how to stretch tight shoes: 5 fails yield one great solution

Having invested in a pair of expensive Jimmy Choo shoes I thought would take me everywhere, I was dismayed to discover, after wearing them out a few times, that they were painfully tight. I went on a quest to stetch them and discovered that much of the accepted wisdom about how to stretch tight shoes DID NOT work. Only ONE technique (below) actually worked, and that came out of left field. The fails, some of which you’ve probably tried yourself, included:

-Buying wooden shoe stretchers, applying “stretching liquid” to the shoes and letting them sit with the stretchers inside for over a week.

-Taking them to my cobbler and having him stretch them.

-Taking them back to the where store I bought them and having their pros stretch them (for free).

-Wearing thick socks and walking around the apartment all day

-Putting ‘stretching solution’ on the shoes and wearing the shoes with thick socks all day

The prospect of having wasted my money on shoes I couldn’t wear was disheartening. I contemplated selling the shoes on Ebay, but held onto them thinking “There MUST be a fix.” Finally, a random google search yielded a solution from Ramshackle Glam, who had learned it from a fashion stylist (they seem to know everything about apparel that our mother’s never taught us). This method will stretch leather shoes a good half-size, both men’s and women’s:

1. Put on several pairs of socks. I tried a really thick pair, then added a second for good measure.

2. Stuff your feet into your shoes.

3. Blast your shoes with hot air from a hair dryer (an amazingly useful tool) for about two minutes while flexing your toes and feet to stretch the tight areas.

4. Keep the socks and shoes on until the leather cools. Test out the shoes without socks, and repeat if necessary until they’re comfortable.

The shoes are now wearable, and I am reminded of the lesson I learn daily: always question the experts and try stuff out for/on yourself. (And always keep a hair dryer on hand.)

Sally Schneider

Sally Schneider

80 Responses to how to stretch tight shoes: 5 fails yield one great solution

  1. pat b 10.29.2013 at 3:37pm #

    Doing all the above works great as does soaking your socks with plain rubbing alcohol on the places that need a little stretch. Wear the socks and shoes until the alcohol evaporates and the shoes should fit. You might have to do it more than once, but it works like a charm. Guess all the expensive ‘stretching solution’ is really just alcohol.

  2. Sally 10.29.2013 at 7:01pm #

    Glad to have another technique that works for this age-old problem, cause all except the hair-dryer technique didn’t work. Yikes!! Thanks!!

  3. Miranda Carnessale 12.09.2013 at 11:49pm #

    Hey, I work for a high quality shoe company that prides itself in helping customers with stretching shoes to fit individual feet. I consulted with my manager today after reading this entry and he strongly advises that hairdryers are bad for stretching shoes and can result in serious warping.

  4. Sally 12.10.2013 at 9:58am #

    I appreciate your feedback. My thinking is that if I’ve tried everything else, including professional shoe stretching (twice) and I really love the shoes, then I’ve got little to lose by trying this…

  5. Chris Kline 09.15.2014 at 1:56pm #

    I’m a guy and came across this site while just googling if “shoe stretch” spray will damage leather. I have quality, black leather military boots. I have no doubt this worked for you and am glad you found a solution, but would caution others that I wouldn’t use a hairdryer on quality leather shoes or boots. I’m not sure if it would damage it persee’…but i would be really hesitant. I’ve seen many boots ruined using such methods, like putting on shoe polish and melting it with a hairdryer for example.

  6. Chris Kline 09.15.2014 at 2:01pm #

    also…just FYI…rubbing alcohol is really bad for leather because it dries it out

  7. Sally 09.15.2014 at 8:26pm #

    Whatever you feel comfortable with. I was seriously UNcomfortable in t hose Jimmy Choo’s and couldn’t wear them. I could have sold them at a lost but decided to try things out on them. Your call.

  8. Sally 09.15.2014 at 8:29pm #

    Who mentioned rubbing alcohol? (:

  9. Catherine 10.26.2014 at 11:25pm #

    I’ve used this method with good success on a few different pairs of leather shoes, and never had any issues with warping or damage. I just did it on a pair of Seychelles strappy sandals with a metallic leather and it worked great. Shoes fit, no damage to the leather.

  10. Sally 10.27.2014 at 1:38pm #

    Yay, I’m happy to hear it. My Jimmy Choo’s have been just fine…though still a bit tight. Snakeskin…

  11. Susan 10.27.2014 at 1:40pm #

    I’m going to try this. I need my shoes right away. Thanks

  12. Loubiegirl 01.11.2015 at 1:23pm #

    Tried this with my suede louboutin Ron Rons. Worked beautifully and I didn’t have to spend any extra money on stretching shoes that are already expensive.

