If you've ever fallen in love with a pair of shoes even though they're just a bit too small, you've probably looked for ways to stretch shoes without damaging them. I started looking because Heather recently bought me the most delicious pair of hot pink, high heeled Dr. Marten boots, but I messed up my UK sizing conversions and dreaded the hassle of an exchange. I had to go that route anyway because stretching out pink patent leather isn't the smartest idea, but if you have a pair of shoes that pinch a bit but feel like they'll still fit better than a size or half-size up if they just get used to your feet, never fear! There are lots of safe ways to stretch shoes without changing their shape or structure!
One of the easiest ways to stretch shoes when they don't quite fit is to wear them around the house. Even if they're not comfortable, wearing them while you're on the computer, running the vacuum, or just lounging on the couch will help stretch them. If possible, you can also put on extra thick socks – or several pairs!
I love this method; it's genius! You take a few Ziploc bags and fill them halfway full with water, check to make sure they don't leak, and then shove them in your shoes. Depending on where they're too small – narrow toes, narrow width, not quite long enough – you can situate the bags so they target those areas. You'll want to keep them in place somehow; rubber bands work best. Then you shove your shoes in the freezer and give the water time to turn into ice. As it does so, it expands – and so the bags expand in your shoes. When it's frozen, you'll either pull out the bags or give them time to thaw. After that, you have to wear the shoes a while. They'll be cold, so you might want to wear socks again.
Most shoe shops, especially cobbler shops, sell stretching solution. You just spray it according to the directions; some go inside, some go outside. You'll still have to wear your shoes around the house, but the solution helps them stretch easily. Now, some sprays can mess with the color of your shoes, so definitely read the directions. If you want to make your own, some footwear fashionistas recommend mixing up a spray bottle containing one part rubbing alcohol with one part water, or rubbing down your shoes with alcohol, and then wearing them. You can even soak your socks in alcohol and wear them with your shoes.
Going back to number one, pull on some thick socks, or several pairs, shove your feet in those pesky shoes, and then get to work with your hairdryer. Use a hot setting but don't put the dryer flush against your shoes; you don't want to scorch them. As they heat up, make sure you wiggle your toes and flex your feet to help the process. As they cool, try them without socks. If they still pinch, just repeat the process.
Peel yourself a potato or two, again depending on the size of the shoe and the areas that need stretching. If the toes pinch, shove that spud just as far into the toe as it will go. If you need to widen the whole shoe, just use more than one potato. Let your potatoes stay in your shoes throughout the night. You can also do this with wet newspapers or a whole lot of oats.
Shoe stretchers are great, and if you find you frequently buy too-small shoes, getting one makes a good investment. You just have to choose one that's the same size as your foot, paying attention to both width and length. Most of them are adjustable, which definitely helps. The only problem is that this method takes several days, but it's also one of the safest ways to stretch shoes.
Yeah, I know. But honestly, it works – sometimes. However, this only works for shoes that can either withstand the crushing weight of your tires or look best distressed. For example, I have a pair of plain black Doc boots that, while they fit well, were stiff and unyielding. So, I ran over them and now they fit like a dream and they look marvelous – years later, because I bought them in high school and they're still in pristine condition! Well, they're as pristine as they can be, having been run over. You get the idea.
Sometimes your shoes get tight because of water retention or swelling; maybe you recently had a baby and some of your shoes don't fit perfectly any longer. If you're very careful and patient, you can give your favorite footwear just the right amount of stretch. Just remember, don't try these methods on those pricey designer shoes! Go see a professional! When your shoes don't fit, do you buy something new, try an exchange, or attempt to give them a stretch?
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