/ 17 min

8 Pain Free Ways to Break in New Shoes

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By: KURU Footwear

Everyone loves buying a snazzy pair of new shoes, right? There’s that fresh out-of-the-box smell, the gleaming, untouched surface, and of course, the promise of all the places you’ll go together. But then comes the reality check when wearing them for the first time. New shoes mean new struggles—at least until you figure out how to break in shoes faster without all the blisters.

That’s what we’re here for: to lift the veil on the secret art of breaking in those new kicks painlessly! Because let’s face it, comfortable footwear isn’t just about fashion—it’s a lifestyle and health choice. So, let’s get those new shoes road-ready with less pain.

Key Takeaways

  • Breaking in new shoes, especially leather ones, isn’t an overnight process. Breaking in can take anywhere between several days to a couple of weeks of regular wear, depending on the shoe material.
  • To protect your feet and expedite the shoe break-in process, try heating up your shoes with a blow dryer, putting them on ice, massaging the shoes, and using gel pads or cushion inserts.
  • Avoid potential blisters and discomfort during the break-in period by not wearing your new shoes for prolonged periods or on long walks right off the bat. Instead, wear them at home with thick socks first.

Understanding Shoe Materials and Fit

Breaking in shoes can be a daunting task, but it is essential for ensuring your footwear’s comfort and longevity. Most people know the importance of shoe materials and the perfect fit for a happy, healthy shoe-wearing experience. But did you know that when it comes to breaking in footwear, the shoe’s materials and fit also play crucial roles?

Different materials cause variations in how long it takes to break in shoes. For example, leather often takes longer to soften and conform to your feet. On the other hand, synthetic materials may feel comfortable right away but may not have the same durability. It’s common for leather shoes to take two to three weeks to break in, while shoes with soft canvas uppers or rubber soles may require little to no break-in period.

The fit of your shoe will largely affect your overall comfort level, especially when breaking them in. Never buy shoes while counting on them to stretch over time. Shoes should always fit right when you buy them. Below are a few tips to ensure this:

  • Try on both shoes: Our feet are not exactly the same size! Always try on both shoes and buy the pair that fits the larger foot best
  • Wiggle those toes: Make sure there’s enough room for your toes and metatarsals to move freely.
  • Check the width: Choose shoes with wide toe boxes. Your toes should feel snug but not cramped.
  • Perform a heel test: Walk around and ensure your heel doesn’t slip out. If it does, you may need a smaller size or a different style.
  • Wear your socks: Wear the same type or thickness of socks you’d normally wear with the shoes you’re buying.
  • Know the half-inch rule: Leave at least half an inch of space between your longest toe and the shoe’s tip.
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Preparation: Before Your Break In

Before you break in those new shoes, let’s make sure you’ve got the right fit. That’s the first step to wearing pain-free shoes, after all. You may have to try on a few different sizes or styles before finding the perfect fit, but it’s worth it in the end.

Invest time in getting properly fitted. Get both your feet measured professionally using a Brannock device. Trust us—this can be a complete game-changer. This will give you an accurate reading of your foot length and width, as well as arch type. It’s important to remember that our feet are not exactly the same size, so don’t rely on just one measurement for both shoes.

Foot sizes often change with age and activity, often getting larger and wider. So, ideally, you’d want to get measured every time you buy new shoes. Moreover, take note that your feet tend to swell throughout the day—especially if you’ve been doing a lot of walking. So, while you may find that your shoes fit perfectly in the morning, they could become too tight by the afternoon or evening. To avoid this, shop for new shoes later in the day.

Learn to trust your own comfort level as well. Sizes can vary between manufacturers—a size six for one may be a size seven for another. So, take the numbers with a pinch of salt and focus on how the shoe feels on your foot.

Finally, remember to always choose function over form. It may be tempting to choose a pair of shoes because they look stylish, but if they’re not comfortable, then they’re not worth it. If your shoes pinch and hurt, you shouldn’t count on your break-in period to solve all that. Shoes can only stretch so much.

