painful and will require a bit of breaking in — now what? How can you avoid those painful blisters, which seem somewhat inevitable? Dr. Splichal has a few tips.
- "Use moleskin on areas that are blister prone, such as heels or by the big toe."
- "Use petroleum around toes that are blister prone."
- "Manage sweat with Arm & Hammer Invisible Foot Powder Spray."
Stylist Philippe Ute also has his own little trick — the Blisstick Anti-Friction Stick by Foot Petals.
"It is so unfortunate when a shoe is painful, but it looks fantastic, matches perfectly with the outfit, is easy to walk in, and you don’t have to wear them for more than an hour," he says. "The Blisstick really helps ease the pain. I also break shoes in by stretching the fabric or leather with my hands, and massaging them until they're less stiff."
Some Shoes Are Just Plain Painful
While Dr. Splichal says that, "in time, over repeated wearing, most shoes will break in appropriately," there is a point where you must decide: should you keep going, hoping your shoes break in, or just give up?
"I'd say if a pair of shoes keeps giving you blisters after several uses and are painful the moment you put them on, then it's not worth wearing them. The potential damages to your feet are just not worth it."
The Wrong Shoes Can Really Mess Up Your Feet
There's a full list of reasons why you shouldn't wear painful shoes for extended periods of time — and health concerns are at the very top.
"Too small of shoes can cause bunions, hammertoes, corns, blisters, neuromas and bursitis in the foot," says Dr. Splichal. So, it's important to think about that the next time you're hobbling down the sidewalk, wincing in pain from your stilettos.
This is Ask the Experts: Where our favorite fashion know-it-alls share their wisdom. Just because you can trust your style instincts doesn't mean you should have to.