Learning how to break in Vans properly is key to preventing nasty blisters and uncomfortable rubbing. I’ve owned and broken in at least a dozen pair of Vans (all types) over the past 15 years, and along the way I have picked up some truly helpful tips.
I’ll be sharing 7 of my best tips for breaking in Vans, including free options, so your poor feet don’t have to go through what mine have over the years! This guide includes pictures and videos and is suitable for all types of Vans.
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How to Break in Vans
On average I find that Vans can take 6 to 8 weeks to properly break in. With my tips you can cut this time down to a couple of weeks tops.
Sounds unbelievable right? But for real, that’s how quickly I can break in a pair of Vans. Here are my 7 top tips in detail to help you do this too…
(If you prefer your info in video form, here is a video of me explaining a brief overview of 4 of the tips in this post on the Wearably Weird YouTube channel):
1. Use A Plastic Bag
Using a plastic bag to break in your Vans sounds a bit weird I will admit. But trust me, it’s a free and effective way to help prevent rubbing, that leads to blisters, when wearing your new Vans.
This is one of my favourite methods to break in any kind of material that your Vans are made with. It works great for canvas, suede and leather.
Here’s how it helps speed up the break in process:
- Wearing a plastic bag over your socks creates a layer between your feet and the stiff upper of your Vans. This layer will act as a guard against the material. It will result in a gentle slipping and sliding motion inside your Vans as you walk around, which helps prevent the friction and rubbing that leads to blisters.
- The bag itself will also help to create motion in the material of the upper itself. This will help the material to move around and soften up much quicker. It’s a win win.
I find it best to try out this method at home first for a few days. Simply wear a plastic bag over the socks of each foot, bunch it up so it sits nicely under the sneaker collar of your Vans, and wear your Vans around the house.
Of course you could wear the bag out and about with your Vans, but your feet might get a little sweaty.
This is a free tip that anyone can try at home. Give it a go for yourself and see how you like the results!
2. Using a Shoe Stretcher (Or Stuffing Them With Clothes) Overnight
A shoe stretcher is an effective and efficient way to break in any type of shoe. Shoe stretchers work great with Vans, as they help to gently stretch out the upper overnight whilst you aren’t wearing them.
Why let your poor feet do all the work when a stretcher can break in your Vans for you as you sleep?
Here is a great shoe stretcher from Amazon that will do the job for any size shoe and material upper:
It’s a good price too, which is why it’s my top pick.
Personally I always like to include a free alternative method for each tip too, so I want to mention here that you can also stretch out your Vans with old clothing or balled up socks if you aren’t able to purchase a stretcher.
Of course, the balled up socks and old clothing won’t be as effective as a proper shoe stretcher that’s built for the job, but it will do if you are in a pinch.
Here’s how to do it:
- Take an old t-shirt or two pairs of socks and stuff them down into your Vans.
- Make sure the clothing creates enough resistance against the upper of your Vans. The upper should look like it is straining a little. Take care not to over stuff or damage the stitching of course, and just use your common sense.
- If your Vans style has laces tie them up as tight as they will go. This will help create even more tension against the upper, forcing it to stretch and soften.
- Leave your Vans stuffed overnight or whenever you keep them in storage. The material will stretch out gradually, helping you to break in your Vans.
Top tip: Make sure to never use old newspaper for stuff your Vans, as the ink may transfer onto the material. Instead choose old clothing, as I have outlined above.
3. Wear Thick Blister-Proof Socks and Band-Aids
Blister-proof socks and band-aids are a miracle combination for preventing blisters in my opinion. I find a decent pair of blister proof socks are an awesome thing to keep in your sock drawer. I bring out my own pair whenever I need to break in a new pair of shoes or boots, from tough Doc Martens to Vans.
My favourite pair of blister proof socks are these from the Balega store:
Pairing them with band-aids over your heels is a quick way to prevent blisters. Simply secure a couple of band-aids over your heels and toes (or wherever you feel you’ll end up with a blister) and slip on your blister proof socks for good measure.
