Sometimes it’s just impossible to find shoes or boots that fit perfectly, especially if you’ve got wide feet.
A lot of times, you’ll just have to find a way to stretch out your new shoes.
There are several easy ways to stretch your shoes; your only decision is how much you want to spend. When I’ve bought a pair of new shoes that just won’t fit, I don’t want to spend another $100 getting them to fit properly unless I have to.
So I’ve got the three perfect hacks for you; an expensive option, a cheap option, and a free option, so let’s get those shoes stretched.
Table of Contents
4 Hacks to Stretch Shoes That Fit Too Tight
Depending on how wide your feet are and how much stretching your new shoes need before they fit correctly, you should work through the three options one at a time.
If your shoes are a little snug, but you know they’re close to being a good fit, I recommend trying the cheapest option first; why waste money when you don’t have to?
I’ve used each of these methods multiple times, and I know they all work, although the materials your shoes are made of will determine how much stretch you get for your buck.
I’ve got a cousin who complained about his boots not fitting properly, and I immediately pointed him toward the cheapest option as his first port of call. When he turned up at my door with a pair of rubber boots with a split down the side, I remembered two key points; my cousin is an idiot, and rubber Wellingtons won’t stretch.
If you’re needing a consistent and permanent solution to your shoes not fitting properly due to being too narrow, the best course is to buy a tool that’s specifically designed for the job. And my first hack, if you can call just being prepared and having an excellent tool for the job a hack, is to use a boot stretcher.
Hack #1: Invest in a Boot Stretcher
The trusty boot stretcher is the most expensive but most reliable method for stretching out shoes to fit a wider foot. More costly than a stretching spray and less messy than a frozen water balloon inside your shoe, shoe stretchers are for the connoisseur in us all.
If your feet are notoriously wide, and you always seem to hit the snag of shoes just not being wide enough, then I can’t recommend a shoe stretcher like the Prettyia Adjustable Shoe Stretcher highly enough.
Being able to stretch your shoes mechanically means you’ll get the correct pressure throughout your shoe, making for a more uniform and reliable way to adjust the fit. Unlike the freezing water hack (excellent though it is), a shoe stretcher can expand your shoe’s toe box, vamp, and ankle area.
Once you’ve identified the area of your shoe that’s tight, using a boot stretcher is as easy as 1,2,3:
Step 1: Insert The Shoe Stretcher
Slide your shoe stretcher into your shoe, gently start to turn the handle, and open up the boot stretcher while it’s inside the shoe. This will gently begin to stretch the leather without damaging it.
Leave the shoe stretcher inside your shoe, and leave it in there at least overnight, ideally for 24 hours. That gives the shoe a chance to expand and allows the material to settle. Thirty minutes won’t cut it; it’s a process that takes time.
Step 2: Try on Your Shoes
Once you’ve given the leather some time to expand, it’s time to give your shoes a try. If they fit perfectly, happy days! If they don’t, put the shoe stretcher back into the shoe and, this time, apply more pressure.
If you bought stretching spray before investing in a shoe stretcher, you could combine the two methods to an even greater effect. Apply stretching spray, and then use your shoe stretcher to stretch the material.
Step 3: Test and Repeat
Using a shoe stretcher is how a cobbler would stretch your shoes had you taken them to a professional, but even a cobbler would have to take time to stretch out your shoes over a few days.
Once you’ve finished step two, test your shoes again to get a feel for the fit. If you’re happy, it’s a job well done; if your shoes still feel a little tight, then it’s simply a process of repeating steps one and two until your shoes fit like a glove.
You can even stretch your shoes’ length as well as their width; the JJDParts 4-Way Shoe Expander gives you a lot of flexibility for altering your shoes slightly. With a bit of patience, you’ll soon have perfectly fitting shoes, and investing in a shoe stretcher will have been a great investment.
