You know what's a great way to ruin your entire day? Stepping out of the house in a brand new pair of shoes that don't fit comfortably.
Wearing shoes that are either too narrow or too tight can cause blisters and toe pain — two things that are never pleasant! But there are a few things you can do to alleviate that potential pain before it starts.
Have a new pair of shoes that need a bit of stretching out or breaking in? Here's our complete guide on how to stretch shoes.
Can All Shoes be Stretched?
Before we get into how to stretch shoes, let's set some realistic expectations. You will never get a pair of size fives to fit your size eight feet, so don't even bother.
If you're looking to stretch your shoes about a half size or so, there are lots of ways to do it. But if you're hoping to expand your shoes by a full shoe size or more, it's a waste of time and effort. When shoes are really tight, it's better to return them and buy a new pair in a bigger size.
Only need to stretch your shoes a little bit to get that perfect fit? It absolutely can be done.
In theory, all shoes can be stretched. It can get a little bit more complicated with rigid leather shoes, but various types of leather, suede and fabric shoes can be stretched out to alleviate tight areas and spots that pinch.
Ready to learn how? Here are seven ways to stretch shoes that actually work.
Find a Cobbler
Yes, cobblers still exist!
If you have shoes that need a bit of stretching, take them to a local shoe repair shop. Professional shoe repair shops are full of all sorts of lotions, conditioners and equipment that can help to stretch your shoes.
Don't need the entire shoe stretched? Be sure to let the professionals know if you only want them to stretch your shoes in certain areas.
Depending on where you live, shoe cobblers charge anywhere from a few dollars per shoe up to $30 per pair, or even $50 to stretch a pair of boots. Before you turn your shoes over for professional stretching, consider the price of stretching versus the price you paid for the shoes in the first place.
Don't have a local shoe repair or don't want to shell out any money? There are plenty of DIY ways to stretch your shoes at home.
Buy Shoe Trees
Shoe trees — also referred to as shoe stretchers — are the best way to stretch out new shoes, especially a good pair made from firm leather.
Shoe trees come in different sizes and designs. You can stretch your shoe's length from the toe box to the heel with a two-way shoe stretcher. With a four-way shoe stretcher, you can expand the length as well as the width of a shoe.
Here's how they work:
Shoe stretchers are molded and shaped just like the front part of your foot. Just insert them into your shoes and adjust the handles or knobs to fit tightly inside. Some even include little plugs so you can stretch out specific areas where you have bunions or tend to experience tightening and pinching.
Shoe trees are the safest way to stretch leather and suede shoes, especially expensive ones that you don't want to risk damaging, with some of the other methods we're going to talk about below.
There are tons of different shoe stretchers available on Amazon, including some designed specifically to stretch high heels, booties or leather boots. You can expect to spend around $20 on a pair, but once you have them, you can use them over and over again to stretch out all of your future shoe purchases that fit a bit too snug!
Just keep in mind, shoe stretchers take some time to work, so don't expect to pop them in and have stretched shoes within five minutes. For maximum effect, leave them in your shoes for about two days. If your shoes don't feel pulled enough after 48 hours, expand them more and let them sit for another day or two.
With shoe stretchers, it's all about patience.
Are your new shoes too tight at the toe? If so, popping them in the freezer can make all the difference.
To stretch your shoes with the freezing method, fill two plastic bags about 3/4 of the way with water. Seal them tight and put one bag in each shoe, pushing them towards the front of the shoe into the toe area.
Clear off some space on your freezer shelf and put your shoes inside. As the water freezes and turns to ice, it will expand and stretch out your shoes.
This method works best if you're trying to stretch out the toe area of your shoes, as it's pretty easy to wedge bags of water up and into the toe box. If you're trying to stretch the entire shoe, you may need more than one bag of water for each.
Leave your shoes in the freezer until the water bags have turned to solid ice. When you take them out, let the water melt a bit before pulling the bag out. Otherwise, you could damage your shoes.
If you try this method with suede shoes, be extra careful when putting the bags in and taking them out. Water ruins suede!
Heat Them Up
Don't want to freeze your shoes? Heating them works just as well.
