The first thing to be aware of is that if the shoes hurt when you try them on in the store, do NOT buy them. While some mild discomfort will go away as the leather stretches and molds to your feet, actual pain likely will not.
My advice on breaking in a new pair of shoes is to do it in small increments. Put on the shoes, wear them around the house for a few hours a day or out on short excursions. As soon as they start to hurt, take them off and repeat the next day. If you leave them on too long and the new stiff leather gives you blisters, you’ll have to wait for them to heal before you’ll be able to continue comfortably breaking them in. A couple hours a day will keep your feet happy and before you know it, your perfectly broken-in shoes will make you even happier.
There are a ton of options out there to make your shoe-wearing experience even better. Mole skin and mole foam are wonderful products, especially as you break in a new pair and are available at any drug store. Cutting a piece of either to cover a spot on the inside of your shoe that rubs is a great way to make the most out of your shoes as they soften. If you are one of those people whose feet are in-between sizes or you have narrower heels, another good option out there is heel grips. It prevents your heel from sliding around in the shoes, thus eliminating another opportunity for discomfort.
Also remember that your local cobbler is an often under-used resource. If you find that your leather shoes are a little snug in the width, a shoe repair shop is able to stretch them for you. It won’t give you a miracle, but it will make a difference. You can also have them rubbered, which will increase the life of your sole (especially if you live in a city like New York where walking is a requirement), or have heel taps added.
I’ll have more tips on making shoes last in a future post, so stay tuned.