I actually have blister scars on my heels from breaking in shoes over the years, so I’m passionate about this tip.
Here’s a photo if you want the proof!
If you aren’t able to purchase a pair of blister proof socks go for a super thick pair you already own. Don’t be afraid to double up on the socks when breaking in Vans. It’s better to be safe then sorry.
4. Use a Heel Pad
A heel pad is another excellent way of preventing blisters. Heel pads are these nifty little gel cups that slip over your feet to completely eliminate the risk of blisters.
They are great if you plan on being quite tough on your Vans – skating, walking or general long wear.
I’m going to show you how to make a free one using a common household item (a women’s sanitary health item – if you are a guy you may not have one lying around), but if you want a proper job then I suggest these from Amazon:
Here’s how to make a free heel pad instead, if you don’t want to spend a few bucks:
- Make a heel pad by taking a women’s sanitary health item and trimming it down to side, as I have done in the below image.
- Remove it from the packaging and stick it into the heel of your Vans, using the sticky side.
- Make sure to press it against the lining of your Vans to ensure a good stick.
This will create a mini heel pad that you can use as a temporary fix. It will help cushion your heel as you walk and help prevent rubbing. Of course it won’t be as effective as a proper heel pad or cup, but it should provide some relief as you break in your Vans.
If you’re on a budget and want to use something from around the house then give it a go!
5. Bend Them By Hand
An easy and free way to help speed up the break in process of your Vans is to bend them by hand. Pulling and bending the material upper will help to soften it, and stop your poor feet doing all the work as you walk.
Here’s how to do it properly:
- Gently massage and stretch the upper at the heel for 10 minutes at a time.
- Bend the Vans each way by a few degrees. Repeat this gently for a few minutes. Be careful not to fold or damage your Vans, and just use common sense.
Repeating these steps once a day during your first week of wear will help break in your Vans much quicker.
6. Wear Them Around The House First
Wearing Vans around the house before wearing them outdoors is an easy way to help soften and break them in. Wear your Vans for short periods of 30 minutes to one hour around the house.
I like to wear mine whilst doing chores, so I’m on my feet moving the material upper around. If your Vans begin to rub take them off and wait until the next day to repeat.
Do this for a few days before wearing them out and you will find it has kick started the break in process.
7. Use a Hairdryer for Leather Vans
Using a hairdryer to soften leather Vans is a great way to break them in at home.
Heat will soften leather quickly, as long as it’s done properly to avoid cracking.
Here’s how to use a hairdryer on leather Vans to break them in:
- Set your hairdryer to a low heat.
- Hold your hairdryer 30cm away from the heel of your Vans.
- Make sure you are wearing your Vans as you gently heat the heel for 15 seconds.
- If your feet feel too hot, use common sense and switch the hairdryer off sooner.
- Walk around the house after you have heated the leather, to soften it as it cools.
- Alternatively you can massage the warm leather with your fingers, until it cools.
Repeat these steps as needed until you feel the shoes softening. Be careful not to overdo it and cause heat cracks in the leather.
How to break in slip on Vans?
Break in slip on Vans by wearing them around the house with two pairs of thick socks. The socks should help gently stretch the upper, which will speed up the break in process.
How long does it take to break in Vans?
On average it takes 6 weeks to break in a pair of Vans, with regular use. If the Vans are worn daily this time will shorten to only 4 weeks. With the help of additional break in tips this time can be reduced even further.
How do I stop my Vans from giving me blisters?
The easiest way to stop Vans from giving you blisters is to wear band-aids under your socks as a preventative measure. The band-aids will help create a barrier between your feet and the stiff canvas upper of your Vans.
Thank you for reading this post on how to break in Vans. I hope you now feel confident to break in your own pair using some of the tips and tricks I have shared.
For more Vans content, check out:
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).