Have you ever bought a pair of “must-have” shoes only to find they aren’t quite the right size? The toes pinch, the heels rub, or the instep presses on your foot. You might be wondering do shoe stretchers work?
After all, you have invested in your chosen footwear; the last thing you want is for them to be languishing in your wardrobe. When you discover your shoes aren’t comfortable, don’t relegate them to being worn only on occasions when you know you can stand the pain. Shoe stretchers could be your savior, read on to find out why.
We will look at what shoe stretchers are, the different types of shoe stretchers, and what they can do. We will detail how to use them, and answer the burning question, do shoe stretchers really work?
What are Shoe Stretchers?
Shoe stretchers are versatile tools that can expand the width and length of your shoes.
They can also stretch specific areas if you have bunions or calluses that need relief from the pressure that your shoes place on them. It’s not just shoes either; you can also get stretchers that will expand the calves and instep areas on boots.
Made from wood or heavy-duty plastic and metal they can look a bit like a medieval torture device. I suppose that they are, but for your shoes. There are no left or right feet for shoe stretchers, but some come as singles and some in pairs.
Shoes made from natural materials such as leather or canvas are the best candidates for adjusting with shoe stretchers. They will work on synthetic materials, but the results might not last. They can revert to the size they were initially, and you’ll have to stretch them again.
Why Should You Use Shoe Stretchers?
Despite your best efforts when buying shoes, you don’t always get it right. You selected the correct size and width; you tried them on again at the end of the day when your feet were at their largest — only to find they are now too short, too narrow or pinching your toes.
Using shoe stretchers can give you that extra bit of room your feet crave. Being honest, they won’t increase your shoes if they are a few sizes too small. What they will do is give up to a half-inch extra in your shoe’s length, width, or both.
They are also great to use if you have one shoe that fits perfectly and one that’s a bit tight. Yes, we all have feet that differ slightly in size between the left and right. Simply use a shoe stretcher on the one that’s too small.
Are There Different Types of Shoe Stretchers?
Yes, there are. Here are the different types:
- One way shoe stretchers: As the name implies, these shoe stretchers are designed to stretch specific areas. It could be the width, the instep, or the toe box.
- Two-way shoe stretchers: These allow you to stretch the length and/or width of your shoes. They have small attachments you can use to target pressure points where you have bunions, corns, or calluses.
- High heel stretchers: This one is for the ladies and is designed for those Manolo’s or Louboutins that you couldn’t resist. They are narrower and angled to fit perfectly into ladies’ high heeled shoes.
- Boot stretchers: Have you got some hiking boots, cowboy boots, or knee-high boots that are too tight. There are shoe stretchers that can either stretch the foot width, calf width (shaft) and/or instep of boots. You can also read our guide on stretchering leather boots.
How to Use Shoe Stretchers
A two-way stretcher will let you adjust the width and length at the same time. We will detail how to stretch the length and width. The principles are the same for the other types of stretchers.
How to Stretch the Width of Your Shoes
What You Need
- Shoe stretcher ( two way or one way)
- Shoe stretching spray.
What You Do
- Spray the inside and outside of your shoes with a shoe stretching spray to prepare them. You can use one like this from Footmatters. Remember to patch test on an inconspicuous area first to ensure it doesn’t change the color of your shoes.
- If there are pressure points you want to stretch, insert the plugs supplied in the correct spot.
- Make sure the stretcher is fully closed and place it into your shoe.
- The shoe stretcher should touch the end of the toe box.
- There is a handle at the end of the shoe stretcher (it looks a bit like a hook). Turn this clockwise to open the wooden or plastic block. Keep turning until it is snug, then give it about three more full turns.
- Leave the shoe with the stretcher in to do its work for about six to eight hours.
- After this time, turn the handle counter-clockwise to loosen the stretcher.
- Remove the stretcher from the shoe and check for fit.
- If more adjustment is needed, repeat steps 1 through to 8 above.
- If both shoes require stretching and you only have a single shoe stretcher, repeat the process for the other shoe.
- When using the stretching spray concentrate on the areas of the shoes that are particularly tight.
- You might need to repeat the process several times to get the required result, so be patient.
This video shows you how to adjust the width of your shoes and insert the plugs for pressure points.
