Sometimes, it happens when you buy online.
Other times, it’s evil shoe elves! They get in the box on the drive home and shrink your new tried and tested shoes.
At least, that’s the only way your new shoes could’ve shrunk so much, right?
In cases where it’s just too much fuss to go back and get another size, you can take matters into your own hands.
Learn how to stretch tennis shoes via these methods:
- Stuff them for the night.
- Heat them, then wear them.
- Steam them.
- Freeze for a few hours.
- Wear them gradually.
- Use a shoe stretcher.
- Ask an expert.
#1: The Stuffing Method
Many types of shoes require stretching, but stuffing is the top way to expand tennis shoes.
Athletic shoes are meant to be light and flexible. Thus, the material is light and flexible, too, and so there’s room for expansion.
For this, they’re usually made of mesh, synthetic material, leather or a combination of these.
Regardless of the tennis shoes’ materials, this method is simple and easy.
- Gather some clean, thick, fabric-based items, like socks or cleaning cloths.
- Pack the material tightly into your shoes, wherever they need stretching—starting in the toe box is best.
- Leave your shoes overnight, or for a few days if you think they need extra time.
When you remove the stuffing, your shoes won’t have expanded considerably. But, they’ll have adapted enough to accommodate wider feet.
#2: The Heating Method
This is a trick you can use on your tennis shoes only if they’re not leather. Heat may cause the leather to dry out or warp.
Use caution when trying this method on synthetics with some leather mixed in, too.
The heating method works best on textiles since it impacts stiffer materials better.
- Spend two minutes heating your shoes with a hairdryer.
- Put the shoes on but not while they’re too hot to touch.
- Wear the shoes until they cool completely.
- Remove the shoes and re-heat.
- Continue the cycle until the sneakers are well-fitting.
Heat causes expansion in many materials. If you don’t let the fabric shrink once it starts to cool, it should hold its new size and stretch to your feet.
#3: The Steaming Method
This is a lot like the heating method but with added moisture. You might have noticed your clothes stretching more when they’re wet—it’s the same principle.
Steaming works best on fabric tennis shoes, and we don’t recommend it for leather shoes.
- Boil some water.
- Place your shoes over the steam for approximately five minutes.
- Try them on to stretch them out and wear them until they’re cool and dry.
- Repeat until your shoes are comfortable.
As the stretched shoes dry around your feet, they’ll likely hold their shape.
The moisture can also help with this. As the shoes dry on your feet, gaps where moisture lay stay widened. Thus, stretching the shoes.
#4: The Freezer Method
Freezing your tennis shoes has several benefits:
- Remove odor.
- Get rid of stuck-on chewing gum.
- Help stretch them.
The former two don’t require a special technique to work. For the latter, you’ll need two freezer bags bigger than your shoes.
- Place the freezer bags into your sneakers, coating the inside.
- Ensure the opening of the bag comes out of the shoe.
- Fill the bags with water—enough to fill your shoes.
- Freeze the shoes containing the bags for about 8 hours, or overnight.
Water traps air when it freezes; thus, it expands. This will cause slow stretching within your shoes, regardless of the material.
#5: The Gradual Wearing Method
The gradual wearing method is fantastic for leather sneakers. Leather, especially soft leather, often has a lot of give.
- Acquire and wear thick socks—wearing multiple thin pairs at once will suffice.
- Force your feet into the shoes.
- Although it’s uncomfortable, walk around and flex your feet in the shoes—shifting them side to side helps a lot.
- After a few minutes, remove the shoes.
- Put the shoes on again later, but for longer this time.
- Gradually increase how long you wear the shoes with the thick socks until they’re stretched out.
Your feet may be too wide for the shoes but not wide enough to stretch them quickly. Adding the socks will speed up the gradual stretching.
Be sure to test the shoes in between sock-stretching sessions. Too wide isn’t desirable, either.
For slower, more custom-fit results, try gradually wearing them without socks instead.
#6: The Shoe Stretcher
Forgoing home methods, you can buy a tool to aid your stretch shoe experience. It works whether you have wide feet or bought a size too small.
- Consider using a stretch spray on your pair of shoes, especially around the tightest areas.
- Place spot stretching plugs wherever you need the most width.
- Insert the stretcher, ensuring the toe block has contact with the top of the toe box while closed.
- Start rotating the handle, opening the toe block to expand the shoe.
- Once you reach the desired width, leave the stretcher in for 8 hours.
- Check if it fits, and place the stretcher back in if it’s still too tight—it may take several days to get it right.
Your shoe may stretch up to an inch with this method, and it could work for wider feet and subtle stretching for bunions or hammertoes.
- Consider using a stretching spray inside and out.
- Insert the stretcher—closed toe block in the toe box, heel block tucked into the sneaker.
