Have you ever found the perfect pair of shoes and worn them for a day only to end up with a red, raw Achilles? If that’s happened to you, you might feel as though nothing you try fixes it. Adhesive bandages never seem to stay put. The shoes may continue to rub even if you wear socks.
Here are some tricks for preventing your shoes from rubbing the back of your ankle. Please note that you might need to use a distinct technique with different pairs of shoes. One size does not fit all when it comes to finding methods for stopping your shoes from rubbing your Achilles.
What Happens When Shoes Rub Your Ankles?
When your shoes have stiff backs, they aren’t always comfortable. That part of the footwear may not be flexible enough to support your movement. Therefore, as your feet and ankles move, they rub against the shoe. That movement can lead to several foot problems.
Friction blisters are soft bubbles of skin that form when you expose an area to continuous pressure or chafing. These kinds of blisters are common on the feet. They may happen at the toes or heel of ill-fitting shoes, but they can occur anywhere.
Clear fluid accumulates inside of the outermost layer of a friction blister. A blister might hurt when you touch it. They usually drain by themselves. However, if your shoes continue to rub the same area, you might develop a chronic blister. The blister can eventually harden into a callus.
Achilles tendonitis usually happens when you overwork the tendon. The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bone at the back of the leg. When that tissue becomes inflamed, it can cause tightness and pain at the rear of the ankle.
You can’t cause Achilles tendonitis by wearing shoes that rub your ankles. However, if your footwear is tight in that spot, it won’t feel good. You should wear shoes that fit properly and provide adequate ankle support to avoid this condition.
Achilles bursitis is another inflammatory condition that can affect the tissue in the back of the ankle. It’s also caused by overuse. However, it’s different than Achilles tendonitis. Bursitis happens when the bursa, a small pocket of fluid that sits between the bone and the tendon, becomes inflamed. Wearing shoes that rub the area may be extremely painful.
Protect Your Skin
Once you have a raw spot or blister, you probably won’t be able to wear your shoes comfortably until it heals. Therefore, you should take preventative measures to safeguard your skin before it becomes wounded.
If the heels of your shoes feel tight or stiff, try applying moleskin to your heels before you put on your footwear for the day. Moleskin is a durable fabric that has adhesive on one side. You can cut it to adapt to the exact size that you need. Your shoes will rub on the material instead of your skin, preventing you from getting sores or blisters.
You can also try sticking the moleskin to the shoe instead of your heel. To do this, grab your moleskin, shoe, and a pen or pencil. Place a large piece of moleskin inside the shoe. Trace the area that you’ll need to cover.
Then, cut the moleskin to the appropriate shape. You’d rather cut the moleskin larger than you need it to be than make it too small. You can always readjust it or cut a new piece if you don’t get it right the first time.
Clean off the inside of the shoe with a dry towel to remove dust or debris. The moleskin will cling to a clean shoe better than a dirty one. Peel off the moleskin backing. Then, stick it to the inside of your shoe.
You may not need to use the moleskin forever. Your shoes should eventually break in enough that they won’t rub on your heel.
Use an Anti-Friction Balm
You can find balms and sticks that coat your heels with a lubricant that protects against friction. These products are typically made with ingredients that create a buffer between the shoe and your heel.
Some are designed to reduce chafing anywhere on the body. Others are meant for the feet.
An anti-friction balm that is designed for this purpose will probably work better than a general anti-friction balm. If the shoes are especially tight or move around when you walk, though, they might rub the balm off, forcing you to reapply frequently.
You can use a balm on your skin in conjunction with a protective moleskin barrier on your shoe. Just don’t try to apply moleskin to your heel if you have the balm on. If you have lotions or similar products on your skin, adhesives won’t stick.
You might put deodorant on your armpits every day, but did you know that the product could help prevent blisters? Keeping your feet dry is one way to avoid unnecessary friction and irritation.
If you don’t have anti-friction balm, try applying deodorant to the backs of your ankles before slipping on your shoes. You might have to test out a few different products before you find one that works. A powdery deodorant is probably better than a sticky gel.
Brands such as Band-Aid make bandages that are designed for this purpose. The cushioning on heel bandages gives your feet some relief if your shoes are stiff and press against the skin. They are also waterproof, which means that they’ll stay on sweaty feet.
If you do use a heel bandage, you might want to slip a pair of thin socks over them. Doing this will prevent the edge of the bandage from catching on the rim of the shoe and slipping off.
Make Sure That Your Shoes Fit
Ill-fitting shoes can quickly lead to blisters. If your shoes are too tight, your feet are less likely to move around. Therefore, you’ll reduce friction. However, the backs of snug shoes can dig into your heels, creating indentations that can eventually break the skin.
On the other hand, you don’t want your shoes to be too loose. If your heel pops in and out of your shoe when you walk, it’s bound to rub the skin. Even a slight movement can cause irritation.
There are several ways to customize the fit of your shoes. Adding insoles is often the first step. Insoles raise your foot slightly. You might shift your foot enough that the shoe doesn’t rub on the same part of your heel as it used to.
This can provide you with some relief if you already have a blister or sore spot. It can also make your shoes fit better, reducing friction down the road.
It’s hard to find the perfect insoles for some types of shoes, such as heels. However, manufacturers create many products to tailor the fit of your footwear.
You can add toe pads to the front of the shoe, which will create a tighter fit at the back. When your foot is secure in the shoe, it’s less likely to move around.
Heel pads are also a great option for adding cushioning to the rear of your footwear. These come in several colors and styles. They can make it feel like you’re walking on pillows instead of being rubbed by sandpaper with every step.
The best way to find shoes that fit well is to consult with a professional. Many shoe stores offer fittings. The representatives that work there will measure your feet so that you know what types and sizes of shoes are right for you.
