How To Stop Shoes From Rubbing the Back of Your Ankle

Are you tired of your shoes giving you pain, blisters, and discomfort? Can’t wear your newly purchased shoes because you’re worried it might give you pain all day? We’ve all been there.

To help you find comfort in all of your footwear, we’ve gathered experts to share their insights.

Here’s how to stop shoes from rubbing the back of your ankle.

Patrick McEneaney, D.P.M.

Patrick McEneaney

Podiatrist | Owner and CEO, Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists

One of the things that have to be considered is something called a “plump bump” also known as a Haglund’s deformity, which is when you have an enlarged prominence of the heel bone. It looks like a little bump that just happens to rub right where women’s shoes end above the heel.

Use heel grips and cushions

When you have those types of issues sometimes different types of padding can be utilized, such as heel grips and cushions that can be put in the shoe above where the bump is to kind of keep the shoe from sliding in that irritated area.

If there’s a little more room in the shoe then there’s also a type of padding that you can put in to create a softer spot, but if something like that continues to bother you then you should see a doctor.

The best time to shop for dress shoes is later in the day

Some people might not know that when you’re wearing shoes for a long time, your feet swell during the day, so shopping for heels should actually be done later in the day when your foot is most swollen. If you can’t shop at the end of the day, wear a thin sock so that you have an idea of what the shoe will feel like when your foot is at its most swollen.

Use antiperspirant or foot powders

If you have friction issues, an antiperspirant that has aluminum chloride in it or any foot powder will take away some of the heat and ensure your skin doesn’t get as irritated.

Melissa Zacharia, D.P.M.

Melissa Zacharia

Podiatrist | Owner, Pod Fit Podiatry

Have you ever wondered why shoes rub around the back of your ankle? There are three main reasons for this which can be easily fixed.

Loss of ankle rocker

A healthy ankle requires enough motion for body weight to transfer over the foot and ankle with each step. Ankle rocker is the technical name for this. For those with a stiffer ankle and less movement available, the heel will lift earlier than it should which causes rubbing. Improving ankle mobility will fix this for good.

Bad habits

Who is guilty of putting shoes on or taking them off without tying or untying the laces? This is not how shoes are designed to work. The act of squeezing the foot in and out of the shoe wears away at the back of the heel. Simply stop lazy habits and shoes will last longer.

Poorly fitting orthotics

Many thick and chunky old-school orthotics will sit very high inside of shoes. The foot is then not sitting flush into where it should be. The heel bone rubs against the wrong part of the lining which often causes blistering. Have orthotics assessed by a modern Podiatrist to get the right fit.

Bruce Pinker, D.P.M.

Bruce Pinker

Podiatrist, Progressive Foot Care

Since most of the globe wears footwear, it is important for shoes to fit comfortably. Many individuals wear shoes all day long, and, in some cases, shoes can rub the back of the ankle, leading to significant discomfort. This can apply to women, as well as men. As a board-certified podiatrist and foot surgeon, I address this condition often.

Apply moleskin of 1/16 of an inch thickness

For women, an ankle strap on a high heeled shoe can irritate the back of the heel, leading to chafing. In some instances, the skin on the back of the ankle can become bruised and cut, leading to wounds that can become serious. Loafers and other types of footwear can also rub against the back of the ankle that can create uncomfortable conditions.

One of the best remedies for this issue is to apply moleskin of 1/16 of an inch thickness over the part of the shoe that is rubbing against the back of the ankle. Also important is to verify the fit of the shoes- if too loose or too tight, irritation can occur at the back of the ankle.

For men, the counter, or back part of the shoe behind the heel and ankle, can rub on the foot. Applying 1/16 inch of moleskin can help reduce the discomfort. Checking for proper fit of the footwear should also be done. Boots can cause irritation behind the ankle, as well, and checking for proper fit and adding moleskin can also help prevent this issue.

Seek advice of a podiatrist in case of a bone spur

In some cases, individuals may exhibit a bone spur in the back of the ankle or heel that can enlarge the area and lead to the footwear and the foot pressing against each other. In this instance, modifying footwear choices may not be helpful enough. These individuals may need to seek the advice of a podiatrist to achieve the desired results.

