Dear Readers,

If you are reading this text, that means that you are on the old version of my blog. I have changed platforms and am now using Wordpress. You can find the updated version of my site at:


Justin, "The Shoe Snob"

Monday, July 16, 2012

Breaking In Shoes - Your First 30 Days

Double-Soled Alfred Sargent Boot - Long break in period....

When you think about buying shoes, most people probably think about getting the most comfortable thing that they can find, as when we are not sleeping, we are most likely on our feet. Now assuming that our feet were made for walking on earth (dirt, soil etc.), one would think that wearing stiff leather in comparison might not be the most sound idea, which is why rubber soled shoes can be so popular. But as leather has been found to be the best resource for a pair of well made, built to last dress shoes, it is something that we are stuck with using. However, the idea of stiff leather leaves many people around the world quite fearful of certain shoes, particularly goodyear welted ones, as they tend to be among the stiffest (at least in the beginning). Because of this, many people don’t know what to expect and therefore may deter from actually buying these shoes. Due to this, and the fact that I love to break stereotypes (in the footwear industry), I have decided to give you my thoughts on what to expect for the first 30 days of wearing your new shoes.

Glued Soles

On a glued sole shoe, there should really be no break in period. Most of the time, you find that rubber soles are used anyway on a shoe that has a glued sole, so the pairing between rubber sole and most likely a relatively soft leather (think the majority of Ferragamo’s loafers - as shown above) leaves for a virtually pain free experience. The shoe should feel good right away, and if it doesn’t, then don’t buy it.

Blake Stitched Soles

Whether or not your blake stitched shoes will have a break in period will greatly depend on several factors. First and foremost, thickness of the sole. Take Santoni’s Fatte A Mano range for example (as show above), which are all blake stitched. Some of them use very high quality leather that is quite substantial and therefore quite stiff. In the beginning you can expect there to be a bit of stiffness and possibly discomfort (in the sense that it won’t feel as flexible as your glued sole counterparts), but being that blake stitched construction is not intended to be overly rigid, this stiffness should not last long. Within one week, this stiffness should go away and in some extreme cases may last two weeks. On a blake stitched shoe with a very thin sole (think Italian summer loafer in suede), there should be virtually no break in period with the sole, but what you might find is that depending on the upper leather, there might be some period of softening up of the upper. As most of the blake stitched shoes with a thin sole tend to use a thin and flexible upper leather, this break in period should be within a day or two of wear. There are always exceptions to the rule but as a generalization, blake-stitched shoes should not ever take more than two weeks to become soft and flexible.

Goodyear Welted Soles

Alden - Picture Courtesy Of: Leather Soul

This is the construction that many people who are not familiar with, will struggle for their first time of experiencing it. Due to the nature of the construction, where there are multiple parts of leather stitched to each other in order to create a very strong and durable bond, the shoe will virtually always be stiff in the beginning and thus might cause discomfort for those not used to it. Therefore, allow me to break down the first 4 weeks of using them.

Week 1

Plain and simple: the shoe will be incredibly stiff. Now, depending on the upper leather used, this stage can be quite unbearable for some not used to it. You might find yourself with blisters on your heels, leather cutting into your toes, sore arches, or just flat out not enough cushion in your insole. All of these discomforts should go away, so don’t worry.

In some cases, depending on how you like your shoes to fit, the shoe might feel slightly too small due to its stiffness. However, a shoe’s leather will always stretch, but that is not to say that you should buy a shoe that feels tight, but more so if it is ‘snug’ then not to worry as from snug to normal, just involves a bit of wear and softening of the leather.

Week 2

Depending on the upper leather used, and the thickness of the sole, the shoe might still be stiff. But if it is, it should be significantly less. The heel counter should be considerably softer by now, not giving you more blisters, but maybe making the previous ones still hard to heal. If you have a cap toe, the toe stiffener might still be cutting into your toes as these sometimes take a while to break in. The sole should be a lot softer now, so your arches should start feeling like they are moulding to the insole, and therefore should not feel sore by any means.

Week 3

While the shoe won’t be completely broken in quite yet, it should start feeling a lot more like a normal soft shoe. All of the aches and pains should not occur anymore, and if they do, then something is not quite right. At this this point, home remedies in softening the leather up should be considered (I will explain these below).