  13. Sally 01.11.2015 at 7:55pm #

    Yay!!!! Affirmation in the face of the doubters. So glad it worked for you.

  14. Deirdre 03.11.2015 at 5:38pm #

    My toes also thank you. I tried this last night and was pretty surprised to feel a noticeable difference right away. I especially like that I didn’t need to apply any product to my shoes.

  15. Janice 03.15.2015 at 3:57pm #

    SALLY YOU ARE MY HERO!!!!!!! I have three pair of shoes I love and can now where them all day without any problems!

  16. Sally 03.16.2015 at 11:14am #

    THREE pairs rescued. That is most gratifying.

  17. Sally 03.20.2015 at 10:48am #

    …maybe the patron saint of tight shoes? (:

  18. Samantha Wilber 04.23.2015 at 11:13pm #

    Hi 🙂
    I just bought a pair of Jimmy Choos for my prima and they fit like a glove everywhere Besides my toes and I’m going to be standing in these things for Hours!
    Do you think this technique will work on All types of shoes?
    I don’t think I’ll be able to fit my foot in the shoe with socks on its so tight on them and I don’t even have wide feet!!!!

    And if so should I do this a few times?

  19. Sally 04.23.2015 at 11:33pm #

    Hi, The snakeskin shoes I tried it on are Jimmy Choos. Perhaps you should cut a sock so you can just put it on the toe area. Then try it once, and repeat as necessary. You want to stretch them slowly so you don’t overdo and wreck the v. expensive shoes.

  20. MJ 06.09.2015 at 9:08pm #

    This totally worked! I thought it was a long shot. Thanks!!

  21. Sally 06.13.2015 at 12:22pm #

    Another YAY.

  22. dtrina 07.18.2015 at 9:21am #

    I have some Sergio Rossi snake skin shoes that I will try this on and I will post results..I went to a shoe shop to have them stretched and the girl wouldn’t touch them but she gave me the blow dryer idea, minus the socks lol.

  23. Sally 07.18.2015 at 10:09am #

    Best to go slowly on snakeskin. Let them ease….

  24. blinkgs 07.29.2015 at 2:25pm #

    Thanks for the tips, I’m sure going to try it, but is it just applicable to leather shoes?

  25. Sally 07.30.2015 at 9:58am #

    What other kind of shoes are you thinking of? It would likely work with suede but the water might stain it. Synthetic of course, won’t absorb the water. Perhaps do more research on the internet.

  26. blinkgs 07.30.2015 at 11:29am #

    Thanks a lot.

  27. margaret 08.07.2015 at 8:23am #

    Just a thought ladies…maybe you,re not using the golden rule…if the shoe isnt comfy don,t buy it.

  28. Missemanuelb 08.07.2015 at 9:45pm #

    I am literally reading this post right now whilst doing the above with a hairdryer… I kept it for a little longer than two minutes, but my leather boots finally fit. I would definitely recommend this as a quick fix!!!

  29. GTL 08.11.2015 at 2:33pm #

    My new Weitzmans just went from “unwearable” to “holy crap my new favourite shoes”. Bless your heart.
    p.s. beware– i got the dryer a little too close to some glued on bling and it fell off. Careful not to get the heat anywhere near ornaments, buckles, etc.

  30. Sally 08.12.2015 at 12:19pm #

    YAY. That is so great!!!!

  31. NQ 09.04.2015 at 1:00am #

    I’ve just tried this tip on my new Tory Burch leather Calyca 5″ heel sandals and it does work. I bought the pair with my size 7.5 but the braided parts on the top were very tight and made my pinkies hurt very bad. I read reviews about this style and saw a lot of customers complained about this issue and returned them. I intended to return them too but felt reluctantly because I bought them with a good discount price from Nordstrom Rack ($180 when the original price was $295). Therefore I searched online to find a way and saw this… They are perfectly comfortable now after about 10 minutes of heating with a hair dryer and 2 socks… Thanks a bunch for posting this helpful tip. I rarely wrote a comment on other postings but thought I should this time to confirm “This tip really works on leather sandals”.

  32. Sally 09.08.2015 at 11:36am #

    Thanks so much for your feedback and SUCCESS. I’ve just dug out some beautiful shoes that are too tight now that my feet seem to have grown larger (Yikes…age!), and hope to save them with this technique.

