It's one of life's biggest paradoxes; how can something so beautiful be the cause of so much physical pain?! It's not like we're talking about a luxury item here. A girl NEEDS shoes. But women have been sacrificing comfort in the name of beauty for centuries, so we don't expect anything to change in that area any time soon. So, in a bid to roll with the punches, we've come to realize that the only way we can survive this harsh shoe-reality is to break those bad boys in before they get a chance to break you down. Here, 10 hacks that will save you from aching ankles, blistered toes and fed-up feet.
1. Shop right
First thing's first: If you're going to go shoe shopping, go in the afternoon. Your feet can swell by up to half a size bigger as the day goes on, so you'll be getting a better idea of how they'll really feel by trying on shoes when your feet are at their biggest.
2. Slippery when new
Sure having a shiny, new shoe is great, but it can also be a little bit of a hazard. The soles on some shoes (especially high heels) can be super slippery before they've been worn down a bit, which can result in you clawing your feet in order to avoid a fall. This is the fastest way to make those arches ache. We would suggest either taking to it with a bit of sandpaper to create traction, or get them resoled with a thin rubber layer at your local cobbler. The latter idea will also protect your leather soles from wearing down and we would recommend getting any pair of expensive shoes resoled before you even think about wearing them.
3. Take it slow!
Your new shoes aren't going anywhere, so be prepared to take your time with breaking them in. Trying to wear them in by getting around in them all day and pushing through the pain is not going to hasten the process, and your feet will just end up blistered all over. Instead, wear them in short spurts and as soon as they start hurting, take them off. A great way to do this is by having them under your desk at work. You can switch into them whenever you need to get up and go to the bathroom or into a meeting, and swap them for your flats when you're back at your desk.
4. Moisture helps
If you're at home, spray some rubbing alcohol mixed with water on the inside of your new leather shoes. Throw on a pair of thick socks and slide your feet in for about 20 minutes. The moisture of the rubbing alcohol and the thickness of the socks combined will not only soften the leather, but it will help it mould to your feet. Repeat this a few times for maximum results.
5. Turn up the heat
Speaking of socks, you can also try putting on a thick pair (or a couple, if you like) and sliding them into your shoes. Then, grab a hairdryer and quickly blow some hot air on to the places that are really tight (usually around the toes). The heat will help soften the leather whilst the socks will stretch it out.
6. Frozen in size
One of the most genius hacks we've ever heard is to fill two freezer bags with water and insert them into your shoes. Throw your shoes into the freezer and as the water starts to freeze it will expand, thus stretching out your shoes! Just don't forget to take them out of the freezer before someone thinks it's the new ~trendy~ diet.
7. Prepare yourself
If you MUST wear your shoes before they are fully broken in, prepare your feet well. Try putting roll-on deodorant, baby powder, or petroleum jelly on your heels and sides of your feet. It will act as a barrier between your shoes and your skin, preventing friction which causes blisters.
8. Two become one
If you're wearing closed-in heels, tape your third and fourth toes together with medical tape or even a Band-Aid (that's your middle toe and the one next to your pinky). This keeps the muscles in your feet perfectly aligned, meaning the balls of your feet won't get sore as fast.
9. Have back-up on hand
Make sure you always have proper blister Band-Aids in your bag. You just never know when that skin is going to crack! Regular Band-Aids seldom work, as they tend to just come off as the shoe continues to rub, but if you get a proper gel style one you will not only ease the pain of your blister but also prevent further rubbing.
10. Recovery is key
If all else fails, have a foot bath ready for your feet to fall into as soon as you get home. We love the idea of using tea bags and essential oils to nurse your poor, but extremely resilient, feet back to health. Black tea is fine, but you can also try peppermint for soothing and chamomile for calming. You can create your own soak by making 3 to 5 strong cups of tea and adding them to enough water to soak your feet. A drop of lavender oil and you'll be regretting that you ever cursed those gorgeous stilettos.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com.au. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.