There’s a certain good feeling attributed to wearing your old, favorite pair of shoes. They’re comfortable enough, they fit your feet well already, and most of the time, you don’t even notice you’re wearing them. This especially goes for those light runners or sneakers. This is why athletes prefer to use shoes that have already been broken in: new shoes can cause blisters and can negatively affect performance.
Eventually, you realize you need new shoes. While some types of shoes don’t really need breaking in, most leather shoes would have to be worn at least a couple of weeks before they really become comfortable. You can actually hasten the breaking-in process with some innovative tips.
- First things first: when you buy new shoes, make sure they fit your feet properly. Otherwise, no amount of breaking in would make them feel comfortable. Shoes should be just the right length, with a maximum of half an inch allowance in front of your toes. The part that covers your heel should also be just the right height—reaching the point where your heel joint is. If it’s too high, it will not be comfortable to walk around in.
- Softening the leather. Walking is the best way to soften the leather of your new pair of shoes. There are some points in the shoe that will soften, depending on your walking habits. But you can induce this softening process by dampening the upper by stuffing wet balls of newspaper inside for a couple of hours. You can then manually bend and stretch the shoe at those points where the balls of your feet would usually bend the shoe while walking, to soften those spots.
Be sure to dry the shoes naturally. Air drying leather shoes is best.
- Stretching. Some cobblers or shoe salons may offer this service for a fee, and you can request them to stretch the shoe for you before picking it up from the store. If you’d rather do it at home, you can try softening the leather first (with the above-mentioned process), and using a shoe stretcher. You can keep the damp balls of newspaper inside, to help stretch the leather. As an alternative, you can also wear thick socks (such as sports socks) and walking around your home in the shoes for a couple of hours at a time.
- Scoffing. Some leather shoes come with rubber-padded soles or heels, for safety when walking on slippery surfaces. Leather soles will not be slippery when broken in, but when they’re new, they’re usually very smooth. One way you can scoff the soles is by using rough sandpaper. Be sure to sandpaper only the parts that actually touch the ground. You can also walk on concrete pavement, dragging your feet, such that the sole and heel are scoffed.
After you’ve broken in your shoes, it’s a good idea to keep them in stretchers while not being worn, to maintain their shape and the suppleness of leathers. You might also want to wear band aids on the balls of your feet and above the heel, just in case the shoes still need more breaking in afterwards.