Sometimes shoes need to be stretched in order to be more comfortable. They might need more room all over, or just in the toe box. Shoe stretching methods are most effective on soft leather footwear. Patent leather does eventually stretch but you’ll need to repeat the process a few times over for the best results. Here are four ways to do it yourself. 

1. A Footwear Stretching Kit

shoe stretching kit will allow you to stretch shoes the way professional cobblers do it. First you soften the leather with a special spray and then you place shoe horns in the shoes to stretch them. The longer you leave the shoe horn in place, the more you will stretch the shoe. 

Of course, you could also just send your shoes to the cobbler and have this done professionally. But be cautious when doing so. I once had a pair of shoes that came back from the cobbler over stretched because the shoe horns were left in too long.

2. Walk in Your Shoes with Wet Feet

I’ve found this method to be the most effective, especially when you’re in between sizes. It stretches the shoe all over, and not just the toe box. The trick is to wet your feet, put on the shoes, and walk around in them for an hour or two. It’s a little squelchy but you get used to it. Your feet and shoes dry quite quickly. Walk around at home, or take them out for a spin. Repeat the process a few times until the leather has stretched comfortably around your feet. 

3. Use Potatoes to Widen the Toe Box

This method works well for a more subtle toe box stretch, leaving the rest of the shoe the same shape. Place a large potato in the opening of the shoe for a day or two, or even longer, to stretch the leather. Make sure they are pushed in hard and tight. The leather on the toe box should have stretched to a more comfortable fit. 

4. Stretch Shoes with Ice

I learned about this method from one of our forum members, who used it successfully to stretch her footwear. It is based on the principle that ice is less dense than water and therefore occupies more volume. You can follow this video for detailed instructions, but in short:

  1. Fill two plastic ziplock bags with water.
  2. Place the bags of water in each of the shoes and freeze them.
  3. After a day or two allow the ice to thaw and remove the bags.

The leather should have expanded with the ice. Repeat the process a few times over for extra expansion.

I think this method will work best with heels, where the slope of the footbed pushes the water into the toe box, where most stretching is required. But it’s definitely worth a try and I look forward to using it the next time I need to stretch a pair of shoes.