New shoes come with both benefits and drawbacks. The plus side is obviously the new factor. The downside, however, is the potential pain that fresh footwear brings. In the summer, sweat can quickly form, resulting in blisters galore and a hobbled gait. Giving your feet time to get used to new sandals, trainers, and heels can help somewhat. But there are other tried and tested methods of breaking in new shoes during the summer.
Unfortunately, most of us are not like the Queen. According to the Evening Standard, she has someone to break in new shoes for her. “The Queen can never say ‘I’m uncomfortable, I can’t walk any more.’ She has the right to have someone wear them in,” her wardrobe designer, Stuart Parvin, told the paper.
You may not have that right, but you do have the right to keep your feet in tip-top condition. And that involves a little prior research. Before you even enter your card details at the shoe store checkout, consider what you’re purchasing. Can your footwear fold in half? If so, it’s probably a little too flimsy. In fact, you may as well wear no shoes at all as you aren’t properly supporting the arch of your foot.
“The arch helps you absorb stress as you walk,” foot and ankle surgeon Dr. Ken Jung explained to Reader’s Digest. “If flip-flops or sandals are not providing adequate arch support, your foot will fatigue faster. You’ll feel sore as you rely on tendons that help support the arch.” It’s also a good idea to look for relatively thick soles and straps that are wide, soft, and lay on non-bony parts of your foot.
Once you’ve found shoes that are less likely to harm your feet over time, you can start breaking them in. Here’s how.
If you’ve bought shoes for a specific occasion, try not to wear them for the first time on the day. Instead, wear them at home for an hour or so every evening or during your lunch break at work. Allowing your foot to get used to the feel and fit of a new shoe gives the skin a chance to “develop a bit of a defence,” dermatologist Dr. Alicia Barba told Vogue. It will also let the shoe “mould to the foot.”
Wearing new shoes little and often also has another benefit. An hour here and there will show you exactly which parts of the shoe are hurting and which parts of your foot you need to focus on.
Stretch the shoe
There are a couple of shoe-stretching techniques to consider. The main one involves heat and a pair of socks. Now, wearing shoes with socks may be difficult if you’re looking to break in sandals, but try it anyway. Once the shoes are on, grab a hairdryer and gently heat the shoes all round. This will relax the material a little while the socks do some magic stretching.
Alternatively, you can try the cold method. (Bear in mind this may not work for sandals, but using your fingers to gently stretch the fabric might.) Place freezer bags full of water inside the shoes and leave in the freezer for a few hours, or until frozen. Then allow the water to defrost and a stretched shoe to appear.
Sometimes, even buffing the sole of your shoe with sandpaper can help. This is especially useful if your new shoes are slippery as it’ll stop your feet having to make all the effort to remain upright.
Prepare your skin
Your feet may also need some preparation. Ensure you’re armed with plasters, blister cushions, and surgical tape to stick on places that may prove painful. Between the first and second toes is often a good place to support. As Footwear News reports, when wearing heels, you can even tape your third and fourth toe together to avoid putting pressure on a particular nerve.
“The most common nerve that gets irritated is the one that sits between the third and fourth toes, mainly because the toes spread apart when the tissues enlarge,” podiatrist Joan Oloff told the site. “Because of this, taping one’s toes can remove some pressure from the nerve and inflamed tissues.”
The toes aren’t the only place to pay attention to. Blisters often pop up around the heel of the foot. To reduce friction between the shoe and your feet, apply Vaseline to any areas that might be affected. A spray of deodorant can also stop blisters, podiatrist Heidi Meckler told Cosmopolitan.
So there you have it: a quick and easy guide to breaking in any new pair of shoes. Not every technique will work for every shoe. But take things slow and figure out what works for you.