How to Break In Shoes: Essential Tips

Tuesday Bote - April 7, 2021


GAT White Sneakers by Oliver Cabell


The utter ecstasy of buying a new pair of leather shoes stays with you until the day that you first wear them. Or - it can quickly turn to agony. New shoes need to be broken in. 


Why so? The leather of most shoes and sneakers is always somewhat stiff at the very first wear. However, leather, particularly excellent quality full-grain leather, become more supple and molds itself to your foot the more you wear them. Soon, that feeling of ecstasy over your new pair of shoes inevitably returns once your shoes are properly broken in, and you’ve hit your stride. 


But before that, you’ll have to endure the break-in process, and it can be bothersome, even painful. Here’s a guide on how to lessen or even eliminate the pain of breaking in new shoes so that we can get back to that new-shoes-ecstasy much faster. 

# 1: Make sure you get high-quality shoes

There’s a legitimate reason why expensive shoes are expensive, they use premium materials and ensure a painless break-in period. The best leather types come from tanneries in Italy, where they’ve perfected softening leather to a buttery texture. Full-grain leather becomes pliant when worn, faster than leathers of lower quality. When buying luxury brand dress shoes, you’re not only purchasing brand prestige but comfort and durability. 

Phoenix 3D-printed sneakers in Black


# 2: Make sure you get shoes that fit.

This should be a no-brainer, except it happens all too often that we find out our new shoes don’t fit us only after we take them home. No amount of breaking in can loosen a tight shoe. If your feet still hurt and blister months after you’ve supposedly broken them in, then you definitely bought the wrong shoe size. Just chalk it up to experience and get the right size next time.


A tip on making sure you buy the right sized shoe is to shop for them in the late afternoon or evening after your feet have puffed up from your long day. If your feet are wide, you should also ask the store for shoes that fit wider.

Chelsea Boots by Oliver Cabell


# 3: Break them in privately before your “first wear.”

As much as we’re tempted to wear our new shoes as soon as we hand over our money at the store, it would be better to break them in privately before allowing them a public appearance. Take them home and wear them around the house, ideally in the late afternoon or evening, for the same reason why you should shop for shoes at this time. You can alternate ten minutes of walking around with an hour of just sitting around, with adequate rest periods in between. 


Even at rest, the shoe gets used to the shape of your feet and mold themselves accordingly. It would be best if you also put on thick socks as you do. Rest your feet for an hour and repeat the process. Of course, you shouldn’t overdo it on your first night; you could repeat this over the next few days. 

Oliver Cabell Low 1 White Minimalist Sneakers for Women


Getting shoe trees are recommended to maintain the shape of your shoe while you store them. Shoe trees are also an excellent investment because they air out your shoes and keep them from degrading in storage while also expelling bacteria and foul odors and keeping your shoes fresh.

# 4: Protect and moisturize your feet

Whether you break them in at home or put them on to go out, you should protect your feet to avoid painful blisters and abrasions on sensitive parts. Keep your feet moisturized by applying lotion to your feet before putting your socks on. Not all dress shoes are designed to be worn with socks but wear them religiously, at least for the break-in period. If you have trouble spots - like your feet are wide, or you have a bunion, or your toes are at an awkward length - cover them up with band-aids or cushiony plasters. 

Low 1 Black Oliver Cabell Leather Sneakers


# 5: Strategize the first weeks

It would help if you planned a shoe schedule during this break-in period, corresponding to activities you’ll be doing on those days. Schedule wearing your new shoes on short, event-less days; you know those days when you’re just glued to your desk, writing reports. Don’t wear them on days when you know you’ll be doing a lot of walking around - shopping with friends, ocular inspections of a new worksite, a day full of meetings in and out of the office. If you absolutely must, make sure to bring an extra pair of more comfortable shoes with you to wear when your feet have reached their limit. 

Break-in your Low 1 Nude Oliver Cabell Leather Sneakers


Hopefully, you didn’t buy your new shoes because your old pair have completely fallen apart. The key to properly breaking in your shoes is to do so a little at a time. Having just one pair of shoes to wear every day will definitely hurt for the first few weeks, no matter the quality of your shoes or how much lotion you slapped onto your feet. 


You should avoid these erroneous practices in breaking in your shoes. 


  • Don’t apply heat to your shoes. Using a hairdryer or heat gun or even sticking your shoes in your oven have been suggestions to soften the leather and make them more flexible. However, doing these may ruin your shoes, as heat dries up the leather, and you’ll soon find unwanted creases and cracking. 
  • Don’t wet your shoes. Conversely, cooling the leather is also suggested to break them in faster. However, the reality is soaking the leather in water strips it of its natural oils, so the material actually tends to shrink when it dries. 
  • Don’t freeze your shoes or put them in your refrigerator. Another suggestion that is a definite no-no is stuffing your shoes with plastic bags filled with water, then putting them in the freezer overnight. The water in the plastic bags will freeze into ice and effectively stretch out your shoes. As you have no control as to what shape the ice will form into, there is a danger of overstretching, and therefore, ruining your shoes. Also, this means your shoes will get wet; please refer to our previous Don’t.
  • Don’t wash your shoes in the washing machine to soften them. This is not even recommended for washing canvas sneakers, as a cycle in the washing machine is dangerous for your shoes and your washing machine. 

Oliver Cabell Distressed Stingray Sneakers


A point in favor of the Distressed shoe trend

You may have heard of Distressed shoes and sneakers, a trend in which your newly bought shoes already look like you’ve worn them several times, looking dirty and scuffed. Most of the sneakers and shoes that have popularized this trend are from luxury brands and are very expensive, inciting critics to denounce them, saying they’re classist and mock poverty. 


However, not all distressed shoes are unreasonably priced, such as the sneakers in Oliver Cabell’s Distressed collection, which are sold at less than half the price of distressed luxury sneakers. And despite looking worn, the distressing is done with care not to damage the materials, and you still get a high-quality shoe. Besides being on-trend and fashionable, distressed sneakers are already broken in, so they’re more comfortable to wear outside the box, a fact that many fashionistas swear by when putting on new distressed kicks. 

Wrapping Up

There you have it - essential tips and ideas on breaking in your new sneaks. Unless you get a pair of distressed sneakers, breaking in a new pair of shoes will forever be inevitable. Hopefully, now you’re all the wiser and get to enjoy the ecstasy of your new shoes almost as soon as you’ve bought them.