How to make new shoes more comfortable

shiny leather shoes

A smart pair of new shoes is one of life’s simple pleasures.
Image source: Samuel Windsor

Love your new shoes? The pleasure of owning a shiny pair of brand spanking Oxfords or Derbys can all too soon turn to dismay when stiff new leather rubs your feet raw.

Our approach to breaking in your new shoes is all about giving both your kicks and your feet the proper attention. Shoes with a good fit that are well cared for maintain their shape, and will stay comfy, but if your feet aren’t in good condition not even slippers will feel comfortable. Here’s what you need to know to make sure you and your new shoes stay friends.

Care for your soles

brogues with leather soles

Leather soles can be slippery when new.

Wear your new shoes only when it’s dry to begin with, so they gradually mould themselves to your feet. That’s much better than exposing new leather to a soaking says style expert and fashion blogger Antonio Centeno:

“Water warps the shape of the shoe in an undesirable way.”

And fine weather is good for new leather soles too because as Lee Kynaston at Men’s Health says, it helps them to “gather grit and get a few scuffs”, extending the life of the leather and giving better grip.

Soles a bit stiff? Shoe expert Steven Beccia recommends you “flex them up”, bending your new shoes a dozen times or so to soften up the leather before you put them on.

If your new shoes are made of a suede, or nubuck then do make sure you waterproof them before you take them outside – a silicone based spray or specialist wax will do the trick.

FashionBeans writer Andy Lee’s advice is to do this in the evening, leaving the shoes overnight so the product soaks right into the leather.

Maintain the leather properly

shoe care kit with leather polish and shoe trees

Well cared for shoes have a more comfortable fit.
Image source: Shutterstock

Shoe polish is anti-ageing skin cream for mens shoes, keeping the leather supple and malleable. To make your new shoes last, start off on the right foot by making polish your pal.

Stephen from The Mitchelli believes you should shine your shoes: “after every wear to keep the leather as supple as possible”, especially during the initial breaking-in period.

One of the best ways to apply polish is immediately after you’ve removed the shoe, using the warmth from your foot to help the oils to penetrate the leather.

Simon at  Permanent Style recommends investing in a shoe tree to keep the leather in shape. He also says storing shoes this way makes polishing easier and more effective because opening the creases out means you can work polish into every single crease and fold of the uppers.

Wear with care


Look after your loafers and they’ll look after you

Try not to wear your new shoes day in day out. Simon from Permanent Style explains:

“If you wear shoes for two days running the leather doesn’t have time to dry and wears down much faster as a result. Think about how wet cardboard frays.”

Shoe leather is stronger than cardboard, but will degrade much faster as a result of not being allowed to dry properly. Steven Beccia agrees, recommending that after you’ve worn your shoes for the day, you take them off and don’t put them back on for another 24 hours.

If your shoes get wet, make sure you dry them slowly, at room temperature. Stuff them with newspaper and leave them out to dry. Never put them close to a radiator or other heat source or the leather will curl, crack and dry.

Get some insoles

shoemaker shaping insoles

For problem feet a custom made insole can be a life-saver.
Image source: Shutterstock

If you find the insides of your new shoes hard going on the soles of your feet, a good insole will prevent discomfort.

Made Man suggest two possible options:

  1. Generic insoles from any good high street chemist. These can simply be slipped into the shoe and will help to alleviate the pressure. Off the peg insoles may also come with added features like odour elimination or antibacterial lining.
  2. Alternatively, make an appointment with a podiatrist to have your feet fitted for custom made insoles that will fit your new shoes to a T. These are more expensive, but arguably give you greater comfort as they can be designed specifically to treat flat feet or collapsed arches, and can even help with balance.

Nail it

nail clippers on wooden floor

Keeping nails neatly trimmed encourages better foot health.
Image source: Shutterstock

Check the condition of your feet before you blame any discomfort on your new shoes. That’s because overgrown toenails and hard calloused skin will make any footwear uncomfortable.

Nails should be cut short with proper clippers and as Valet Mag says, never round off the corners as this can cause ingrown toenails, which will make walking painful.

The Urban Gent recommends that you trim your toenails once a week. If you can run to it, a professional pedicure will keep your feet are in tip-top condition for your shoes. For those who prefer to look after their feet at home, The Urban Gent suggests using a pumice stone to smooth out the skin. Here’s what they say to do next:

“Apply vaseline/petroleum jelly, cocoa butter, or natural shea butter to both feet then promptly put on socks. When you take the socks off in the morning you’ll notice how much better your feet look”

It’s an “old school” method, but one that really works.

Be prepared

sticking plaster

Be prepared for blisters when wearing new shoes.
Image source: Shutterstock

What if even after all your polishing, flexing, and wearing in at home, your new shoes still chafe? Here’s some sound advice from Stephen from The Mitchelli:

“Keep a couple plasters with you on the first time you wear them out, just in case.”

Another good idea comes courtesy of Lee Kynaston who suggests you pair blister plasters with an anti-perspirant foot spray to reduce sweat induced friction.

If you feel pain, get onto it. A plaster in time will help you stay friends with your new shoes!

Here’s a quick summary to help you forge a long lasting relationship your new leather friends:

How to make new leather shoes feel more comfortable

  • Only wear new shoes when it’s dry. Wet weather will shape your shoes in an undesirable way.
  • Polish after every wear whilst breaking in.
  • Do not wear the same shoes every day. Alternating allows leather to reshape and recover.
  • Insoles can provide an added layer of comfort.
  • Take care of your feet. Ensure toenails are trim and feet callous free.
  • Be prepared with a plaster. Applying a plaster swiftly, can reduce discomfort dramatically.

What are your best hints and tips for helping to break in that brand new pair of smart shoes? Join in the conversation on our Facebook page.

Posted in How To - Shoes.