How to Make Your Shoes More Comfortable

Kaye Kennedy
Shoe-Related Foot Pain

According to the National Pain Report, the vast majority of people experience foot pain at some point in their lives. The culprit for most foot pain is shoes that fit poorly or that force the feet into unnatural shapes (think pointed-toe stilettos). In fact, ill-fitting shoes are a top cause of foot pain. Aside from carefully selecting the right shoe, there are some easy things you can do to your shoes to keep foot pain at bay.

Five Ways to Make Your Shoes Feel Better

1. Stretch Your Shoes

If your feet are rubbing against your shoes this could indicate that you need more width, length or both. However, sometimes going to the next larger size is not an option, as the next half size may be too large. In this case stretching the shoe may be a good solution.

John Goli of Quality Shoe Repair Las Vegas, NV has been in the shoe repair business for 40 years. He recommends using a good quality leather conditioner to stretch shoes. "Leather conditioner acts like a hand lotion on your shoes," says Goli. Use a cloth to rub the conditioner on both the outside and inside of the shoe. Then use your hands to stretch the shoe from the inside. After using the leather conditioner, wear the shoe and allow it to mold comfortably to your foot.

Goli warns against using commonly thought of solutions like alcohol. "Alcohol will stain or take the color off the shoe," he explains.

2. Using Shoe Inserts

Both podiatrists and those in the shoe repair industry - including Goli - will often recommend inserts to increase shoe comfort. There are a plethora of shoe inserts to choose from. Determining the best insert for your shoes depends on what hurts.

  • Achy feet: If your feet ache at the end of the day that's a good indication that your feet are tired and would benefit from some extra cushion. In this case a gel or memory foam insert may be the best remedy. They come in short and full length options. The shorter ones rest under the ball of the foot and are must-have for high heel shoes.
  • Heel pain: According to the Harvard Health, there are times when the tension put on your feet surpasses your actual body weight. This can result in pain in the heel or even the arch of the foot. If heel pain is your complaint, try a heel insert.
  • Arch problems: Roughly six percent of the population suffers from flat feet or fallen arches, according to GPMA. Goli recommends arch supports that adjust to your feet. "Orthotics are useful but they can cost up to $350. You can get a quality arch support for $20 to $30," says Goli. Even if you don't have flat feet you might consider adding arch support to your shoes. Doing so will protect your body alignment, add comfort and prevent injury.

If you're wondering which is better: gel or memory foam inserts, it's really a matter of personal preference. The gel inserts can be easily removed and used in another shoe. Memory foam inserts have a small piece of adhesive that holds them in place during wear. Once placed in a shoe it cannot be re-purposed to another shoe. Popular brands of inserts include Foot Pedals, Dr. Scholl's, Foot Smart, Birkenstock, and Pedag. Even Payless Shoe Source carries a line of shoe care. The cost for inserts range from as little as $3 to $60.

3. Wearing Socks

No-show socks, often referred to as skimmers, are a great way to add more comfort to your shoes. They are usually made of cotton or nylon. Not only do they add an extra layer of cushion to your shoes but they also keep your feet from sweating. This prevents moisture from forming in the shoe. Moisture in your shoes can cause slippage which can lead to blisters and calluses. Some no-show socks come with gel at the foot bed or heel, a feature that can prevent them from slipping while in use.

Unlike the name suggests, no-show socks will sometimes show. There are, however, many fashionable options in no-shocks such as lace, cool colors and fun prints. So, in the event that your no-show socks do peek through, at least they can be fashionable. If you really don't want your no-show socks to be seen, buy the nude colored ones.

When no-shows first hit the market they were sized like socks, with a general size range. So if you had a narrow or wide foot your no-shows may have slipped off. Many manufacturers are now offering small, medium, large and extra-large sizing in no-shows to improve the fit and help them stay on.

4. Adjusting Shoe Laces

The way you lace your shoes can make a world of difference in their comfort. Lacing them too tightly or incorrectly can make your feet hurt. Cramped toes, rubbing on the top of the foot, and pressure on the big toe can likely be alleviated if you lace your shoes differently.

For instance, using two sets of shoe laces so you can make the top of your shoe tighter than the bottom can relieve cramped toes. You can even find no tie laces that offer stretch fit comfort, add compression and prevent heel crushing like Lock Laces. These can be a great addition to your running or walking shoes.

5. Adjusting Closures

Straps and buckles are another potential sore spot when it comes to shoe comfort. Strappy strips are an easy and inexpensive way to mollify the painful irritation in the ankles and heels due to tight straps or buckles. These ultra thin, cushiony strips go virtually unnoticed and spare ankles and heels from friction and discomfort. They will also help to keep straps in place if they are too large. These nearly invisible strips can be used on flip flop straps that go in between the toe, as well. Trim them to create the perfect fit.

Choosing the Right Shoe

Of course, when it comes to shoe comfort, the most important thing you can do is to start off on the right foot. Buying the right shoe for your feet is the best way to prevent foot aches of any kind. Simple suggestions to help your selection include:

  • Shop for shoes in the afternoon: feet tend to swell during the day and you want your shoe to remain comfortable all day
  • Get your feet measured every time you shop for new shoes
  • Utilize the sales people: alert them to any foot problems you have and the type of work you do so that they can aid your search
  • Take your time during the try on phase: wear the type of hosiery you intend to use with the shoe, try on both shoes, and utilize straps and buckles
  • Try on different brands: different manufacturers may run smaller or larger so make no assumptions about your size
  • Look for brands that are not only known for their fashion but also for comfort.
  • Shop at stores that have a flexible return policy: even a thorough test drive in the store doesn't always indicate the best fit.
  • Don't rely on 'breaking in'. If a shoe hurts your feet when you try it on, chances are that it doesn't fit properly and will never feel good.

Foot Comfort

The average American takes a little over 5,000 steps a day. While that may be only half of what the health industry recommends, it's still enough to cause the dogs to bark. This is especially true if you happen to have a job that requires you to be on your feet all day. Help improve your comfort-level by taking steps to improve the comfort of your shoes.

How to Make Your Shoes More Comfortable