Dress shoes look stylish and professional. But this can often be at the expense of comfort, unfortunately.
However, there are ways to change that. We’ve compiled 13 tips to make dress shoes more comfortable so you can wear them all day without pain.
Why Are Some Dress Shoes Uncomfortable?
Dress shoes are designed for fashion rather than comfort.
The materials they’re made from also contribute to their discomfort. They’re rigid and inflexible, so your feet can’t move through their natural range of motion.
They often also have leather midsoles, which may be supportive but usually offer less cushioning than foam.
Tips to Make Dress Shoes More Comfortable
1. Proper Fit When Buying
Make sure that you buy the correct size from the beginning. If the shoe you buy is too big, there will be extra space, and the shoe may be too loose for you to walk comfortably.
If you buy a shoe that’s too small, it will chafe and may lead to blisters and hot spots every time you wear them.
As tempting as it may be, do not buy shoes if they are the wrong size, no matter how much you love them!
When you go shopping for shoes, it’s best to go in the afternoon when your feet are slightly swollen and will fit better.
2. Shoe Stretcher
If you happen to have shoes that are too small for you, you can take them to a cobbler and to stretch the shoes for you.
Alternatively, you can buy a shoe stretcher like the FootFitter Premium Professional 2-Way Shoe Stretcher. You can use this at home to stretch your shoes on your own.
Investing in a shoe stretcher may be a good idea if you have multiple pairs of shoes that are too small.
This shoe stretcher also comes with various small steel pieces that you can place in strategic positions on the wooden shoe stretcher to widen the shoe in specific places.
So if there’s a particular spot hurting you on your shoe, you can stretch just that bit to give you relief.
3. Add Insoles
If your shoe has inadequate cushioning or doesn’t support your arch, it could be uncomfortable.
Adding a dress shoe insole is a quick and easy way to fix the problem, provided you know that the cushioning or arch support is the problem.
Make sure you choose an insole that works for your foot. For example, you will need an insole with strong arch support for overpronators if you overpronate.
This is also the ideal solution if there’s too much space between the top of your foot and upper of the shoe.
4. Use Heel Grips
If your heel constantly chafes against the back of your shoe, using a heel grip or heel pads can prevent that from happening.
The Makryn Premium Heel Pads are an excellent example of comfortable heel pads. They usually come in a pack, so you have enough for a few pairs of shoes.
If your shoe is too big for you and has extra space behind the heel, this is a great solution to fill the extra space and create a better fit.
5. Wear Quality Socks
Although choosing the right shoes is important, your socks can also make an enormous difference to your foot comfort.
If you are wearing dress shoes that you can wear socks with, then make sure you choose a high-quality, moisture-wicking pair of socks that will act as a barrier between your foot and the upper of the shoe.
Try to find a pair of socks that has some cushioning underneath the foot for extra comfort.
However, if you are wearing high heels, you can still try a pair of secret socks, which may help to prevent chafing and make dress shoes more comfortable.
6. Silicone Strips
If your dress shoes are uncomfortable because the upper bites into the top of your foot, you can use silicone strips or pads to reduce the chafing and pressure.
Lay the strip or pad across the top of your foot when you put your foot into the shoe. The strip should sit between your foot and the upper, reducing pressure of the seam on your foot.
7. Leather Conditioners
If the stiffness of leather shoes is causing your discomfort, you should try using a leather conditioner rather than leather polish.
Conditioning the leather instead of polishing it will help it to soften over time. This could help the leather mold your foot better and increase the range of motion.
8. Arch Support
If the shoes you’re wearing don’t adequately support your arch, you will feel discomfort, pressure, and pain in your feet.
The best way to add arch support to your shoe is to add an insole that gives you the right amount of support. In some cases, you can buy arch lifts that are different from full insoles.
9. Heel Lift
If your ankles chafe against the leather heel collar, you can try adding heel lifts to your shoe to lift your foot slightly and take pressure off the painful area.
You can try an adjustable heel lift like the Powerstep Adjustable Heel Lift Cushion, which offers an additional ⅜-inch of height to remove your ankle from the chafing spot.
It has three layers, so if the full height is too high, then you can opt for ¼-inch or ⅛-inch instead.
This is also an excellent idea if you find that your heels are painful after wearing dress shoes due to the heel’s lack of cushioning and shock absorption.
10. Use A Hairdryer
If your shoe is the correct length but a bit tight around the midfoot, you can try using a hairdryer to heat the shoes so they expand a little bit.
Put your shoes on while wearing thick socks, so they feel tight. Heat them with the hairdryer for about 15 to 20 minutes when the shoes are on your feet.
Once the time is up, continue to wear the shoes as the leather cools down and it should mold to your foot.
Do this a few times over a few days until the shoes feel more comfortable on your feet.
11. Ziploc Bags and Water
Another way you can stretch your shoes is by placing Ziploc bags into them half-filled with water and then putting the shoes into the freezer.
As the water freezes, it expands and will stretch the shoe’s upper out. Make sure you push the bag with water right into the shoe so it doesn’t just pop out the shoe when it expands.
You may have to do one shoe at a time if you have a small freezer. It might also be good to place your shoes in a plastic bag before putting them in the freezer so that no dirt gets on your frozen food.
12. Shoe-Stretching Serum
You can create your own shoe-stretching serum by combining equal parts water and rubbing alcohol.
You should test it out on a small section of your shoe or on a similar material first to make sure it doesn’t stain before using it on the whole shoe.
Once it’s mixed, pour it into a spray bottle. With your shoes on your feet, spray it generously over your shoes until the shoes are damp.
Keep the shoes on until the spray has dried and then use a leather conditioner to soften up the leather.
You may have to do this more than once to get the desired result.
13. Break-in Your Shoes
Sometimes all that’s needed for your shoes to be comfortable is for you to break them in. If you’ve recently got a new pair of uncomfortable shoes, it may be because you need to break them in first.
Start by wearing them for just a few hours around the house, where you can take them off if they get painful.
Take note of any hotspots of areas that chafe and put pressure on your feet. Fix this upfront by placing soft moleskin patches on places where your skin rubs.
After a few days, you should start to wear the shoes for more extended periods. You might wear them to the store or to run errands or visit a friend.
They should start to mold to the shape of your foot by this time and begin offering support in the right places. It can take a few weeks to break shoes in, so just be patient!