How To Stretch Leather Shoes
Your feet do not have to go through pain unnecessarily.
If your shoes are too tight, it may be time to stretch them. Read this guide to find out how to properly stretch leather shoes.
Why Stretch Out Leather Shoes
There are many reasons why you would want to stretch out your shoes. Perhaps you may have gotten them as a gift and want try them on, but cannot quite get your foot inside. Perhaps you wish to wear them to a festive occasion but can’t see how you would manage to fit inside them. You may be a collector who likes buying and owning multiple pairs. Or maybe your shoes just don’t fit you like they used to.
Getting Started: The Best Solution is to Walk Around
The best solution to stretching leather shoes (about ½ a size smaller than usual) is to wear them while walking around at home. Do so in your leisure hours as you are doing chores, or relaxing around the living room. Your shoes will naturally stretch. You may feel silly wearing a pair of leather dress shoes around the home, especially if you need to get the door, but trust us when we say that this method is one of the best ways to stretch out leather shoes.
By taking shoes for a spin around the home, you expand the fibers in the materials, including the quarter, topline and heel cap. This technique can be particularly effective for newly purchased shoes. Don’t want to feel constrained on the job in a fresh pair of boots? Wear them around the house for a few hours each day and they should become supple.
To speed up the process wear a thick pair of socks before you put the shoes on your feet. When the shoes hurt, just take them off and try again tomorrow.
Okay, but what about when they're MORE than ½ size smaller?
Use A Spoon
The Queen of England has her personal stylist Stewart Parvin stretch out shoes with a spoon. "If she puts them on and they're uncomfortable then we need to take action," said Parvin in a recent interview with Vogue. "The first technique is to have someone walk in them to 'break the shoe in.' If that doesn't work, I'll take a spoon and furiously work it into the parts of the shoe that are chafing her."
Tip: Press the back of a spoon into the part of the shoe that is giving you the most trouble.
Upgrade to Shoe Stretching Tools
Shoe stretching tools may need to be called in for tighter fitting shoes. Walking around may be useful when shoes are ½ a size smaller, but when they are too tight, such as a full size smaller, a shoe stretching tool may be needed. Such tools include shoe stretchers and shoe stretcher spray.
You've probably seen a shoe stretcher in your dad's closet. Shoe stretchers expand the shoe in all directions and max out the length and width of the shoe.
Shoe stretchers are tools that stretch the shoe from east-to-west, north-to-south, front-to-back, and all around.
☝️ these tools expands the shoe horizontally
Instructions for Use: By turning the handles the stretcher will expand. Leave overnight so that the tension caused by the shoe stretcher cause the material to expand.
☝️ these tools expands the shoe vertically
☝️ this tool expands the shoe vertically and horizontally [meaning side to side, and front to back]
☝️ this tool expands the diameter of boots, opening space around the boot instep and shaft
[Pro Tip:] Typically it's easier to stretch a shoe width-wise than length-wise. That's because the outsole (or the bottommost part of a shoe that comes in direct contact with the ground) is limited in how far it can be stretched.
☝️ this tool is good for stretching shoes in a particular pressure points; recommended for use by people that have corns, hammertoes, and bunions
Overall, these tools help free up space in your shoes.
Gradually stretches the area and relieves tightness around the foot and calf.
For shoe stretchers to do their work, they will need to be left in the shoe for a period of 6 to 8 hours. Taking them out beforehand will not allow the tool to do its job.
[Pro tip]: When purchasing a shoe stretcher, remember not to get the shoe too loose. A way to facilitate this is through the purchase of shoe stretcher spray.
Shoe Stretcher Spray
Leather is just like your skin; it responds well to moisturizer. Shoe stretcher spray functions as a moisturizer and conditioner that works with leather in order to soften it and make it more supple.
Sprays loosen the fibers of leather, allowing the material of the shoe upper to spread slightly.
[Pro Tip]: When applying this lubricating agent, make sure it works on your particular type of leather. Some sprays are only good for certain types of leather, and may exclude suede, nubuck, canvas, linens, and vinyl.
Take Them To A Cobbler
If walking around, shoe stretchers and shoe sprays did not solve your tight leather shoes, it may be time to go to a cobbler. A cobbler, or professional shoe repair person, will know the techniques necessary in order to get those pesky shoes on your feet. Their methods will involve much of the same techniques used here, but you may be lucky and find a cobbler who owns a shoe stretching machine.
To Heat or Not To Heat?
Some articles on the internet recommend heating leather shoes with artificial heat in order to stretch the leather material. Once leather is stretched it is less likely to go back to its original size. Therefore we don’t recommend using this means to go about fixing this problem. Heating leather by a blow-dryer can cause the leather to wrinkle or degrade. Wrinkled leather can be a sign that the material your shoe is made from does not respond well to heat.
Popular Questions About Stretching Shoes:
1. Can shoe trees stretch out shoes?
No. Shoe trees, unlike stretchers, are NOT used to expand the shoe's surface area. Shoe trees DO smooth out the lining of the leather, helping to remove creases on the exterior. Shoe trees help shoes keep their form and prevent shoes from "caving in" over time.
2. Do you recommend heating leather with a blow-dyer?
We strongly recommend you don’t heat your leather, using instead the previously mentioned methods. Hairdryers warp the material of the shoe.
3. How do you know you're over-stretching your shoes?
The seams will begin to burst. When stretched too far, the stitching in the shoe will get extremely tight, so keep an eye on this, as the stitching can be one of the weakest and most vulnerable parts of the shoe when stretching.
4. Do barefoot children have wider feet?
There is a common myth that playing sports, like football, outside as a child can make your feet wider as an adult. The logic being that - without the limitations of a shoe, the foot begins to expand on the sides. From what we've researched in the podiatry literature, there is some truth to this. Being barefoot as a child can make your feet wider as a result.
5. Do you recommend ice/water in a Ziploc bag to stretch shoes?
You can try. This technique has gained popularity on the internet. Basically, a bag of water is placed in the shoe, then put into the freezer for the water to freeze. When water expands to ice, its surface area expands 9%, and so the shoe is stretched. We've personally tried this technique and found it doesn't evenly stretch the shoe.
6. If my free time is limited, which tool do you recommend to stretch leather shoes?
Shoe stretchers. They can be fitted and left in over night. In the morning, your shoes will be more roomy! Although all these techniques mentioned in this post all get you to the same goal, there is a price to be paid for convenience. Shoe stretchers, lifters, and expanders provide this convenience. Unlike other DIY methods, a shoe stretcher guarantees uniform results.
Leather shoes can be stretched on your own or through the help of a professional cobbler. Half-size and full-size stretches can be done on your own (See Tactics 1 and 2). Size stretches larger than a full size require the help of a professional cobbler.
To summarize, here are the different tactics to stretch leather shoes.
1. Walk around in your pair of leather shoes at home. Wear thick socks to make the process faster. (Good for a half-sized stretch). #doityourself
2. Use a spoon to smooth out "sharp" parts on the inside of your shoe givine you trouble. The spoon replicates the effects of your foot. (Good for spot stretching). #doityourself
3. Purchase a shoe tree or stretch the leather material with stretcher spray. (Good for a half-size to full-size stretch). #doityourself
4. See your local cobbler. Cobblers have the industrial sized tools & manufacturing & materials needed to "professionally stretch" a shoe. #professionalstretch
We hope you've found this article helpful!
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- Alex Pop