No one really knows what happens to shoes sometimes during that brief drive from the shoe store to your home. By some magical force of nature, they appear to have shrunk by half a size!.
Stretching out shoes can be a real “sore” experience if you aren’t doing it right, so we’ve created a handy guide that tells you exactly how to stretch shoes.
Before we go into more detail, here’s a brief list on how to stretch shoes that are too small:
- Wear them at home.
- Manually expand them.
- Store in frozen zip-lock bags.
- Using peeled potatoes.
- Stretching sprays.
- Adjustable shoe trees.
- Contact a professional.
Issues with Wearing Tight Shoes
If you find that your shoes are a tad bit tight, you should stretch them out to avoid any feet issues. Tight shoes have been known to cause many problems and deformities:
This is the enlargement of a tissue or bone around the joint located at the base of the big toe. As the growth continues to develop, it turns towards the second toe, thereby causing swelling and pain.
Bunions are sometimes caused by genetics, but more often than not, they develop when an individual wears tight shoes for prolonged periods.
This is a condition whereby the big toe curls upwards instead of lying flat. As the hammertoe begins to develop, the middle toe joint starts to bend up as well, and having your foot in a tight shoe at this point will cause considerable pain.
If you wear tight shoes in this condition, it’ll lead to the accelerated weakening of the foot muscles attached to your toe.
Crossover toe occurs when your toes are cramped into a toe box that’s far too small. The pressure created by this continual position causes either the second or third toe to cross over one another.
This can lead to some serious pain, and women who have an affinity for high heels will know this condition far too well!
Corns are a type of callus that emerges on your skin when you allow tight shoes to apply constant pressure on your skin.
How to Stretch Shoes
Fortunately, you can avoid all injuries by quickly resorting to one of the many techniques available to increase your shoes’ size. We present some of the most reliable hacks in the section below.
Additionally, you can avoid this entire ordeal by referring to our guide on how to find the right sizing and fitting.
1. Wear Them at Home First
If the shoes you’ve purchased are a smidgen short of achieving the perfect fit, sometimes all they need is a bit of walking around to expand around your feet and stretch out.
To avoid having to live through an entire day of wearing tight shoes, though, wear them at home when you’re back in the evening to stretch them out in leisure.
Instead of putting in one, long eight-hour session to stretch your shoe—which you’ll have to if you wear them as you normally would—it makes far more sense to break it down to about half an hour or an hour of stretching at home for a week or two.
Most shoes won’t even take that long to settle around your feet, especially if they aren’t leather shoes. But it’s best to avoid wearing tight shoes out altogether if you haven’t stretched them at home first.
2. Manually Expand Them
If walking around at home won’t fix the issue, don’t stress! There’s still plenty to be done.
One of the sure-fire ways of expanding your shoes’ size is to introduce a bigger version of your feet for the shoes to model around. You can easily do this by putting on a pair of thick socks, or even two pairs of mid-sized socks and placing your feet in the shoes.
Now all you have to do is use a hair blower on a medium setting and gently apply some heat around the areas where you feel the shoes start to tighten. The heat will slowly unsettle the gluing agent long enough for your shoes to settle around your artificially inflated feet, thanks to the thick socks.
This technique specifically works well on leather shoes.
3. Storing in Frozen Zip-Lock Bags
For non-leather shoes, however, you can always resort to the ol’ frozen zip-lock bag method.
- Fill a small zip-lock bag partially with water.
- Zip it up nice and tight, and place the bag inside your shoe.
- Arrange the zip-locks so that they’re pressed up against the tightest regions of the shoe.
- Once you’re done filling the shoes with the zip-locks, put the shoes in a bag and place the bag in your freezer overnight.
- The water eventually cools into ice and stretches out the regions in the shoe that need a bit of leeway.
- When you take your shoes in the morning, it should have expanded to the ideal size.
4. Using Peeled Potatoes
While the frozen zip-lock technique has been a DIY-favorite for a while, the title for “the oldest trick in the book” belongs to the peeled potatoes technique.
This is a much simpler version of the previous hack and is perfect if you just need a mild expansion from your shoes.
- First, carve out a potato to closely resemble the size of your shoe’s toe box.
- Once you have the right dimensions, stuff it into your shoe after wiping it dry and wait for the spud to expand it overnight.
This method works remarkably well and has been employed by angry retailers for some time now.
5. Stretching Sprays
You can always pick up a stretching liquid or spray to effortlessly increase the size of your shoes.
All you have to do with these is to simply spray the liquid inside the shoe and wear it for half an hour to stretch them out.