How to Stretch the Length of Your Shoes
What You Need
- Shoe stretcher (two way or one way)
- Shoe stretching spray.
What You Do
- Spray your shoes inside and out with the stretching spray to prepare them.
- Put the shoe stretcher into your shoe, making sure the block at the toe is closed and tight to the end of the toe box.
- The heel block will be closest to the back of the stretcher, make sure it’s inside the shoe. The flat side should be facing upwards.
- Locate the wheel at the end, between the heel block and the handle.
- Turn the wheel clockwise. You will see the heel block moving towards the back of the shoe (heel counter).
- Once the heel block is snug, turn the wheel, fully about three more times.
- Leave the shoe with the stretcher in for about six to eight hours.
- To remove the stretcher, turn the wheel counter-clockwise to loosen it.
- Gently remove it from the shoe.
- Check the shoe and see if the fit is correct.
- If the fit is not what you want, repeat steps one to nine above.
- If both shoes require stretching and you only have a single shoe stretcher, repeat the process for the other shoe.
- Don’t leave the shoe stretcher in the shoes longer than recommended. Overstretching them will make them too big.
- After your shoes are stretched, you can use shoe trees to help your shoes retain their shape when stored. This pack of two from Stratton is made of Cedarwood and will help keep your shoes fresh as well.
This video shows you how to use a shoe stretcher to adjust the length (and width).
What Are the Best Shoe Stretchers?
There are many shoe stretchers available on the market. Here are quick reviews of some of the best on offer.
1. One Way Shoe Stretcher for Width
Made from Beech Wood with stainless steel mechanics, this shoe stretcher fits either a right or left shoe. It has metal plugs that can be inserted for pressure points on specific areas.
- WHAT’S IN THE BOX: You will receive ONLY ONE Premium One-Way Shoe Stretcher with 3 Bunion Plugs with purchase. This is compatible with both right and left side and would recommend getting a pair to stretch at the same time. Please remember, this was crafted to fit regular type Sneakers, Dress Shoes, Flats and Hiking Shoes. These were NOT meant for Boots, Cowboy Boots, High Heels or Steel/Rubber toe footwear.
- PREMIUM MATERIALS: Our Professional One-Way Shoe Stretcher was designed using premium materials to make stretching your footwear easy. The foot piece was constructed using superior quality of Beech Wood that won’t harm the materials of your footwear. To hold everything in place, we use stainless steel hardware along with a dense plastic handle making this stretcher last even longer!
- STRONG & DURABLE: Constructed using top notch materials, we feel this will be your go to and last One-Way shoe stretcher that you will have, unless you need a different variation which we have plenty to choose from! It features a dense Beech Wood base with stainless steel hardware, which adjusts with ease. Our Heavy-Duty Stainless-Steel construction along with the superior Beech Wood will stand the test of time and can even last longer than your shoes!
- ADDED FEATURE: Along with the SINGLE One-Way Stretcher, we’ve included three bunion/corn plugs for pressure point relief. These bunion/corn plugs are constructed with stainless steel to be both strong and durable while in use with the shoe stretcher. The plugs were designed to be used in unison with the shoe stretcher and can be inserted in the predrilled slots.
- IMPORTANT NOTE: You will receive ONE One-Way Shoe Stretcher with your order. We recommend ordering a set so you can stretch your shoes at the same time. ONE Stretcher and three bunion/corn plugs are included with your order. These were design to fit regular type footwear like Sneakers, Dress Shoes, Flats and Hiking Shoes. These will not work with Boots, Cowboy Boots, High Heels or Steel/Rubber toe footwear. Buy with confidence, feel free to message us with questions. We stand by our products!
There are four sizes available for men or women. The women’s sizes range from 3.5 to 12, and the men’s from 5.5 to 16.
2. One Way Shoe Stretcher for Insteps
Woodlore by Ralyn brings you a shoe stretcher to expand the instep portion of your shoes. Made from durable Birchwood and steel, sizes are available covering women’s shoes from a 5 to 13.
- Expandable instep raiser helps relieve painful tightness.
- Adjustable design allows you to stretch the instep to the required height.
- Slim form fits into most women's shoes.
- Birch wood, steel.
A similar model for men in a size large is available from Star.
