Getting new shoes can be bittersweet: there’s the excitement of a new pair of kicks, coupled with the dread you might be in for a long road of breaking them in.
Most of us expect to endure utter pain before our shoes are comfortable – a strange phenomenon we accept without much quibbling. But is it really necessary to ‘break in’ shoes, or are we just buying the wrong shoes for our feet?
This is something foot expert Dr. Bharti Rajput MBE Ph.D. knows all about.
Should You Have to ‘Break in’ Shoes?
For the vast majority of us, the last time we got our feet measured was when we were still in primary school – and just think how much has changed since then.
“Before even considering buying your next pair of shoes and ending up with the wrong size, do get your feet measured, as it is only shoes that fit properly in the first place that your feet will thank you for,” is Rajput’s first piece of advice.
Second, the material they’re made of makes a lot of difference. “Shoes with rubber soles and fabric uppers will need a minimal ‘break in’ period, and 90% of the time should feel good to wear immediately,” she says, “whereas leather soles and leather upper shoes are among the stiffest ready-to-wear shoes.” Leather is likely to stretch, so Rajput advises buying a pair of shoes that feel snug, but not tight. “Once the material has settled and molded to the shape of your feet, the shoe should feel just right.”
However, don’t endure weeks or months of agony. “If there is any break-in time at all, it should be a couple of wears at most,” Rajput says.
What’s the Best Way to Break in Shoes?
If your new shoes require some TLC, Rajput recommends providing it slowly – and she has a tried-and-tested method.
“First, identify where the problems may be by walking around the house in the new shoes for short periods – where you have the freedom to change them or take them off when your feet start to ache or swell,” she advises.
Once you’ve identified these areas – which are likely to be at the heels or around the sides and top of your toes – moisturize the spots with a foot cream like Flexitol Heel Balm and put on two pairs of thick socks.
“Next, blast one shoe all over with a hairdryer on a medium setting for around a minute, holding it about eight inches away, until the material of the shoe feels warm and soft,” Rajput says. “Then wear the shoe on your foot and repeat with the other side. Walk around the house until the shoes have cooled down – repeat if necessary.”
What Should You Look for in a New Pair of Shoes?
“The shoes you are about to buy should conform to the shape of your feet and not the other way around,” says Rajput.
No matter how cute they might look, you will be so much more comfortable if you focus on quality. “Ensure the shoe is made out of a softer material fabric or leather, and that the length, width, and height of the shoe is sufficient – especially at the toes,” she says. “Take your time when shopping, and check the inside of the shoes for any stitching or seams that may wear and become uncomfortable over time. A good-quality shoe will have a full lining inside the shoe, without seams.” And don’t make the mistake of trying on one of the shoes and calling it a day; most of us have different sized feet.
Unfortunately, there is no magic cure for making high heels comfortable. “If you are expected to rock the highest heels from morning until late evening, then in my eyes, as a podiatrist, you must prepare your feet just like an athlete prepares their body,” says Rajput. “This starts with foot exercises; spending time developing the strength and flexibility of your feet and ankles.
“Stronger feet will mean less long-term damage such as arthritis, that in the short-term can come across as a pressure in the balls of your feet.” Try placing the balls of your feet on a step, and letting your heels hang off until you feel a gentle stretch in your calf.
Flexitol Heel Balm