8 Techniques for Breaking in New Shoes

1. Wear Them Around the House

When learning how to break in shoes fast, one of the most practical methods to remember is to wear them indoors for short periods of time. This allows your feet to mold to the shoes without the pressure of outside surfaces or prolonged walking, reducing the chances of soreness or blisters. During these initial home sessions, make sure you don’t just put on the shoes and sit. Instead, walk around the house in them—cook, clean, do some light exercises—and mimic your regular outdoor movements.

As your feet get used to the new footwear, slowly extend the time you spend in the shoes each day. The gradual increase helps your shoes to adjust better to your feet’s shape without causing undue strain or discomfort. Remember, the primary goal is to achieve comfort, not endure pain. So, pay attention to any areas of discomfort or tightness. If your feet begin to feel sore or uncomfortable, alternate shoes or change them. This gives your feet a break and prevents potential injuries.

Another practical tip is to wear thick socks while breaking in your new shoes. This extra layer creates a cushioning effect and helps deliver an additional level of stretch to the materials. Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of lacing up your shoes correctly. Ensuring your shoes are laced properly can prevent unnecessary foot movement within the shoe. More importantly, proper lacing helps distribute pressure evenly across your foot, reducing potential hot spots and providing better heel support.

2. Use Gel Pads, Insoles or Shoe Cushions

If you’re looking for how to quickly break in shoes, consider using gel pads, insoles, or shoe cushions. These three inserts can significantly boost your comfort while wearing the new shoes—which can help you break them in faster. When your new shoes feel more comfortable thanks to the added support, shock absorption, and cushioning these products provide, you’re likely to wear them for longer periods. Wearing your new shoes frequently, without causing discomfort or damage to your feet, is essentially what speeds up the break-in process.

Make sure to place these strategically. Identify areas of your feet that are prone to blisters or rubbing—these are the spots you’ll want to protect with your inserts. Adjust the placement of these products based on where you need the most relief. It’s all about creating a customized fit for maximum comfort.

Insoles can be shaped for a better fit, too. You can use a spoon to mold the insoles to the contours of your feet and shoe, providing an even more personalized and snug fit. Keep in mind, though, that these products should not be used as a workaround for poorly fitting shoes. They can make the break-in process faster and more comfortable, but they can’t fix shoes that simply don’t fit right.

3. Massaging to Stretch Specific Areas

Massaging your new shoes, particularly leather ones, can significantly hasten the break-in process. Massaging shoes may sound unconventional, but it works wonders, especially for boots. The idea behind massaging your shoes is that it stimulates the same effect as your feet in the shoe and walking around. By gently massaging and stretching specific areas of the shoe with your hands, you can alleviate discomfort and speed up the break-in process.

All you need to do is use your hands to gently work the leather in areas that feel particularly snug or cause discomfort. Focus on the points that feel stiff, rub on your feet, and cause blisters. The more you massage these spots, the more the leather will begin to soften and relax, which will help your shoes conform to the shape of your foot faster.

Don’t rush this process. Instead, take your time and repeat several times for the best results. Although this method of how to break in leather shoes may seem a bit time-consuming, it’s worth the effort. After a few sessions of massaging your shoes, you’ll find them more comfortable to wear and easier to break in.

4. Expose Shoes to the Sun

A little sunbathing isn’t just for you; it can do wonders for your new shoes, too—especially if they’re made from leather or similar natural materials. This method is pretty straightforward. All you need to do is leave your new shoes in a sunny spot for a few hours. As they soak up the sun, the heat gradually makes the material of the shoes more pliable and flexible, which can naturally expand and mold to the shape of your foot.

The warmth from the sunlight naturally loosens the material and reduces its initial stiffness, making the shoes more comfortable when you wear them next. However, always remember: do everything in moderation. Just as excessive sun exposure isn’t healthy for your skin, the same applies to your shoes. Avoid leaving your shoes out in the sun for too long to prevent material damage. A couple of hours should be enough to do the trick. This isn’t a method you want to repeat daily, but it can be a lifesaver for a pair of shoes that you need to break in quickly.

