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How to Fix Sticky, Rubby, Blistery Leather Shoes

By Amalah

Dear Amalah,
First off, let me just say that I’ve been lurking on your blog for ages (doesn’t that sound appealing and non-stalkerish?) and you rock. I bought Philosophy’s acne kit because of your enthusiasm about the brand, and it is awesome; my skin is much less hideous than it used to be.
Anyway, I’m writing to you because, as you might imagine, I am suffering through a crisis of earth-shattering proportions. I was recently thrilled to find one lone pair of Stuart Weitzman sandals marked down to $30 — from $250 (at a legit store, not some sketchy place selling fakes). I absolutely love them, and they’re very comfortable… except that for some reason the edge of the leather strap sticks to my skin and rubs. I walked to class and back in them today — less than a ten-minute walk each way — and I wound up with blisters on both feet.
Do you have any suggestions? If I wear them with socks or stockings, that completely solves the problem, but it creates an, um, serious aesthetic problem (plus, I live in Hawaii, and it’s hot here). I could use moleskin, but that’s also not too attractive if it shows, and baby powder might help, but probably only for a few minutes. Is there any way to wear socks/tights/stockings with open-toed shoes without looking completely horrible? Or is there some magic potion I could apply to my feet to keep the shoes from rubbing?
You can see a picture of the shoes here (link), if that helps. I have them in black.
Thanks so much!

Hmm. Hmm! Wracking brain. We may possibly be dealing with a design flaw (i.e. this pair was sewn a little tight across the arch and/or the leather was found to be less-than-buttery-perfect) which is why they ended up marked down to $30, or they may just need a little more breaking in, or we need to put on our MacGuyver trucker thinking caps and come up with some other solution.
My point is: I need more coffee.
stuart_weitzman_bando.jpgIf the problem is tightness across the arch or some other fit problem, breaking the shoes in further might eventually help. Obviously, you don’t want to offer up your poor blistered feet as a sacrificial shoe lamb or anything, so I’d recommend getting a wooden shoe tree and keeping it in the shoes, stretching them out just a tad, bit by bit. Then wear them around your house with stockings or socks whenever possible to help the leather conform to the shape of your foot.
A lot of shoes, even from typically well-regarded designers, are occasionally just made from poor quality leather — leather that is stiff and rigid and doesn’t conform to the foot. Something about high-quality leather becoming increasing difficult and expensive to procure here in the States, plus the zillions of cheap plastic and pleather shoes flooding the market and slowly making women forget that SHOES AREN’T SUPPOSED TO HURT.
I’ve noticed this problem more and more (think lovely, comfortable dress shoes that tear up your ankle no matter what you do, because the heel might as well be made of cast iron, for all the giving it does when you walk). It’s why I’ve slowly switched my casual shoe collection to mostly fabric — I can’t afford the super-expensive brands (European designers, mostly) that avoid this problem, at least not for basic sandals and flats that I’m going to wear for everyday, utilitarian reasons.
So. Let’s say your shoes are as broken-in as they’re going to get. If the leather continues to rub, well…you really should TRY moleskin. The adhesive-backed, cut-to-fit kind, or something like this from Dr. Scholl’s. No, it’s not super attractive if a tiny bit of it shows, but I’d say it’s no worse than those bandeau-type footie socks I see women wearing with sandals sometimes. (Something similar to this, if you don’t follow. Great idea in theory, but very rarely do they truly stay perfectly in place and hidden under your shoes.) At least the moleskin lets you try to focus on the specific part of the shoe that’s rubbing. If it’s really just the whole edge of the band, the footie-sock-tube thing might help, if you’re okay with occasionally seeing a flash of fabric peeking out. (I couldn’t find exactly what I mean online besides the “therapeutic” padded/gel kind, but I usually always see them in the hosiery section in stores.)
If you think it’s the finish on the leather that’s rubbing (I can’t tell from the photo but it seems like the leather might be treated with some kind of sheen?), take some sandpaper or an emery board to the underside of the strap and file it down to the naked leather, which may be softer and less likely to stick to your skin.
Avoid gooping your feet up with moisturizers and lotions — they’ll actually have the opposite effect than what you really want, since soft, moisturized skin will just be easier for your shoes to tear up. Foot powders and talc are the only things that can minimize sticking and rubbing, although yeah, they work best when you have a full shoe bed to just dump it into, but coating your feet and the inside of the shoe might be worth it for those quick 10-minute walks to class.
One last option — I haven’t personally tried this, and honestly up until this morning was completely unaware it even existing, but Dr. Scholl’s has a product called “Miracle Shield.” It appears to be some kind of friction-reducing spray (I’m guessing it’s sprayable talc, or something similar) that you can toss in your bag and reapply easily whenever you need to. Does it work? No idea. Am I all kinds of intrigued? You bet. Readers? Has anyone used this stuff?
As for socks and tights with sandals? I just cannot get behind it. Look, I even wrote a manifesto on it already! I know it’s very high fashion, but it’s just not very WEARABLE high fashion. Especially with shoes that look like yours (i.e. normal shoes that normal people wear). Tights look passable when you’re pairing them with crazy avant-garde shoes-as-works-of-art. And when your entire outfit is on the funky, fashion-forward side. But with completely open wedge sandals? I’m gonna go with a resounding NO.