Shoes rub at the back of the ankle for two reasons: 1) a problem with the shoe or 2) a problem with the heel. Shoe problems that can cause excess rubbing result from improper sizing or poor shoe construction. Both shoes that are are too small and shoes that are too big can cause rubbing.

Shoes constructed with stiff material or a heel counter that is too rigid will also cause irritation. Problems such as Achilles tendonitis or heel spur can cause swelling and prominence at the back of the heel which causes rubbing and discomfort as well.

If you are facing a raw, bleeding, blistered or painful heel as a result, here are some solutions:

  • Take a break from shoes that are rubbing the area to allow the skin to heal.
  • Add an insole to your shoe which will slightly elevate your heel to reduce rubbing at the area that is sore.
  • Cushion the back of the shoe with moleskin or gel liners.
  • Wear two pairs of socks (one thinner and one thicker) to reduce friction and rubbing at the skin interface.
  • Visit a specialty shoe store for sizing.
  • A cobbler can manipulate shoes to stretch rigid heel counters and reduce pressure.

Edgard Nau, D.P.M.

Edgard Nau

Podiatrist, Manhattan Home Podiatric

Stop wearing shoes that don’t fit

You can’t “stop” a shoe from rubbing up against the posterior ankle. But, what you can do is stop wearing shoes that don’t fit. The foot has evolved to function flat and on an irregular surface. A shoe can be constricting and cause rubbing, not only at the back of the ankle but in other areas.

Heel height is important because it was not designed to take up all your weight on the forefoot, which can cause retrograde force against the back of the ankle in a shoe that is too tight and too high in heel.

So, buy your shoes at the end of the day, because feet normally swell. And if they look too good not to wear, use a band-aid on your skin and/or a piece of moleskin on the inside of the heel cup that is rubbing against your skin.

Jordan Duncan, DC

Jordan Duncan

Owner, Silverdale Sport & Spine

A limitation in ankle motion could be to blame for your shoe rubbing

When shoes rub on the back of the ankle, it is common for people to search for a new pair of shoes (especially a less rigid pair of shoes) in order to remedy the problem. While this may prove to provide relief, there is another common cause of shoe rub that has to do with the mechanics of the ankle joint and surrounding soft tissues.

The proper function of the ankle is very important during gait, especially the function of the ankle rocker, which allows the body to move forward over the weight-bearing limb while both the heel and the forefoot are in contact with the ground.

The motion involved in ankle rocker is termed ankle dorsiflexion, which is the approximation of the dorsum of the foot (the top of the foot) and the shin. By the end of the midstance period of gait, just before heel lift, the ankle should have dorsiflexed 10 degrees.

If ankle dorsiflexion is inadequate, ankle rocker suffers and premature heel lift occurs. Normally heel lift occurs as the opposite foot contacts the ground. When the heel lifts too early, seen as a ‘bouncy type gait’, excessive motion occurs at the shoe/foot interface, potentially leading to blisters on the back of the ankle.

In general, it takes more than 1/4 of an inch of movement between the back of the ankle and the shoe to create a blister. While we would like to have no movement between the back of the ankle and the shoe, less than 1/8 of an inch is adequate.

Test your ankle dorsiflexion

Therefore, if someone is dealing with blisters on the back of their ankle from excessive shoe rub, in addition to searching for a less rigid shoe that cups their heel more appropriately, they should test their ankle dorsiflexion.

This can be done with the individual standing, by having them face a wall with their toes a hand width away from the wall. In this test they bend their knees toward the wall, trying to touch them against the wall.

If they can accomplish this with their feet flat on the ground, they have adequate ankle dorsiflexion and likely uncompensated ankle rocker during gait.

If they can’t touch their knees against the wall without lifting their heels, they should look to increase their ankle dorsiflexion, as this can greatly improve ankle rocker and decrease the rubbing of their shoe on the back of their ankle.

Increasing ankle dorsiflexion can be accomplished through a variety of mechanisms. If they feel tightness on the back of their ankle and calf during the aforementioned test, calf stretching with the knees both straight and bent can improve the length of soft tissues on the back of the ankle.

