How to: break in Swedish Hasbeens (or any other kind of stiff leather sandals)

A little while ago, someone asked me over on Instagram (@ciciandmarie) how I broke in my Swedish Hasbeens? And although it feels like it should be as simple as breaking in any other pair of shoes, the fact they asked in the first place kind of hints that it’s not. Swedish Hasbeens have possibly the stiffest leather I’ve ever tried to force my feet into – and they can rip your skin to shreds if not handled with care. Same as any other sandals with super-thick new leather can…
But once you’ve broken them in, oh can they be worth it. They really can go from ‘Argh! How is this ever going to be comfortable? I’m going to throw them in the bin!!’ to the pair of shoes you pick up every time the sun’s shining. And having now broken in two pairs, I feel like I’ve learned a few minor lessons to make the whole process a bit more painless…
Your essentials:
Tutorial - breaking in leather sandals
  • Cotton socks – go for normal thickness, you don’t want to over-stretch your sandals. And make sure they’re either light or colour-fast, you don’t want to stain the wood. I’m not sure how easy it is to stain the wood, but why take the risk (especially if you’ve spent a lot of money on Hasbeens)!
  • Anti-blister stick (I like the Compeed one pictured), or vaseline – key in your defence the first few times you wear the sandals against bare skin as it minimises the friction that causes blisters. If you don’t have an anti-blister stick, vaseline can act as a cheaper substitute – it’s just a bit oily and messy and doesn’t do the job quite as well as the proper stuff.
  • Blister plasters – but don’t get Scholl as pictured, go for Compeed which I actually found are much better, having tested both (thoroughly!). The Compeed literally don’t budge and peel off easily – the company also claims it helps to heal them (I’m dubious, but they don’t get worse at least). Get a set of mixed sizes – you don’t know where a blister might pop up or how big it could be! (And believe it or not, Compeed aren’t sponsoring me for this post, but perhaps they should be 😉 )

Step 1: put on some socks and don’t go anywhere!

First of all, don’t even think about walking them out of the house yet. I recommend the first thing you do is poke at the straps to get an idea of what the leather actually feels like brand new – particularly around the ankle – as this will help you judge your progress later on. Then, dedicate a few days’ wear to the great indoors – and don’t attempt this with bare skin. Slip on some socks – and I put them on the tightest hole I can stand as the leather will stretch a bit as you break them in and the faster you can do this, the sooner you can wear them. I also feel like if you break them in from a tiny-bit-too-tight the whole sandal moulds to your foot a bit better, although I have no proof! I think the socks look kinda cute…


Step 2: dare to bare your skin, but not without protection!
Once you start to feel the leather has eased a bit, you’re ready to try without the socks on (another reason to make them slightly tighter than is ideal to start with – but running your fingers along the inside back heel strap to see how much they’ve softened will give you an indication too). As before, the first time you try wearing without socks, stay inside and test them out. After a few minutes you’re probably going to suss out the problem areas, where the pesky blisters could form. Attack said areas with your anti-blister stick (or vaseline) immediately – and be generous! If you work on the assumption such initially hard leather is bound to give you blisters, you’ll go in with the right attitude here… If they get too painful, go back to step 1 for a bit and don’t risk getting blisters.
Step 3: take them out, but take it easy
You’re ready to take them out now. You’d be wise to continue to use your blister prevention salve and don’t go anywhere without a packet of decent blister plasters. The first times you go out in them, make sure you’re not doing more than 20 mins walking tops, ideally less. And if you feel the beginnings of a blister, don’t hesitate to put a plaster on before it even has chance to develop.
Swedish Hasbeens Heart Sandals
And aren’t they lovely? I took mine out to a picnic, hence the blanket… To me, they’re worth the patience and I kind of like the challenge and the fact they fit themselves to my feet.
Swedish Hasbeens Heart Sandals Red


    • July 11, 2014 / 4:17 pm

      I find myself repeating 'no pain, no gain' over and over to myself like a madman when I first get them..!

  1. July 11, 2014 / 3:58 pm

    Thank you for a very informative post. I've been drooling over Swedish Hasbeens for a while now, but I've always resisted the temptation by reminding myself that heavy leather and wood shoes probably aren't the comfortable. I'm not sure if I'm sad or happy to hear someone say that they are actually really comfy.

