Breaking in new dress shoes such as Oxfords, Derbies, and brogues can sometimes be challenging. Most types of dress shoes are usually made of leather. Imitation leather dress shoes made with human-made materials will also need to be broken in; however, these shoes won't always mold to the shape of your feet in the same way that a leather shoe can.
Lots of things affect how comfortable dress shoes are. Does your brogue have a rubber sole or leather sole? Are your toes unusually long or do you have flatter arches?
Snug Fit Shoes From The Start
Should shoes fit snug? There are two schools of thought when it comes to choosing the right size and fit of the shoe. You don't want to choose a size that's too small and will rub on your toes, but a roomier shoe will also be a problem as, in time, it will stretch.
Generally, you're advised to make sure that the shoe is ‘snug’ on your foot. There are also cultural differences when it comes to how well a shoe should fit you. Europeans prefer a tighter fitting dress shoe, while Americans and the English prefer a looser fit.
When you're looking at various styles of shoes and buying shoes from Europe or Britain, you must remember that the fit may be different. Because of this, it's important to consider the kind of fit you prefer and work from there.
This is going to dictate not only where your shoes are made but also the kind of fit they'll end up having once they've been adequately worn in. While you're shopping for shoes, make sure you take a look at where they're made. Also, take into account whether they trend towards being true to size or have a larger or smaller fit.
Dress Shoes Are Designed For Style And Comfort
Dress shoes like Oxfords and brogues are generally highly engineered and designed to be comfortable to wear. However, there are different shaped dress shoe toe styles: rounded, more square, or pointy. You need to choose a style that best suits your foot shape too.
Something important to consider here is whether or not you have wider feet, as that can change the options that are available to you. Furthermore, it's wise to consider the kinds of outfits you plan on wearing with the shoes so that you can get something with the right complementary style.
Extreme Ways To Stretch Leather Shoes
Generally speaking, you have probably spent a lot of money on your shoes, so you should probably avoid the ‘extreme’ methods of making your shoes more comfortable. Unless they're far too small, stretching them will be permanent and could ruin them.
It's typically much better to choose shoes with a closer fit to your foot. That way, they can stretch into shape through normal wear without being too uncomfortable. If you need to, try out a few different size options to ensure you get the best possible fit.
Stretching Shoes with Ice in the Freezer
Placing bags of water into your shoes and then placing them into the freezer overnight is one way to stretch your shoes out. The water will freeze, and the ice expands.
In the morning, your shoes will be stretched out. However, the leather will probably be dried out too and could have water damage.
While there might be some rare instances in which this method works, it's generally not a good idea because of the potential damage it can cause. If you do try it, keep in mind that your shoes may be damaged afterward. It's often better to return or replace the shoes with something that offers a better fit instead of trying this.
Stretching Shoes with a Hairdryer
Another way to stretch out the leather is to apply high heat. If you heat the leather while wearing the shoes, they'll stretch out and fit better. However, once again, you're stretching and damaging the leather by applying heat. This will be permanent, and your shoes will also stretch during the normal process of wearing them.
Like the freezing method, you'll need to realize that your shoes could be irreparably damaged by this method. They also run the risk of ending up too loose if you adjust them to the perfect fit and then continue to wear them in.
How To Break In New Dress Shoes The Sensible Way
Don’t wear your new shoes for the whole day. Instead, wear them at home first, or for shorter trips. You could also take along a second pair of shoes. Over time, your dress shoes will stretch, and mold to the shape of your foot. This process can take a few days or weeks, but the leather will soften, and your dress shoe will become more flexible.
Wear socks but remember that leather is a natural material that will not magically stretch back. You can manually manipulate the leather where it may be hurting you, such as ‘riding your ankle’ or pinching your toes. You can also wear cushioned plasters if you have developed blisters.
Placing wooden shoe stretchers into your dress shoes overnight will help break in new shoes. Or you could take your shoes to a specialist and have your new shoes professionally stretched. Stuffing socks and newspaper into your shoes can also help to soften up the shoe.
These methods are generally much better as they offer a more natural way to stretch the shoes into shape. A professional will also be able to make the needed changes with a much lower risk of causing permanent damage to the shoes themselves.
