There is nothing like the feel of a good old, worn-in pair of canvas shoes. They fit like a glove and are as comfortable as bare feet. But eventually they will wear out, and you will find yourself trying on a dozen pair of shoes to find the “one.” Have you ever brought new shoe home only to find they are tighter and stiffer than you like, but you love the style, and with all the work that went into finding them, you want to keep them? Or maybe you ran your favorite pair of “tennis” through the washer and dryer, only to find they shrunk and are now uncomfortably snug. Don’t throw them away just yet!
Stretching your best shoes is a way to enlarge, even if slightly, the fabric portion of a pair of canvas shoes to provide a better fit and greater comfort. There are several methods that can be used to stretch your canvas shoes a bit and make them more comfortable. Some of these methods require a few more steps, and some require a little waiting, but all of them are relatively simple and effective and can add a little size to the toe box of your shoes. These tips on how to stretch your canvas shoes can help save your favorite shoes from the garbage bin or help new ones to fit better. It is important to have patience and perform a stretch repeatedly in small increments rather than to overstretch and ruin the shoes. Remember that these tips are for canvas shoes only. Implementing them on vinyl, leather or suede may ruin the shoes, so please limit these techniques to cloth shoes only.
Canvas is a hardwearing and tightly-woven cotton-based fabric. It is used for sport and casual shoes because it adds durability and longevity. Because of its cotton content, it is very susceptible to shrinkage when exposed to water unless the shoes are stretched while drying. They can be difficult to stretch and resize, but with some persistence, it can be done.
Stretching out your shoes can help save the expense of purchasing a new pair needlessly, as well as helping a new pair fit more comfortably. Both are good reasons to know how to stretch canvas shoes. Let’s take a look at how that can be done.
For this method, you will need four zip top gallon size freezer bags, a few paper towels, and some water. Line the shoes with a double layer of paper toweling to prevent damage from any condensation or spilling. Place one of the two bags inside the other bag so that you now have two double-layer bags. With your hand inside the inner bag, slide them into the inside of your shoe. Use your fingers to poke into every bit of space you can. Repeat with the other shoe. Fill the inner bags with water and close the top of both bags. Fasten any zippers or laces in place. Sit them upright on the shelf of the freezer overnight. As it turns to ice, the water will expand and begin to gently and evenly stretch the fabric. You may need to allow the bags to thaw a bit before removal.
Scrunch up several sheets of newspaper and spray them with water. Put them into a sock. Stuff the shoe with the sock until you build up some pressure on the inside from the newspaper. Make sure to stuff the shoes tightly wherever the canvas is tightest, taking care not to allow the toe to become misshapen.
Add this to the long list of amazing uses for rubbing alcohol. Soak a pair of thick socks in rubbing alcohol and put them on. Immediately put the snug shoes on over the damp socks. Fasten and wander around in the shoes until the socks are dry. This may be repeated if the first time doesn’t quite do the trick. You can also put a bit of alcohol in a spray bottle and spritz the interior of the shoes before putting them on if you don’t want to wear the socks. The alcohol will not harm the interior of your canvas shoes. You may also want to check out how to make your shoes smaller.
You can also buy a shoe stretching spray online or at some shoe stores at a cost of anywhere from $7.00 to $48.00. However, you can make your own blend for pennies at home using the exact same ingredients. In a small spray bottle, mix one part water with one part rubbing alcohol. That is all there is to it. Keeping it sealed tightly will help ensure that the alcohol does not evaporate and it will be ready to use when you need it again.
Heat can help stretch canvas shoes. Spray the shoes with a light mist of water and allow it to absorb. Put on a pair of thick stockings and put the shoes on your feet. Turn your portable hair blow dryer to where it feels a bit snug. Hold for a minute, but don’t allow the heat to become uncomfortable. Then walk around until the shoes cool down to allow them to stretch as they cool. Repeat as needed if more expansion is desired.
Did you know you could stretch your canvas shoes using steam? Steam is effective as it provides both moisture and heat. Hold the canvas portion of the shoe over either the spout of a teapot or over a pot of boiling water and allow the steam to saturate and heat the canvas. Be very careful to avoid getting a steam burn. While the canvas is still hot, place a glass or jelly jar inside of the shoe immediately, and push it in far enough to put a bit of pressure on the inside of the shoe. You could also use wadded up newsprint. Find what you want to use and test it for size before you begin steaming the fabric. Leave the glass, jar, wadded newspaper or even large, cleaned potatoes inside the shoes until they are cool and completely dry.
A mechanical shoe stretcher is a wooden or plastic foot-shaped press with adjustable knobs and rods that will either elongate or widen or both. They also come with an assortment of various-sized bumps with pegs on the back. The pegs fit into holes on the foot stretcher so that you can make extra room for toes, bunions, bone spurs or the misshaping caused by arthritis and old age. This allows you to completely customize the stretcher to work for your individual foot.
The kit may also come with a bottle of stretching spray. (You could also use rubbing alcohol, which is what most of the sprays are made from.) Spray the stretching spray or alcohol both inside and out. Next, you will need to insert the stretcher mechanism into the shoe and crank the knob to either elongate or stretch the width or both, to resize the shoe. Allow them to sit for a while. Remove the stretchers and try on the shoes. If they are still tight, insert and try again giving it an extra turn or two and repeat until the shoes feel the right size. Remember to apply the stretching spray each time.
If none of these methods work well enough for your particular shoes, most dedicated shoe stores will have the ability to stretch the shoes a bit for you as well. They will usually only offer this service on the shoes you bought from them. For other canvas shoes, you can also take them into a local shoe repair shop and ask for some assistance. They will know of the best methods to help you save your favorite canvas shoes from the trash bin.
Canvas shoes can shrink in a number of ways. Machine washing can shrink them more than hand washing. Drying them in a gas or electric dryer will shrink the wet cotton fibers, as opposed to putting a stretcher in them and letting them air dry. Getting your canvas shoes wet at the beach, in a lake or river, and not stuffing them while drying to keep their shape, can also allow shrinkage. Many times people will throw out a perfectly good pair of canvas shoes, but knowing how to stretch them can save you the cost of a new pair of shoes.
A single pair of shoes doesn’t take up that much room in a landfill but multiplied many times over, it can add up to a healthy pile of shrunken, but otherwise useable canvas shoes. Learning to stretch your canvas shoes will not only extend their useful life but also helps the environment – two very good reasons for giving this simple process a try.