Don’t be discouraged when purchasing a new pair of leather shoes if you need to break them in.

That doesn’t mean your shoes are bad! It merely means that your new pair of shoes are still too new for the leather to mold to your feet.

Once they do, though, they just might be the best shoes you’ve ever owned.

Why Breaking in Your New Leather Shoes

Brand-new leather is usually stiff and inflexible. As a result, the places most painful on your food are usually the spots where your foot naturally moves and needs the leather to move with it.

High-quality leather will eventually soften with repeated movement.

high-quality leather will soften and stretch with repeated movements

The leather will eventually mold to your foot’s unique shape as if it were made to your specifications. The more you wear them, the more flexible they will become.

It’s essential to keep in mind that this only applies to shoes that are natural leather, well-made, and fit you properly. You can’t redeem a bad pair of shoes.

How Leather Quality Affects Breaking in Your Shoes

There are a few different types of leather used in shoemaking. Each one has qualities that separate it from the others.

For example, patent leather shoes are popular for formal footwear. It’s a fine leather that’s been coated with a plastic veneer.

look for high-quality leather dress shoe

Because of this plastic coating, patent leather is very inflexible; it can be challenging to stretch. It is also risky; you don’t want to risk cracking the top layer.

On the other hand, full-grain leather is natural leather with no coating. It may be a very tough leather initially, but with a bit of work, it’s simple enough to break in.

High-quality leather is not typically soft at the start. On the contrary, it begins pretty stiff; it might feel unforgiving and painful, but it bodes well for your shoe’s longevity.

Choose the Right Shoe Size for Your Feet

Starting with the right dress shoe style that fits you properly is the first and most crucial step to comfortable shoes and healthy feet.

Choose the right dress shoe size

It’s essential to make sure you take an accurate measurement of your feet before you make your purchase. Enlist the help of a salesperson to take a professional measurement every time you buy new shoes.

Remember that you need to measure both feet. Sometimes, feet are two different sizes. If this describes you, it shouldn’t cause a problem. Just buy the larger size shoe.

Later in the afternoon is the best time of day to buy new shoes. That gives your feet time to swell and expand from a day of hard work.

And don’t forget to wear the appropriate socks for the shoes you’ll be trying on.

The Shoe Has to Fit Your Feet

There should be a small amount of space between the tips of your toes and the shoe’s toe. Try to gauge as best you can by wiggling your big toe and pressing down on the top of the shoe to locate the movement.

feet fit into a new dress shoe

Also, check the heel. Can you insert your index finger between your heel and the shoe? You should have just enough room for your finger.

Finally, trust your instinct. If all signs point toward a good fit, but you don’t feel right, don’t buy it. You’ll know if your feet feel good or not.

Simple Method to Break in Leather Shoes

A stiff and painful pair of leather shoes isn’t the end of the story. You can mold your shoes to your feet without resorting to drastic measures, making your shoes much more comfortable.

With a little patience and care, you can help your new shoes feel worn in, and soon you’ll be able to wear them without limping.

You might see some pretty outrageous and complicated solutions for breaking in shoes.

However, you don’t need to go to extremes like freezing your shoes; just take these slow and small measures that will have a significant impact.

Wear Your New Leather Shoes Around the House First

You can put your leather shoes on for very short periods to allow for a slow adjustment. Next, do some regular activities as you move throughout your day to allow your leather to move with you.

wearing dress shoes around the house

You can take them off before they start to hurt. Then, gradually increase the time you wear them each day.

This is the safest and gentlest method for breaking in your leather shoes because they will stretch in a natural method without being forced. It won’t harm or damage them; there’s absolutely no risk.

Try to Wear Them with Thick Socks

This way of breaking in your leather shoes will feel like a tight squeeze, but that’s rather the point. The thick, soft cotton cushions your feet while pushing out ever so slightly on the leather.

wearing thick socks with dress shoes

You don’t even need to do any walking; just having this pressure coming from the inside of your shoe will gently stretch it out.

Alternatively, you can try multiple layers of socks or wear thicker socks as your shoes begin to stretch.

Wear the Shoes Often & Little

Put on those leather shoes every day! Don’t worry; you’ll only need to wear them in short bursts.

wear your new dress shoes in interval of 10 minutes

Then, gradually increase how long you wear them each day, even if it’s only a few minutes.

Don’t wear your new shoes and decide you’ll try to push through the pain. You may damage your foot and make the thought of ever wearing those shoes again unpleasant.

Instead, you must slowly build up a tolerance for the shoes while they slowly mold to your foot.

Bring Old Shoes for Longer Hours

Once you are ready to wear your shoes outside your home for a longer period, it’s time to wear them to work. But be prepared with a backup pair of comfortable shoes.

carrying your older shoes with you

Going from breaking in your shoes at home and being able to take them off as soon as they feel uncomfortable is a long leap to wearing them all day at work, especially if you are on your feet often.

There’s no shame in switching back to a worn-in pair every now and then. It’s all part of the process of gradually extending your wear time!

The Heating Method to Break in Leather Shoes

You can move this process along faster than wearing them for a little while each day.

However, proceed with caution when using the heating method. You must go very slowly with this because if you work too quickly, you could damage your new leather shoes.

