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Almost everyone would prefer their shoes to look new rather than creased. Plenty of people also experience pain from creases that push down on the tops of their toes or sometimes their instep. But how to keep shoes from creasing when walking?
So avoiding creases in your shoes is seen as a benefit to many people for differing reasons such as:
- Preventing creases in your sneakers to keep them looking fresh and new
- Avoiding pain from creases that occur exactly where you don’t want them to
- Making shoes easier to clean – dirt gets trapped in the grooves of creases
- Keeping dress shoes looking smart
…. and so on.
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What Causes Shoes to Crease?
Shoes crease because they are designed to bend in the process of walking to allow your feet to flex. The upper material of the shoe must compress to allow this bending. Creasing occurs when the shoe is straightened as the upper materials are elastic enough to return to shape.
Shoes are made from many different materials. Leather is a popular choice but there are others such as synthetics of varying stiffness, fabric, engineered mesh and more that are developed every season.
Fabric and mesh shoes are much more flexible than leather and synthetic materials, but regardless of material, creasing is pretty much inevitable.
Rather than search for the holy grail of ‘no creases’, you are better off understanding how creases happen and why and to take steps to minimize the problem and extend your enjoyment of shoes looking new or pain-free.
Creasing occurs when the material used for the shoe upper is bent to accommodate the varying pressures on your shoe as you walk.
The act of walking has your feet creating a continuously varying angle at the balls of your feet where your toes join the main foot, more specifically known as the metatarsal joints.
Walking shoes are made to flex in the same area to allow your foot to do its job but in the process of flexing the upper material is squashed together and creases up much like cardboard does when bent to form a box lid for example.
If you look at the crease of a cardboard box lid when the lid is shut you will see the cardboard is smooth and tight on the outer face and crinkled and wrinkled (or creased) on the inside edge.
If you open the lid after it has been shut and look at the cardboard at the lid joint you will see that it remains creased.
Turning to science momentarily, the material on the outside edge of the box at the joint had to stretch to form the joint from its state when the cardboard was flat, and the inside edge had to crush up to allow the fold to be formed.
When you open the lid the crease remains because the material is not elastic. In contrast, if you bend an elastic band which is very elastic then you will not see a crease when you return it to shape.
So the elasticity of the material used has a large bearing on the appearance after the forces that created the creasing are gone.
This process is the same for shoes. The leather or upper material creases up to allow your foot to bend and most of those creases remain once the shoe returns to its unflexed state.
Fabrics and mesh type materials are much more elastic than leather or similarly structured synthetic materials and so creasing is much less noticeable.
Where do Shoes Crease & Why They Crease Where They Do?
Shoes crease where the materials in the upper are weakest. Design and the slight imperfections of all materials make it impossible to accurately predict exactly where a crease will occur although you can be sure the general area will be where the shoe must bend to allow your foot to flex.
You now know what causes the creases in shoes but why do shoes crease where they do?
It is pretty obvious that shoes will crease where the shoe bends as you walk but even two pairs of the same shoes will crease in slightly different places.
Shoes that come from different manufacturers with different manufacturing processes will also crease in slightly different locations.
This is important since a small difference in location can mean a shoe that painfully presses on a hot spot where your toes are close to the upper at that particular position and a crease that just misses that exact spot and doesn’t cause any foot pain.
There are a few factors that come into play here.
Shoes will crease where it is easiest for the upper material to crease. The weakest point if you like. This weakest point is partly a function of the physical properties of the material and partly a function of how much reinforcement there is to resist creasing.
No material is perfectly identical throughout its entire area. Leather is a natural material and varies in thickness and stiffness naturally and especially so depending on the part of the hide it comes from.
Synthetic materials are also not perfectly consistent and so there will be areas slightly more resistant to bending and other areas slightly more susceptible to bending.
Shoes are mostly made from several pieces of material as well, so there are joints where these are sewn or glued together which will greatly affect how the forces from bending are distributed within the shoe upper.
The other factor is reinforcement by which I mean where your foot supports the upper material when the shoe is worn which varies as your foot changes shape as you walk.
Creasing will happen where the force distribution (largely affected by design), reinforcement from your foot under the upper and inherent weaknesses in the upper materials, together create the weakest point to bend.
In short, you can assume that the shoe will crease in the general area where bending occurs as a natural process of walking, but the precise spot is impossible to predict.
You should also be aware that shoes can sometimes crease in the sides of the upper. This happens where the shoe sides (known as the quarter and vamp which vary by style) are weak and usually badly fitting and loose.
The heel area will also crease when you put your shoes on, especially if you are lazy and crush the heel as you put your foot into the shoe.
Most shoes are designed with heel counters that are stiffeners to provide more stability to the shoe by stiffening the heel of the shoe but, depending on the material used, these will not prevent the heel collapsing if you constantly tread down on the heel when putting your shoes on.
How to Minimize Creasing in Shoes
There are several ways to reduce creasing.
Reduce Heel Creasing by Using a Shoe Horn
To reduce creasing in the heel of the shoe, pick a shoe with a good quality heel counter.
If you are choosing a sneaker you could even go so far as to select one with a rigid plastic heel counter.
If you always use a shoe horn, you will prevent the crushing of the shoe heel and develop a very good habit for you which will extend the life of your shoes generally.
These inexpensive accessories can save you money over time as you will need to buy fewer pairs of shoes.
