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...
- 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.
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.
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