Have You Chosen The Right Size or Fit?
The best way for you to initially break your shoes in is to wear them. Slowly, over time, the shoe will mold to your feet. However, if your dress shoes are still hurting you, then you need to look carefully at the fit and size. If your arches are too low, you can consider adding arch supports or an inner sole to your shoe.
Your foot may be slipping too much inside the shoe or running on the shoe. Similarly, if your foot is just too wide for the style of a dress shoe that you've chosen, it will continue to be painful to wear and will not support your foot correctly.
Your mobility will be hampered, and ‘breaking’ your shoe in may cause damage to your tendons and nerves. If this is the case, then you need to choose a different style and size and start again.
When it comes to the fit of your shoe, it's not generally a good idea to “tough it out” as your feet can be damaged. It's far better to take your time and select a shoe that you can wear in, while still being relatively comfortable.
The Spritz Fix
All quick fixes will work, but you will need to be cautious. Is the whole shoe too tight or is just a specific part causing discomfort? You can make a solution of rubbing alcohol and water and rub it into the inside of your shoes. Place your shoes on your feet immediately and wear them.
This will help the shoe to mold to the shape of your foot. As with any quick-fix solution, you need to be sensible. If you don’t have much time and are desperate to alter the fit of your shoe, then carefully go ahead.
However, leather does stretch, and applying a lot of leather conditioning products may be a better idea. Softening the leather is probably a better way to make your dress shoe easier to wear if you're in a crunch. You may also crack the leather if you bend your dress shoes too much.
If you're considering a method like this, make sure to take into consideration how long you'll need to deal with the discomfort in the shoe. If it isn't long and you'll be able to find a more accessible option later in the comfort of your home, that's generally a better option.
What's The Best Way To Break In New Shoes?
The best way to break in your new shoes successfully is to do it slowly. It will probably take about 2 -3 weeks, and yes, you'll have to suffer a little. However, there are several products and methods you can use to lessen any discomfort.
Keep in mind that while a little discomfort can be expected, you shouldn't be in extreme pain. When you aren't wearing the shoe, wooden shoe stretchers can also help to get them to fit right. Be sure to wear socks and plasters (if necessary) during this time.
Remember, you shouldn’t wear your dress shoes for a full day at first, but rather in shorter bursts. You'll be rewarded with a well-fitting dress shoe which has molded to your foot and will be comfortable to wear.
A quick re-cap on the best way to break in those new shoes
So we’ve already discussed and established some tried and tested techniques for breaking in those new shoes. After all, you've invested in a pair of quality footwear, designed to last so your pain will ultimately be rewarded when they eventually fit you like a glove.
Your shoes will most definitely stand you in good stead down the line with any painful pinching or discomfort behind you. So the real moral here is not to get discouraged and remember that while you might have to break your shoes in gently at first until your feet fit them, pretty soon your patience will pay off.
Wear them around the house regularly
Don’t delay, go right now and grab your shiny new shoes from out of their box, pop them on your feet and have another ten minutes just wearing them around the house while you get on with a few extra chores. Walk up and down the stairs, for example; even wear them while you're preparing dinner this evening. The point is, get used to how they feel on your feet while you're indoors at home.
As we already discussed, the watchwords when breaking in a new pair of shoes are, briefly and often. Don’t feel that you have to wear them for hours at a time. They may have felt initially comfortable, and they'll soon feel part of you too with some time and effort. So to recap, we recommend regularly wearing them for say 10 minutes at a time to get you started.
Take them into the office with you to give them another trial run
Why don’t you try taking your new shoes along with you, but only wearing them sporadically at work, for example? That way you know you can travel back and forth from home in your more comfortable, well broken in shoes while effectively giving your new ones a bit of a trial run.
If all else fails, head to a professional
If that's all taking too much time and quite frankly, you just love your new shoes and you want to get down to the business of actually wearing them, then as a final option, you could head back into your local cobbler. Forget the heat and cold remedies, filling your shoes with ice packs or even potatoes. Instead, hand them over to the professionals, and they'll have you skipping with joy out of the shop for less than a decent pair of dress socks will cost you. They'll be able to machine stretch the shoes to your exact specifications, and after just a couple of hours drying time, you should be good to go.