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How to break in new shoes: My top tips & tricks

How to Break In New Shoes

The weather is starting to turn (hooray!) and I find that this is the toughest time of year when it comes to blisters. It’s blister season!!

I recently purchased a new pair of clogs (I’m in my cool art teacher style era) and because I continue to torture myself purchasing raw natural leather shoes, I know I’m in for a break-in period. Luckily, I’ve been down this road before, so I’m updating this older blog post with a few more tips I’ve learned along the way.

I also want to stress the importance of breaking in new shoes before a trip (because travel is ramping up again for spring break!) because there is nothing worse than wearing a pair of new shoes on your first day of vacation only to spend the rest of the trip covered in blisters!

After many painful lessons learned, I’ve developed some tried-and-true tips for breaking in your shoes + avoiding the dreaded trip blisters.

How to Break In New Shoes: My Top Tips & Tricks

First, know that oftentimes, your feet just need to get used to the shoes!

Every year when the seasons change and I start wearing different kinds of shoes, I get blisters and spots that rub–even on shoes that are many years old and fully broken in! It just comes with the territory.

Same goes for a new pair of shoes I know will be incredibly comfortable–there are still spots that can rub at first, because my feet simply need time to get used to them!

All of this to say–don’t write off a pair of shoes if at first they give you blisters. If everything else about them feels comfortable and nice, chances are, they’ll be your comfiest pair in no time.

So–what to do in the interim? How to break in those shoes?

For shoes that rub:

Here are my top tips for shoes that rub: 

#1: Invest in blister bandaids

My all-time number one tip. If you take nothing else away from this post, I hope it’s this!

The best blister bandaids (for prevention and protecting existing blisters) are “blister cushions“– the brand “Compeed” is the best in my opinion. They work so well and are waterproof and rub-proof!

I brought a ton of these to Paris with me on our group Atlas Adventures trip and was handing them out like candy to all the girls on our trip, haha! They stay on for multiple days and once you put one on, you truly can’t feel your blister anymore! Use them on spots that already hurt or as a preventative–put them on if you know you have a spot that’s going to rub, and you won’t have any blisters!

After a few wears, your feet will get used to the shoes and you won’t need the blister bandages anymore.

#2: Stick these no-rub heel pads on the backs of shoes that rub

For shoes that are comfy otherwise and just rub on your heels, these are amazing! I always use these for trips where I’m logging a ton of miles everyday and know I will have inevitable rubbing spots. These are a nice alternative to the blister band-aids because they go on your shoes (not your feet) and stay put for months and months. (Pictured above on my Huarache sandals).

#3: Use an anti-rub product

Megababe’s Thigh Rescue is an amazing summer essential to prevent chafing anywhere on your body, and turns out, it’s great as an anti-rub for shoes, too! This is a good thing to use on awkward spots on your feet where the above products won’t stay on! If you don’t need an anti-chafe anywhere else, one of these blister rub sticks will do the trick!

#4: Moleskin 

This is another great option for blister prevention, especially if you have more of a random spot that is rubbing that you need to “wrap” (where a blister band-aid might not stick as well). There are tons of different kinds, but this one seems easy with good reviews.

For shoes that are tight or stiff:

Sometimes the size up is too big, but the current size is just a TEENY bit snug. Or you know the leather will break in with wear, but right now, it’s just too stiff. Here’s what to do then: 

#1: Soften stiff leather with shoe stretch spray

This shoe stretch spray is amazing to make leather softer and allow shoes to best form to your feet. I used this to help break in my Nisolo Huarache sandals and it worked like a charm. Just make sure to test a small spot beforehand to ensure it’s not going to discolor the leather. Spray the shoe thoroughly until saturated and then wear them around (with thick socks if you need them to stretch, or however you’d wear them regularly if you aren’t looking for stretching, just softening!) You may have to do a couple rounds to get them softened (and try spraying the inside as well, not just the outside!)

Controversial add-on: Another way to soften stiff leather is to get it wet. I learned this when I got stuck in the rain wearing a pair of new black leather Chelsea boots–they got DRENCHED–but after that they were SO COMFORTABLE. Now, I wouldn’t advocate this for all shoes, and it will depend on the leather. (I’d be nervous to do this with a light colored raw leather, but I’m thinking about it for my new pair of clogs. 👀)

Do with that information what you will. 😂

#2: Wear shoes around the house with socks to loosen tight shoes

This allows you to break them in a little bit at a time! Also, super thick socks will help your shoes stretch (especially if you spray them thoroughly with shoe stretch spray beforehand or steam them with a steamer). This is how I broke in my Birkenstocks! (Another tip: If you steam them with a steamer first, that will also make the leather looser and make it stretch easier when you put them on with thick socks!)

#3: Get no-slip insole pads for shoes that are too loose

If your shoes are just a TINY bit too loose, these little pads that stick on the inside shoe (under the ball of your foot) will make them a bit more snug and also provide extra comfort!

And one last tip…

Remember to break in your shoes before you leave for any trip!

You never want to bring new, unworn shoes on a vacation where you plan to do a lot of walking. This will take a bit of planning ahead but is well worth it— trust me!

Hope this helps you make your favorite new shoes extra comfy!

You might also like:

The Comfiest Shoes I Own

How We Choose Our Vacation Destinations + Travel Planning Tips

The Best Work-Appropriate Shoes + How To Style Them