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How to Safely Break in a Pair of Shoes
Shoes should be broken in gradually; there is no need to rush the “breaking-in” process. Start by wearing the shoes for brief stints around the house. Spraying tight areas with water will also help the shoes to soften.
That said, there is no need to take your new hiking boots on an 11 mile hike. Trying to do too much too soon in a pair of stiff shoes will leave you with little more than painful blisters on your feet and a lifelong distrust for your new fancy footwear. The key is to start slowly. You don’t even have to walk around in your shoes to start the breaking-in process. Put on your pair of new shoes and watch a movie. Simply wearing the shoes for sustained periods of time without walking in them will soften the shoes’ material.
Another equally painless way of breaking in new shoes is to wear them around the house for only 15 to 30 minutes a day. Be sure to go up and down stairs, if you have them, and do other activities that will force the shoes to bend and flex. The key to this approach is to wear your new shoes every day but for short periods of time. Instead of suffering through one long, painful, breaking-in period, you are dividing the process into manageable (and pain-free) chunks. You want to remove the shoes before you notice any hotspots; there is simply no need to suffer through blisters in order to break in a new pair of shoes.
My mother used to tell me to wear new shoes in the shower to break them in. While wetting new shoes does help them to stretch, you have to proceed cautiously with this method. Leather shoes, obviously, should never be doused in water; even athletic shoes can warp or start to smell if they are not washed and dried properly. A better version of the water approach is to use a spray bottle to target certain tight areas of your shoes while you are wearing them. The heat of your feet will gradually dry the wet shoes; better yet, the shoes will dry better suited to the shape of your foot. You can make this method even more effective by mixing 1 part rubbing alcohol with 3 parts water and use this solution instead. Be sure to test the solution on a small, discreet area of the shoe to make sure that the rubbing alcohol does not distort the shoe’s material or color.