New leather shoes can be stiff to wear to begin with, but there are several ways you can avoid blisters while enjoying your shiny new Oxfords or Bluchers. Here are our five top tips to help you break in your new shoes, while caring for the leather so that it looks great and lasts a long time. Here’s how to make new shoes more comfortable.
1: Wear little and often
Leather is composed of a mat of protein fibers packed tightly together. Until these fibers give a little, the leather is bound to feel stiff. As you wear your new shoes, the movement of your feet, coupled with the moisture which they release into the leather, helps it to soften and mold itself to the contours of your feet.
Also, because it’s such a thick piece of leather, your new soles are likely to be stiff to start with, but you can soften them up by gently flexing the soles several times before you wear your new shoes.
Ease yourself into your new shoes by wearing them around your home for a while. This gives the leather time to gradually adapt to the shape of your feet, and it means you can take your shoes off as soon as they begin to feel uncomfortable.
It’s also important to keep new shoes dry – don’t wear them out in the rain until you’ve broken them in. That’s because when they’re wet, the leather can stretch, becoming misshapen. Do wear them outside if it’s dry though – leather soles need a bit of scuffing to improve their grip.
2: Soften the leather with regular polishing
As soon as you remove your new shoes, apply polish and leave it to penetrate. Because your feet will have warmed and slightly moistened the leather, this is the best time to do it. Ideally, you should then leave your shoes overnight to fully absorb the oils in the polish – give them a quick buff in the morning and you’re good to go.
You want new leather to adapt to your foot, but not to the point where your shoes become permanently twisted or curled. With this in mind, it’s a great idea to pop your new footwear onto a pair of shoe trees as soon as you take them off. This helps to open the creases in the leather, so that when you polish them, the nourishment soaks into all the stress points.
Did you buy suede or nubuck shoes? It goes without saying that you should apply water and stain repellent before wearing, and reapply regularly thereafter. Investing in a suede brush and using it often will also help you remove marks and keep the nap looking its best.
3: Alternate your shoes
We all love the look of new shoes, but if you wear them too often, they won’t look good for long. Ideally, you should leave at least 24 hours between taking them off and the next time you pull them on. Leather needs time to dry thoroughly or it will degrade much faster.
This is why discerning gents own several pairs of leather shoes. Not only does this help shoes last a long time, it also means you have a variety of colors and styles from which to choose, helping to keep your ensemble on point at all times.
Should your shoes get soaked, you must dry them properly. This means drying the leather slowly, at room temperature, and away from sources of direct heat. Stuff your shoes with newspaper to help draw the moisture from the leather – above all, never attempt to accelerate the drying process or the leather will shrink, curl, and crack. When dry, apply polish.
4: Invest in some insoles
A good fit makes new shoes more comfortable both initially and longer term, but few of us can afford to have our footwear custom-made. Choosing a pair of insoles to wear inside your shoes helps you to achieve a high level of comfort and your shoes will last longer if your feet aren’t slipping around inside, stretching the leather.
Leather is always a good choice for insoles – natural products breathe in a way that man-made materials struggle to match. Having said that, modern synthetic materials often offer odor control as well as excellent cushioning and support.
Feeling flush? You might like to consider bespoke insoles. Either make an appointment to see a podiatrist who will discuss your needs with you before carefully measuring your feet, or check out some of the online retailers that offer a similar service.
5: Care for your feet
It goes without saying that the better shape your feet are in, the more straightforward you’ll find the process of breaking in your new shoes. Good foot health requires regular attention to clipping your nails, abrading calluses, and applying foot moisturizers and powders.
But however well you look after your feet, new leather can cause some initial discomfort. Until your shoes are fully broken in, do take the precaution of tucking a band-aid or two into your inside pocket.
Quick tips to make new shoes more comfortable
- Don’t wear new leather shoes in wet weather – they’re likely to stretch out of shape.
- Apply shoe polish after wearing your new leather shoes the first few times.
- Alternate your shoes to allow the leather to recover.
- Invest in insoles to get the perfect fit.
- Look after your feet.
- Keep a band-aid handy to reduce temporary discomfort.
Now you know just what to do to break in your new leather shoes with maximum speed and minimum discomfort. Do you have a trick or two of your own? We’d love to hear from you. Head over to our Facebook page and leave us a comment.