How to Stretch Shoes So They Fit Better Than Ever
There’s an easy cure for a tight spot or a pinched toe.
We’ve all done it—kept that pair of shoes that is just a tiny bit too narrow along the sides, or that pinches our toes a little too much. Fortunately, you don’t have to suffer too-tight shoes—as long as you only need a half-inch or less of room, you can try one of these tricks to help stretch your shoes to make them fit your feet like a glove. (Of course, if you’re trying to squeeze your feet into a shoe three sizes too small, a la Cinderella’s stepsisters, you’re better off just buying a new pair.)
Keep in mind that these tips for stretching shoes work better on natural materials such as canvas and leather—shoes made of polyurethane and other synthetic materials tend to shrink back to their original size over time.
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How to stretch shoes
To stretch leather shoes, a blow dryer and thick socks may be all you need to address too-tight shoes. Put on a thick pair of socks with the shoes, then aim your blow dryer at the tight spots, using medium heat to soften the shoe until it fits comfortably. It usually takes just a couple of minutes to stretch the shoe a little more (just keep the hair dryer’s nozzle moving to avoid damaging the leather).
Tip: Apply a little leather conditioner after you stretch your shoes to help keep the leather in tip-top shape.
Ice can actually be just as effective as heat for fixing a tight pair of shoes. Partially fill a sandwich bag with water and place it in the area where the shoe is snug. Put the shoe in the freezer. As your water freezes into ice, it’ll expand and help stretch the shoe out.
If you regularly have problems with pinching in your shoes, a shoe stretcher may be a wise investment. (High-rated shoe stretchers on Amazon?come in below the $20 mark.) Shoe stretchers can be used to stretch the length of your shoes or widen them, and you’ll even find specialized stretchers that can stretch out the calf in a boot or that work specifically with heels.
To use a shoe stretcher, start by spraying the parts of the shoe you want to stretch with a shoe stretching solution, which can help relax the fibers of the leather or canvas so they can expand. Put the stretcher into the shoe so that it’s tight against the toe box. Turn the handle until you see the shoe expand and leave it for six to eight hours. Try it on to see if it fits—and if it doesn’t, turn the handle a few more times and repeat the process until it does. (It may take a few days to get you to the size you need.)
If you have specific spots that need a bump out (for instance, to stop rubbing on a bunion), most stretchers come with small plugs you can place in with the stretcher to give you a little extra space in just the right spot.