Published September 12, 2008. Last updated September 12, 2008.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • The Muse

    September 12, 2008 at 11:00 am

    I think the Miracle Shield sounds like what runners use to prevent chafing around clothes/skin contact on long runs. It’s called Body Glide, and it’s a deodorant-like stick that you just smooth on where there may be trouble.
    Oh, and it totally works.

  • kenandbelly

    September 12, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Body Glide. It will change your (footwear) life. The End.
    (Check your local runners’ shop).

  • meghan

    September 12, 2008 at 11:18 am

    This is what I use and it has prevented many a blister:
    It slightly stains my leather shoes, but as long as it only hits the underside (i.e., the side that comes in contact with your foot) I see no real problem with that.

  • heels

    September 12, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Tricks we used in the shoe business:
    1) Use the moleskin on the shoe, not your foot, to reduce visibility.
    2) Take it to a good shoe-repair shop and see about spot stretching.
    3) (Or maybe this is #2) Wear it with slightly thicker socks, but only when you’re at home where no one will see. This may stretch it out just enough.
    4) Take something round and smooth (I’ve always used artists’ paint brush handles, but that’s just because I have them around the house) and rub and push on the offending area until it curves away just slightly.

  • Kim

    September 12, 2008 at 11:45 am

    The end.

  • Roberta

    September 12, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    I second Bodyglide. It looks like a stick deodorant, and rolls on like one. It reduces friction in all kinds of places – hot spots on shoes, under your sports bra, and running a little bit on your inner thighs on a hot sticky day when you’re wearing a cute dress or skirt works wonders for chafing. Available at running stores, sports stores, online.

  • Sarah

    September 12, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    I’ve used Band-Aid’s Blister Block and had good luck not getting a blister where I usually get a blister. Fun fact: Blister Block is partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Trans fats are good for some things, people.

  • Stephanie

    September 12, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Spray deoderant (like Secret) works pretty well to prevent friction, too. And if your shoes are rubbing in part because of sweaty feet, even better. Just wait until you’re completely done getting ready to spray your feet so you can rush right out of the bathroom to avoid suffocating on the fumes.

  • SweetC

    September 12, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Footpetals! They are awesome, come in varying shapes/sizes and can also be cut to fit any place on your shoe. I had the exact same problem but no more!! (Egad, I sound like an infomercial)

  • Dee

    September 12, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    I would also suggest the Band-Aid Blister Block – it has worked amazingly well for me!

  • pseudostoops

    September 12, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Yes bodyglide yes. Definitely. Amazing. I keep one in my bathroom and one in my purse for unexpected blisters. That is how much I loathe visible hosiery. (I can’t even bring myself to wear knee highs with flats, because of the “obvious nylon where the toe cleavage is” problem.)

  • Katrina

    September 12, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    Another vote for Band-Aid Blister Block: stuff of the gods. Also – no staining for me. Excellent, excellent stuff.

  • Mel

    September 12, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    I’ve used the Band-Aid Blister Block also. It worked to a point. I used it on our last Disney vacation where I had lots and lots of walking to do. It worked great at first, but it seemed to wear off or something because by the end of the day, I still had a few blisters forming and had to switch shoes the next day.
    I’d say as long as you’re not doing lots and lots of walking, it should be fine.

  • Marianne

    September 12, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    Another vote for BandAid Blister Block here! I sometimes have to reapply on days with a lot of walking, but usually a liberal application in the morning and I’m good!

  • Marya

    September 12, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Wow, thanks, Amalah, and everyone else who commented! I really appreciate all the tips. I was particularly upset about this one pair of shoes, because they’re so comfortable otherwise and they seemed like such a good deal, but I’ve had the same problem with other pairs of shoes as well and just wound up not wearing them much. So you guys are great — thanks for all the help!

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