3. One Way Shoe Stretcher to Increase the Toe Box
This shoe stretcher is an excellent option for creating more room in the toe box of your shoes. It can help relieve pressure on bunions, corns, and calluses.
- Expandable toe raiser stretches toe box to give toes more room and relieve bunions, hammertoes, crowded toes, overlapping toes, sensitive toes, corns and calluses
- Adjustable stretch allows you to stretch toe box to height you need
- Slim form fits into most shoes; Fits into left or right shoe, so you only need one stretcher
- Helps relieve Blisters, Bunions, Calluses, Corns, Hammertoes, Sensitive Feet, Toe Pain - Pinched Toes
- Place stretcher into your shoe and turn handle clockwise until stretcher matches height of instep ; Continue to turn handle clockwise up to two additional turns to stretch Leave in shoe for 12 hours Repeat if additional stretch is needed
The men’s option covers sizes 7 to 10.5, and the women’s, 5 to 8.5. Both are made from Birchwood and steel.
- Raiser stretches toe box to give extra room to bunions, hammertoes and crowded toes.
- Adjustable design lets you stretch the toe box to the height you need.
- Slim form fits into most styles of shoe.
- Birch wood, steel.
4. Two-Way Shoe Stretchers
If you only plan on buying one stretcher to do all your shoes, these could be the ones. They can adjust the width, length, and instep, as well as the pressure points—and they come in a pack of two. This is great as you can stretch both of your tight shoes at the same time.
- 【4-WAY ADJUSTABLE SHOE EXPANDER; NOT SUITABLE FOR BOOTS !】 Eachway shoe stretchers provide 4-way stretching: Stretch width to widen shoe; Stretch length to increase shoe size; this Shoe stretchers are simple and work wonders for minimal stretching. Not only can they improve the fit of your favorite footwear, but can also help if you suffer from bunions, calluses, corns or other feet issues that cause pressure on the foot when inside of a shoe.
- 【PROFESSIONAL DESIGN,THE BEST POSSIBLE MATERIALS 】eachway shoe stretchers are made out of premium ABS plastic material with a strong steel shaft. STRONG and DURABLE! it has a long service time for 10 years.shoe expander set suitable for two pairs of shoes, it comes in a beautiful packaging, with each pair coming with its own canvas shoe bag that can further help keep your footwear protected from dust and moisture
- 【WORK WELL WITH VARIOUS OF SHOES】eachway shoe spreader perfect for use with leather and suede footwear and is ideal for stretching flats, sandals, loafers, oxfords, tennis shoes, slippers, sneakers, canvas shoes, sports shoes, peep toes shoes, ankle boots (DON'T FIT FOR THE LONG BOOTS!), bike shoes, wedge heels shoes (high heels<2.36”), etc 2.36”),>
- 【CHOOSE THE SIZE WHICH FIT FOR YOU】L (for Men's Size US 9.5-13.5);Yellow
- 【RISK-FREE PURCHASE GREAT GIFT IDEA】There comes with set of 2 shoe stretchers, 8 bunion plugs, 2 heighten pads and 1 shoe horn, 1shoe bag,this set will make a great gift for birthdays, holidays and other special occasions.
You can choose from yellow or rose-colored premium ABS plastic with steel mechanisms. It comes in small, medium and large covering shoe sizes from men’s 6 to 13.5 and women’s 5 to 12.5. The purchase is complete with two sets of plugs for pressure points and a shoehorn.
5. Two Way Stretchers for High Heels
Tight flats are bad enough, but when your toes are pinched into a pair of heels, it can be hard to walk. Do you carry a pair of pumps in your bag to change your heels out when they get too painful? Why not stretch them to fit instead with these shoe stretchers from KevenAnna.
- High heel shoe stretcher is made of tough polyurethane plastic & premium steel shaft .
- These shoe trees are available for USA women's size 4.5 - 9.5
- Stretch and Maintain both the length & width.
- Shoe tree comes with packet of 12 bunion/corn plugs for stretching specific areas
- Sold as pair of shoe stretchers
Designed to enlarge women’s shoes between sizes 4.5 to 9.5, they come in a pair. Made from polyurethane plastic with a steel shaft, they are sturdy and durable—and they are pink!