With a hairdryer and some thick socks, you can stretch out a pair of tight shoes rather quickly. Here's what you need to do:
Wear some really thick socks, put on your shoes and turn your blow dryer to medium heat. Run the hairdryer over different parts of the shoe for about thirty seconds at a time. Be careful not to apply too much heat, as most shoes are glued in spots and excess heat can melt the glue.
If there are specific parts of the shoe that don't fit well, aim the heat there. This method is ideal if you only need to stretch out particular areas of the shoe.
Wear the shoes until they cool down, then take off those thick, sweaty socks and test them out. If you plan to wear the shoes without socks, give them a test run around your house in bare feet. If you plan to wear them with thin socks, put a pair of thin socks on and see how they feel with those.
This method works best on sneakers and soft shoes. It won't do a whole lot for structured dress shoes made from heavy or hard leather. The more rigid and structured a shoe or sneaker is, the harder it will be to stretch, regardless of the method used.
Wear Them Around the House
Thick socks work great with the blow-drying stretching method, but sometimes a thick pair of socks is all you need.
Pretty much everyone we know has one shared experience:
We buy a new pair of shoes. They fit great! We slip into them, head out for the day looking oh-so-stylish, and midway through the day, we're in agony.
They're pinching in all the wrong places. Blisters are forming at the back of the heel and on the sides of each foot. We're suffering every step we take, and our OOTD is now wasted. We have no choice but to head home because our feet are killing us!
We've all been there. And if you say you haven't, it's probably only because you've blocked that painful memory from your brain.
No matter how comfortable a pair of boots or shoes may feel when you first slip them on, it's always a good idea to wear them around the house for a couple of days before introducing them to the world.
Freezing, heating and other methods can help stretch out shoes, but wearing them around the house with thick socks is sometimes the only necessary method.
We suggest starting with this technique — if it doesn't work, you can always move onto more drastic measures.
In some cases, you might not even need the socks! Just breaking in a new pair of shoes at home is sometimes all it takes to give them the proper stretch.
Spray Them With Water and Alcohol
Spraying your shoes with water and rubbing alcohol can help to stretch out problem areas. This method is suitable for leather and suede, but not necessarily fabric shoes.
Combine equal parts water and rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. Spray it into the inside of your shoes, and then stuff your boots with newspaper, particularly into the areas you want to stretch.
Let them sit overnight, and then try them on with the socks you intend to wear with them. If they still feel too tight, keep repeating the process. The mixture of water and alcohol can help make your shoes a bit more pliable, helping them stretch.
Another option is to soak a pair of socks in a half alcohol, half water mixture. Wring the socks out, put them on your feet, and wear those semi-wet socks with your new shoes for about twenty to thirty minutes. We don't suggest doing this with suede, as the water and alcohol can create stains and spots where the shoe touches the sock.
Try a Shoe Stretching Spray
Whether you're trying to stretch leather, suede, nubuck or canvas shoes, a shoe stretch spray can make new footwear feel like your old broken-in favorites.
Shoe stretching sprays don't stretch shoes miraculously — what they do is soften shoes. And softening a shoe in a tight spot or an area that pinches makes it easier to stretch them out.
There are dozens of affordable shoe stretching sprays on Amazon — just make sure you buy one made for the suitable fabric or material. Some recommend that you spray them generously on the inside of the shoe then stretch them out by wearing a thick pair of socks. Others suggest that you apply the spray and let it sit overnight with shoe trees in your shoes.
Can You Stretch Shoes?
But it can take some time and patience to do.
One of the most effective ways to stretch shoes is to wear them. You may have to endure some tightness or pinching in the first few hours or days, but it is the most effective way to break in a pair of shoes.
So the next time you buy a brand new pair of shoes, do yourself a favor and wear them around your house for a while. No matter how great those new shoes compliment an outfit, tingling toes and blisters are never a good look.
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7 Methods To Stretch Your Shoes:
- Find a Cobbler
- Buy Shoe Trees
- Freeze Them
- Heat Them Up
- Wear Them Around the House
- Spray Them With Water and Alcohol
- Try a Shoe Stretching Spray