How to Break in Shoes That Rub Your Heel – 9 Surefire Ways!

Have you ever been excited to wear your new pair of shoes only to have the first day of wearing them turn into a nightmare? You got blistered and bruised, and by the time you got home, your feet were in pain and extremely tired. Maybe the new shoe felt too tight, or the edges were too rough on your heels.

Break in Shoes That Rub Your Heel

Sometimes, shoes need time to break in for the upper material to loosen up, avoiding foot blisters and other damage from an ill fitting shoe. Below are nine ways of stretching shoes that rub your feet.

9 Ways of Breaking into Shoes That Rub Your Heel

1. Wear the New Shoes in the House for Several Hours

Before wearing your shoes out and about for a full day, wear them in the house for a few hours to help them upper expand, loosen up, and conform to the shape of your foot. If their fit feels a bit too snug, wear them with a thick pair of socks or double socks.

2. Apply Heat on the Shoes

This method works best for suede and leather shoes. By applying heat on the upper, the tight shoe becomes more malleable to conform to your feet. Heating the shoes also enables them to expand.

The best way to heat leather or suede shoes is to blow warm heat on them using a blow-dryer. Heat the shoes evenly and then wear them with a thick pair of socks and walk around the house. Wearing heated shoes ensures that they remain in the expanded state even as they cool down.

However, do not overheat the shoes as they may expand too much or lose their structural integrity. The shoes may also come apart as the shoe glue could melt.

3. Apply Rubbing Alcohol on The Shoes

Applying rubbing alcohol on the shoes’ upper causes them to expand. While the expansion is minimal, it may mean the difference between a snug fit and something more comfortable.

Put some rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. Apply a generous amount evenly on the shoes, then wear them. As they dry, they will expand slightly. You may also soak a thick sock with rubbing alcohol and wear the shoes.

4. Bend and Twist the Shoes

New shoes are often rigid due to the treatment process they undergo during manufacturing. You may be surprised how simply turning and twisting the shoes loosen them up. As a result, when you wear them, they expand better, preventing rubbing on your heels.

5. Apply Stretching Spray on the shoes

There is a special type of shoe stretch spray for leather shoes to help them stretch.  The good thing with using the stretching spray instead of applying heat is that it does not damage the shoes. However, like rubbing alcohol, it stretches the shoes minimally, and it could also alter the original color of the shoes.

Shoe stretch spray is easy to use, and all you need to do is apply a generous amount evenly around the shoes. Then, wear thick socks, put on the shoes, and walk around until the spray dries. The leather upper should stretch and conform to your feet’ size and shape as the solution dries.

6. Insert High-Quality Insoles

Some shoes have a fit that leaves a lot of vertical space. As a result, your feet keep sliding back and forth, which may cause blistering or rubbing on the heels. Inserting high-quality insoles in the shoes helps to reduce the vertical space for a snug fit. It also enhances cushioning for added comfort and improves arch support.

7. Reduce Moisture in the Shoes

Excessive moisture in the shoes causes your feet to slide inside the shoes, causing rubbing. It also dampens the skin, making it prone to blistering. Completely dry your feet, including the spaces between your toes before wearing your shoes.

Also, ensure to wear dry socks. If your feet tend to sweat, buy breathable shoes that have a moisture-wicking lining. Otherwise, apply antiperspirant on your feet or absorbent powder such as household talcum powder inside the shoes. You could also wear moisture-wicking socks to prevent sweat build-up.

8. Protect the High Impact areas of Your Feet

Ultimately, the most effective method of breaking into your shoes is wearing them often. However, take measures to prevent them from rubbing on your heels. There are several ways to protect the heels and high impact areas against rubbing and blistering, including:

  • Wear double socks. Thick socks provide cushioning and serve as a barrier between the shoes and the back of the shoes.
  • Apply emollient or anti-friction balm on your heels. They prevent or reduce friction between your heels and the back of the shoes.
  • Apply antiperspirant on your heels. Antiperspirant gets rid of excess moisture from the skin preventing your heels from constantly sliding against the shoes.
  • Lay moleskin on the back of the shoes. Moleskin is a cotton fabric with adhesive at the back. When applied to the inner side of the back of the shoes, it adheres firmly, breaking direct contact between the edge of the shoe and your heels. It only works if the shoes are slightly snug than ideal but not too tight.

9. Take the Shoes to the Cobbler

If all else fails, take the shoes to the cobbler. Cobblers have a shoe stretching machine, and when used together with a stretching spray, it can considerably expand your shoes both lengthwise and sideways.

Tips for Buying Shoes that are a Good Fit

The best way to prevent heel rub with new shoes is to ensure they fit right in the first place. Below are four tips for buying the right size of shoes.

1. Get the Right Shoe Size

Some shoes fit true-to-size, while others run small or wide. Also, whether your feet are wide or narrow will determine how well they fit in a given pair of shoes.

Check whether the manufacturer indicates that the shoes are true-to-size. If not, find out whether the size runs small or large and their recommendation for sizing up or down. The shoe’s reviews by previous customers can also help you determine their fit. Furthermore, some manufacturers offer both standard and wide fit options for their shoes.

On the other hand, do not buy shoes that are larger than your feet as your feet will slide in and out causing rubbing on the heels.

2. Buy Shoes in the Evening

The best time to buy shoes is in the evening. For most people, the feet are slightly swollen, representing the actual size of your feet for most of the day. The evening is also the best time for taking your feet measurement if you are buying online. For online purchases, buy shoes from a supplier who accepts returns or exchanges in case the shoe size is not right.

When buying shoes at a local store, ensure to fit them and to walk around the store. Wear thick socks or two pairs of thinner socks. If a particular size is too snug, go up to the next size or a wide option.

3. Consider the Shoe Material

Different shoe materials have different levels of stiffness, and consequently, different break-in times. Soft materials such as fabric mesh may not require any break-in time at all. On the other hand, leather is one of the stiffest and inflexible materials. It may also have sharp edges. Therefore, it is most likely to cause heel rub and takes the longest to break in.

While rubber and PU are flexible, they trap moisture causing the foot to slide in the shoes. As a result, you may get blistered. Canvas is soft and flexible. However, most people wear canvas shoes without socks. Initially, the interior of the shoes may be too stiff due to the manufacturing process causing blisters and excessive friction on the heels.

4. Inspect the Shoes for Any Rough Edges

Some shoes do not undergo quality control and end up having loose seams, stitching, and rough edges that rub against the back of your heels. If buying shoes in a physical store, inspect them for these edges.

For online purchases, check customer reviews for complaints about poor quality control on the shoes or loose seams and sharp edges. If you have bought the shoes already, you can apply moleskin on the rough patches or wear heel protectors.


Most new shoes are too snug or stiff, requiring some break-in time. To reduce the break-in time, try to expand the shoes by applying heat, stretching spray or rubbing alcohol, or taking them to the cobbler. Then, take protective measures to prevent the shoes from rubbing your heels when you wear them, like wearing thick socks, applying anti-friction balm on your heels, or laying moleskin at the back of your shoes. Ultimately, ensure to get the right size of shoes for a good fit. Go for shoes that have a soft internal lining as it is less likely to hurt your feet.

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