How to Stretch Suede Shoes the Easy Way

If you’re looking for information on how to stretch suede shoes, there are ways to do it at home with a couple of easy DIY techniques.

Are you feeling some discomfort at the heel of your new suede loafers? Perhaps those impulse-buy ankle boots immediately felt tight in the toe when you tried them on at home.

The good news is that you can stretch out your suede shoes at home with these methods:

  • Stretch spray.
  • Thick sock technique.
  • Rubbing alcohol spray.
  • Freezer trick.
  • Hairdryer hack.
  • Shoe stretchers.

But first, a bit of background info on the stretching of suede…

Do Suede Shoes Stretch?

If your new shoes are a bit too tight, we’ve got some good news: leather shoes do have a bit of give.

Suede, in particular, has one of the best natural stretches, so you can probably add up to a half size. Still, the maximum stretch is limited, and you shouldn’t buy shoes that are a size or more too tight.

You have to be extra careful not to damage the suede when stretching the shoes. If you go too heavy on the shoe stretching process at home, you can risk deforming the shoes and not being able to return them. In the worst case, the pair might lose its shape but still won’t be stretched enough to wear with comfort.

Before you start the stretch, pay attention to whether they have a thick lining. Suede shoes that have a synthetic lining won’t have as much give as a single-layer leather.

Stitching can also either make the shoe sturdier and more difficult to stretch shoe. If the suede is thin, stitching can make it more vulnerable to breaking. Make sure you don’t force it too much, or the stitching might break.

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How Can I Stretch Suede Shoes at Home?

It’s never good to buy small shoes. Still, sometimes you might notice your new footwear is too tight, especially if you’ve bought them online. In these cases, you can try to softly stretch your suede shoes at home, DIY style.

Here are some of the easiest tricks for how to stretch suede shoes at home:

1. Stretch Spray

Stretch spray is specially made to ease the process of how to stretch suede shoes at home.

You simply spray some on the shoe and follow the instructions. Usually, this means you need to wear the shoe at home for a couple of hours or use a stretcher.

Just make sure you read the specific instructions for the spray carefully. Some sprays can be used for many types of leather but not suede, and some are meant to be used only on the inside of the shoe.

2. Thick Sock Technique

The sock trick is a classic and works really well with suede shoes.

  1. Put on a pair of thick socks.
  2. Squeeze your feet into the shoes.
  3. Leave them on for a couple of hours when you’re at home.

It might be uncomfortable doing this, but it’s better than leaving the house with a shoe that’s too tight.

You can use a pair of wool socks if you have them, but you can also opt for any other bulky sock. The thicker the sock, the more you’ll stretch the suede.

Do pay attention to comfort—you don’t want the socks and tight shoes to cut off circulation! It’s a fine line, but the shoe should be tight, not painful.

3. Rubbing Alcohol Spray

If you don’t want to invest in a stretch spray, check out this home stretch option.

For this shoe stretching trick, you’ll need:

  • Rubbing alcohol.
  • Water.
  • Small spray bottle.

You can either use only alcohol or make a diluted solution with half and half water.

To get started:

  1. Spray alcohol inside the shoe until it’s completely damp, especially where it feels the tightest.
  2. Put the shoes on, and wear them until they’re completely dry.

The alcohol should help you break in the shoe a bit faster than merely water would.

As an alternative, if you don’t have a spray bottle at hand, you can apply the rubbing alcohol on a pair of socks:

  1. Put on the damp socks and shoes.
  2. Leave them on until they’re dry.

It might feel uncomfortable to put on wet socks, but it works.

Note that this trick is for using the rubbing alcohol only on the shoe’s inside. Suede is very sensitive and stains easily in contact with water or other liquids. It’s better to be careful with the outer layer and put extra care into keeping the suede clean.

Also, see our guide for tips on how to clean suede shoes.

4. Freezer Trick

The freezer trick is an effective way to expand your suede shoes before you wear them outside, and you only need a couple of resealable plastic bags:

  1. Fill a large Ziploc bag about halfway through with water and close it. For extra safety to prevent spilling, you can put it inside another Ziploc bag.
  2. Place the bag inside the shoe. The space makes it easier to maneuver, so you can easily fit it in the toe box.
  3. Put the shoes inside another plastic bag to avoid dirt from getting in contact with your foot.
  4. Place the bag in the freezer and leave it overnight. When the water freezes, it will expand, and your shoes will stretch with it.
  5. Take the shoes out of the freezer, and let them thaw a couple of minutes to remove the bag with ease.
  6. Let them get to room temperature, and try them on.
  7. If they’re not wide enough yet, repeat the process to stretch the shoes further.

5. Hairdryer Hack

Another simple DIY trick that’s useful for those looking for how to stretch suede shoes is with a hairdryer.

  1. Just put on your shoes and pick up your dryer. You can use an extra pair of socks to fill up the shoe further and speed up the shoe stretch process.
  2. Put the blow dryer on low heat, so you don’t damage the suede, and move it around.
  3. When the shoes start to feel comfy, turn off the hairdryer, and keep the shoes on your feet until they’ve cooled.

The warmth of the hairdryer mimics the heat your feet produce when you’re walking and wearing the shoe all day. This speeds up the breaking in and stretching of the shoe.

6. Shoe Stretchers

You can stretch your shoes wider with our simple at-home hacks, but sometimes it’s not enough. If that’s your case, either buy a shoe stretcher or take your new pair to a cobbler.

A shoe stretcher is an easy to use and effective technique for freeing up to half an inch of shoe space, depending on the material.

Suede and other types of leather are especially responsive to stretching, so they’re ideal for a shoe stretcher, too.