A variety of products are available here, depending on the liquid’s strength used and the time it takes for the liquid to take effect. Just make sure you grab one that’s designed to use on your shoe’s material, such as vinyl, fabric or leather.
6. Adjustable Shoe Tree or Shoe Stretcher
An adjustable shoe tree or shoe stretcher is a specialist tool that you can grab for under $30.
If you generally struggle with shoe sizes across multiple pairs, consider premium four-way shoe trees and even versions made of cedar and other high-quality woods.
A shoe stretcher helps increase the length and width of your shoes considerably, and they usually contain specially designed bunion plugs that can target certain areas of the toe box.
All you need to do is attach your shoe to the shoe stretcher and turn the corresponding adjustable handle every 8 to 12 hours to alter your shoes’ length or width.
It’s often recommended that you combine a shoe stretcher with stretching sprays to maximize their effectiveness.
7. Contacting a Professional
If none of these methods worked for you, or if you aren’t too thrilled about working on mending your shoes’ size on your own, you can always contact a cobbler to fix the issue.
Cobblers will take your foot measurements and expand the shoes to perfectly fit your contours. They’ll probably end up using a shoe stretcher themselves, but they’ll definitely know how to wield the tool with precision.
This is certainly the method of least resistance, but it’ll cost you!
How to Pick the Right Shoes
Even though you’re now equipped with methods to stretch your shoes, you can avoid the ordeal of having to stretch your shoes manually or pick up a shoe stretcher by picking the right size in the first place.
Here are some useful tips to help you do the same.
End of Day Shopping
Try shopping for shoes at the end of the day or after a workout. Your feet are at their largest during this time, so you’ll ensure an ideal fit.
Wearing the Right Socks
While trying out shoes, wear the type of socks you’d normally wear with those shoes. Doing so will help you estimate the right size when you have socks on, especially if you often use thick socks.
You may think that your shoe size will remain constant as you hit adulthood, but that’s simply not true.
Our feet continue to grow, shrink and widen as we age, so it helps to have your feet measured at the store before you narrow your selection.
The Wiggle Test
To check if your shoes will be comfortable when exercising, try wiggling your toes with your shoes on and check if there’s enough room for those pinkies.
Your feet tend to move inward as you walk or run, which means your toes will need extra room to not feel the brunt of the pressure.
You should definitely try the wiggle test before picking up leather shoes.
Breaking in Shoes is Overrated
Most people at a shoe store will tell you that the shoes you’re thinking of purchasing will feel much better after you “break them in.” This may be true as shoes stretch on their own over time, but it isn’t always the case.
Make sure the shoes are plenty comfy even before the break-in period to prevent having to stretch your shoes later.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Shoe Stretching Effective?
Yes, shoe stretching is effective. It all comes down to employing the right technique for the right footwear. The manual expansion method, for example, works best with leather shoes, while the zip-lock technique works for most other types of footwear.
It’s also important to experiment with a couple of different methods before you give up.
Is Shoe Stretching Permanent?
Yes, shoe stretching is permanent if you’ve executed the process correctly. It’s very rare for shoes to revert to their original size once you’ve stretched them out.
If you go too far into the process, especially while using a shoe stretcher, you may expand the shoes too much, and they can end up being too big for your feet.
Will Stretching Your Shoes Damage Them?
No, stretching your shoes won’t damage them as long as you’re careful and don’t stretch them too much.
But stretching shoes too much will certainly damage them! If you manage to push your shoes past their breaking point—which is usually quite far—you may end up separating the toe box from the soles or even reducing the glue’s stability.
How Can I Stretch My Shoes for Wide Feet?
The techniques used to stretch shoes for wide feet are the same as those used to increase the length of the shoes. So you can use any one of the methods mentioned above.
How Do You Stretch Shoes That Are Not Leather?
Apart from the manual expansion method, all other hacks and techniques described above are best suited to stretch shoe that’s non-leather.
What Happens If You Wear Tight Shoes?
Wearing tight shoes can cause a wide range of problems to your feet and body. Some of these conditions include the growth of bunions, corns, crossover toe and hammertoe.
The Final Stretch
It’s so disappointing to find a quality pair of shoes you love only for them to fall just shy of fitting perfectly. How many times have you taken a pair home and hoped that they’d magically fit you a few days down the line?
Thankfully, you won’t have to resort to wishful thinking any longer thanks to these useful hacks. Most of these techniques work differently based on the type and material of shoes, so make sure to double-check on the fine print before you go stuffing zip-locks into your hiking boots!