Week 4

The shoe should feel good now, through and through. The insole should be moulded to your foot, almost as if you have a custom arch-bed inside. The leather everywhere should be considerably softer, but it will never feel like suede so do not expect that. You should not have any discomfort anymore. Now, the one exception is if you are wearing cordovan leather shoes. While I have never owned a pair myself, I do know that their break-in times are significantly longer, some even saying that they never really soften up completely.

Manually Softening The Leather

Breaking in the heel counter can be done two different ways. The first way involves putting the shoe in front of you (toe facing away) and with your palm, bending the top of the heel leather downwards into the inside of the shoe (similar to shown above, only that you should do it in the middle of the heel). While this will cause a bit of creasing in the leather, it is the surest way to soften up the heel stiffener inbetween the liner and upper leather. Give it a good 4-5 pushes and hold down 2-3 seconds for each push. The second way is to take the convex side of a spoon, and rub back and forth on the upper bit of the inside heel counter. Rub thoroughly (for at least 10 hard strokes), but be careful not to fray the stitching.

Softening up the toe piece and/or upper leather at forefoot joints, involves a rounded broom handle (or any object long enough to get inside of the shoe, that is stiff and has a round end). You will want to stick the broom inside of the shoe, where the leather is stiff, and rub intensely using the hand holding the shoe to guide where the end rubs on the inside. I hope that this makes sense….

Now if doing these things still does not do the trick or that your arches still aren’t feeling quite right, then more likely than not, you bought the wrong size. The shoe will most likely be too big and the friction from not having a taut hold will be causing heel blisters and will make your break point (where the shoe creases in the forefoot) sit in the wrong area, causing it to dig into your toes.

This post is a general guide to stiff goodyear welted shoes as well as blake stitched shoes with thick leather uppers and soles. Not all shoes will break in the same way. Some will be significantly less troublesome to break in (such as my Gaziano & Girling balmoral boots were) and others might never really fully break in (think cordorvan or bookbinder leather). It will vary shoe upon shoe, maker upon maker and leather used for each model. But just because a shoe is stiff doesn’t mean that it should be ruled as uncomfortable. Some of my most comfortable shoes started off really stiff, but once broken in, feel more supportive and comfortable than my softest shoes. Everything will vary, but allow this to give you a general idea of what to expect!

By the way, tomorrow morning I am heading to my factory to hopefully finalize my first set of prototypes to the first collection. This means that I won't have time to post so unfortunately you won't hear back from me until Thursday, hopefully with some good news and a better idea to the long anticipated launch of my shoe line!!

Ever-beautiful Edward Green - won't be on sale described below

On another note, I have something that should interest most of you in England, and maybe some of you in surrounding European countries:

Is this email not displaying correctly?
View it in your browser.

Pop-up Sale - Notting Hill

We are very excited to announce a pop-up sale we're holding this week in Notting Hill with Drake's of London.

Shoes will be selling at significant reductions - up to 80% off normal retail - better than the factory sale. There will be a wide variety of shoes on offer, as we clear good quality odd and imperfect stock.

Drake's will also be joining us with shirts, scarves and their beautiful Clerkenwell-made ties.

We'll be holding the sale in a lovely space just off Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill. Make sure to pay a visit - this really will be the sale of the year for London's sartorialists.

12 Needham Road, off Westbourne Grove, W11 2RP
Wednesday 18th to Sunday 22nd July
Week 12- 8pm | Saturday 10-7pm | Sunday 12-6pm

Maximum of five pairs per customer. Personal shoppers only.
No shoes can be sent out. Cards are welcome. No returns will be accepted. 


  1. What I'm wondering, Justin, is how often/long you're wearing the shoes in these weeks. I guess if you're "rotating" them once or twice a week this makes sense. Otherwise I'd say if you wore them a lot, normally a few days is enough to get them feeling like they're yours.

  2. Good question Alex, I was wondering the same thing. I wear my EG Malverns about 2X a month. I've owned them a year now, do you think they've even been broken in?

  3. By the way, thanks for the tip on the sale! Just so happens I have to hang around in London for a few hours Friday afternoon...I think I know where I'm going now!

  4. Alex B - Yes you are right...only that the stiffer the shoe (and the more the person is not used to this feeling) the more likely that the person will wear them only a few times a week, as they won't be able to bare the brute of a hard and fast break in

    Derrick - EG's leather is quite soft, so I guess that they have been alright? The sole is probably still stiff though as 2x a month is quite little...

