How Long Does Formal/Smart-Casual Leather Dress Shoes Take to Break In

You got a new good looking pair of leather dress shoes. 

For the first few wears, it is uncomfortable and gives you blisters. 

But somehow after a period of time, it magically becomes more comfortable. 

This is called the break in period. 

Let me explain more about this magical break in period. 
 

Why Does New Leather Shoes Feel uncomfortable

You can tell these shoes are stiff just by looking at it. 

You can tell these shoes are stiff just by looking at it. 

Dress shoes tend to be stiff to look dressier. Leather is stiff when it is new.

It is unlikely for leather to be "soft" when it is new. 

Especially for quality leather dress shoes. 

Stiff leather is uncomfortable because it is not flexible

This would give rise to the discomfort

As the stiff leather cuts into your feet or give blisters

Over time, the upper leather would mold to your feet and soften.

Your feet would make an impression on the leather sole, giving a more customized fit. 

Then your shoes are now broken in and comfortable. 
 

Factors That Determine the Break In Period

 

  1. Shoe Construction
  2. Upper Leather
  3. Material and thickness of sole

I will explain the break in process behind the different construction and factors

And give an estimated break in period in for the various construction
 

Rubber Soles/Cemented Shoes
 

Cemented shoes should have relatively no break in period. 

This is because they are likely to use a rubber sole. 

Rubber sole is more flexible and less stiff than leather

And with the cemented/glued construction not providing as much support, 

This means the shoes are not "resisting" your feet and should be comfortable right from the start. 

If it is not, don't buy it. 

However, cemented/rubber sole shoes lack true support which is what gives real comfort over time. 

Furthermore, the soles do not mold to your feet so the fit does not get better over time. 
 

Break in Period: Less than a week
 

Blake-Stitched Leather Shoes
 

Blake leather shoes are made with lightness and flexibility.

Yet possess more durability and support than the cemented construction. 

Two factors affect the break in period for Blake shoes
 

1.) Upper Leather

Quality full grain leather can be stiff at times.

This gives the shoes it's shape and look. 

In the beginning, there will be stiffness and possibly discomfort (likely for quality leather) 

But as Blake shoes are not overly rigid,

it should last about one to two weeks. 
 

2.) Thickness of Leather Sole

The thicker the leather sole, the stiffer it is. 

The stiffer it is, the more uncomfortable in the beginning. 

However, the thicker the leather soles, the more durable the shoes are. 

This becomes a trade off in comfort and durability. 

leather soles will always be stiffer than rubber soles. 

But it molds to your feet over time, providing a more customized fit 

And it provides more support. 

This increases the break in period. 
 

Overall Break in Period: 2 weeks

 

Goodyear Welted


This is the construction that most men are not familiar with. 

The nature of this construction are that it will always be incredibly stiff in the beginning. 

Goodyear welted shoes are

  • heavier and
     
  • less flexible than Blake and cemented shoes. 

This is because of the welting and the synthetic bonds used. 

Breaking into goodyear welted shoes require time and patience. 

So if this is your first time, it may get a little getting used to. 

I would advise having another pair to rotate to rest your feet. 

The first week might be slightly unbearable for people who are not used to this.

Blisters, sore arches or leather cutting into toes are normal.

It is not the brand or quality that is poor or anything. 

However, once you get past the 4 weeks period, you should not feel uncomfortable anymore. 
 

Break in period: 4 to 6 weeks

Like Blake shoes, this is dependent on the thickness of your soles and stiff of your upper leather

 

Remedies To Break In Your Shoes

 

I would recommend these remedies for goodyear welted shoes. 

As cemented or blake stitched shoes should break in relatively quick 

So just wearing them out should be good enough. 

Two main areas that is exceptionally stiff in shoes, 

  • The toe
     
  • the heel counter area
     

1.) The heel counter

Not dress shoes, but you get the point.

Not dress shoes, but you get the point.

  • Put the shoe in front of you (toe facing away) 
     
  • Bend the top of the heel leather downwards into the inside of the shoe
     
  • Give it a good 4-5 pushes
     
  • hold down 2-3 seconds for each push.

While this will cause a bit of creasing in the leather,

it is the surest way to soften up the heel stiffener
 

2.) The toe area

I would suggest bringing it to a cobbler to expand the width. 

Make sure to tell him which areas are painful

He would apply a leather softening cream and expand your shoes accordingly.

Estimated cost would be from $15 to 30. 

Alternatively, you can apply the softening cream yourself

And use a bigger shoe tree to stretch the shoes.  
 

Conclusion
 

Blaked stitched CustomMade shoes

Blaked stitched CustomMade shoes

I've tried cemented, blake stitched and goodyear welted shoes

Personally, cemented shoes lack the support and durability that i would like. 

And goodyear welted shoes for me is just too stiff and heavy.

Personally, breaking into them feels too much of a hassle and pain. 

That being said, goodyear welted shoes are very durable and they can last a long time.

To some, that one month of pain is worth it. 

My CustomMade shoes are blake-stitched. 

One of the reasons i decided to use the blake construction is because of the lightness and flexibility

Yet it possesses durability and support. 

This means minimal break in period. It is a balanced construction. 

If you're just a regular dude who just want a good looking and good fitting shoe

I would recommend Blake construction. 

 

Key Takeaway: All leather shoes need a break in period.

The length of the period depends on the upper leather, the soles and the construction of the shoe. 


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