So, you got a brand-new pair of shoes from your favorite designer. (Some people like Marc Jacobs but I prefer Mark Down.) They look great, but the backs are a little stiff or on the narrow side. They may look great and you may look great in them, but they hurt like the devil. Do we really have to suffer for beauty? Not necessarily.
Having tight shoes is not fashionable. Not only does staggering in pain not look very graceful but it can cause serious health problems. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons wearing shoes that are too tight can lead to such painful problems as bunions, hammertoes, corns, ingrown toenails, blisters and stealing Christmas.
Well, maybe not that last one so much. However, it can force the toes to cross over each other. If you have diabetes, that can add a whole other long list of complications. There has to be some way to soften those shoes to make them easier to wear or to perhaps stretch them out. As it turns out, there is not just some way but several ways. Read through the following and figure out which one is the most feasible for you.
Table of Contents
Oil’s Well That Ends Well
Several different types of oil can be used to treat leather. To soften the back of a shoe, castor oil may be the best kind of oil to use. That’s right, this once popular laxative works well as a leather softener.
The fat in this oil is quite good for solving the problem of tight shoes. All you have to do is apply some to the backs of the shoes and let it soak for several minutes. That should soften the leather up.
If the Ethyl Runs Out, Get Mable
A little alcohol can soften anyone up! Actually, the best kind of alcohol to use is the kind known in pharmacy as a surgical spirit. This has no tannins added to stain your shoes. However, it can remove unstable paint so do not use on colored shoes or check the steadfastness of the paint.
It is also rather flammable, so do not use around an open flame. Mix the alcohol with an equal measure of water and soak your stocking in it. Put the soaked socks and new shoes on and walk until the alcohol evaporates.
Flies in the Kerosene
Kerosene has long been known to soften the leather. First, the shoes have to be soaked in a three percent solution of table vinegar. It must also be applied from the inside. You can use this in combination with a professional tool.
This can create a strong smell and should only be done in a well-ventilated area. It will also make the shoes very flammable so once again, no open flames. Even steady heat can cause kerosene to ignite.
Dampening the Sole
Sometimes all you need is a bit of moisture to soften the material quickly. It can ruin some materials so it is best to do it only on leather. All you have to do is take a wet cloth and dampen the inside of the shoe. Then, you put the shoes on and go for a walk.
This trick, of course, is better suited for the summer than the winter when you don’t mind getting your feet a bit damp and cool. Hot water or steam can also do the job. Any humid environment can do the job.
You can try putting the shoes in a box with a wet towel. Stuffing the shoes with wet newspaper or damp paper towels can also do the job. Do not immerse your boots in water as this can make them shrink.
Cold as Ice
One more viable option for enlarging the leather shoes plus preventing them from becoming too tight when you put them on is to put the shoe in a plastic bag and place it in the freezer for one night at least. You should notice the results immediately.
If your shoes are too snug in the toe area, here is a simple trick using ice to make them expand a little. Fill two zippable plastic bags with water seal the bags so that water does not splash out. Put each bag into the toe of the shoe and put the shoes in the freezer. Leave them until the water has had time to freeze.
Take the shoes out of the freezer, the frozen bags of ice out of the shoes and put your feet in them. (It is recommended you do this on a hot day when you won’t mind your feet being a bit chilled. As your shoe warm-up, they will conform to the shape of your foot.
As any third-grade science class will tell you, water expands as it freezes. The shoes will be gradually stretched out by the ice. They may contract as soon as the ice is removed but they will conform to the shape of the foot put in them. Remember that this only works on natural materials such as suede, leather, and fabric.
Synthetic materials will not work as well and may even be damaged by freezing. Remember that if leather or suede becomes damp it can stain. Make sure those bags are firmly sealed and wrap the shoes in a towel to keep them from getting damp from frost.
Let Us Spray
There are professional shoe stretching sprays you can use. It will soften up your shoes without any risk of discoloration. All you have to do is spray in on the areas that feel tight. It may take several uses but the results should be very effective.
Fox in Socks
Another trick to stretch out shoes is to wear padded socks. Just put on a thick pair of socks, put on your shoes and walk around in them. Exercise socks can do the trick. Do this for a small amount of time every day, gradually increasing it. Bit by bit, the material should give way. While this is quite an investment of time, it is an effective way to break your shoes in.
