If your Nike Air Force 1s hurt your feet you’re going to need to know how to break them in as fast as possible. There’s nothing worse then spending a lot of money on a pair of sneakers, only for them to feel stiff, or even worse straight up painful.
I’ve been wearing and breaking in Air Force 1s for years, so I have put together this guide on 7 easy ways to break them in quickly, plus photos and a video to help. I’ve made sure to include some FREE methods you can do with things around the house too (plus ‘the plastic bag method’ – sounds weird right? But trust me, it works!).
Let’s get to it…
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How To Break In Air Force 1s
Break in your Air Force 1s by wearing them around the house for 1 hr at a time with two pairs of thick socks on. Alternatively use a shoe stretcher to gently stretch out the upper whilst the sneaker are not in use (this saves your poor feet the pain of doing all the work).
If you want some more in-depth ways to break in your AF1s, photo instructions and a video demonstration, read on!
1. Using A Shoe Stretcher (Or Balled Up Socks)
A quick, simple and effective way to break in your Air Force 1s is to use a shoe stretcher when they are in storage. A shoe stretcher will add slight pressure to the inside of the AF1s, mimicking your foot. This will break them in gently, as opposed to your feet having to do the hard labour (say no to blisters!).
Storing them this way also helps prevent creases over time, so if you’re serious about keeping your AF1s in top condition consider getting yourself a shoe stretcher as anti-crease ‘insurance‘. They’re pricey sneakers, so I always try to keep mine looking as fresh as possible. I don’t know about you but I can’t afford to buy a new pair every year.
I recommend this shoe stretcher on Amazon, to get the job done for a fair price (or ask your friends or family if they have one you can borrow – they’re a shoe closet staple most people have):
Adjustable Shoe Stretcher – Shop Here
Alternatively you can achieve a similar result (although definitely not as good) for FREE using old t-shirts or balled up socks in place of a shoe stretcher.
Just take those pairs of old holey socks and instead of throwing them out use them to stuff your Air Force 1s when they’re in storage. Stuff two or three pairs of balled up socks (or two old t-shirts) down into your AF1s. Make sure you get the socks right into the toe box.
Ideally you want to see the leather upper straining a little bit as a result, Then lace up your Air Force 1s as tightly as you can, to create a stretch. Of course don’t damage your AF1s doing this, just judge it for yourself. As long as the leather is straining a bit, that will help break them in when you’re not wearing them.
You may also like: How To Lace Air Force 1s (STANDARD Way)
2. The Plastic Bag Method
The ‘plastic bag method’ is an awesome little trick I came up with years ago that has helped me break in all sorts of shoes. It works great for Air Force 1s too, which is why I’m letting you in on it here. First I’ll explain how to do it, THEN how it helps.
It’s very simple, all you will need is two plastic bags, socks, your feet and your new sneakers.
- Slip your feet into the plastic bags; one on each foot, so they sit on top of your socks.
- Put on your Air Force 1s, over the top of the plastic bags.
- Lace them up as usual.
- Tuck the excess plastic bags around your ankles and down into the sneaker collars.
Now you can wear your AF1s around the house like this, or rock them outside if you don’t mind the look of the plastic bags in public (not for me, I’m staying inside!).
Here’s how this helps to break in your AF1s:
- The plastic bag will slide around inside the sneaker, reducing friction and rubbing. This prevents blisters and any pain associated with breaking in sneakers.
- The plastic bag will create more sliding movement inside the AF1s, wiggling around the leather upper more as you move. This extra movement will help soften up the upper much quicker then your feet on their own.
- Try the plastic bag method for an hour or two at a time, as you move about the house as normal. Do this for a few days in a row and you’ll find your AF1s will have softened up a lot.
In my experience this trick works really well if you give it a few goes. Three sessions should do it.
It also works great for tough leather boots like Doc Martens. Take it from me, if this helps break in tough boots like that then your AF1s will be a breeze.
I have plenty more FREE tips like this (not just products recommendations) further in the post if you want to try something else!
3. Blister Proof Socks
An easy way to eliminate the pain of breaking in Air Force 1s is to wear blister proof socks with them. These type of socks are great for preventing nasty blisters on your heels or toes, which are common pain points when breaking in AF1s.
