We’ve all been there before. Either we’ve ordered shoes online and we excitedly awaited their arrival only to find that they run small and are a little bit tight. Or, we found our dream shoes on the sale rack and bought them despite being half a size too small. Sometimes one foot is slightly different in size than the other, or we just bought the wrong size shoe and they feel too tight. Whatever the case may be, stretching shoes that are too tight can be done quickly and effectively to half a size or more. While there is always the option to take your shoes to the cobbler to get professionally stretched, there are quite a few easy do-it-yourself hacks to stretch your shoes yourself at home.
Shoes will typically stretch all on their own as you wear them. Leather shoes, whether it be men’s dress shoes or women’s heels, will fit over time. But if they are too tight and uncomfortable to wear in, try some of these easy hacks to stretch your shoes up to half a size or so to accommodate your feet. There are ways to stretch your shoes so you don’t have to tiptoe around in them and deal with blisters and rubbing. If you can’t or don’t want to return your shoes, you can try some of these techniques to try to stretch them to fit you.
One of the easiest and most effortless ways to start stretching your shoes is to simply wear them around the house in the evening. Put on some thick socks or a few layers of socks and walk around at home until your feet hurt. Do this for a few days and you’ll soon begin to feel a big difference in how your feet feel in your shoes. The shape of your feet and the pressure of walking, enhanced by the thick socks, will do wonders to stretch out tight shoes. If you are thinking about returning them if they don’t feel good, then stick to walking on rugs, carpets, mats, and bathroom rugs so you don’t leave any wear on the soles of the shoes.
Keep in mind when buying your shoes what you are going to be using them for, and what socks you will be wearing with them. For example, if you are buying hiking boots or winter snow boots, it’s likely that you will be wearing thicker socks rather than thin dress socks. Sometimes, when we buy shoes that we intend to wear with thicker socks, we forget to buy them a little bigger. Walking around with thick socks will help to stretch the shoe to the size that feels comfortable for you before you take them to the trails.
Another way to stretch your shoes at home requires a blow dryer and some socks. Ideally, put on a few pairs of thick socks. If you don’t have thick socks, put on several pairs of thinner socks or men’s socks to get the same effect. Put your socks on and squeeze into the shoes. Using a hairdryer to apply heat, blow dry the areas of the shoe that feel tight for about 20-30 seconds at a time. We recommend using only medium heat while you keep the blow dryer moving so you don’t overheat, dry out, or burn the leather accidentally. After doing this, we recommend applying a leather conditioner or moisturizer to the shoes to nourish the leather after it’s been stressed by the heat and dryness.
Aside from using heat to stretch leather, you can also use cold. While this method is okay for leather shoes, it works best for non-leather shoes. For leather, we recommend using the heat option instead. For non-leather shoes like sneakers or slippers, you can use a zip-close bag filled with water to stretch them gently in the freezer. Be sure to test your zip-close bag before putting it inside your shoe to ensure it doesn’t have holes that could leak, as you don’t want your shoes to get wet. Once you’re certain your baggie won’t leak, fill the baggies about a quarter way with water and place them inside the shoes so they fit snugly. Stick the shoes in the freezer and leave them there until the water freezes. Once it’s frozen, remove and let thaw. If the shoes don’t fit after one round, try this technique a second time.
Shoes that can get wet, like canvas shoes and water shoes, can be directly frozen. Wet these shoes with a little water and put them in the freezer to freeze. Take them out and let them thaw. They should fit well after their freezer time!
If you’re tired of trampling around the house in new shoes trying to stretch them out, then you can use other objects to stretch the shoes instead of your feet. An old-fashioned way to do this is to simply stuff your shoes with newspapers. The pressure and shape of the tightly bundled paper will slowly and gently stretch out the shoes. If you don’t have crumpled up newspaper lying around, use a few pairs of socks and try overstuffing them into the shoes to get the same effect. In a few days, the shoes should feel noticeably roomier.