If they feel pinching on the front of their ankle, joint mobilizations targeted toward improving ankle dorsiflexion can be beneficial and should be applied by a healthcare professional trained in manual therapy.

Michael Fishkin, C.Ped.

Michael Fishkin

Certified Pedorthist, Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists

Bring your shoes to a pedorthist to be assessed

A pedorthist can stretch out leather shoes or thin out the insole to provide more depth so that you don’t slide out of the shoe when you step and prevent rubbing.

There are also different pads you can put right under your metatarsal that can help reduce pressures exerted on the foot, prevent heel slippage and irritating of your toes.

In general with high heels, a platform is better than a stiletto because the natural rock of a platform allows the shoe to move with your foot adequately and prevents rubbing against the heel.

There are different sprays that you can put on to loosen up leather, and conditioners to soften the leather

These help dress shoes fit more comfortably and naturally on your feet. But most importantly, it is vital to make sure that your shoe fits your foot properly so that you avoid any additional rubbing or toes going numb.

If you want to be very certain that your heels will be comfortable and fit properly, you can always buy a few different sizes, or bring your shoes to a pedorthist to be assessed. A certified pedorthist can tell you if it’s really the best fit, and add any straps, footbeds, etc. to be adjusted and modified to your specifications.

“Remember, just because you bought a regular shoe, doesn’t mean that it can’t be customized to the best fit for you.” – Dr. McEneaney

Alice Holland

Alice Holland

Doctor of Physical Therapy, Stride Strong Physical Therapy, LLC

Use a low-cost heel cup, usually made out of silicone for grip

We treat a lot of runners at our clinic and ankle rub is, unfortunately, one of the things our runners complain about regarding their running shoes. This is typical because of extra room in the rear part of the shoe, either due to the shoe’s design or due to the wearer’s skinny heels. Women tend to have skinnier heels than men, so this tends to be a common complaint amongst women wearers.

My advice is to use a low-cost heel cup, usually made out of silicone for grip. The heel cup cups over the heel and occupies space within the shoe for more a comfortable and cushy fit. It also protects the heel’s skin as well.

Meg Marrs

Meg Marrs

Founder, Safer‌ ‌Senior‌ ‌Care

Hit the back repeatedly with a hammer

Usually when the season changes from summer to fall and I make that change from sandals to shoes my feet rebel and I find they rub the back of my ankle. This makes wearing shoes intolerable. Over the years I have found that when transitioning from sandals to shoes I can only wear those with very soft leather backs.

To soften the backs, I use the same method as when I tenderize meat. I use a small hammer and repeatedly hit the back of the shoe around the top. Once it feels soft I add a small amount of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and leave overnight.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do my shoes rub the back of my ankle?

Shoes rubbing against the back of your ankle can be quite uncomfortable and even painful. There could be several reasons why this is happening. Some common causes include:

Shoes that are too small: If your shoes are too small, they can squeeze your heel and cause rubbing and blisters. Wear shoes that fit correctly and provide enough room for your feet to move freely.

Shoes that are too loose: On the other hand, shoes that are too loose can also cause friction and rubbing. The back of your foot may slide inside the shoe, leading to rubbing and blisters.

Poorly designed shoes: Some shoes, especially those with a low back, can cause friction and rub against the ankle. Shoes with a high back or ankle support can help prevent this issue.

Socks that are too thin: Thin socks can cause friction and rub against the skin. Make sure you’re wearing socks that are thick enough to protect your feet and provide cushioning.

Foot deformities: Certain foot conditions, such as high arches, can cause your foot to slide inside the shoe, leading to rubbing and blisters.

What to do if new shoes hurt?

If your new shoes are causing discomfort or pain, there are a few things you can try to alleviate the issue:

Break them in gradually: New shoes can feel tight and stiff, so it’s best to wear them for short periods of time and gradually increase the duration as they start to feel more comfortable.

Use insoles: If your shoes are too tight or rub in certain areas, consider adding insoles to provide extra cushioning and reduce pressure points.

Stretch the shoes: If your shoes are too tight, try stretching them out. You can do this by wearing thick socks and using a hair dryer to apply heat to the tight areas for several minutes or by filling plastic bags with water and putting them inside the shoes, then putting the shoes in the freezer overnight.