Our go-to shoe stretcher for slight alterations. The kicker with this is the 4-way stretching capability which allows you to stretch your shoe exactly where you need to for it to fit better. Give it a go, you'll be surprised.
Hack #2: Seek Out a Reputable Cobbler
The next few hacks that I recommend are home remedies to an age-old problem. But if you’ve tried a boot stretcher and found that you still can’t make things fit like they should, then I really suggest you seek out as cobbler to stretch your shoes for you.
While a stretching spray or using frozen water can, and often does stretch out narrow shoes, there are inherent risks involved with trying to stretch your shoes without damaging them. The safest option is a boot stretcher, but there are professional boot stretchers that cobblers use alongside other methods that just get the job done in a safer and more reliable way.
I understand the reluctance to take brand new footwear to pay someone to fix them up so you can actually wear them. You feel like you’re spending twice; but it’s worth it to get the shoes that you chose to feel like they belong on your feet.
This hack is less of a hack and more of a common sense bit of advice. If you’ve failed with a boot stretcher, a frozen water balloon won’t fix a thing. If your first port of call was stretching spray, and that didn’t quite work, then definitely invest in a boot stretcher before looking for a cobbler.
Hack #3: Freeze Your Shoes (Cheap And Effective)
Why reinvent the wheel or spend a fortune when you can try this classic hack for stretching out your boots? When water freezes, it expands, and we’re going to use that to our advantage here.
What you’ll need:
- Resealable bags or a pack of party balloons.
- Two plastic bags.
- A freezer.
Simply freezing your shoes won’t help them to stretch out enough to make a difference. We need to give them a little help. We can’t simply fill your shoes with water and then freeze them (well, we can, but we won’t), so you’ll need to get creative.
Step 1: Fill The Resealable Bags/Party Balloons With Water
Fill the bags or balloons with water, but not so much that they won’t fit inside your shoes. The closer the fit, the better, so you might need to add or remove water until you can place bags right up to the toe of your shoes or boots.
If it’s the ankle area or the shaft of a boot that’s too tight, then you can pack out the front of your shoe with newspaper. Ensure the area that needs stretching is in contact with the sealed water bags.
Step 2: Wrap Each Shoe in a Plastic Bag
Putting leather or suede shoes in a freezer without covering them can allow moisture or ice particles to attack the materials, so to keep your shoes clean and to combat the risk of a water explosion, wrap each shoe in a separate plastic bag.
You’re also keeping your shoes away from any foodstuffs in the freezer, keeping you in everyone’s good graces.
Step 3: Freeze Your Shoes Overnight
Place your shoes in the freezer, and leave them for at least 12 hours, checking on them occasionally to ensure the water hasn’t leaked from the bags or balloons. This part of the procedure freezes the water which is pressed against the inside of your shoes.
As the water freezes, it expands, and it does so at a nice steady rate. This controlled freezing and expansion is perfect. You don’t want a sudden increase in pressure to tear the fabric or leather.
Leather is a very forgiving material, but damaging the fibers can ruin a perfectly good pair of shoes. The slow freezing process allows your shoes to swell with the freezing water, acting like a homemade boot stretcher.
Step 4: Try Your Shoes On
Once you’ve removed your shoes from the freezer, remove the frozen bags (you may need to leave them to defrost for a while if you’ve stuffed them all the way into the shoe) and try on your shoes.
I’ve found that I sometimes need to repeat this process a few times before it works completely, but it’s well worth it. If your shoes still feel a little tight, repeat steps 1 through 4, and you’ll find that your shoes have stretched, feel great, and cost you nothing but a bit of time and ingenuity.
If you try the freezing method three times and still don’t feel like you’re at the comfortable shoe stage, then move on to hack #2.
Hack #4: Use Shoe Stretching Spray
If you’ve not had the success you were hoping for from freezing your shoes, and before really dipping your hand into your wallet, I highly recommend using a stretching spray.
A stretching spray does exactly what it sounds like; it softens and stretches the upper of your shoes, allowing you to expand them for a better fit.
