You can add some extra space to tight shoes right at home, and you’ll only need a pair of thick socks and a hairdryer. You can also use a couple of Ziploc bags or wet newspaper to expand your shoes.
Whether your new pair just needs a light breaking in or a serious stretch shoe, check out our tips and try them out for yourself. We also included some tips for finding shoes for wide feet, so that getting the right fit doesn’t mean you have to stretch your imagination.
These are the best ways for how to stretch shoes for wide feet:
- Change the insole.
- Stretch spray.
- Freezer technique.
- Shoe stretcher.
How to Stretch Shoes Wider
Before you start looking for ways on how to stretch shoes for wide feet, remember that not all materials are equal. Natural leather and suede are among the best options, but synthetic leather doesn’t have much give.
Fabric and canvas shoes stretch as well, but the more layers and linings they have, the tougher it will be to make them wider. Patent leather, for example, will be tougher to stretch than just one layer of suede. Sneakers with lots of padding can also be tough to widen.
Also, note that the shoe stretch process always has a risk. They might get deformed or stained if you’re not careful. Some types of stitching can overstretch or even break if you take the shoe stretching too far. Leather can be sensitive to stretch sprays or other liquids, as well as high temperatures.
With those important matters out of the way, let’s get right to it.
1. Change the Insole
If your new tight shoes have a removable insole, take it out and see if you can replace it with a thinner one. You’d be surprised how much more space this tiny change can free up for your feet, especially at the toe box.
2. Stretch Spray
You can either buy a stretch spray or make your own with some rubbing alcohol and a small spray bottle. The spray helps you soften the fibers and prepare the shoe for stretching it.
If you have a store-bought stretch spray, follow the container’s instructions to see if you need to spray the inside or the outside of the shoe. Make sure not to damage your shoe’s material—some types of leather are very sensitive to any type of liquid and might stain permanently.
When the shoe is damp, use a shoe stretcher or put them on with a pair of thick socks. It should do the trick, but if you need a bit of extra, add some more padding at the tightest spot. For most people, this is the right behind the toes.
- Just ball up a couple of sheets of wet newspaper.
- Stuff your shoes with them.
- Leave the paper in the shoes overnight until it dries, and the paper will naturally expand your shoes.
The good part about this trick is that the newspaper is very manageable, so it’s easy to apply in the exact spot you need more stretch.
Just make sure you don’t damage the shoe with too much moisture, since leather and suede will stain if the water gets all the way through.
4. Freezer Technique
This trick is simple, but you’ll need to be careful not to damage your shoes. You’ll only need some room in your freezer and a couple of large, resealable Ziploc bags. Find two as a minimum; four if you want to be extra careful.
- Fill the bag about half-way with water.
- Seal it.
- Carefully place the bag filled with water inside the shoe.
- You can use a second bag over it for extra protection.
- Repeat on the other side, making sure the water reaches the spot where you need extra room.
- Put the shoes inside another plastic bag to not take all the germs from your soles to your food.
- Put them in the freezer, and leave them overnight. When the water freezes, it expands inside the shoe and widens it a little bit.
A good DIY trick for widening your shoes at the exact spot you need it the most is with a hairdryer.
- Just pull on a pair of thick socks and then your shoes.
- Grab a blow dryer and direct it at your feet.
- Keep the hairdryer at low temperature, and move it around to not damage your shoes with too much heat. You can direct it exactly at the place where you need the shoe to widen the most.
- When the shoes feel a bit more comfortable, stop the hairdryer, but keep the shoes on until they’ve cooled off.
- Repeat if needed.
6. Shoe Stretcher
Shoe stretchers are what professional cobblers use to widen or lengthen shoes. You can either buy one if you have wide feet and you know you’ll be using it a lot, or take every new pair of shoes to the cobbler.
Shoe stretchers work best when you use them together with a spray. This will help loosen up the material, so you don’t have to force it.
Do note that you’ll need different stretchers for different types of shoes. A pair of men’s dress shoes, for example, is very different from a pair of women’s heels, and they’ll both need a specific stretcher.
Some shoe stretchers are meant to add some length, while others are designed for width. You can also find two-way stretchers that will help you with both.
Which Shoes Are Best for Wide Feet?
The best shoes for wide feet are Keds or Vionic for women, or Clarks or Ecco for men’s dress shoes. These brands prioritize comfort and fit, and their sizes are usually wide. Most sports shoe companies also carry some of their models in different widths.
Vans is one sneaker brand that tends to be a bit wider, and adidas can be a great option for running shoes. In contrast, if your feet are very wide, Puma and Nike models are usually narrow.
If you have other underlying conditions, from flat feet to plantar fasciitis, also check out Orthofeet. It makes podiatrist-approved footwear for many different styles and uses.
What Do Different Shoe Widths Mean?
Shoe widths are how shoe manufacturers express the different widths, with letters from A to E.
In men’s shoes, a D width is standard, and you can find extra-wide sizes starting from the letter E, going all the way to EEE. In women’s shoes, B is the standard, and a D width is wider than standard. Extra-narrow sizes go all the way down to AAA.
You can ask for extra-wide shoes at the store, but it’s helpful to know your exact size when shopping online. Check out our guide on what does shoe width letters mean for more details and a handy chart to identify the fit you’ll need.
The best way to avoid buying tight shoes is by measuring your feet regularly—about once a year or when you’re feeling discomfort in your old shoes.
Your feet width can change over time, even more than its length. This isn’t necessarily because your feet grow but more that you’ll lose some of the muscle tone in your arch as you get older. Your foot loosens up and gets a bit wider as a result.
To know your foot width, just measure it at the widest point and compare it to a size chart.
How Can I Stretch My Leather Shoes Wider?
You can stretch leather shoes wider by just wearing the shoes with a pair of thick socks at home. If your feet are extra-wide, you can ease the process with some stretching spray.
How Do You Stretch Shoes That Aren’t Leather?
You can use the same tips for stretching non-leather shoes as you would with leather, from the Ziploc trick to the hairdryer and thick socks or the newspaper hack.
Note that not all non-leather shoes will stretch. Synthetic leather and several layers of padding, stitching and fabric will make the shoe stiffer.
Can You Stretch Fabric Shoes?
Yes, you can stretch fabric shoes. Canvas shoes, like a pair of Vans, tend to stretch well. Some lightweight running shoes with mesh fabrics will have a nice stretch, too.
Still, always remember to take it easy on thin fabrics. High heat or too much force can damage the fibers.
The Bottom Line
Knowing how to stretch shoes for wide feet can be key for breaking in a new pair, and especially if you struggle to find the right fit in stores.
It’s always better to try to find a pair that’s a good fit immediately, as stretching shoes too much can make them lose their shape.
Make sure to measure both your foot width and length regularly. This will help you identify the right size every time.