Use moleskin or band-aids: If you’re experiencing discomfort or blisters, try applying moleskin or a band-aid to the affected area.

Consider getting them professionally fitted: If the shoes still aren’t comfortable, consider taking them to a shoe store and getting them professionally fitted. The store may be able to suggest a different size or style that would better fit your feet.

How long does it take to break in shoes?

Breaking in a new pair of shoes can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the type of shoe and your activity level. Some shoes may feel comfortable immediately, while others may take a bit more time to feel like they fit just right.

Shoes are made of different materials, and each requires a different amount of time to break in. For example, leather shoes tend to be stiffer and require more time to break in, while shoes made of mesh or other breathable materials may feel comfortable much faster.

How do you break in shoes fast?

If you’re in a hurry to break in your new shoes, here are some tips that can help speed up the process:

Wear thick socks: Wearing thick socks can help to reduce pressure on your feet and make the shoes feel more comfortable.

Use a shoe stretch spray: Shoe stretch sprays contain conditioners that can help to soften the material of the shoes and make them more pliable. Simply spray the inside of the shoe and wear them for a few hours to help break them in faster.

Use a hair dryer: Aim a hair dryer at the tight spots in your shoes for a few minutes to soften the material. Then, wear the shoes for a few minutes to help mold them to the shape of your feet.

Wear them around the house: Wearing your new shoes around the house can help to break them in faster, as you’ll be able to move around freely and get a feel for how they fit.

Use inserts or cushioning: Using inserts or cushioning can help alleviate any pressure points and make the shoes feel more comfortable faster.

Can wearing thicker socks help prevent shoe irritation?

Yes, wearing thicker socks can help prevent shoe irritation in some cases. Thicker socks can provide a layer of cushioning between your feet and the shoes, reducing the pressure on certain areas and helping to prevent blisters and other forms of irritation.

However, it’s important to note that wearing thicker socks can also make your shoes feel tighter. So you should choose a sock that is not too thick and still allows your feet to move freely.

Additionally, if your shoes are already tight, wearing thicker socks may not be enough to prevent irritation, and you may need to try a different pair of shoes or consider getting them stretched.

Can using a silicone heel liner help prevent shoe irritation?

Yes, using a silicone heel liner can sometimes help prevent shoe irritation. Silicone heel liners are designed to be worn inside your shoes and provide a cushion between your heel and the shoe. 

They help reduce friction and prevent your heel from sliding inside the shoe, which can help prevent blisters and other forms of irritation. Simply insert the silicone heel liner into your shoe and make sure it fits snugly against your heel.

Is it okay to wear shoes that are slightly bigger to prevent rubbing?

Wearing shoes that are slightly bigger to prevent rubbing can have mixed results. On the one hand, having a little extra room in your shoes can help reduce pressure and prevent rubbing on your feet.

On the other hand, if your shoes are too loose, they can cause your feet to slide inside the shoes, which can lead to blisters, calluses, and other forms of irritation.

Additionally, too big shoes can cause your feet to slide forward and put extra pressure on your toes, leading to discomfort and even pain. This can also cause your shoes to wear out faster, as your feet are not being supported properly.

What should I do if I already have a blister from my shoes rubbing the back of my ankle?

If you already have a blister from your shoes rubbing the back of your ankle, here are a few steps you can take to help soothe the affected area and prevent further irritation:

Clean the affected area: Clean the blister and the surrounding area with soap and water, and allow it to dry completely.

Protect the blister: Cover the blister with a clean, dry bandage to help protect it from further irritation.

Reduce swelling: If the blister is painful or swollen, you can try applying a cold compress, such as a bag of frozen peas or a cold gel pack, to the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.

Take pain relief medication: If the blister is causing discomfort, you can take over-the-counter pain relief medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to help reduce pain and swelling.

Avoid pressure: Avoid putting pressure on the affected area, and avoid wearing shoes that rub the back of your ankle until the blister has completely healed.

Let it heal: If the blister is not too painful and not at risk of tearing, it is best to let it heal on its own. The blister will eventually dry up, and the skin will heal over the affected area.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

As you found this post useful...

Share it on social media!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?