How to Stretch Your Shoes

how to stretch your shoes
PHOTO CREDIT: Pick up my repair

You’ve found the perfect pair of shoes, but they’re just a little too tight. With this handy guide you’ll learn all the ways you can stretch your shoes, to create a more comfortable fit without ruining your foot wear.

Check out more from our Men’s Style Guide here

In an ideal world all shoes would fit perfectly, but along with taxes, the common cold and that pink sock in the white wash, tight shoes come a long now and then to mess things up. The good thing is that there are actually a number of ways to make shoes bigger, as well as widen them, and you don’t have to depend on a cobbler to do it for you.

The main thing to remember is that every shoe is different, and how you decide to stretch your foot wear depends on the material you’re working with. If you’re working with a pair of pricey leather boots then you might want to go for a less hardcore stretching method, whereas a pair of cheap trainers can take a bit more of a hammering.

The Freezing Method

If you’re wondering how to stretch leather shoes then the freezing method is a good option. All you need to do is fill a plastic bag with water, then carefully push it into your shoes, making sure to cover the areas you want stretched. Now this is something you probably learnt when you were a kid, but incase you forgot, water expands when it’s frozen, so all you need to do is pop your shoes in the freezer and wait for the magic to happen.

Make sure that the shoes themselves aren’t wet, especially if they’re leather or suede, and this can potentially damage the material. If you want to be extra safe, put your shoes in another plastic bag to keep any frost off them, but with the ice safely inside the plastic bag, the insides of your shoes should be safe from harm. After a day or two in the freezer your shoes should be widened, and all you need to do is wait for them to de-frost.

You can use the freezing method on these types of shoes.

how to stretch your shoes freeze
SHOP: Plimsolls | Trainers | Boat Shoes

The Sock Method

Now this is probably the least intrusive way to widen shoes, and is recommended if you want to stretch something expensive and fairly delicate, like patent leather shoes. It doesn’t require ice or plastic bags, just a good old fashioned pair of socks. All you need to do is grab your pair of socks, roll them into a small ball and place them inside your shoe. This is ideal if the ends of your shoes are pinching your toes, as you can easily push the socks right into the corners. 

Get the shape right and make sure there’s no distortion, before leaving them overnight to stretch. The next morning you should notice that your shoes are slightly wider, and you can easily repeat this as many times as you want without the fear of damaging your shoes.

You can use the sock method on these types of shoes.

how to stretch your shoes patent leather
SHOP: Loafers | Formal Shoes

The Newspaper Method

Similar to the sock method, but with a bit of water, and of course newspaper involved in the mix. It’s a good way of stretching out shoes that are too stubborn for the sock method, but that you still want to keep away from heat or ice.

All you need to do is wet some scrunched up newspaper and pop them in your shoes. If you want to stretch trainers this might be the method for you. Just remember, like with the sock method, to keep the shape of your trainers in mind when you’re adding the newspaper, as you don’t want the toe of your shoes to become distorted.

You can use the newspaper method on these types of shoes.

how to stretch shoes newspaper
SHOP: Boots | Drivers | Loafers

The Heat Method

Just like freezing them, shoes can also be widened by heating the. This is a method best avoided when you’re dealing with suede shoes, as on the whole suede likes to be kept away from heat. However if you’re stretching something like a pair of trainers, canvas shoes or sturdy, non vintage leather, then the heat method can work pretty well.

All you need is a pair of thick socks and a hair dryer (you don’t need a expensive bells and whistles one, just a basic £10 will do the job). Put on the socks, stuff your feet into your shoes and gently, very gently, direct your hairdryer over the parts of the shoes you want to soften and stretch.

Be very careful when working with leather, as too much heat could crack or discolour it. Work in small sections and try not to heat the shoe for more than 20 seconds at a time. Let the material cool down before you blast it with more heat, and after a while you’ll find that your shoes have widened enough to fit comfortably.

how to stretch shoes heat method
SHOP: Plimsolls | Boots | Trainers

Shoe Trees

You’ve probably seen shoe trees when you’ve been out and about at the shops, and you might have assumed that they’re the kind of accessories that rich people have, but don’t necessarily need. Although we can’t explain why they’re called trees when they’re shaped like feet, we can insist that they’re an important part of shoe care. If you’ve invested in a good pair of quality shoes then shoe trees are vital to keeping them in good shape, and are ideal if you want to stretch your leather shoes.

Here’s why. Everyone sweats, and when we sweat the leather of our shoes absorbs the moisture, causing it to crack and wear out. When you place shoe trees into your, say patent leather, shoes they help keep everything in shape.

You’ve probably noticed that shoe trees are adjustable, so once you’ve taken off your shoes after a long day of walking, you can easily place your trees inside them and very carefully widen the length, with the natural heat from your feet softening the leather enough to allow it to stretch. It’s best not to use tree shoes to stretch your footwear if they’ve been hanging around in your wardrobe for a while, as the material won’t be warm enough to stretch, and you could end up damaging your shoes.

You can use the shoe tree on these types of shoes.

how to stretch your shoes formal shoes
SHOP: Formal Shoes

How to Stretch Your Shoes, Cheat Sheet

  • Use the freezing method on sturdy, hardwearing shoes that need to be stretched a lot.
  • Use the sock method on delicate shoes that only need to be stretched a little bit.
  • Use the newspaper method on shoes that require a small amount of stretching, but that won’t be damaged by a little water. Avoid this method on suede shoes.
  • Use the heat method on shoes that need to be stretched up to a whole size, but never use on delicate shoes like patent leather.
  • Use shoe trees on delicate formal shoes to help maintain their shape and lightly stretch them without causing damage.

On That Note…

There are so many ways to stretch out a pair of shoes depending on the type, how much you want to widen your shoes, and your price range. If you can’t fork out for a fancy shoe tree, a bag of water can do the job as well, and there’s no harm in damaging your footwear as long as you use the right method to suit the material. So if you’ve got a pair of shoes that are pinching and are making your feet feel claustrophobic, know that there is a way to sort them out easily and cheaply.

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