If you need to know how to stretch leather shoes, you’ve come to the right place. There’s nothing worse than buying a beautiful pair of shoes, putting them on, and experiencing pain while you walk. Who wants that? Nobody wants to go through the hassle of waiting until their shoes stretch to fit.
We get that.
Luckily there’s something you can do to speed up the process. And we’re going to give you tips on how to stretch them out!
Several Tips and Tricks for Stretching Your Leather Shoes
Wait! Don’t just grab the insides of your shoe and pull – there are tools, products, and tried-and-true methods out there to get your leather shoes stretched and lookin’ fine.
Walk it Out
The best solution for how to stretch leather shoes is to just walk around in them.
Break them in. Pop those suckers on your feet and do your daily housework in them. Heck, clean the entire house. Leave them on as you lounge on the couch watching TV. Wear them when you’re chasing the kids down for bedtime when all they want to do is keep playing. Practice your runway walk.
Turn your treadmill jog into a treadmill fast-walk while wearing your new leather shoes. Why not go all-out and don the whole suit and tie? It’s an excuse to spend all day sneaking around the house as if you were James Bond.
Your shoes will naturally stretch this way as you use them. By taking a jolly stroll through your house, you expand the fibers in the materials of the shoes, including the quarter, topline, and heel cap.
If you’ve just purchased your leather shoes, this technique is particularly effective (note: this method is usually for shoes that are only about a ½ size too small – any more than that and you’ll probably have to hold out for the other shoe stretching tips because the shoes might be too painful to put on). Walk around enough and you’ll turn stiff leather supple.
If your feet start hurting, just take the shoes off and try again in a few hours or maybe the next day.
Bonus points if you walk around in your shoes while wearing socks – like several pairs of socks, or perhaps those thick woolen ones you bought for that one trip you took to the Alps and never had a chance to wear again anyway. The thick socks will help speed up the stretching process.
You could also just make sure your shoes fit in the first place. Quick shoe shopping tip – go shoe shopping in the afternoon rather than in the morning because you’ll get a more accurate feeling of how the shoes will fit you when they belong to you and you’re really using them. Your feet swell as the day goes on – when you’re walking around your house, climbing stairs or working, your feet expand because of stress you put on them.
Use Shoe Stretchers and Shoe Stretching Spray
Are you in a rush and not up for walking around your house for hours or dealing with DIY methods? Are you just worried about accidentally ruining your new pair of expensive leather shoes?
Do you have a shoe stretcher on hand, or can you go and buy one, or borrow from a friend?
You’re in luck, then – shoe stretchers will solve your problem pain-free and with precision.
There are two basic types of shoe stretchers. A one-way shoe stretcher will stretch out the width of your shoe while a two-way shoe stretcher will stretch both the width and length of your shoe.
To use a shoe stretcher, you’ll want to:
- Apply shoe stretching spray – it’ll work like a moisturizer and conditioner for your shoes to soften the leather and make it more supple and easier to work with. The spray will help the shoe stretch evenly and make the whole process go by faster. You’ll want to pay close attention to the type of spray you use, because some sprays are only good for certain types of leather and will ruin any other materials.
- Insert stretching plugs into the shoe stretcher where needed to target problem areas in your feet where you tend to get corns or bunions.
- Put the shoe stretcher in the shoe.
- Turn the shoe stretcher’s handle until your shoe is stretched how you want it to be. The handle should get a full turn every 8 hours until the shoe size is right.
- Leave the shoe stretcher in the shoe for 2 days and periodically check to see that everything’s okay and the fit is right (Leave the stretcher in the shoe for at least 6 to 8 hours so the material has enough time to set in the new stretched form).
Try Turning Up the Temperature
Consider getting a little heat involved.
Put on at least two pairs of thick socks under your new leather shoes and aim a blow-dryer on medium heat at them for 30 seconds.
Focus on the tightest areas of the shoes and keep the blow-dryer moving so no one particular area overheats or warps. Flex and bend your feet during the process to help loosen the leather.
Let the shoes cool on your feet once you’re done blow-drying so they stick in the desired form around your feet instead of shrinking back to the original shape.
Repeat the process until you’re walking comfortably in your shoes.
You’ll definitely want to be careful when using heat to stretch leather shoes though – stretched leather is unlikely to return to its original size and shape, and blasting your leather shoes with heat might cause the leather to wrinkle or degrade, which you definitely don’t want to happen.
If you choose to risk it with the heat, you should apply leather conditioner when you’re done blow-drying so the leather doesn’t dry out.
Take Advantage of the States of Matter: Ice Expands
When water freezes, it expands – you can use this fact to your advantage as a way to DIY stretch your shoes. This is another method you’ll want to be careful with, since leather doesn’t always react kindly to water.
First, grab some Ziploc bags (or any tough watertight bags you trust) and fill them about a third of the way up with water. Double bag the water if you’re particularly anxious about it.
Put the water bag into your shoe and make sure you get it molded into all the spaces and corners. Be sure that you pay attention to all of the tight areas like the toe box, or any other problem areas you know will need the stretch. You’ll probably need to use several water bags to fill up your shoes, so do what you need to do until you’re satisfied with your shoe stuffing.
Then pop your shoes into the freezer until the water bags freeze.
Once they’re frozen, pull your shoes out, let the water bags thaw, remove them, and then try on your shoes. If they fit? Great! You’re done. If they’re not quite stretched enough yet? Stuff your shoes with another round of water bags and throw them back into the freezer.
You can stretch your shoes up half a size, or even a full size larger this way.
Got a Bottle? Or a Potato, Perhaps?
Feeling particularly desperate? Get resourceful, MacGyver-style.
Some people have found success in stretching their shoes with vaguely foot-shaped bottles (or even sometimes potatoes, potato peels, sock balls, or newspaper) wrapped in something soft and pushed into the toes of shoes. Try leaving your shoes stuffed overnight and hope for the best.
Go Ask a Professional for Help
Does it all seem like too much of an effort, or have you tried multiple tricks to no avail?
Pick up your shoes and go running to the professionals. They’ll know just what to do. They’ll have the right tools to stretch your shoes and have them fit you properly.
That way you won’t have to worry about buying your own shoe stretcher and then trying to dig it up out of the back of your closet every 5 or so years when you’ll actually need it (and then remember how to use it). Just avoid the struggle and let someone else take care of it – there’s no shame in that.
Ready to Stretch Your Shoes Home-Style?
Go ahead and try some of these methods to get your shoes stretched out before you’re stuck in them for a week-long business conference.
Your feet will thank you.