Heat is an effective way to mold your shoes to your feet in only a day or two. The heat expands the leather, causing it to become more pliable so it can settle to the exact shape of your foot.

Start by Wearing the Shoes Briefly

Introduce your shoes to your feet. Walk around with the shoes on for about 10 or 15 minutes.

wear your new dress shoes in interval of 10 minutes

This will help the leather get an initial feel for where it needs to mold and prepare your shoes for breaking in.

Stretch the Shoes Manually

After you’ve removed your shoes, work them between your hands. Bend the toes up and down very gently while you’re holding the heel in your other hand.

stretch dress shoes manually

You don’t want to break the leather or cause it to crease; you just want to get some movement in the toes across the vamp. The action begins to soften the leather.

Heat the Leather Shoes with a Hair Dryer

Grab a hair dryer. Set it on a hot setting, but not the maximum.

Then, direct it at your leather shoe for a short time, typically 2-3 minutes. Don’t direct the blast of hot air on your shoe for longer than three minutes.

heat leather dress shoes with a hair dryer

Don’t have a dyer? That’s not a problem; you can try another heat source. A radiator, a warm, sunny spot in your home, or even next to your oven might be useful.

These methods won’t be as effective, but they may be somewhat helpful in starting the process.

Wear Shoes After Heating

Directly upon removing the heat, put the shoes on. Move around in them and walk around your house. If you can, be sure to go up and down some stairs for a range of movement.

wear the heated dress shoes around the house

Keep them on your feet for about ten minutes and move in as many ways as possible, creating the natural movements your feet make. Don’t remove your shoes until they have completely cooled.

Repeat Until Shoes Feel Comfortable

You probably won’t solve your shoe difficulties with just one treatment.

You might notice a slight difference, but you’ll likely need to repeat the process to ensure that all the molding works.

repeat the heating process

Don’t be fooled into thinking that using hotter air or directing the heat for longer will help your shoes take their new form more quickly.

The only different result is possibly doing permanent damage to your fine leather. Sometimes, you just need patience.

Other Things to Consider if These Methods Don’t Work

If, at first, you don’t succeed, then try something else?

If the above ways of breaking in your leather shoes don’t have the desired effect, it isn’t time to give up hope. What works for one shoe won’t always work for them all.

Take Shoes to a Repair Shop

You could make your shoes someone else’s problem. So, let an expert do all the hard work for you!

A professional will have a special machine in the shop that can gently stretch your shoe. They will first coat your shoe with a spray that makes the leather more agreeable to this movement, protecting it from too much pulling.

This can often be finished in only one day and is an affordable option.

Use Leather Lotion or Stretching Spray

You can try the shoe cobbler method at home without a professional machine. This will take longer but is less expensive, and you don’t even need to leave your house.

dress shoes and leather lotion

Follow the spray or lotion directions closely to ensure it’s compatible with your shoe’s leather. You might find that you need multiple applications, and you should manually stretch the shoes between each round of lotion or spray.

Then, instead of the machine, you can use your foot to ensure a proper molding of the leather.

Use Candle Wax to Rub Hot Spots

Pinpoint the areas on your shoes that are trouble spots. Then, rub a bit of candle wax or Vaseline only on those areas (on the shoe, not your foot).

rub dress shoes with candle wax

The lubrication will ease the shoe’s rubbing while your shoe gets broken in and the leather softens. This is more of a coping device to survive while your shoes naturally get broken in.

Bend the Shoe While Holding the Heel

Hold one shoe in your hands, with the toe in one hand and the heel in the other.

hold the heel with one hand and bend the shoe with the other

Bend the toe and heel up and down, giving the center of the shoe’s sole a good workout. Make sure you work gently and in small movements so you don’t crease the leather.

Put the shoe on right after you do this movement to help take advantage of the leather’s newfound suppleness.

Try to Break In with Shoe Stretcher

Investing in a wooden stretcher is an excellent idea, so you’ll have it for future use.

using shoe stretched to break in dress shoes

Insert the stretcher into your shoe and adjust it to give just the slightest push against the heel. Allow it to remain in position overnight.

Go very slowly with this process, working in tiny increments. You can always do more later if your shoe still needs it.

Break in Leather Shoes FAQs

How long does it take to break in my new leather shoes?

It depends on a few factors, mainly the method you use and how thick your shoe’s sole is. So you can bank on anywhere from one day up to a few weeks.

How to break in leather shoes quickly?

The two fastest ways would be using the heat method or taking it to a shoe repair shop. Both can theoretically be done in a day.

Are patent leather dress shoes different to break in?

You can break in your patent leather shoes using the same methods I’ve listed above. The only difference is that the plastic veneer may cause the process to take a little longer.

How to protect my feet against blisters?

Of course, the most essential method of protection is well-fitting shoes. After that, a pair of high-quality thick socks are also good protection.

What socks to wear with heated shoes?

Use heavy thermal socks when you are using heat to expand your shoes. They’ll help give a little extra push to make your shoes a bit larger.

Alexander Stoicoff

Author: Alexander Stoicoff

Hi, I’m Alex, and I’ve studied and specialized in styling in Rome. Through my writing, I want to help men dress well and learn the purpose and significance of suits and other formal attire. My final goal is to make men more confident in their wardrobe choice and life in general.