    Alex B - ah you should come say hi Alex!


  5. found this post now, better late than never, but when you talk about breaking in a shoe, like in the first week how long should u wear the shoe for? like wearing it inside with minimal walking around or walking for like 20+min than wearing them all day.
    What would be a good timeframe to break in a stiff pair of goodyears

  6. Avi - breaking in a shoe needs to be done by wearing it normally, throughout the cannot break in a shoe at home as you simply don't do enough natural movement and walking at your house as you would in the street. Timeframe can be anywhere from a few hours to 2 weeks, it really just depends on the shoe and the wearer....


  7. Hi Justin, I'm a woman who purchased a pair of leather flats online. They arrived today and I'm not sure now whether I should return them or try to break them in. The reason is because the toe box feels too tight. My toes have enough room in the tip, but side-to-side it's tight.
    This article was pretty helpful on the process of breaking in men's leather shoes...but will it be worth it to break my flats in, or are they just too small?


    1. if a shoe is snug in the beginning then most likely it will break in to become just right...if a shoe is simply outright tight (uncomfortably), well then I must say that the chances of them getting to the point in which they are comfortable is unlikely....hope that this helps

    2. sorry for the delay in this, just realized how long ago your comment was, I must have accidentally overlooked sorry!

  8. Justin, have you a view as to how best prolong the life of leather soles.
    I appreciate impact of wearing in the wet etc, but is there an oil or product which can be applied which would help extend their use.

    1. you can wax polish them just like you would your uppers...the wax will help to seal them to protect the from water etc....

    2. Justin, would this also apply for suede shoes, which I understand stretch more than calf leather ones?

    3. you can spray suede shoes too, but I am not convinced that a heavy rain day is going to protect them in a different way.....but that is just me being a cynic....maybe there are stronger industrial products that work, but I am not so convinced by the over the counter ones...

  9. This is a very interesting post. I think that most people have a lot of trouble buying shoes that fit. After reading blogs like yours and that of Simon Crompton I really wanted to buy good quality shoes (I bought C&J Edgware's in the end) but I was really stressed when I had to decide about the size. For me buying shoes like that is really an investment. If the shoes would be too small or way too big I'd feel miserable about it.

    When you know what to expect when you first wear shoes it is easier to make a good choice. For example, I used to buy almost all my shoes a size to small because I tought that your foot should be very snug when you first try shoes on in the shop. Now I've read that it is important to give your heel and toes enough space. You can get blisters from the heel slip at first but that's because the leather is too sturdy in the beginning (like explained in this post. I really felt relieved when I read this post because I did had heel blisters at first and I thought I've bought shoes that were too big).

    The first day that I wore my Edgware's I got blisters on my heel. After three wears the blisters on my heels are gone. Now the shoes still hurt a little on the outside of my little toe but I'm confident that it will go away as well. I'm still not 100% sure if I didn't buy a half size too big, I guess I'll only know for sure when they are fully broken in (only then I'll know if they are 100% comfortable).

    So I still have a little stress about the fit of my 460£ C&J's (with shoe tress included) but I think/hope they will be just fine.

    What I found strange was that when I bought my C&J's in their Brussels store (Belgium) I didn't get a lot of help of the salesmen with finding the right size. They didn't even measure my foot. I bought a 7,5E at first but went back to change them for a 8E the next day.

    What I actually wanted to say (this post is getting a bit long) was that I really appreciate blogposts regarding the fit of a shoe, what to look out for when buying new shoes and what to expect the first days after buying new shoes. Like I've said, I think a lot of people buy shoes that don't fit comfortably because they look out for the wrong things.

    Kind regards


    1. Dear Arthur, thanks for sharing my friend....the thing is in reality is that fit is very very subjective. Some people like it tight, others like them loose, some want them to fit perfectly and others want combinations of it all....what is important is that you feel comfortable in the way that you like shoes to fit. If you feel comfortable, who is really to tell you that it does not feel right. I like a snug fitting shoe as I know that the leather is going to break in, but many other people want the shoe to feel as if it is floating on them....for me, I am right, but how can you convince someone else that they are wrong if they feel comfortable in the way that they wear their shoes?? Anyway, glad that you enjoyed the post....



Related Posts with Thumbnails