5. Moisturize Shoes

Just like your skin, leather shoes can greatly benefit from a touch of moisturization! This method can make the process of breaking in new shoes much less of a pain. The moisturizer works by seeping into the pores of the leather, softening it, and thus making it more pliable and flexible. This added flexibility means your shoes will more readily adapt to the shape of your foot, reducing that dreadful initial stiffness. Your feet will be less likely to develop blisters this way. Plus, this method can also improve the overall condition of your shoes, keeping them looking new for longer!

For the best results, be sure to select a high-quality leather conditioner or moisturizer—these products are specifically designed to work on leather and provide optimal results without damaging the material. While moisturizing is mainly beneficial for leather shoes, it may also help with breaking in canvas and mesh shoes.

Using a soft cloth, apply your chosen conditioner evenly across the surface of the shoe. Pay extra attention to those areas that feel particularly tight or stiff. The moisturizer should start working its magic quickly, but for the best results, let the shoes sit for a few hours after application—this allows the leather to fully absorb the conditioner, taking you one step further toward that perfect, comfortable fit.

6. Give Shoes a Blowout

Your handy hair dryer can help you speed up the process and reduce pain when breaking in your shoes. Just be sure not to try this on shoes made from plastic materials, as this is mainly for leather and suede shoes. Start by putting on a pair of thick socks. The thicker, the better, as they’ll help stretch out the material of the shoes. You may want to double up by wearing winter socks over your usual socks, as well. Slip on and lace up your shoes as normal.

Grab your hairdryer and set it to a warm (not hot) or low to medium setting. Then, gently direct the warm air over the tight areas of your shoes for about 20 to 30 seconds. Be careful not to hold the hair dryer too close or for too long on the shoes. Keep your hairdryer at least six inches away from the shoe and keep it moving so you don’t risk damaging the material.

Walk around in your newly blown-out shoes until they cool off completely. The heat helps to make the shoe material more pliant and flexible, and wearing them while they’re warm helps expedite the stretching of tight areas. Make sure to wear the shoes without the extra thick socks, too! See how well they fit and feel. If they still feel tight, you can repeat the blowout as necessary, just be careful not to overheat your shoes.

7. Place Shoes on Ice

Freezing your shoes might sound like an odd suggestion, but it’s a neat little trick to stretch out your new footwear. The science behind it is fairly straightforward: Water expands as it freezes, so we’re going to use that principle to gently stretch the material of your shoes.

First, grab some sealable bags and fill them with water. Zip-top bags are a great option for this. Just be sure the bags are made from strong plastic and won’t break when the water freezes. Another important tip is to ensure the bags don’t have any excess air when you seal them. Carefully place these inside your shoes. Make sure that the water-filled bags are nestled into the tight areas of your shoes.

Put the shoes with the bags inside into your freezer. Leave your shoes in the freezer until the water solidifies completely. This can take a few hours or you can also leave them overnight. As the water freezes and expands, it will gently push against the material of the shoes, helping it to stretch and loosen.

When you take your shoes out the next day, let them thaw for a while before removing the ice bags. Once done, try on your shoes. You should notice a significant difference in tightness!

8. Use Shoe Molds

Also known as shoe stretchers, shoe molds are nifty gadgets that come in various shapes for different types of shoes. They can help speed up the break-in process, especially for leather and suede shoes. Shoe molds are adjustable and designed to mimic the shape of a foot. Once you’ve got a pair, just insert them into your new shoes.

The molds are expandable, so you can gradually dial up their size over the next few days. This way, your shoes will be slowly and gently stretched to the perfect fit—without your feet feeling the brunt of the tightness or discomfort during the process! Investing in a good set of shoe molds can save you time and discomfort in the long run. There are many available online and in stores. Some reliable options are the shoe stretchers from FootFitter and Eachway. Both are excellent choices to help you break in your new shoes.

