It’s the same old story. You’ve found a dashing pair of shoes online, only to have them arrive just a tad too small. Or perhaps you’ve splurged on Italian brogues at the department store, but upon wearing them for a few hours they’re now tight and pinching at all the wrong spots. Thankfully, there’s no need to return a nice pair of shoes just because they’re too small. With the following 6 methods, you’ll learn how to use a shoe stretcher as well as other DIY techniques for making your shoes comfortable.

Method 1: Use a shoe stretcher

A shoe stretcher is a precise, pain-free way to increase the size of your shoes. With a simple turn of the handle, you’re able to achieve an even stretch. It’s especially convenient if you’ve got limited free time.

A shoe stretcher is also an excellent choice for an expensive pair of shoes you’d like to stretch without compromising integrity – or ruining the shoe. While there are a number of DIY methods of shoe stretching, only a shoe stretcher guarantees a uniform result. Problem areas are laser targeted using spot-stretching plugs you can insert into the shoe stretcher.

There are two basic types of shoe stretchers: a one-way shoe stretcher  and a two-way shoe stretcher. A one-way shoe stretcher stretches the width of a shoe, while a two-way shoe stretcher stretches the width and the length.

These shoe stretchers can be used in both the right and left shoe.

How to use a shoe stretcher:

  1. Apply shoe stretch spray to relax the fibers of the shoe for easy stretching. A shoe stretch spray will also help your shoe stretch evenly and speed up the process. 
  2. Insert stretching plugs to target problem areas where you get corns or bunions.
  3. Insert the shoe stretcher into the shoe.
  4. Turn the handle until you have the desired amount of stretch. Give the handle another full turn every 8 hours until the size is right.
  5. Leave the shoe stretcher in the shoe for two days, checking every now and then to see if the fit is right.

A common question is “How long do you leave a shoe stretcher in?” We recommend leaving the shoe stretcher in your shoe for at least 6 to 8 hours. Anything less will not give sufficient time for the material to set in its new stretched form.

Method 2: Wear your shoes around the house

Slip on thick socks – two pairs if you can manage it – and put on your shoes. Then walk around the house for half an hour. Repeat as necessary. This method may take a few days and is oftentimes the initial method on how to stretch shoes without a shoe stretcher.

Method 3: Fill your shoes with bags of water and throw them in the fridge

When water freezes, it expands. Fill a Ziploc bag one-third of the way with water. Then secure it tightly. If you’re scared of getting water all over an expensive pair of shoes, double bag the water. Insert the bag into your shoe, making sure to mold the bag to fit into every corner. Pay special attention to areas that are tight, like the toe box. You’ll probably need to use more than one bag to fully fill your shoe. Place the shoe into the freezer and leave it there until it freezes.

Once it does, let it thaw, take out the bags, and try your shoe on. If it hasn’t stretched enough, do one more round. Using this method, you can stretch the shoe half a size to a full size.

Tip: If you have shoes that can get wet, like canvas sneakers, you can actually wet the entire shoe, insert the bags, and freeze the whole thing.

Method 4: Stuff your shoes with sock balls

Roll several pairs of socks into small balls, then stuff them into your shoes until your shoes are at max capacity. Leave the socks in overnight. Repeat as necessary for additional stretching.

Method 5: Wear thick socks and blast your shoes with a blowdryer

Slip on at least two pairs of thick socks, put on your shoes, and blast a blowdryer at medium heat for 30 seconds.

Focus on the areas that are tightest, and keep the blow dryer moving to prevent overheating any one area. Flex and bend your foot to help loosen the fabric or leather.

Once you’re done, remember to keep your shoes on as they cool to prevent them from shrinking. Repeat this process until you can comfortably walk in your shoes.

Tip: If you are blowdrying leather shoes, apply leather conditioner once you’re done to prevent the leather from drying out.


Method 6: Visit your local cobbler

If all else fails and you’re willing to shell out some cash, take your shoes to the cobbler. Your cobbler will have machines that apply gentle pressure and heat. Some shoe repair shops even have breaking in services. Just be prepared to wait anywhere from one day to a couple of days.