Q: I’m going to a number of weddings this summer and fall, and I’d be excited about all the dancing if I wasn’t dreading wearing new, un-broken-in brogues. Can I do anything to make them more comfortable so that they don’t tear my feet up? I’d like to avoid the cobbler if possible.
A: God, do I know this problem well. I’m not sure about your feet, but mine are wide and extra fussy about materials; at times, it’s felt like I’ve spent my life rotating through different shoe silhouettes while waiting for various blisters to heal. Luckily for the both of us, there are a number of DIY tricks to stretch and soften your shoes before all that dancing. For instance:
Make your own stretching solution.
Mix equal parts water and rubbing alcohol in a bowl, then transfer to a spray bottle. Dampen (don’t soak) the insides of your shoes with the solution, then wear them around the house until they dry. The water should dilute the alcohol enough to keep it from harming your shoes, though you may want to test it by applying a small amount of the solution with a cotton ball first. Your shoes will shape more closely to your foot with each solution application and wear.
Use heat to your advantage.
Grab a pair of thick socks (or two, if you can fit them), pull on your shoes, and blast your feet with a blowdryer. Then, as with the alcohol solution, walk around the house. Do the dishes! Organize your books! Pet your cat! The combination of the heat and pressure from the socks will help shape the shoe as you move.
In lieu of a blow dryer, use your freezer.
Alternatively, place two Ziplock bags filled with water in your shoes, then leave them in your freezer. As the water solidifies, the bags will expand to stretch your shoes.
Or, try some newspaper.
Or, if the idea of shoes in your freezer gives you the heebie jeebies, wet balls of crushed newspaper, wring out most of the excess moisture, and stuff your shoes as thoroughly as you can. Like the Ziplock bags, the drying newspaper will expand. Bonus: Break in enough pairs of shoes with this method, and you might just save print journalism.
Friction block sticks and blister prevention bandages are a godsend; several short-term wears rather than a few long-term ones can help to break your shoes in, without breaking your feet; and if all else fails, you could always hit the dance floor in some non-slip socks. Enjoy cutting a rug, or several!
If you have a fashion or beauty question you’d like answered, send it to nora [at] autostraddle [dot] com.