If some kind of comprehensive list of women's wardrobe complaints exists out there somewhere, I'm willing to bet "the cutest shoes are also the least comfortable" comes in a real close second behind "restrictive undergarments." But isn't that always the case? We try on the most covetable heels, wedges, and strappy sandals in the stores, they look great and feel…OK, and then we wear them for real and end up going through half a box of Band Aids by the day's end. Ouch!
Even if the ancient Chinese technique of foot binding isn't in our collective futures, we still have some recourse against pinchy, too-tight —but otherwise utterly fab—footwear. With the right tools and a little patience, we can strut in the most gorgeous shoes and make it look (and feel) like we're floating on air.
Of course, choosing the right footwear to begin with can make all the difference. Make sure you shoe shop at the end of the day, when your feet are at their largest, and test out your footwear of choice on a variety of surfaces—not just carpet—if at all possible.
If you still get the shoes home and find they're not what you bargained for, it's time to break out the shoe stretchers. Always keep a bottle of shoe stretch spray on hand; it makes your shoes supple and ripe for stretching. The spray works best on materials like suede and leather that have more natural give, so don't expect instant success on vinyl or other synthetic shoes. Once you've primed your shoes with spray, use a shoe stretcher (fair warning: some of these look like scary tools you'd see at the gyno). Women's stretchers ($30, including spray) are sized according to shoe size and heel height. Stretchers can adjust length and width, plus give more room and relief to pressure points on the tops and sides of the feet.
If it's your stilettos that need breaking in, use a specially arched high heel stretcher ($19) to get the job done.
Most shoe stretchers work the same way: insert them into your shoes, twist the handle until the stretcher is the same width and length of the shoe, then turn up to two more times (although we recommend taking it a little bit at a time, so you don't overstretch). Then, leave the stretcher in for at least 12 hours, and voila! Comfy, cute shoes with a minimal breaking-in period. Remember, shoe stretchers can't work miracles—if those last-pair pumps on the bargain rack were a size 7 and you wear a size 9, no amount of stretching is going to make the shoe fit (sorry, Cinderella!) But they can ease your heel-wearing pain significantly and bump your great shoes = great pain gripe off that complaint list completely.
And click here for ways to make your feet summer sandal-worthy .