Uncomfortable shoes don’t have to be a fact of life. They can be easily fixed — or prevented in the first place.
“One of the things I see the most is people are wearing their shoes too long and there’s no support left in the shoe,” says Dr. Michele Colon, a California podiatrist and co-founder of 34 Minutes Shoes — which specializes in comfortable and fashionable shoes for women. Dr. Colon also advises you to make sure you aren’t buying shoes that don’t fit you right. “A lot of women try to squeeze into a smaller size,” she says. “And sometimes a lot of our older patients buy shoes that are too big because they think it’ll be more comfortable.” Both are recipes for shoe disasters.
So what can you do to make shoes more comfortable? The secret is kind of a mix of an ounce of prevention and a pound of cure. Here are some possible solutions.
1. Measure your feet before you buy
“Have your feet measured once a year when you go buy your shoes,” says Colon. “Your feet don’t grow but they do get wider and spread out over time — especially women who’ve had children or as we’re getting older.
2. Going shoe shopping? Do it at the end of the day
“Your feet tend to swell as the day goes on,” says Dr. Colon. So schedule your shoe shopping excursions for the end of the day. “That’s a really good way to make sure you’re getting the right size,” Dr. Colon says.
Getting yourself some insoles are one of the easiest things you can do to instantly make your shoes more comfortable. “Depending on the shoe, a lot of people need to put an insert into the shoe, like an arch support or some kind of an orthotic,” says Dr. Colon.
4. Heel grips
Adhesive heel grips that you stick on the back of your shoe can help reduce that blister-causing friction. “I’ve used them in the past,” says Dr. Colon.
5. Use shoe expanders
A wooden shoe expander can help stretch out too-tight shoes. But, again, before you go on a shoe expanding binge, make sure you have the right size. “Usually if your shoes are too tight in the very beginning, it’s probably they’re a half a size too small,” sats Dr. Colon.
6. Clear deodorant
Another way to prevent blisters: rub clear deodorant onto the heel of the shoe to reduce the friction with your foot as you walk. Baby powder or petroleum jelly also works.
7. Sandpaper the bottom of your shoe
The smooth, pristine soles of new shoes really do look amazing. Unfortunately, they’re also incredibly slick and can lead to slips and falls, especially if you’re walking on a slick floor. As hard as it may be to intentionally scuff up your new shoes, rough up those slick soles with sandpaper to improve their grip on the ground.
8. Plastic Wrap
Dr. Colon recounts another shoe-stretching technique she learned from a colleague in a shoe factory. “They would wrap their foot with Saran Wrap and slide their foot into the shoe that way,” she says. They would then walk around in it for a while to stretch out the shoe. Not that Dr. Colon vouches for it. “I’ve personally never tried it,” she says.
9. Taping your toes together
Some fashion publications suggest reducing shoe pain by taping together your third and fourth toes to reduce the pressure on a particular nerve that tends to get squeezed by high heels. But be warned: Dr. Colon is skeptical of this technique. “I wouldn’t recommend it because it would cut off the circulation in your toes if you did it too tight,” she says.
Have some leather shoes that could use a bit of loosening up? Mademan.com recommends putting a solution of half rubbing alcohol and half water into a spray bottle and squirting it in the inside of your shoe. Once the shoe’s sufficiently treated, put on some thick socks and walk around in the shoes for a few hours. If you have sensitive skin, you can just stuff the socks right in the shoes and leave them there.
11. Another sock solution
This one doesn’t require alcohol. Take some thick socks and blow-dry them for two minutes. Afterwards, put on the socks and walk around the shoes for a few, allowing the heat from the socks to stretch out the leather.
12. Freeze your shoes?
Take two small plastic sandwich bags, fill them with water, and place them in the toes of your shoes. Then put the shoes in the freezer overnight: as the water in the plastic bags expands, so will your shoe.