Even if you get perfectly fitting dress shoes, you’ll likely need to break them in. The easiest way to do this is simply wearing them often.
But this can take time and cause a considerable amount of discomfort. Thankfully, there are other faster ways to break in a pair of men’s dress shoes.
Why Do Shoes Need to Be Broken In?
You may have heard that you should never have to break in shoes if they are the right size for your feet. But, in reality, even the right sized shoes are not guaranteed to be completely free of any discomfort.
The shoes will feel great first. They’ll be snug and fit perfectly. But as you spend more time in them, they might start to feel uncomfortable, even painful, in specific areas of your feet like the heel or toes.
That’s not to mean you bought the wrong size. The shoes just need a bit more time to mould to your feet.
Of course, it is also possible that you bought shoes that are too big or too small. If you bought the wrong size, the discomfort will be more serious to the point that you develop bruises or sores.
Wrong sized shoes also feel uncomfortable right from the get go and the discomfort builds up more as you walk around in them.
Not all shoes need to be broken in. Sometimes you get lucky and buy shoes that fit every curve of your feet perfectly.
Certain types of shoes like sneakers are also flexible and easily mould to your feet.
Dress shoes are the ones that need breaking in most of the time. That’s because they are typically more rigid than other types of shoes, so they tend to rub against your feet.
In addition, new leather can feel quite stiff. It needs time to soften and adjust to your feet.
6 Ways To Break In Men’s Dress Shoes
There are two main ways to break in men’s dress shoes: slowly or quickly. If the shoes are not too uncomfortable, you can go for the slow option (first method below).
If you need to break them in quickly, choose options 2 to 5 below.
1. Wear Them Often
Wearing your new dress shoes often will soften and stretch them until they are no longer uncomfortable. How long it takes to break in the shoes depends on the exact material they are made of and how often you wear them.
If they are only slightly uncomfortable, you can wear them everyday. If they cause a lot of discomfort, wear them 2-3 times a week for just a few hours a day.
We recommend carrying an extra pair of already broken-in shoes to change into if the new ones become too uncomfortable. You can even wear the old shoes while walking and change into the new ones when you are seated. This will minimise the discomfort.
Other ways to reduce discomfort during the break-in period include using a band aid where the shoes rub against your feet and wearing extra thick socks to enjoy more cushioning.
2. Walk Around The House In Them
To break-in your dress shoes faster, wear them around your home. Granted, it will feel, and look, ridiculous cooking and taking out the trash in a pair of dress shoes.
But it helps and you don’t have to worry about being stuck in uncomfortable shoes while away from home.
You don’t need to wear the shoes all the time to break them in. Once they get too uncomfortable, take them off to give your feet a break. A few hours at a time is enough to break them in.
Tip: Wear thick socks to help expand the shoes quicker.
3. Stretch Them With Ice
Most dress shoes just need to be stretched a bit for them to feel comfortable. There are several ways to stretch or expand your dress shoes.
One of these involves ice. Half-fill a sandwich or freezer bag with water and seal it up. Place the bag of water where the dress shoes feel tight, which is usually in the toe area.
Place the shoes in the freezer until the water has frozen. Remove the bag of ice and test your shoes to see if they feel better.
This method works because water expands as it freezes. This stretches the shoe.
On the downside, there is a risk you could spill water inside your new dress shoes. If you have an expensive pair of leather dress shoes, try other methods before resorting to using ice.
4. Use A Shoe Stretcher
The safest way to stretch shoes is using a shoe stretcher. This is a device that you insert into the shoes to expand them.
Shoe stretchers will not let you fit into shoes a size smaller than your feet; that’s not what they are meant to do. They are ideal for shoes that feel a bit too snug.
They can also help if there are specific areas of the shoe that are rubbing your feet.
There are different kinds of shoe stretchers. There are those that stretch shoes lengthwise and others that expand the width of the shoes. Most can stretch your shoes both ways.
Some stretchers, like this one from Medipaq, come with shapers that can stretch specific problem areas in your shoe.
Make sure you use a shoe stretcher spray when using a shoe stretcher. The spray softens the natural fibres, making it easier for the leather to stretch.
You can also use a shoe stretcher spray on its own. Spray it on your shoes then wear and walk around in them. This will set the shoes in the new shape. But a shoe stretcher works faster and it’s more effective.
5. Use Heat to Soften and Stretch Them
Another quick way to break in men’s dress shoes is by heating them up. You have to be careful with this to avoid damaging your new shoes.
The best way to apply heat is using a blow dryer set on low. Apply heat all around the shoes until they feel a bit less stiff.
Next, put on the shoes and walk around in them. The soft leather will stretch slightly and mould to your feet.
You can also apply heat and then place shoe trees inside the shoes. Leave them overnight. By morning, the shoes should feel more comfortable.
If you don’t have shoe trees, placing wadded up newspaper inside the shoes also works.
Tip: If you are afraid of using heat on your leather dress shoes, there are a couple other ways to soften them. Apply rubbing alcohol or vaseline on the problem areas. These two substances will soften natural leather and make it more pliable.
Here’s a short video from ASOS on how to use various methods to break in dress shoes.
6. Buy High Quality Shoes
Cheap and low quality dress shoes will feel stiffer and cause more discomfort compared to high quality shoes.
With some high quality shoes, you may not even need to break them in at all. Some manufacturers are now using softer materials, additional cushioning and flexible soles to eliminate the need to break-in shoes.
Signs That Your New Shoes Don’t Fit
There’s a difference between shoes that need a break-in period and shoes that simply don’t fit. How do you know the difference?
Here are the signs that your new shoes are the wrong size. No amount of break in will make them comfortable.
- They feel very uncomfortable even when new. If you can’t spend more than a few minutes in them, they are the wrong size. Well fitting shoes will only rub or pinch your feet slightly, and this goes away after you break them in.
- The shoes are still uncomfortable even after days or weeks of wearing them. There are limits to how much shoes will mould to your feet. If they are too big or too small, they will hurt to wear even after the break-in period.
- No amount of stretching is helping. Remember that shoe stretchers don’t work magic. They will not make shoes a size bigger. They only expand the shoes slightly. If even after stretching the shoes hurt, they are not the right size for you.
- If the shoes cause blisters, numbness, bunions and other problems, you should probably get a new pair before you hurt your feet further.
The right pair of shoes should be snug enough to support your feet when you walk, but still have enough room for your toes and for your feet when they expand.