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I just bought some new leather boots for fall, but I wore them for a day and they gave me major blisters. Is there a way to expedite the breaking-in process? — Kat, San Francisco
Leather boots are a little like cats: They make you work for their love. As you've experienced firsthand, wearing them right out of the box can be a painful experience. Since you're probably still wearing your summer shoes, now is the perfect time to start breaking in your new boots. In this scenario, slow and steady wins the race.
Depending on how soon you want to wear your shoes, there are a few routes you can take.
If you have 2-3 weeks:
Some women say they like doing housework in heels to give their calves some exercise, and the same thing goes for loosening up stiff leather. Whenever you're hanging out at home, put on your new shoes with thick socks — the minimal walking won't give you sore feet or cause blisters, but it will help mold them to your feet.
If you have 1 week:
If you don't quite have enough time for the gradual stretching approach, you can speed things up with the well-known freezer trick. For this, you fill two plastic gallon bags halfway with water and zip them tight, squeezing out all the extra air and then placing those inside your shoes; the boots then go in the freezer overnight. The concept here is that water expands as it turns to ice, which helps stretch the leather out a bit. To ward against any potential water damage, it's a good idea to double bag the water.
If you'd rather leave the stretching to the professionals, you can always take your boots to your local cobbler to loosen them up. More expensive, but probably a safer bet if your boots, too, were more expensive.
If you want to wear them tomorrow:
If you just can't wait to get those babies out in the world, your main priority is guarding against blisters. In this case, you're going to want to make like a hiker and invest in two layers of socks, which cuts down on friction. Synthetic is preferable to cotton, since it wicks away moisture. To pre-empt blisters, you can also stick moleskin blister dressings to the areas of your foot that are most susceptible to rub. That's going to vary for every pair of shoes, so test them out at home to see which spots hit most uncomfortably against your shoe.
Those are just a few ways of going about it. What are your tricks for getting your new boots pavement ready?