Reduce Creasing by Choosing the Right Size Shoe
Choosing the right size of shoes is also important because this reduces the space between the shoe upper material. This allows your foot to add reinforcement by supporting the shoe upper material and reduce creasing.
If there is a lot of space between your foot and the upper then there is no resistance to the upper creasing and it will crease at the weakest points.
To check your shoe is the right size simply push your foot into the front of the shoe and check the gap at the heel. If the shoe is the right size in length then your index finger should just fit in the space without forcing it in or having too much space around it.
To check the width is correct then the best method is to measure across your foot – check out how in our guide for measuring your feet – and then check the manufacturer’s sizing chart to ensure you have the right width fitting.
A correctly fitting shoe should very lightly press in on the widest part of your foot without feeling too snug and definitely not tight or loose.
Lastly, there should not be too much space between your foot and the opening of the shoe where you put your foot in.
Every manufacturer uses different last shapes between models as well as the lasts differing between brands. Commonly Asian made shoes are tight in width and length but this is dependent upon brand and model and also between shoes in a model series.
Shoes that are too tight will hurt and encourage ingrown toe-nails because of the pressure on the nail – skin juncture in your toe as the nail grows while you are wearing your shoes through the day.
Shoes that are too loose will tend to flop around and rub your skin causing sore spots or blisters.
You will also benefit from paying attention to how you lace your shoes as the method of threading your laces can have a significant difference in how well your shoes fit your feet.
This is because the laces tension the uppers and pull them tighter onto your foot (without them being too tight) and so affect the force distribution across the shoe.
Do Shoe Crease Protectors Work?
Even the best crease protectors will not keep shoes entirely crease free but they certainly help to reduce creasing.
Perhaps the best reinforcing inserts on the market today are Sneaker Shields which you can buy at Amazon.
Keeping Shape with Shoe Trees
These accessories are shaped to the shoe and expand into the toe box area by pushing against the shoe heel.
They work on the principle that when you wear shoes, your feet release moisture and some of this moisture is trapped in the shoe making it more supple.
As the shoe dries the uppers tend to shrink slightly and the shoe trees encourage the uppers to shrink back into shape which pulls the creases flatter.
How Can You Stop Shoes Creasing
The simple answer is that you cannot stop creasing altogether but you can reduce the severity of creasing by careful choice of design, getting the right fit for your foot, adding shoe toe box reinforcing inserts and proper care when you are not wearing them.
General Shoe Care
Don’t Let Your Shoes Get Wet When They Are New
General shoe care can go a long way to helping your shoes look great for longer.
When you first wear a pair of shoes they will stretch and adapt a little to your foot shape because the warming effect of your feet and moisture released in the form of sweat will make the shoe upper materials more flexible.
As your shoes dry they will dry somewhat into the shape from the lasting impression of your foot. Over a period of a few weeks your shoes will ‘wear in’ and this is especially so with leather shoes.
During the wear-in period, it is sensible to avoid getting your shoes wet because if they do then they will tend to lose their shape quite easily as they dry.
Spray New Shoes with Water Repellant Spray
The object is not to make your shoes waterproof so that you can take a devil may care attitude against them getting wet but rather to keep off any splashes and to make it easier to remove dirt and clean.
You should give shoes a spray every 3-6 months or so to give this little extra care barrier and help keep shoes looking newer.
Alternate Wear Between Different Shoes Day by Day
It is a great idea to alternate shoes day by day and so allow a little extra time for your shoes to thoroughly dry out.
For leather shoes, applying moisturizer to the uppers and rubbing it well in will help the leather stay supple and in great condition.
Bear in mind that leather is animal skin and benefits from moisturizer just as your own skin does.
By moisturizing and cleaning frequently you remove any build-up of dirt in the creases and keep the leather more supple which helps it keep shape especially when done in conjunction with shoe trees.
Avoid getting Shoes Soaking Wet & Keep Away from Heat
One of the worst things you can do to shoes is to get them soaking wet and then putting them in a hot place to dry out.
You’ve probably seen people put wet shoes on top of radiators after they have had a thorough soaking or even using a hot air hair drier to attempt the same feat.
Drying shoes like this might make them dry but will also make the shoes lose any suppleness they had. A bit like sunbathing all day dries out and burns your own skin.
If shoes unavoidably get really wet then try drying them with newspapers as suggested in our article on drying shoes.
How to Get Creases Out of Your Shoes
If all else fails and your shoes have become creased and you want to get the creases out then you can try ironing out the creases which works to an extent but does require a degree of care.
The method that follows will not work on all materials but does work for leather – to an extent.
Here is what you need to do.
- Remove the laces – it makes the process easier as they do not get in the way.
- Stuff the shoes as tightly as is reasonably possible with newspaper or better still print free paper to avoid ink contamination or staining.
- Heat an iron to a medium-low setting just a little hotter than you might use for silk or other delicate material – enough to produce steam when placed on a damp cloth
- Place a clean non-colored damp cloth over the shoe area that is creased
- Iron on top of the cloth to get the steam to penetrate into the upper material – this will make the leather more pliable
- Iron gently for a minute or two until the shoe starts to feel quite warm
- At this point, the cloth should still be slightly damp but if not you can dampen further
- Leave the damp cloth on top of the shoes until dry.
- Remove the cloth and work in Mink Oil to remoisturize the shoe leather.
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