- Begin turning the lengthening wheel until the heel block touches the heel counter.
- Keep turning until you achieve some stretch, then leave it for 8 hours.
- Check the fit, and try again if you haven’t achieved your desired result.
If you find the shoes are too tight in the heel, the problem should now be solved.
Pro tip: Storing the shoes with shoe trees may help retain the new, larger shape from a shoe stretcher.
#7: Ask an Expert
Tennis shoes are often expensive, especially if they’re high-quality and from a well-known brand. If you stretch them improperly, you might end up damaging the shoes.
If you’re wary of the DIY methods or don’t feel confident, it’s best to take them to a shoe repair shop.
While this is a more expensive method, you’ll save your own time and patience.
How to Know When Shoes Are Too Small
You’ll know when shoes are too small due to the following signs/tests:
Cramped toes aren’t always apparent. Some shoes, like your expensive leather formal shoes or high heels, inherently squish the digits.
But there’s a reason you only break out such shoes for formal occasions: they’re not always comfortable.
After a few hours, even a few minutes, you’ll notice your toes feel like a puzzle incorrectly fitted together. There are no gaps between them, and they may be overlapping.
If this is the case, you have some more stretching to do in the toe box.
The discomfort may be gone, but if your feet feel constricted, there’s still something wrong. Constriction is more annoying than anything, but in a few hours, an ache can set in.
If the shoes feel fine on, but as soon as you take them off, you realize they were prison-like, that’s another sign.
If your shoes aren’t squished together or overlapping, your shoes aren’t extremely tight. But, they may be too tight if your inner and outer toes are pushed into a slant.
Your toes are supposed to point straight ahead, like they do when you’re barefoot. Slanted toes may atrophy, and you’ll be stuck with them even when the shoes are off.
The cause of atrophy, in this case, is immobilization—you have no wiggle room day after day, with your toes immobile in one, unnatural position.
If you can place your index finger into the shoe’s collar without hassle, then your shoes fit.
If you have to force it in or it hurts, then the sneakers are a little too snug.
There should be at least an inch of room in front of your longest toe. If your toes are pressed against the top of the toe box, your shoes need some lengthening.
It doesn’t seem like an enormous issue, but you’ll feel discomfort if you wear thicker socks,. This struggle is especially important in tennis shoes, where you’ll be playing in all weathers.
Another reason it’s vital in your tennis sneakers is your movement. You’ll be moving a lot and often on your toes. This will force your toes harder into the restricting top of the toe box, causing pain or injury.
If you usually wear your shoes barefoot, but they’re too tight when you add socks, it’s no good. The exception is if the shoes are meant for barefoot-exclusive use.
Consider stretching your pair of shoes if they don’t accommodate your thickest socks.
Re-Checking Your Perfect Fit
The best way to avoid shoes being too small is to know your size and how to make sure shoes fit.
Get measured regularly—every few years, as your feet change shape with age. So, if you buy the same pair of shoes years later in the same size, repeat these shoe-sizing tricks. Your feet could be a tiny bit bigger than they were the last time.
These tips will help with knowing your fit. But for a comprehensive insight, check out our shoe sizing and fitting guide.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Shoe Stretchers Work on Sneakers?
Shoe stretchers are effective with most shoes, so long as they’re flat. This includes all manner of sneakers and tennis shoes. Although, the stretchers work best on natural materials, like leather and suede. They can stretch synthetic textiles, but it may take longer, and they might stretch less.
How Can I Stretch My Jordans?
Forgoing the methods we’ve provided, you can stretch your Jordans by waiting for them to break in naturally. You can aid this process by:
- Gently tugging to create a shoe stretch.
- Wiggling and spreading your toes.
- Trying to move your feet around to stretch shoes.
- Wearing thick socks for the first few uses.
How Can I Stretch Fabric Shoes?
The most effective methods to stretch fabric shoes are the heat method and the steaming method. Fabric doesn’t stretch as easily as leather, so many methods won’t be enormously effective.
However, we all know the difficulty of clothes stretching in the washer, when warm and moist. The same can apply to fabric shoes, so long as you don’t let them shrink like they’re in the dryer.
What Is the Best Way to Stretch Shoes?
Although many methods work, the best way to stretch shoes is to always go natural. Wear your shoes until they loosen up around your feet. This will be uncomfortable at first, but as your shoes stretch to your feet, it creates a custom fit.
The Final Stretch
Now you know how to stretch tennis shoes, you can go forth in comfort.
It’s always better to find shoes that fit, but there are ways to stretch tight tennis shoes when that’s not an option. Achieving an accurate shoe stretch can be difficult, but it can work if you carry out shoe stretching the right way.
If this guide helped you, please share your thoughts below. Don’t forget to share it with family and friends.