In my native Romanian there is an expression that literally means "my shoes are beating me" when they hurt, and thus are producing pain, abrasion of the skin and calluses (mă bat pantofii). The use of the verb "to beat" was maybe originally metaphorical but now is descriptive. The verb "to beat" has simply gained a new specific meaning.

I know one can say in English "my shoes are too tight" or "not broken in yet". But is there a specific similar expression saying what the shoes are "doing" to me?

(I have realized I don't know this when for other purposes I have looked into some Latin/Romance etymologies and the semantic relation between violent action (to beat, to kick), the act of walking and that of creating/opening a path.)

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    People say metaphorically that their shoes are killing them. Nov 4, 2022 at 15:00
  • @YosefBaskin - metaphorically, yes, but do they say it for lack of a specific descriptive expression? The "beating" part in Romanian was maybe originally metaphorical but now is descriptive. The verb "to beat" has simply gained a new specific meaning.
    – cipricus
    Nov 4, 2022 at 15:03
  • Shoes hurt for being too tight or loose, holding sweat and causing blisters, walking too far. Nov 4, 2022 at 15:24
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    What's wrong with "my shoes are hurting me", as in the heading? It's idiomatic. Aside from that you would describe the particular characteristic of the discomfort: whether they were too tight, too loose (and hence rubbing), ill-fitting, falling apart, letting water in, etc. I'm not sure why you want a different expression - are you just curious of all the different ways English-speakers talk about their shoes?
    – Stuart F
    Nov 4, 2022 at 15:51
  • 3
    "My shoes are not broken yet" does not really make sense in English. You meant to say "my shoes are not broken in yet".
    – Pilcrow
    Nov 5, 2022 at 11:22

3 Answers 3


Idiomatically, in English we usually assign the cause of the discomfort to our own body parts...

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...and for an even more extreme choice where the "less common" version is too rare to show on the chart...

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The speaker might need to clarify the cause (My new shoes are too tight, rather than I've been on my feet for hours). But when people are complaining about feeling uncomfortable, they often welcome the chance to use more words anyway!

  • But in the other answers specialized verbs are mentioned: to pinch, to wring, and to chafe. How popular is their use and how is it dependent on British vs American and other areas of English?
    – cipricus
    Nov 5, 2022 at 19:25
  • While "my feet are killing me" could be caused by your shoes, it can often be due to physiological problems, so I don't think it's equivalent to "my shoes are killing me"
    – Barmar
    Nov 5, 2022 at 19:57
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    How long is a piece of string? Verbs like pinch, chafe, squeeze, rub,... do exist,, and could be used in your context. But hopefully it's obvious to you why no-one says My feet are pinching me. And if you want to sound like a native speaker (the normal goal for learners, even if they never expect to actually get that far! :) you only really need to note which verbs are acceptable for both the thing causing pain AND the place / body part that hurts. Note that this isn't really an aspect of English usage that's much affected by which side of the pond you live. Nov 5, 2022 at 19:57
  • @Barmar: I already pointed out that clarification might be needed. But my charts should be enough to convince anyone that if OP wants to soud like a native Anglophone, he's asking the wrong questioon. Nov 5, 2022 at 19:59
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    @cipricus “My head is hurting” is fine, as is “my head hurts”. “My hat is hurting me” would not be. What I mean is, it’s perfectly grammatical and understandable, but it sounds unusual. You need to specify in what way the hat (or shoe) is causing pain (“pinching” if it’s tight, “chafing” if it’s abrading the skin, etc.) in order to sound natural and colloquial. The hyperbole “killing” is an exception (“my hat is killing me” is fine), but as FumbleFingers shows, even that is more likely to be used of the body part (“my head is killing me”). Nov 7, 2022 at 8:21

Pinch is a specific verb for hurting shoes.

if shoes or clothes pinch, they hurt you because they fit too tightly


Wring has this specific sense also beside its usual and common sense and it is an uncommon alternative to pinch, used in British English. OED provides this specific sense of wring as below, although there aren't any contemporary citations.

Of a tight shoe or boot: to press painfully upon (the foot, toe, etc.); to hurt (a person) in this way; = pinch v. 1b.

Pinch is used figuratively also in the phrase where the shoe pinches (and its variants) for the source of a trouble, difficulty etc. The uncommon alternative is where the shoe wrings.

  • 2
    As a native speaker of American English, I think that if you used "wring" to mean your clothing was uncomfortable, you would not be understood. Wring means to squeeze water out of something; if you used it in connection with clothing, people would think you were talking about laundry. Nov 6, 2022 at 9:01
  • @fluffysheap Yes, the verb wring has the usual sense that you've mentioned but it has this specific sense also, same as pinch. I've mentioned as less common, and it is used in British English. I've updated my answer to make it clear. Thank you for pointing it out.
    – ermanen
    Nov 6, 2022 at 9:33

I think the apposite verb for the above description is chafe.

To chafe is to irritate or annoy. If your shoes chafe you, they rub your skin raw. Ouch.


Per The Britannica Dictionary:

to cause soreness or damage by rubbing against something (such as your skin)

If my boots aren't laced up tight they chafe.

  • 3
    The thing about chafing is that you need skin.
    – Lambie
    Nov 4, 2022 at 17:38
  • Is "my boots chafe" really correct? I think it's not an intransitive verb (for this meaning), it has to have an argument (the thing that it is chafing): "My boots chafe me".
    – minseong
    Nov 5, 2022 at 21:27
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    It's correct to use chafe intransitively, but it might not be what is meant. Chafe specifically means to irritate by rubbing against. There are other ways that shoes could hurt. I once had a shoe nail come up and the head of the nail poked into the sole of my foot. This didn't chafe, but it hurt. You would typically use chafe transitively only if you needed to specify a particular body part that was irritated: "My boot is chafing my big toe." Nov 6, 2022 at 8:55
  • The OP has mentioned abrasion of the skin in his question. chafe is the appropriate verb for that. Apparently, the OP is looking for a catch-all term, which I doubt does exist at all.
    – user405662
    Nov 6, 2022 at 9:48

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