In this guide:
- How to tell if you need smaller or tighter shoes
- How to use insoles to make shoes fit tighter
- How to tighten trainers and dress shoes
- How to tighten leather shoes and sandals
- How to tighten thigh-high boots
- How to tighten Chelsea boots
There’s nothing quite like the disappointment of slipping on a new pair of shoes you can’t wait to show off – only to find that they’re slightly too big. However, with a few tips and tricks you can learn how to make shoes tighter.
While sometimes the best course of action is to get your shoes exchanged for a tighter fit, our handy guide to how to tighten thigh-high boots, trainers and more is a good alternative. What’s more, it’ll really help you out if you’re set on a style or find it difficult to get shoes to fit correctly.
How to tell if you need smaller or tighter shoes
You can usually tell that your shoes need tightening when they feel loose and uncomfortable to walk in. Obviously, this only applies to shoes that are a size too big in length or width – it would be a hard task to tighten a pair of size 12s down to an eight, for example.
Incorrectly fitted shoes leave plenty of space around the heel and toes. The general rule is that if you can fit more than a finger-width behind your heel, the shoes are too big. Likewise, if there is more than a half-finger of space between your big toe and the end of the shoe, consider tightening or swapping the shoes for a smaller size.
A little heel slippage is normal, but not too much – this causes blisters and chafing.
How to use insoles to make shoes fit tighter
If you’d like to make your shoes tighter, insoles are a safe bet. An insole is extra padding that you place inside your shoes to add comfort or tighten the fit. A good set of insoles will cushion and support your foot, as well as providing more of a snug fit for loose shoes.
Insoles can be made of foam, gel or leather – and can be bought over the counter. Some insoles are purposefully fitted to the exact measurements and form of your feet. Here’s everything you need to know about insoles.
How to tighten trainers and dress shoes
How to tighten your shoe depends on what material they’re made from. There are several good ways of ensuring most trainers and dress shoes fit more snugly:
- Wear thicker or an additional pair of socks. Thick socks will add extra bulk to your feet and provide a tighter fit inside your shoe. This option works well for boots and walking shoes, too.
- Use a padded heel grip. Padding out the back of your shoe with a small heel cushion or piece of foam can close the gap between the shoe and your foot. This will tighten any looseness and reduce rubbing.
- Use a padded toe cushion. Likewise, sticking a small piece of padded foam in at the toe will close the gap between the point of the shoe and your big toe, helping to reduce any movement.
How to tighten leather shoes and sandals
Leather shoes require a little more tinkering to ensure a correct fit. The good news is that leather can be shrunk by using a few items you’ll likely have lying around your home. If you’re looking to shrink dress shoes or women’s sandals, follow these steps:
- Decide which part of the shoe you need to shrink. You could be looking for a tighter fit along the edges of the shoe, or you might need the shoe to fit more closely at the toe.
- Soak the target area with a damp wash-cloth. The leather doesn’t need to be dripping wet.
- Allow the area to dry. Then, voila! Your shoes will have shrunk. The water causes the leather to tighten as it dries. You may need to attempt this several times to get the desired fit, as changes can be gradual.
These steps won’t necessarily work for leather boots and shoes that have been heat-treated to prevent stretching. For these, it’s best to seek professional advice or use specialist inserts to reshape the leather gradually.
How to tighten thigh-high boots
Thigh-high boots are prone to slipping down as you walk. These are some good ways to tighten them:
✔ Wear tights or thick leggings to pad out the gap between your boot and leg.
✔ Use a few strips of fashion tape to stick the boot to your leg.
✔ Fill the gap behind your leg with a piece of rolled-up card. This should help prevent any slouching.
✔ Tying an elastic band or hair tie around your knee will give your boots something to grip. Just be careful not to tie it too tightly around your leg.
✔ Keep your boots in shape by stuffing them with boot trees or newspaper when not in use. This will stop the boots leaning over or stretching in places. Likewise, you could use boot clips to hang them up in your wardrobe.
These top tips for tightening thigh-high boots can also be applied to knee-high boots, too – but check out our comprehensive guide for more advice.
How to tighten Chelsea boots
Chelsea boots are a classic design for men and women, because they go with a range of outfits. Perfect for winter and smartening up your outfit, it’s possible to breathe new life into your boots by tinkering with the fit a little.
- Remember that the elastic part of the shoe will stretch in time.
- Both leather and suede shoes can be tightened with a damp wash-cloth.
- Dab the area you want to tighten and allow to dry. Be careful with suede shoes as these can be easily stained by running colours, so use a plain wash-cloth if you can.
- Repeat as necessary until your shoes fit as required.
Shoes that are a little loose aren’t a lost cause. If you can’t swap them for another size in-store, follow these simple steps and fashion your own fit. If you want more advice on buying and fitting your ideal pair of winter boots, we can help there too.