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How to Stretch Your Shoes: 5 Ways to Make Them More Comfortable

As shopping online increases in popularity and visits to in-person shoe stores decline, it is not uncommon for consumers to end up with a pair of recently purchased shoes that run a tad too small. For those who wish to keep their purchase — whether because returning the item is not an option, one’s size has changed since the purchase was made or for any other reason — FN has laid out a few options for at-home and professional intervention that may result in the slight expansion of one’s shoes.

The Importance of Well-Fitting Shoes

To begin, it is important to highlight the importance of wearing shoes that are the correct size. When shoes are too small, injuries to the feet can occur, including blisters and sores. If not properly treated or addressed, these small injuries can lead to a more serious infection causing damage to one’s health.

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A girl has a wound on her leg from wearing shoes, her feet are rubbing from wearing shoes, a wound on a girl s leg
A girl has a wound on her leg from wearing shoes, her feet are rubbing from wearing shoes, a wound on a girl s leg

How to Know if Your Shoes Are Too Tight

To ensure one’s shoes are the correct size and not too tight, it is important to get measured. Getting measured for shoes can be done at any in-person shoe store and will lead to a more accurate purchase when shopping online and in-store.

shoe size, shoes, fitting, stretch,
shoe size, shoes, fitting, stretch,

Even without getting measured, there are a few tips and techniques for checking the fit of shoes. One popular method for ensuring a properly fitting shoe is by observing the room between the foot’s end and the shoe’s tip. If the top of one’s toes are hitting the front of one’s shoes, those shoes are most likely too small and need to be purchased in a larger size. There should be roughly a finger’s width of space between the individual’s toes and the edge of their shoes. An improper fit in this area may cause blisters or irritation to occur.

Another method to check the fit of a pair of shoes is by observing the relationship between one’s heel and the back of the shoe. If the shoe is too wide, the individual’s heel will slip out of the shoe when walking. If the shoe is too narrow, there will be little to no room between the individual’s heel and the back of the shoe. An improper fit in this area may also cause cuts, scrapes and blisters to occur.

Things to Keep in Mind

Some additional things to keep in mind before browsing some of FN’s tips and techniques for stretching shoes is that the listed methods are considered possible solutions to creating a comfortable fit from a shoe that is too small. The best thing to do for future wear is to purchase shoes in the correct size or shop for shoes that are adjustable. Shoes designed with laces, velcro or straps are easier to custom fit to one’s foot and may result in a more enjoyable footwear experience.

Method One: Wear Them Often

The first method to stretching one’s shoes is to simply wear them often. Oftentimes, shoes will give and stretch after repeated wear due to the flexibility of popular footwear textiles. The best way to utilize this tip is to put on a pair of ill-fitting shoes at night while walking around the house. This will ensure the wearer will not experience any discomfort during the day when they cannot easily take the shoes off.

An extra tip to apply to this method is to layer up on multiple pairs of socks before wearing the shoes. This will not only ensure a more comfortable experience but also assist the shoes in stretching out faster.

Man who put his socks with shoes in front of him
Man who put his socks with shoes in front of him

Method Two: The Blow Dryer

The second method involves the use of a blow dryer and several pairs of thick socks. To begin, stuff the ill-fitting shoes with the socks from toe to heel. Next, apply a gentle amount of heat to the area where the shoe is too tight. It is recommended to heat this area for 20-30 seconds at a time.

This method uses concentrated bursts of heat to expand the shoe’s material, while the socks push the shoe outwards. This combination will set the shoe into a new position that is similar in silhouette, but slightly larger in size. This method can be used multiple times in a row if not effective on the first try.

Method Three: The Freezer Approach

The third method to stretch a pair of ill-fitting shoes is to perform a similar procedure as method number two but using cold temperatures instead of targeted heating. To begin, fill a plastic bag with water and tightly seal the bag at the top. Next, place the bag of water into the shoe, making sure to focus the water in the area where the shoes are too small. Finally, place the shoe, filled now with the bag of water, into the freezer until the water is sufficiently frozen.

As the ice freezes and expands, the shoe will be pushed outwards and stretch into a slightly larger shape. Like the heated approach, this method can be used multiple times in a row if not effective the first try.

Method Four: Shoe Stretcher 

The fourth method involves the purchasing of a new product. Using a shoe stretcher, available to purchase online and at most shoe and department stores, will perform in the same way as the previous methods and stretch the textile of a shoe so it fits slightly looser.

To use, simply insert the shoe stretcher into the ill-fitting shoe and expand the device until it fits snuggly into the shoe’s opening. For the most effective results, leave the shoe stretcher overnight or for a few days.

Method Five: Visit a Professional

The last method of reshaping one’s shoes to fit slightly larger is to visit a professional cobbler and have the shoes professionally stretched.

An elderly shoemaker at work in a workshop
An elderly shoemaker at work in a workshopAboutLife – stock.adobe.com

A cobbler, typically in a position of higher quality tools and experienced in the maintenance and construction of footwear, may be able to get the desired results quicker and more effectively than an individual is capable of performing at home.

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