When you try your shoes on, walk around in them. Have a professional assess your gait and the fit. Someone who is trained to evaluate a proper fit may be able to point out potential problems so that you don’t end up with surprises after you bring the shoes home.
How to Break in the Heel of a Shoe
Sometimes, shoes that fit correctly can still rub at your Achilles. They may just need to be broken in and softened so that they move with you instead of against you.
Leather and suede soften more easily than synthetic materials. A leather conditioner activates the natural oils within the leather. Those work to add moisture and soften the material.
Here’s one method of softening the heels of new leather shoes:
- Run some newspaper sheets underwater.
- Squeeze them out until they’re damp.
- Ball up the newspaper and stuff it inside the shoes.
- Leave the newspaper in for 24 hours or until it’s dry.
The newspaper and moisture will stretch out the shoe and soften the leather. After you have taken the steps above, apply a leather conditioner or petroleum jelly to the inside and outside of the heel. Doing this will soften the material. It will also prevent the leather from cracking and becoming stiff. You can use a leather conditioner whether your shoes are old or new.
If you’re using a leather conditioner, rub a generous amount on the shoe until the leather absorbs it. Use your fingers to massage it in. Then, wipe off any excess with a soft cloth. Be aware that the product may change the color of the shoe. You might want to apply it to the entire shoe so that you don’t have errant dark spots or marks.
You can also use soap to soften the leather. Take a soft bar of soap and rub it inside the rim of the heel. Massage it in. Do this every time you wear the shoes. After a few applications, the leather should be more comfortable against your skin.
Stretch the Shoes
You don’t always need to stretch out the shoes to break them in. If you stretch them out too much, they may become so loose that your foot moves around inside of them.
However, some stretch can soften the shoe. Try wearing the footwear with a pair of thick socks for a few days. Don’t just sit around in them; go for walks. Move your feet.
Sometimes, you don’t have too much time to break in new shoes, though. Perhaps you bought a pair of shoes at the last minute and need to wear them for a special event. Here are some steps that you can take:
- Put on thick socks.
- Aim a hairdryer on the hot setting all over the shoe to warm and soften it.
- Slide the shoe on your foot.
- Do the same thing with the other shoe.
- Walk around until the shoe has cooled.
You may have to repeat these steps a few times until the shoes are comfortable. They’ll mold to your foot so that you can dance all night.
Wooden inserts can also help you stretch your shoes. You can heat up the footwear with a hairdryer before putting the insert inside. The shoe will retain the stretched shape after it cools.
One other method of stretching your shoes involves filling them with bags of ice. Begin by filling zippered sandwich bags with water. Make sure that the bags are large enough to put pressure on the shoe as they expand.
Seal the bags, squeezing out any excess air, and ensuring that the bags are locked tightly. Then, place a bag in each shoe. Put the shoes, with the water-filled bags inside of them, into a larger zipper-seal bag. Doing this will prevent them from absorbing excess moisture.
Then, place them in the freezer. The water will freeze, adjusting to the natural contours of the shoes. The frozen bags will stretch out the shoes so that they’re more comfortable on your feet.
When you remove the shoes from the freezer, you might have to wait until the bags thaw out a bit before you can take them out. Once the shoes have warmed up, try them on. Repeat the process if they still rub your Achilles.
The method described above is ideal for fabric shoes. You might not want to freeze satin or suede shoes, though. Those are more susceptible to moisture damage.
How to Break in the Heel of a Boot
Even though boots don’t have a rim around the heel, they can rub uncomfortably on your feet, creating friction spots and blisters. If the leather is stiff, boots can crease. Those creases can dig into your heels, feet, and ankles.
Breaking in new boots can take some time. You might not want to wear them all day at first. If you leave the house in them, bring a backup pair of shoes to change into later.
Your feet will swell during the day, making the boots more uncomfortable. If you continue to walk in them with swollen feet, you increase the risk of feeling pain.
To soften them quickly, try mashing the heel of the boot with your hands and feet. You might be afraid that doing this will ruin your shoes. However, they’ll take the right shape when you step into them again, and the leather at the back of the boot should be softer.
Wear the Right Socks
If you need to wear socks with your shoes, make sure that you’re wearing the appropriate kind. Loose, itchy socks will cause unnecessary rubbing. Consider purchasing tight socks that are designed for hiking or sports. They’ll wick away moisture and reduce your risk of getting blisters.
Look for socks with extra heel padding. The cushion may be all that you need to make your feet feel good.
Sweaty feet are often a recipe for blisters. If you have a problem with moisture on your feet, do everything that you can to minimize sweat. Sprinkling cornstarch or talcum powder into your shoes and socks can dry them out.
What Should You Not Do to Stop Shoes From Rubbing Achilles?
If you’ve been researching how to stop your shoes from hurting you, you might come across some unique methods of breaking them in or stretching them out. Some techniques can make the situation worse.
Don’t use alcohol on your shoes. It will dry out the leather, making it stiffer. Alcohol can also discolor your shoes.
You should probably avoid hitting the heels of your shoes with a hammer too. While massaging them can make them more pliable, you’ll damage them if you’re too rough.
Finally, don’t be tempted to have someone with larger feet than you break in your footwear. You want your shoes to conform to your feet, not someone else’s.
Take the Shoes to a Cobbler
If your shoes still rub on your Achilles, take them to a professional. A cobbler might be able to see what’s causing the problem. Proper identification of the issue can help you fix it.
Whenever you get new shoes, break them in gradually if possible. Wear them for 10 minutes at a time. Put them on every hour. Eventually, you can start extending the length of time for which you wear them. You can even try wearing the new shoes while you’re sitting around the house or your desk at work. Doing this will encourage them to mold to your feet and help you stop shoes from rubbing your Achilles.