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Your Ultimate Guide: How to Break in Shoes

Apr 04, 2022

Every shoe requires a break-in period – even designer-made ones! It’s just a fact of life: No shoe will ever mold to your feet, toes and heel to a perfect tee. There will always be something that feels a little tighter or more snug than you would like, whether that’s a boot heel, an ankle strap or a toe box or toe kick. So along with every shoe purchase, you should expect to put aside some time to break in your new footwear. Eventually, they will loosen and feel like they were custom-made for your feet like a sole mate. 


But how does one break in new shoes? Glad you asked! Because Charleston Shoe Co. knows a thing or two about breaking in high-quality shoes for all-day wear. With our list of tips and tricks, you will have your brand-spanking-new shoes form-fitted to your tootsies in no time. And all without experiencing the uncomfortable and sometimes excruciating first days when all you can think about is getting your cute new shoes off your feet.  


Ready to learn how to break in shoes? Let’s kick off our list of tips, tricks and necessary steps to get those cute women’s boots, sandals and flats feeling oh-so-comfy. 

Breaking in Shoes: The Necessary Steps

Below, we offer several necessary steps (pun intended) to break in shoes. Some tips apply to every new shoe, while others are specific to a certain style, shape or material. Ultimately, we encourage you to try several of the tips and tricks listed to break in your shoes so they fit comfortably.  

Begin Your Shoe Break-in at Home

First and foremost, it’s a good idea to break in shoes in the comfort of your own home. While it’s always best to start off by choosing a properly fitted pair of shoes, sometimes they just simply don’t work out. So testing your shoes out at home, away from the elements and pavement where they can become dirty or scuffed up, will ensure your shoes stay clean and – if necessary – returnable or exchangeable. 

red med platform wedges

Use the Five-Day Rule to Break in Shoes

While you might be eager to show off your cute new kicks, slow your roll! A good rule of thumb is to break in shoes over the course of a few days. Three at a minimum, but ideally five days! What you want to do is wear them around the house first, gradually increasing the time in which you wear them. Try a few hours the first day and then increase by two hours each consecutive day. Once you reach the fifth day, then you can show them off! Try to wear them all day long (but bring the Band-Aids just in case).

Remember to Lace Up Properly

If your shoes have laces, don’t cut your shoes any slack. Instead, tie the laces of your sneakers, boots, etc. as tightly as you normally would. This will help stretch out any leather or fabric so they become loose and formed to your foot as you gradually increase the hours you walk around your house. Of course, you have to teach the laces how to conform, too!

Get a Pair of Shoe Molds

Shoe molds are a wonderful way to break in shoes. You can even do it in your sleep! Just slip your shoes over the mold and let it do the rest. Still, we recommend using the five-day rule to teach the new shoes the shape of your own feet, not just the molds. 


In addition, don’t just choose any shoe mold. Aim for adjustable shoe molds so you can stretch them out little by little. If you already own non-adjustable shoe molds, no fret! You can always slip a thicker sock over the mold to add some extra internal width. Shoe molds are also simply a great way to retain the shape of shoes placed in storage. For example, if you have a pair of boots you only bring out during the winter, keep them on a shoe mold during the off-season. 

steps to breaking in shoes

Slip Into Some Thick Socks

You can also use the thick sock method on your own feet! This method works amazingly for the first couple of days when you break in your shoes at home. Just find the thickest, chunkiest pair of socks you own to create an extra layer and stretch out the stiff materials and tight areas of the shoes. This trick also works when you are breaking in shoes in public, too. Just make sure it’s for cute rain boots for women, ankle booties with long denim or OTK boots to disguise the socks. Otherwise, you might get some funny glances.   

Shop Comfy and Cute Women’s Boots

Give Your Shoes a Blowout

If your shoes are leather, give them a blowout. Just like a trip to the salon can make your locks feel loose and sexy, so can a hair dryer to leather shoes. Leather offers a natural material that is intended to stretch and mold nicely to a form-fitted shoe on your foot. But if you are in a bit of a rush, one easy trick is to warm and soften the leather using your blow dryer. Seriously? Yes!


All you have to do is put on your shoes and aim a hot hair dryer roughly eight inches away. Focus the dryer on tighter areas like the toes, heel or width of the shoes. When the leather warms up and softens, take a 10-minute walk to help break in the shoes. The shoes should begin to feel looser, but you can repeat the process if needed. 


Take extra caution when softening vegan leather or faux leather, as these are more synthetic materials. Keep the hair dryer on medium/warm heat setting and give the areas some extra distance, just to be safe. 