Take note, the idea is not to rush the process but to gradually stretch your shoes over a few days. Although using shoe molds won’t work instantly, at least the answer to “how long does it take to break in new shoes?” might only be a week at most, rather than a few weeks!

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Foot Care During the Break-In Process

Learning how to break in new shoes fast is great, but let’s not forget about caring for your feet during the process. Here are some tips to keep your feet pampered and pain-free while breaking in new shoes.

Moisturizing your feet is one habit you’ll want to pick up—it’s almost like offering a soothing spa treatment to your overworked feet, keeping the skin soft, flexible, and less prone to developing painful cracks or calluses that new shoes might aggravate. Rubbing moisturizing or cooling lotion on your feet can also help them relax, relieving tension and tightness after wearing snug new shoes.

Another helpful tip is to use deodorant or moleskin on areas that tend to rub against your shoe, such as the heel or toes. Applying a little bit of deodorant on your feet before you step into your new shoes can drastically reduce friction. This will help prevent blisters from forming and keep your feet comfortable throughout the breaking-in process. Moleskin is a soft, thick, fabric adhesive that works like a charm to protect and cushion any areas on your feet that are prone to blisters.

Additionally, wearing silicone heel sleeves can provide extra cushioning and protection for your heels. These tiny inventions keep your heels cocooned, saving you from the heel pain that new shoes often bring with them.

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FAQs

  • How long does it take to break in new shoes?

    How long it takes to break shoes in can vary depending on the material and style of the shoe, as well as the frequency of use. Typically, shoes take around three to four weeks to break in, but this can happen sooner if you wear the shoes daily. Some shoes can be broken in after three to four times of wearing them, but other shoes can take a minimum of five wears to break in.

    Leather shoes can take around three to four weeks to break in. You can make the break-in process shorter if you use heat or freezing methods to help break the shoes in.

    Athletic shoes like running sneakers, especially those made with canvas or mesh, have a relatively shorter break-in period, thanks to their flexible materials. Hiking boots, which are made for optimal durability and protection, may take the longest due to their stiff nature—especially if they’re not worn regularly.

  • How do you break in shoes fast?

    Wearing your new shoes at home for short periods is the secret for how to break shoes in faster. Wear them for 30 minutes on the first day, then increase it to one hour on the second, and so on. This way, your feet can get used to the shoes without having to wear them outdoors where switching shoes might not be possible.

    Another trick is to put on a thick pair of socks before wearing your shoes. The socks will help stretch the shoe material, making the break-in process go faster. For leather shoes, applying shoe stretch spray can soften the material and mold it faster to the shape of your foot.

    You can also blow dry your shoes or freeze them with bags of water inside to speed up the process. Consider using shoe molds or a professional shoe stretching service, particularly for stiffer shoes like boots or dress shoes.

  • Should shoes hurt when breaking in?

    A new pair of shoes may feel snug and cause some discomfort, but they should never cause you pain. A well-fitting shoe should be relatively comfortable to wear from day one, aside from slight stretching during the break-in period.

    If your shoes hurt to wear even after breaking them in, chances are they might not be the right fit or style for your feet. If your heels keep sliding up and down, the shoes may be too big and will likely cause blisters. Meanwhile, if your toes feel pinched or cramped, then the shoes may be too small.

    And remember, not all shoe styles are created equal—some might not work well with your foot’s unique shape and size, which is why it’s incredibly important to make sure your shoes fit properly and work well with your foot shape before breaking them in.

  • How do you break in shoes that rub your ankle?

    Use adhesive bandages or padding to protect the rubbed areas on your ankle or heel. This not only helps to reduce friction but also prevents the formation of blisters. Thick socks also help, acting as a barrier between your shoe and your foot while helping the shoe to stretch and mold to the shape of your foot.