This trick may sound like an old wives’ tale, but it’s an amusingly effective way to stretch tight shoes. Peel a potato and shape it into the mold of the front of the shoe where your toes go. Wipe the potato dry with a paper towel and stuff it into your shoe overnight. This method sounds silly, but you can definitely expect to have a little extra space in your shoes come morning.
Adjustable shoe trees are the fancier and more technical way to go about stretching your shoes. In fact, adjustable shoe trees are commonly kept in the wardrobe with both women’s and men’s shoes. Adjustable shoe trees are often used to keep various kinds of fancy dress shoes in shape. Shoe trees are designed to smooth out the lining of your shoes, and keep away any creases or dents to preserve the look and aesthetic of the shoe. While shoe trees are not exactly designed to stretch shoes, they can do some stretching.
Coming in different materials, such as plastic, cedarwood, and stainless steel, shoe trees are great for stretching sneakers and leather shoes. These handy devices can expand the length and width of a shoe and can be particularly helpful for those who have bunions or wider feet. To use the adjustable shoe tree, turn the adjustable handle of the tree every 8 to 12 hours to keep stretching the shoes until you get the desired length and width.
Adjustable shoe trees can also be used in conjunction with shoe stretching sprays and liquids for a more effective end result. There are a wide variety of liquids and sprays out there that are great for stretching shoes, leather, fabric, and even vinyl. These stretch sprays can be applied to the parts of the shoe that feel tight. Spray the tight areas and then walk around in your shoes to stretch them out. Alternatively, use a shoe stretcher or adjustable shoe tree to stretch the shoes after applying the stretch sprays and liquid.
If you don’t feel like taking on this project by yourself, there’s no problem there! Taking shoes to professional shoe repair shops, also traditionally called cobblers, is a great option for those who are low on time or just don’t want to go through the trouble of stretching shoes at home. Cobblers aren’t as common as they once were, but can still be found in most cities and in some more rural or suburban areas. Shoe professionals provide shoe stretching services with machines and training that work to alter shoes. This is also a great option for women’s and men’s boots. A cobbler or shoe repair professional will have all the tools and machinery to stretch even the most complex or delicate of shoes. Also, bringing your worn-down shoes to a cobbler or professional is a great way to get them spruced up, reshaped, and even resoled to help them last and look great longer.
Rubbing alcohol is another common household item that can be used to stretch tight shoes. If that new pair of shoes is giving your feet a hard time, you can more easily break them in and give them a stretch with rubbing alcohol. Make a dilution of rubbing alcohol by mixing it in a spray bottle with 50% water and 50% rubbing alcohol. Spray the inside of the shoes and wear them for 20 to 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can simply rub the rubbing alcohol onto the parts of the shoes that need to be stretched or feel especially tight. After rubbing the tighter parts with alcohol, put the shoes on while they are wet, and wear them. Lastly, you can soak a pair of socks in rubbing alcohol, put them on, put on your shoes or boots, and wear them until the alcohol dries. You can repeat this as many times as you need.
Another simple way to stretch shoes is with a shoe stretcher. Similar to an adjustable shoe tree, shoe stretchers are inserts designed to stretch the shoe from the inside and encourage it to hold its shape. Shoe stretchers are great for leather and dress shoes. Even if you don’t need to stretch your shoes, keeping a shoe stretcher around to help your dress shoes keep their shape will have you looking even more professional in your men’s suit or women’s business attire. You can prepare your shoe for stretching by spraying the inside and outside of the shoe with a stretch spray. Otherwise, simply slide the stretcher into the shoe and use the lengthening wheel to adjust it to the correct size. Leave the stretcher in for six to eight hours, but don’t leave it in too long because the shoe could become too stretched and loosen.
If you are struggling to break in a pair of new shoes, bought a size too small, or somehow ended up with shoes that feel uncomfortably tight, then try one of these easy ways to give your toes a little more wiggle room and make your feet feel more comfortable. Just remember next time you’re buying shoes to try them on with the right size sock and spend some time walking around in them before you commit. Otherwise, try some of these easy hacks to get your shoes to fit you a little bit better. Complete your look and find some great professional wear, day time looks, and outdoor gear to wear with your newly stretched shoes at Lands’ End.