Place Your Shoes on Ice

On the opposite side of the warm hair dryer spectrum is an ice bath. Okay, hear us out. We’re not suggesting you dunk your precious new shoes in a bucket of ice. There’s a lot that can go wrong. Instead, we’re suggesting placing your shoes in the freezer section of your fridge overnight. While heat loosens leather, cold loosens other materials. So as long as the shoe isn’t leather, you can give this method a go. 


Basically, you want to fill plastic freezer bags with water and stuff them inside the shoes. As they freeze, the water will expand and stretch out the toe box and flex point area of the shoe. One great advantage to this is that your shoes will be really refreshing on a hot summer day. This is also a fantastic DIY method when you don’t have a shoe mold. 


Placing shoes in the freezer also prevents the spread of bacteria that causes odors. So if you have some shoes that emit a funky odor, pop them in the freezer overnight to freshen them up.  

Chelsea Rain Boots

Lend Extra Support to Your Feet

After you feel confident your shoes are ready to be worn out of the house, lend your feet some extra support. And by that, we mean antiperspirants and cushion adhesives like Band-Aids or surgical tape. 


Applying an antiperspirant directly to your feet can limit sweating, which in turn can reduce friction, rubbing and chafing that can lead to blisters. This is an especially important step in the summer months (or let’s be real, any month in the humid South). 


If your shoes have tighter areas that still need stretching, prepare the point of contact with a Band-Aid or strip of paper surgical tape (like marathon runners use). At the very least, have some in your purse for emergencies and a backup! As you break in shoes, hot spots like the heels and the top of the toes are prone to blisters, so you best be prepared! Even when choosing bunion-friendly shoes, it’s a good idea to protect the bunion from any aggressive rubbing before you break in the shoes. 

Explore Shoes for Women with Bunions

While Charleston Shoe Co. carries a wide selection of comfortable heels for women, every shoe needs some stretching. That said, once you break in shoes, you can forgo this method entirely. If you can’t, then there’s something wrong with the fit of the shoe. 

Moisturize Your Feet

While sweaty feet can create blisters in new shoes, dry feet are prone to blisters, too. Ultimately, the less friction you cause between your skin and the shoe, the better. So if you live in a dry climate or have dry feet, moisturize them before slipping into your new shoes. Keeping your feet hydrated is important, but allow time for the moisturizer to absorb, too. Be sure to focus on the hot spots we mentioned above like the heel and toes. Trust us – your feet will thank you! 

Alternate Your Shoes

After wearing your shoes for a full day or two, swap them out with some tried-and-true footwear. Alternating between old and new shoes will give time for your new shoes to break in gently. In general, it’s also a wise idea to carry a backup pair of comfy shoes with you. This way, when you feel the dogs begin to bark after standing or walking all day in your new shoes, you can switch them out and give your feet a rest. 

some parting wisdom checklist

A Few Last Bits of Advice

Aside from tips on how to break in shoes, we will leave you with some parting wisdom and words of advice. 

Get Properly Fitted First 

Before you break in shoes, they should be fitted to your feet and appropriately sized. Make sure to have your feet measured occasionally. Yes, even adults’ feet grow, especially women going through pregnancy or who have had a child, so it’s important to measure them to ensure you choose the right size. Otherwise, breaking in your shoes is futile and pointless. 

Try-on Shoes Later in the Day

When trying on shoes – whether you swing by one of our stores or order online – do so later in the day. Why? Because by the afternoon or evening, your feet swell. And while you may think it’s not a good time to slip into a pair of boots or sandals, it’s quite the opposite. Later in the day is the perfect time to try on new shoes. Mainly because they will give you a much better idea of their true fit. 

Choose Function Over Form

A word of wisdom: Never settle for an uncomfortable shoe size just because they look amazing. Above all, a shoe should be comfortable and supportive – not just cute! Luckily, Charleston Shoe Co. offers shoes that exude both form and function. 

shopping online with charleston shoe co

Visit a Charleston Shoe Co. Store or Shop Online

We always encourage ladies shopping for shoes to stop into a Charleston Shoe Co. store to get properly fitted by our professional, friendly and knowledgeable staff. They can help guide you to find a shoe in the appropriate size and shape that looks stunning and cute, too. Because while there are lots of stunning shoes out there, all ladies’ feet are unique. From flat-footed ladies to those with bunions, we know how to help you find your sole mate! 


Searching and shopping online? We offer lots of helpful advice on finding the perfect size on the Charleston Shoe Co. blog. Search from lessons and topics to learn all about shoe sizes, styles and much, much more. Learn how boots should fit and discover the best shoes for women with bunions


So shop our retail stores or online site today!   


Image Credits

Olga Hmelevskaya/