6. One Way Shoe Stretcher for Boots
This is a single stretcher from FootFitter with an extra-long shaft to fit boots that need stretching. It’s made from steel and Beechwood and has 16 different plug holes you can use to target areas of pressure. It’s suitable for left or right boots.
- WHAT’S IN THE BOX: You will receive ONLY ONE Premium Boot Stretcher with 3 Bunion Plugs with purchase. This is compatible with both right and left boots and would recommend getting a pair to stretch at the same time. Please remember, this was crafted to fit regular style boots and NOT for COWBOY/WESTERN Style Boots.
- PREMIUM MATERIALS: Our Professional Boot Stretcher was designed using premium materials to make stretching your footwear easy. The foot piece was constructed using superior quality of Beech Wood that won’t harm the materials of your boots. To hold everything in place, we use stainless steel hardware making this stretcher last even longer!
- STRONG & DURABLE: Constructed using top notch materials, we feel this will be your go to and last boot stretcher that you will have, unless you need a different variation which we have plenty to choose from! It features a dense Beech Wood base with a long-jointed handle made from stainless steel, which adjusts with ease. Our Heavy-Duty Stainless-Steel construction along with the superior Beech Wood will stand the test of time and can even last longer than your boots!
- ADDED FEATURE: Along with the SINGLE BOOT Stretcher, we’ve included three bunion/corn plugs for pressure point relief. These bunion/corn plugs are constructed with stainless steel to be both strong and durable while in use with the boot stretcher. The plugs were designed to be used in unison with the boot stretcher and can be inserted in the predrilled slots.
- IMPORTANT NOTE: You will receive ONE Boot Stretcher with your order. We recommend ordering a set so you can stretch your boots at the same time. ONE Stretcher and three bunion/corn plugs are included with your order. These were design to fit regular boots, these will not work with COWBOY/WESTERN STYLE BOOTS. Buy with confidence, feel free to message us with questions. We stand by our products!
This shoe stretcher is not suitable for western-style boots. The company does offer this one for cowboy boots, which has all the same great features.
7. Shoe Stretchers for Boot Shaft and Instep
It’s not only the foot section of boots that can be tight. Maybe the instep is putting pressure on your ankles, or the calf is snugger than you’d like. The solution could be this shoe stretcher for all types of boots.
- DURABLE CONSTRUCTION: Wanting a top of the line boot stretcher, we created our Cast Aluminum Combination Boot Instep & Shaft Stretcher. Using molten aluminum, which is poured into a mold, our combo boot stretcher was created. Focusing on quality, the cast stretcher is perfect for your boot stretching needs. It's built strong and durable to stretch all of your boots when needed!
- DUAL STRETCHER: Created from cast aluminum, our FootFitter Combination Boot Stretcher is perfect for all your boots. The stretcher has dual functionality to suit your needs. It targets both your instep and the shaft of your boots.
- INSTEP STRETCHING: Designed to target your boot's instep area, this boot stretcher can do it. Formed from cast aluminum, our boot stretcher is durable enough to stretch all types of boots. Once inserted in your boots, the bottom of the stretcher expands and raises the instep plate relieving pressure from the ankles.
- BOOT SHAFT STRETCHING: Being formed from cast aluminum, strength is key. Quality boots are durable and to stretch it, your stretcher needs to be the same! The smooth shaft plate helps to keep the natural shape of your boots while being stretched.
- RECOMMENDATIONS: We recommend with all types of shoe or boot stretchers is to go slow. Top quality boots and shoes are constructed to be tough and your stretcher should be the same. Take your time when stretching your footwear. Go slow and ease the stretching process. Leather takes time to expand and you don't want to force it.
You can use it to stretch the shaft (leg section) of your boots, or the instep, or both at the same time. It’s made from cast aluminum, and one size fits all.
Time to Get Stretching
Returning to our initial question, do shoe stretchers work? Yes, they do, but they won’t work miracles and increase your shoes by full sizes. What they can do is give you up to an extra half-inch of room in your shoes and relieve pressure points.
You can stretch the width or length, give yourself more room at the toes, or widen the shaft of your boots. The stretchers we have detailed will all do the job, it’s up to you, and what type of shoes you want to stretch, as to which ones you choose.
So, raid your wardrobe, and get out all those shoes you haven’t been wearing because they were too tight. We would love to hear how you get on. Please leave us a comment and don’t forget to share.