Last updated on November 16th, 2023 at 12:39 pm
Ever bought the perfect pair of shoes that seemed to be a good fit when you tried them on, but after wearing them for a couple of hours they feel uncomfortably tight? Or perhaps you have a favourite pair of shoes that you just can’t seem to squeeze your feet into anymore. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.
While you could always return your shoes or take them to a shoe shop to get them professionally stretched, there are a few shoe stretching hacks you can try at home to stretch them out yourself.
Read on to discover our five easy ways on how to stretch tight shoes.
What’s on this page:
- The importance of well-fit shoes
- How to tell if your shoes are too tight
- 5 ways to stretch new shoes
- How to stretch leather shoes and boots
- How to soften leather shoes
The importance of well-fitting shoes
We spend most our lives wearing shoes. So, it’s important to make sure they fit correctly. No matter how stylish or durable your footwear may be, if they don’t fit properly, they won’t be doing your feet any favours.
Footwear that doesn’t fit properly can cause injuries and lead to a variety of foot problems. When you purchase a new pair of shoes, it is a good idea to have your feet measured. This way, you’ll be able to determine your exact shoe size and find a pair of shoes with a comfortable fit.
For more practical tips on sizing and fitting your shoes, you can also explore our shoe style & fitting guide.
How to tell if your shoes are too tight
If your shoes are too tight, this can result in blisters or sores, which can quickly lead to serious infection.
The easiest way to tell if your shoes are too tight is to check how much room there is in the toe area of your shoe. There should be a finger’s width of space between your big toe and the end of your shoe.
Another way to check if your shoes are too tight is to slide a finger between the heel of your foot and the back of your shoe. If there is little space to spare, then your shoes are probably too tight.
5 ways to stretch new shoes
Thankfully, most shoes can easily be stretched out to create some additional wiggle room. In this section, we’ll explore how to stretch new shoes with five simple techniques you can do at home. It is worth noting however that the following shoe stretching techniques will vary for different materials and shoe types.
1. Wear your shoes around the house
One of the easiest ways to stetch out your shoes is to break them in. By wearing them around the house for short but regular periods of time, this can cause the material to loosen and expand for extra space.
2. Layer up on socks
Looking to speed up the process? Layer a couple of pairs of thick socks on your feet – this can also help prevent any nasty blisters. Once your shoes become comfortable enough to wear around the house for several hours at a time, they’ll be ready to take on the outside world.
3. Apply a little heat
Another way to stretch your shoes at home requires a few pairs of thick socks and a hair dryer. The heat from the hair dryer can help soften the shoe and mould to the shape of your foot.
Just follow these simple steps to get started:
- Layer your feet with thick socks and slide them into your shoes.
- Set your hair dryer to a medium heat and blast each foot for around 20 to 30 seconds.
- Move the nozzle around in circular motions to avoid excessively heating or burning your shoe.
Just remember this technique is only suitable for certain materials. Do not try this method on plastic or PVC shoes as they may release toxic fumes into the air. You should also avoid heating suede shoes as excessive heat can cause the material to dry out.
4. Stretch your shoes in the freezer
From fire to ice – freezing can be just as effective as heat for loosening a tight pair of shoes. Here’s a breakdown of how to stretch your shoes with ice:
- Fill a plastic bag with water and place it into the inside of your shoe.
- Put the shoe in the freezer overnight and leave for around six to eight hours.
- The water will turn into ice and expand to stretch out your shoe.
This method usually works best for non-leather shoes.
5. Invest in a shoe stretcher
If you frequently seem to have trouble fitting into new shoes, then a shoe stretcher may be a worthy investment. Shoe stretchers can be used to stretch the length of your shoes or widen them. There are several types of shoe stretchers, each designed for a particular type of shoe – from boots to high heels.
To use a shoe stretcher:
- Start by spraying your shoe with a shoe stretching solution. This will help relax the fibres.
- Place the stretcher into the shoe and turn the handle so the shoe expands.
- Leave for six to eight hours.
- Remove the handle and try on the shoe to see if it fits.
- If it doesn’t, turn the handle again and repeat the process.
This method works best with leather or suede shoes but can also work on canvas shoes and trainers.
How to stretch leather shoes and boots
When it comes to stretching leather shoes, you may want to turn to a shoe specialist to get them professionally stretched out. As leather shoes and boots are often more expensive, they should be handled with care.
However, many of the previous shoe stretching techniques can still be applied to leather shoes and boots, such as using a shoe stretcher. Shoe stretching liquids and sprays can also work wonders for leather shoes.
Before using a shoe stretching spray, make sure you carry out a patch test. Spray the stretching spray on a small section of the shoe. If your shoe changes colour or texture, don’t use it.
How to soften leather shoes
When they’re new out of the box, leather shoes can be stiff to wear. Like any pair of shoes, the best way to soften up leather shoes is to gradually wear them in. However, you can often speed up the process by following these simple hacks.
Soak them in warm water
The most common way to soften leather shoes is to soak them in warm water and add a small drop of fairy liquid. Allow them to soak for around 10 minutes then remove the shoes from the water and wipe away any excess soap with a cloth.
Soak them in cold water
Leather can also be softened in cold water. Simply fill up a sink with cold water and leave the shoes to soak for 10-15 minutes.
The formula of petroleum jelly not only softens leather shoes, but it can also prevent them from cracking. For optimal results, combine this method with hot air from a hairdryer.