If you want a quick fix that gets the job done I recommend these blister proof socks from Amazon:
Balega Blister Resist No Show Socks For Men and Women – Shop Here
In my opinion blister proof socks are a nice staple to have in your sock drawer for whenever you get new shoes, not just for a one time use breaking in Air Force 1s.
They aren’t the best looking things but hey, at least your feet won’t be rubbed raw! I own the longer pair that show above my AF1s but I’m not too fussy. Although I should probably grab the no show ones too.
Wear them with your Air Force 1s for two weeks and they’ll be nicely broken in, without the pain.
4. Make A Homemade Heel Cushion
If you’re on a budget and can’t buy yourself a heel cushion for use when breaking in AF1s, you can try out this homemade option. It’s a little bit odd but it works.
Heel cushions are awesome for breaking in sneakers, as they prevent nasty rubbing on your heels, meaning you can wear them for longer and break them in quicker.
Make one at home using a women’s sanitary health product – a pad! You can find these around the house easily enough, or you can ask a women in your life to lend you one. If it works, it works!
Here’s how to make the heel cushion:
- Take the women’s health item and using a pair of scissors trim off the top and bottom sections. Measure the length you’d like your heel cushion to be by placing it against your heel. Trimm the pad until it is the desired length.
(a photo showing how to trim the pad, from my guide to breaking in Vans)
- Then place the pad inside the heel of your Air Force 1s, using the sticky side, so it secures to the lining.
- Place your foot inside the sneaker and enjoy the extra heel protection and cushioning.
Heel cushions or pads are an awesome invention. If you want to get your hands on a real one that is designed for purpose, and not make your own, keep reading…
5. Use Heel Pads to Minimise Pain And Break In The AF1s
Heel pads made with a gummy silicone gel material are an excellent tool to help your break in your Air Force 1s painlessly.
Simply slip them over your heels and they act like a ‘cup’. The added protection prevents rubbing and blisters, and the heel pad can be easily cleaned.
I recommend these from Amazon (they’re really well priced):
Heel Cup Pads – Shop Here
They look a bit weird, but wear them under your socks and nobody will spot them.
They’re another great thing to keep in your sock drawer to use again and again whenever you need to break in a new pair of shoes.
6. Massaging The Leather Upper
Speed up the break in process by massaging the leather upper on your Air Force 1s. Moving around the upper by massaging it will help the stiffness of the new sneakers go away more quickly.
Save your feet doing all the work by giving your hands a shift!
Here’s how to properly do this, for best results:
- Take a section of the leather upper between two hands and gently pull at it to stretch it out. Rub circles in the leather between your thumbs and forefingers.
- Move around the sneaker collar and side panels of the shoe, massaging and stretching a bit at a time. Make sure to be gentle, so you don’t cause cracks or creases in the upper.
- Massage each shoe for 10 minutes at a time. It can be good to do this whilst you are watching TV, or sitting listening to a podcast.
Repeat the massaging process over the course of a few days to help soften up the leather. This method works even better in conjunction with using a shoe stretcher. Try it out and your Air Force 1s will be comfy in no time!
7. Wearing Them In The House For Short Periods
An age-old tip for breaking in any kind of shoes is to wear them around the house for a few days before heading outdoors. This method works great for breaking in Air Force 1s too, however I like to add a little twist on it.
Open your sock drawer and pick out two pairs of the thickest socks you own. Wear two socks on each foot until you feel like your feet have gone up a size, then stuff them into your Air Force 1s.
Lace up your AF1s as tightly as you can, without causing pain to your feet or damage to the sneakers. The extra stuffing from the socks will help the leather stretch quicker as you wear them.
Keep them on for an hour or two at a time. Repeat this for three to four days at home and you’ll see a marked difference in their softness.
For more help check out my video on breaking in Air Force 1s:
I hope you enjoyed reading this guide to breaking in Air Force 1s and you give some of the tips a go for yourself!
For more Air Force 1 and other footwear content, check out:
Are Air Force 1 Shoes Comfortable? A Review With Photos
How To Break In Converse (FAST, Painless Methods)
How to Break in Doc Martens Fast – ULTIMATE Guide
Lorna is a footwear geek and the founder of Wearably Weird. She created a YouTube channel in 2021 for fellow footwear fanatics, dedicated to detail-rich footwear reviews and info. She has a fashion media qualification (awarded in 2011).