So you did it. You went for that gorgeous pair of shoes that you love, and now you’re the proud owner. Only thing is, they’re a little on the snug side. They need wearing in. But you want to break them in without breaking your toes. So what’s your best option? Knowing the steps to loosen up a pair of shoes is a talent your feet will thank you for.
Perhaps you need a bit more length, or bit of width. Or maybe there’s a specific point of your new footwear that’s causing you grief.
And yes, even if your shoes are not leather – you can still stretch them out. No matter the shoe, there is a way to break them in. All footwear has some degree of flexibility, regardless of the material.
Where to begin?
To start off, simply wear your new shoes as much as you can around the house. It’s the tried and true method to get those shoes from ouch to comfort. This could take a few days, but is the easiest option. Try wearing thick socks with them to speed up the process, but do take it gradually. Frequent breaks are key to helping your new shoes stretch.
But what else can you do? Well, there are other ideas – some may sound a little strange at first. But give them a try. You’ve got nothing to lose but cramped feet.
Ice is actually a popular shoe-stretching method. The success of this goes back to the concept of water expanding as it freezes. This is good news for shoes. To try this, half fill a couple of sandwich bags with water, and pop one inside each shoe. Freeze shoes with water bags for three or four hours, or overnight. As the water freezes and expands, it will be expanding your less than comfortable shoes at the same time. What could be easier?
When you remove your shoes from the freezer, just let them sit for twenty minutes to thaw. The bags should then come out easily. This method works particularly well for non-leather shoes such as canvas, or faux leather.
Another favoured technique involves your trusty hair dryer. Pop on some thick socks, or a few pairs at once, and then your beloved shoes. Move your foot around in the shoe while you apply medium hot air to the the points of the shoes that need stretching. Directing the nozzle at different points for 20 or 30 seconds at a time should do the trick. Any longer, and you risk weakening the glue bonds.
For best results, keep the shoes on while they cool down. This works well because you can target a particular pain point. If using this method on your too tight leather shoes, apply some leather or suede conditioner afterwards. This stops them drying out and restores moisture.
This process works best with leather shoes, as the heat loosens them and lets them mold to your feet.
Another procedure involves rubbing alcohol. Use a solution of half water, half rubbing alcohol, and spray the inside of your new shoes. Then whip them on, as the alcohol mixture can dry rapidly.
Wear your lovely shoes for twenty minutes or so. You may have to do this a couple of times, but as they dry out, the shoes will reshape to your feet. This method works well with leather.
Investing in a shoe stretcher is another option. These handy little wood and metal devices can stretch shoes in two ways, so you should have no problem slipping them on afterwards. You can also buy a little spray bottle of liquid shoe stretch to help things along. This technique tends to work works better with flats than with heels.
Stuffing your shoes
Simply stuffing rolled up socks, or even crumpled newspaper into the toes of your shoes can also work well. Leave this overnight and by morning, they should be feeling a little more spacious.
You can also stuff your shoes with wet newspaper or socks. Just take care not to distort the shape of your lovely new shoes. Allow the stuffing to dry and there should be more wiggle room. You could also combine this technique with the freezer method.
Believe it or not, your breakfast oats can also come in handy here. Similar to the freezer technique, half fill two sandwich bags with oats. Top up with water to cover the oats, and stuff each bag into your shoes. The oats will swell overnight, stretching out your shoes for you. If you don’t have oats in the cupboard, you can use any grain that swells.
Staying with the food theme, a potato could actually help break in your new shoes. Select a good sized potato for the inside of your shoe and peel it to release the moisture. Pop the potato inside your shoe and leave overnight. The potato will actually dry out and stretch the fibres of your shoe, helping it expand. And don’t worry, potato actually reduces shoe odour, so there should be no issues with smell!
Remember, if your feet still feel a bit restricted after trying any of these processes – rinse and repeat until you get the comfy fit you’re after. Your shoes should respond well in time.
Or if you really don’t want to go to any trouble, take your precious shoes to a cobblers. There are usually plenty of shoe repair shops that will be happy to stretch you shoes professionally. Their specialist equipment can target those pressure points of your close-fitting footwear.
A bonus tip is to keep shoe trees in your shoes when you’re not wearing them. This will help them keep their shape and size, as surprisingly – shoes can shrink when left to their own devices. This is due to moisture in the air. You can also try stuffing them with rags to achieve the same effect. And you know those odd little silica gel packets you get in your new show box? Hang on to them and store them with your shoes. This will also prevent shrinkage.
So if your feet are feeling the pinch, try a strategy or two. Hopefully you’ll be spared the new-shoe blues and gain some breathing room. Here’s to enjoying comfortable new shoes and happier feet.