    It’s also a good idea to invest in a shoe-stretching spray, especially for shoes made of stiffer materials like leather. Just spray it on before wearing the shoes. If you’re wondering how to break in shoes that rub your heel, a helpful strategy is to use a shoe-stretcher or a rounded object, like a spoon, to gently stretch out the area.

    These methods, coupled with patience and a few short walks, can help mold your shoes to the contours of your feet, eliminating blisters or raw skin on your heel and ankles.

Ease Into Comfort With KURU

Breaking in new shoes is often an uncomfortable experience that many dread, but with the right strategies and tools, you can make the process as pain-free as possible—while also speeding up the process!

Whether you’re breaking in KURU shoes or any other brand, the starting point will always be wearing your new kicks for short periods around the house. This slow, gradual wear helps your feet get acquainted with the new shoes. Always wear socks, too! While our KURU shoes might feel comfy enough not to warrant them, socks play an important role in cushioning and protecting your feet while wearing shoes. For a more customized fit, you can massage the shoes or use any of the tips that we outlined above.

Just remember: each shoe type and material may require a different break-in time, so patience is key. This applies even to KURU shoes! Our heavy-duty leather QUEST hiking boots would naturally require a bit more time and TLC, especially compared to lightweight shoes like our sock-like STRIDE slip-on sneakers.

The best tip we can leave you with on how to break in shoes pain-free is to start with properly fitting and comfortable shoes in the first place. Thankfully, KURU has all this figured out! Between our patented KURUSOLE technology which dynamically cups and protects your heel to our thick KURUCLOUD midsoles, our shoes have maximum comfort down pat.

Moreover, our shoes run true to size and come with wide toe boxes for the ultimate comfort fit—and we’ll even assist you in ensuring you get the right shoe fit for a pain-free experience, not just while breaking in your shoes but when you’re wearing them for daily use!

Remember: it’s important to listen to your feet and stop pushing through pain while breaking in new shoes. If pain and discomfort persist after a considerable amount of time, it’s probably your feet’s way of telling you that your shoes don’t fit you properly!

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Sourcing

  • 10 Points of Proper Shoe Fit. American Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Society (2018)
  • 10 tips for finding the right shoes. Harvard Health (June 2015)
  • How To Break in Leather Shoes: The Ultimate Guide by Rieker (November 2022)
  • How to Use a 2-Way Shoe Stretcher. FootFitter (2018)
  • This Stretcher Makes Too-Tight Shoes Feel Broken In Overnight. The Strategist (August 2021)
  • Break in a Pair of Shoes in Minutes With a Hair Dryer. Lifehacker (February 2016)
  • 6 Ways to Break in New Shoes Without the Blisters. Wrightsock (December 2021)
  • How to Stretch Your Shoes With Ice. wikiHow (September 2019)
  • How to Stretch Synthetic Shoes. wikiHow (August 2023)
  • How to Stretch Shoes So They Fit Better Than Ever. Real Simple (August 2022)
  • How to Break in Doc Martens (and Every Other Leather Shoe Giving You Blisters). GQ (March 2023)
  • How to Break in Leather Boots. Drew’s Boots (June 2022)
  • How To Break in Shoes: Tips & Tricks for a Perfect Fit. Nordstrom (July 2022)
  • The Do’s and Don’ts of Breaking in a New Pair of Leather Boots. Heddels (March 2023)
  • How to Break in Shoe Fast – Tips & Tricks for New Shoes. DC.ONE (January 2022)
  • 6 Ways to Easily Break in a Pair of Shoes. Hayden Hill (August 2022)
  • How to Break in Shoes Without Killing Your Feet. InStyle (November 2023)
  • How to Break in Leather Shoes. The Good Trade (September 2023)

About Us

At KURU, we’re on a mission to help you Heel Better™ with footwear technology designed to relieve foot pain, so you can live a life you love. Since launching our innovative technology in 2008, we’ve received more than 32,000 five-star reviews from thousands of customers who tell us their KURU shoes helped them get back to doing what they love.

For all media inquiries, please contact us at pr@kurufootwear.com.

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