The bonus is that this technique doesn’t require you to wear shoes at the time. For example, this makes it a comfortable trick for busy moms trying to stretch a pair of high heels when running after their kids.

Do note that a normal shoe stretcher will make your shoes bigger in length and width. If you need more of a lift in the toe box or the instep, you might need a specific stretcher.

A typical shoe stretcher will also work best on a flat dress shoe. For suede boots and heels, you’ll need to buy a different type of stretcher.

Shoe stretchers work best when you first use a stretch spray or some rubbing alcohol inside the shoe. Remember that you’ll need to leave the stretcher in the shoes for a while—at least overnight, and perhaps even for 24 hours or longer.

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Can You Wear Shoes That Are Too Small?

You can wear shoes that are a bit too small, but it’s not recommended. Finding the right fit for your feet is crucial to ensure comfort and prevent further problems.

If you wear shoes that are too small, you’ll risk getting:

  • Foot corn and calluses: When your foot continuously rubs against a certain spot in your shoe, the skin eventually grows thicker. This forms corns and calluses on your toes and heels. They’re not dangerous, but they’re certainly unattractive.
  • Blisters: Everybody’s probably familiar with a blister from some friction in your shoe. They can form either too tight or too large shoes, so make sure the fit is just right.
  • Bunions: Too tight shoes might give you bunions, which are painful and may even require surgery if they get too bad.
  • Achilles tendinitis: Incorrectly sized shoes, especially running shoes, might make you tense up your muscles and give you tendon pain.
  • Joint pain: With the wrong shoe size, you could be making yourself step unnaturally. This could give you pain in your ankles, knees and even hips and back.

Tips to Avoid Buying Shoes That Are Too Small

Here are some ideas to help you prevent nasty surprises with your shoe size and avoid having to stretch shoes:

1. Measure Your Feet

You can prevent these problems by correctly measuring both your feet’s length and width:

  1. Find a sheet of paper that’s larger than your foot. You’ll also need a pencil and a ruler.
  2. Put the piece of paper on a steady surface, and step on it with one foot.
  3. Draw the outline of your foot, keeping the pencil as upright as possible.
  4. Repeat on the other foot.
  5. Measure the distance from your longest toe—this might not be your big toe—to your heel.
  6. Find the widest point of your foot, which should be right after your toes at the ball, and measure that.
  7. Use your bigger foot as the guide. Many have a size difference between their feet, but the difference is usually less than one size. In these cases, opt for a pair of shoes that’s a little too big rather than one that’s too small.
  8. Compare your measurements to the manufacturer’s shoe size chart. Especially if you’re shopping online, remember that every company, and even different models within the same brand, have slight variations. Always check the indications before buying.
  9. If you’re shopping in person, give your measurement to the salesperson, and they’ll help you find the right size.

2. Pay Attention to Your Socks

When you’re measuring and trying on shoes, try to wear the same type of socks you’ll wear with the shoe.

Whether they’re thin dress socks, tights, sporty socks or thick winter socks for boots, they can really alter your shoe size. Wearing the wrong kind of sock can make you buy a shoe that’s too big or small.

3. Shop at the Right Time

Always go shoe shopping in the afternoon, when your feet are likely to be more swollen after spending hours on your feet. Otherwise, you might end up buying a shoe that’s too tight.

Buying summer shoes in the winter can also be a problem because your feet will be more swollen in the heat.

You can still buy that gorgeous pair of sandals you found on sale in the cooler months, but make sure you have enough space.

4. Prioritize Fit and Comfort

Even if you love how the shoe looks and can’t find your size, always put comfort first.

Best case, a poorly fitting shoe can be a bad investment you can’t wear. At worst, it will give you blisters, affect your gait, cause plantar fasciitis or even increase your risk of falling.

How much extra shoe space you have when trying it on depends on the type of footwear you’re buying:

  • Running shoe: You should be able to fit a finger between your heel and the shoe.
  • Dress shoes and heels: Should be a bit tighter but still comfortable.

If the shoe feels too tight when trying it on, don’t buy it. You never know if the shoe stretch will be enough to be comfortable, and you’ll have wasted your money if it doesn’t stretch.

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How Do You Stretch Suede Shoes With Newspaper?

Stretching suede shoes with newspaper is simple and works like a low-budget shoe stretcher. Stuff a couple of sheets of wet newspaper in your shoes and leave them there overnight to stretch. The paper dries and expands inside the shoe during the night, so you’ll naturally stretch the shoe without effort. You can repeat this trick a couple of times, if necessary.

How Can I Stretch My Shoes Wider?

You can stretch your shoes wider with DIY techniques, from the thick socks and hairdryer trick to the Ziploc freezer hack. If these tips don’t help, you can also get a two-way shoe stretcher to make your shoes a bit wider and longer.

How Do You Break in New Suede Shoes?

If your new suede shoes are just a tiny bit tight and need a soft stretch before the first use, break them in at home with the thick sock technique. Just put a second pair of socks on, squeeze your feet into the shoes, and leave for a couple of hours to let them stretch naturally.

how to stretch suede shoes

Bottom Line

For those looking for techniques on how to stretch suede shoes, the good news is that suede has about a half size of comfortable, natural stretch.

Whether your new footwear just needs some light breaking in or more serious widening, there are home hacks to stretch them.

Try the freezer trick or the simple hairdryer hack if you want to DIY it. If those don’t do the trick, try a homemade rubbing alcohol spray or buy a stretching shoes spray. Many of these tricks are best when you try them together, like trying a spray with a pair of thick socks.

If none of these free up some room in your shoe, take the pair to a cobbler or invest in a stretcher. Also, keep in mind our tips and tricks to find the right size of shoe every time.


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