Soap can soften the inside of a shoe’s heel. Just rub a little bit on before wearing them. Be careful not to use too much. You don’t want to crake the surface and get soap all over your socks. You can do the same with petroleum jelly which will have the added benefit of keeping the leather from drying. A rag or paper towel can wipe off excess petroleum jelly.
Seek Professional Help
No, not that kind of help, even though tight shoes can drive you crazy. The professional is the kind that needs to see the shoes. A cobbler has the knowledge and technology to soften shoes without damaging them. They may use a device called a last to stretch the shoes out.
This process can take twenty-four hours or more. You can do something similar at home with a wooden insert. Keep in mind that while a shoe tree may be able to stretch leather or suede it may not work as well on rubber or plastic
The cobbler can also trim down the heel if that would help. At times, the angle between the heel and the ball-of-foot is just too big. This can cause your feet to slide forward, thus squishing your toes inside the front of the shoe. Sometimes as much as a whole inch needs to be trimmed off. Do not attempt to fix this problem yourself. You will not like the results.
How to Use a Shoe Stretcher
Let’s say you somehow got your hands on a last. You can do the job a professional cobbler would do if you follow these simple instructions. First, you must spray your shoe with a little shoe stretching spray. Next, you must tuck the stretcher into your shoe.
About all shoe stretchers will have some differences between them, but many will have a handle and a knob. The knob is for adjusting the length and the handle is for adjusting the width. Continue turning the handle and knob to the point that the shoe material is snug.
You should then leave the stretcher in the shoe for roughly six to eight hours. Once this time is up, turn the handle and knob the opposite way and pull the stretcher out of the shoe. This is a very good choice for too big loafers and work shoes.
You might want to try a two-way stretcher that can work on both length and breadth. Some shoes even work on high heels. Do remember that shoe stretchers are only capable of small adjustments. But sometimes, a small adjustment can make a big difference. In any case, when you use a shoe stretcher you need to keep the following points in mind.
- A few shoe stretches might have attachments specifically for ailments such as bunions. Insert these attachments before utilizing the shoe stretcher.
- Shoe stretchers can only loosen and break in shoes to the point that they do not feel too tight or snug. They can’t make your shoe a whole size bigger.
- Shoe stretchers work on natural materials such as suede or leather. They might work on certain kinds of fabric. However, it will not be noticeably effective on synthetics or plastics.
How to Break them Without them Breaking You
It can be a bit of an effort trying to break in new shoes. This is why you are advised to start with just five or ten minutes at a time and gradually build up. If only you could offer them treats like you would when breaking in a horse! You can stop blisters from forming by treating the problem areas before a blister starts.
Some people put an adhesive bandage over a blister after it breaks. You should put one on to keep it from forming to start with. Putting one on the back of your heel will act as a cushioning barrier. Petroleum jelly and moleskin works too.
Wear the Right Socks
A Garfield comic strip published January 19, 1988, features the eponymous tabby cat offering to break in the socks his owner Jon just bought. Garfield’s method is to put the socks on and do a soft shoe while singing “Gotta Dance” from Singin’ in the Rain. Jon ponders if this is why his feet have been itching.
Socks do not in general need breaking in and you are advised not to let cats do it for you. Actually, you can use socks to help you break in shoes if you do it right. For instance, you may want to wear extra thick socks or even two pairs of socks while breaking in your shoes.
You need socks that will wick away moisture and prevent blisters and chafing. Athletic socks will be tighter in the arch area. This aids in offering arch support which would make them perfect for athletic and running shoes. Socks that wick away moisture will aid in the removal of sweat from your feet.
This will aid in keeping your feet dry and preventing blisters. Running socks will have additional padding on the underside. This can aid in the absorption of the impact that your foot makes when you are running. Some toes socks are like gloves you wear on your feet.
This can prevent blisters from forming between toes as each toe is in a separate compartment. Keep the material in mind. Cotton is light and breathable but can soak up moisture easily which can lead to blisters. Synthetics such as polypropylene, polyester, and acrylic wick away sweat and keep your feet dry.
When you have a new pair of shoes, the back part sometimes needs to be softened up before you can comfortably wear them. Several methods can be entailed to soften this problem area up to keep from getting an annoyingly painful blister on the back of your foot. One of the above methods should hopefully work for you.