    • July 11, 2014 / 4:20 pm

      They're never going to be as comfortable as a shoe with a springy cushion footbed, but genuinely, once they're broken in, they're definitely comfortable enough to walk around in for a while. But you really do have to break them in before you can say they're comfy!!

  2. July 11, 2014 / 4:40 pm

    ok I don't have these hasbeens but I did not even know there was such a thing as anti-blister salve. I'll look out for it, thank you for the tip!

  3. July 12, 2014 / 7:39 am

    I have wanted a pair of these exact Swedish Hasbeens shoes forever – but I have been nervous about ordering because I have no idea what the fit would be like – are they true to size? I've heard a lot of people say that breaking them in is a bit of work, but it must be worth it because they are the prettiest shoes 🙂

    • July 12, 2014 / 8:36 pm

      Length-wise – they're pretty true to size; you'll probably take whatever your normal sandal size is in these. They've *perhaps* got a touch more length, so if you're a half-size, definitely size down. But the caveat is the width – they are, especially at first, really quite slim-fit sandals. I have somewhat narrow feet, so I have no problem with these whatsoever, but if your feet are anything more than average width, my guess is you might find this style uncomfortable and a different one would be better. They'll probably take some patience breaking in whatever your foot size, hence this post!! Hope that helps 🙂

  4. July 13, 2014 / 7:58 pm

    Sage advice!! Gosh I had that disaster with the pink Bertie sandals, and since then I've been tentatively wearing them around the house for a few hours at a time, still too afraid to actually wear them out. I'll get there. I hadn't thought of using vaseline or something to stop the friction, that's a really good idea. You look amazing in yours, like a proper pinup in those tropical capris. Gorgeous! P xx

    • July 14, 2014 / 12:03 pm

      Thanks 🙂 (and more to come on this particular outfit when I get round to posting it!) Using some kind of ointment, whether vaseline or an anti-blister stick, is definitely massively helpful. Give it a try for sure! x

  5. July 16, 2014 / 6:40 pm

    yesss, ugh, mine kill my ankles. the leather just digs right in. will have to try some cute bobbi socks with them!

    do you olive oil the leather? i read a comment or 2 somewhere that said NOT to do that because it changed the color of their shoes. hmm.

    • July 17, 2014 / 12:08 pm

      Nope, I don't put olive oil anywhere near them! It does darken the leather, I hear. And also, something else I heard is that olive oil is suitable for the natural finish, but not the coloured… My pair of bright pink ones did fade to more dusky, muted pink over time without oiling them, but I actually decided I prefer them that way!

  6. January 27, 2016 / 6:16 am

    Ermagerd! I just got my delivery from Asos and they are so tight! Thank you for this post, my feet are really wide so I debating whether I send mine back and go a size up….mine are just slip ons tho with braided upper so maybe they would be ok? Length wise they are fine…

    • January 27, 2016 / 1:15 pm

      Hmm, well it's difficult for me to comment on this problem because my feet are narrow. I will say I find that Swedish Hasbeens fit my narrow feet a treat and they seem to come up on the slim side. The brand Sandgrens Clogs came up a lot wider/deeper on me, so it might be an idea to look into what they have to offer too (tends to be slightly cheaper styles, which is an added bonus)… You'll see I've reviewed a pair if you search for 'Sandgrens'. I had to size down in those because of how wide they are, but I've always found Hasbeens spot on for width. I think that with perseverance the leather would probably gradually adapt, but you're going to find the process a long and trying one! The brand themselves usually recommend you go by the length and not the width, as that will alter as you wear them…

    • March 2, 2017 / 4:06 am

      Beckymae if ur in between two sizes go smaller the leather will stretch (as I'm sitting here w socks and my shoes) I know 39 im swimming in them but 38 are tight because of my wider feet but I'm stretching them out.

  7. Maria
    March 6, 2016 / 7:25 pm

    I really like these shoes, so cute! They remind me of a spanish brand that makes similar sandals, Wonders, they make the sandals with the softer leather I've ever worn, I've never got a blister in them! I hope this can be useful to someone who's got delicate, fussy feet like me!

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