A stretching spray such as FootMatters Boot & Shoe Stretch Spray can be used on multiple kinds of materials. Stretching spray works on anything from leather or suede to canvas and linen shoes.
How Does Stretching Spray Work?
Leather will always expand when wet, but you’ll usually want to avoid soaking your leather shoes too much because water can damage the leather. As moisture gets into the leather fibers, it expands and can damage your shoes.
If they stay wet, the fibers loosen. If they dry too quickly, the leather can become cracked and warped. You need a way to moisten the leather or suede, stretch out the material while keeping any natural oils inside, and then somehow expand the leather for a better fit.
And that’s exactly what stretching spray does; softens while not being intrusive and keeps your shoes conditioned while you stretch them.
How Do You Apply The Spray?
Depending on the material used, you can either spray the stretching spray on the inside of your shoe, outside or both. If you have brushed leather, patent leather, or some type of reptile skin material as your upper, then always spray the inside of your shoes.
For regular leather, canvas, or linen, feel free to spray inside and outside your shoe; be liberal, but don’t drench the upper. You want damp, not drowned shoes, and once you’ve sprayed, you’re going to be wearing your soggy footwear around the house for a few hours.
Stretching Your Shoes Out
Wearing your shoes once you’ve applied the stretching spray is the easiest way to get them to expand to the desired shape. You could use a boot stretcher, which is a fantastic way to stretch out shoes, but that awesome piece of kit will cost you.
Whenever I’ve used stretching spray on my shoes or boots, I’ve had to make two attempts before I got the desired fit. There’s nothing wrong with that; even a new pair of jeans sometimes take a few washes before they start to feel like they’re the right fit.
After spraying your shoes and wearing them around the house, let them dry off naturally, don’t take a hairdryer to them to speed things up. Once the leather has settled, see if the fit is comfortable. If it’s not, get spraying; gently expanding your shoes allows the fabric or leather to stretch without damaging the material.
You should finish up with a pair of new shoes that feel like a second skin. A big advantage of using your own feet to expand your shoes is that the shoe molds to the shape of your foot. For a great price, FootMatters Boot & Shoe Stretch Spray is my favorite way to stretch out my shoes and avoids visiting a cobbler.
You're telling me you can take your non wide-width shoes, spray this on them, then walk around for 30-45 minutes and your shoes stretch to your optimal level of comfort? Yes, yes I am.
Finding shoes that are a perfect fit for wider feet can be a massive chore, though sometimes, it’s just a particular style that never seems to fit correctly.
I prefer using the FootMatters Boot & Shoe Stretch Spray, as I get to stretch my shoe to conform perfectly with my feet. If you’re always finding it hard to get shoes that are wide enough, it has to be the Prettyia Adjustable Shoe Stretcher on your shopping list.
Look at your budget, and judge how often you’ll need to stretch your shoes, and one of my hacks should be a standout winner for you.
What is a home remedy to stretch shoes?
One home remedy for stretching your shoes is to use a peeled potato and put it inside your shoe overnight. In this method, you peel the potato and cut it slightly to the shape of your shoe’s toe box. Push the potato right inside your shoe, and overnight, your shoe will expand slightly.
The potato method isn’t an exact science, though, and may prove ineffective if you need to stretch your shoes permanently.
How do you break in tight shoes fast?
There are several ways to break in tight shoes quickly, including using a shoe stretcher, wearing them around the house while wearing thick socks, or using a stretching spray. Each method will still take around 24 hours before really having an effect, but will stretch out a pair of shoes enough to make them comfortable.
Does wet newspaper stretch shoes?
Using damp newspaper to stretch out your shoes can work to a very limited extent, though it isn’t a permanent solution to stretching your shoes. By stuffing wet newspaper throughout your shoes and allowing it to dry, the theory is that the paper will expand slightly as it dries, forcing your shoe to expand.