  33. Melissa 09.30.2015 at 11:09am #

    This works! I tried it on a pair of Clarks ankle boots. I wasn’t so much worried about ruining the leather; I was more worried about being able to get my left foot back out after literally stuffing it in the shoe, but this worked beautifully. Will do it one more time just for the extra wiggle room.

  34. Megan 10.02.2015 at 10:58am #

    Tried this this morning with a pair of clearance suede heels bought online. Worked great. Would probably use another once over, but they are already tolerable in a way they weren’t before!

  35. S 10.02.2015 at 11:23am #

    Thanks so much. Tried the hairdryer method with thick walking socks and it worked first time so don’t have to return my first Jimmy Choos that were a gift from my sisters.

  36. María 10.30.2015 at 5:59am #

    Thank you very much for your helpful tip. I’m finally able to wear and rescue a pair of ballerinas that I loved but were extremely tight and uncomfortable to wear all day long. I am a happy bunny now hopping along with them comfortably on!! 🙂

  37. Bon 11.07.2015 at 2:18am #

    Tried this just now with my new strappy heels and it worked like magic. Thank you 🙂

  38. Lesley Sims 11.10.2015 at 4:25am #

    What ugly shoes…

  39. Cin 11.11.2015 at 3:52pm #

    I just made my Jimmy Choos, Bagdley Mishka, & Chanel shoes wearable again! Thank you for this tip.

  40. Big Tony 12.06.2015 at 8:05pm #

    Hugs & Kisses for you, my lady! I thought that I would have to give away a pair of $200 Air Jordans. IT WORKED BEAUTIFULLY… Thanks

  41. NIc 01.14.2016 at 5:32pm #

    …wow! thank you Sally! Worked like a dream…x

  42. Sally 01.14.2016 at 5:40pm #

    Yay! It’s probably the post that has saved readers the most $$$…in making unwearable shoes WEARABLE.

  43. Gia 01.27.2016 at 7:54pm #

    This is a great idea! Any suggestions for stretching out Jimmy Choo zip up boots? I don’t have big legs but I can’t even zip them!! Would love any suggestions. Thanks!!

  44. Sally 01.27.2016 at 8:39pm #

    I would look for something about the dimension of the zipped bootleg (even a friend who CAN zip the boots up). Put a big sock on it (or not)…You need to make it so you can barely zip the boot up. Then do the rest of the stretching process with a hair dryer. You’ll probably have to do each boot separately.
    Let us know what happens and send us photos!

  45. Georgia 01.28.2016 at 7:26pm #

    Hi…I just wanted to thank u for this awesome tip! I was about to return my Sam Edelman penny boots because they were too narrow. I tried this and am so happy it worked!! Love my boots and they r comfortable now!:)

  46. A 01.29.2016 at 1:38pm #

    Hey! Any idea if this will work on Chloe’s Susanna boots? mine are 1 size down.

  47. Sally 02.05.2016 at 12:13pm #

    The only way to know is to try it. As you can see, a lot of people have had success with this method.

  48. Liyana 02.07.2016 at 10:18am #

    This method works like a charm! Thank you so much for this post. I tried on newly bought Camel Active shoes just now and they expanded one size up! I only did the heating twice, and to make it done faster, I walked around while the shoes were still hot until they cooled off. Took off the two socks and walla! Perfectly fit shoes! Much love from KL 🙂

  49. Nica Ochoa 02.08.2016 at 7:13am #

    Will i only have to do this once or will the shoes shrink back to original size and I’ll have to do it every so often?

  50. Jacqs 02.10.2016 at 6:40am #

    Thank-you so much for posting this remedy Sally! I got some gorgeous shoes online in a sale (from Boden) and I’ve never had a problem with their sizing before, but this pair were TIGHT across the toes! I’ve just finished trying your method and it absolutely works like a dream. This should be known to all shoe lovers out there (or to everyone, really). The only other time I attempted to stretch a pair of shoes was for my sister’s wedding and I wet the leather, then stuffed wet, rolled up newspaper into them and then used a shoe stretcher! What a disaster! The end result was a pair of shoes that were so loose, they were unwearable. I’m so pleased to have found your post. One very happy bunny here 😀

  51. Diamond Dave 03.05.2016 at 12:32am #

    So, I had been trying to “break in” a new pair of super tight leather cowboy boots for several days. Ouch. Very painful. Especially since my right foot is about a half size bigger than my left foot! Weird, I know! The hair dryer for 2 minutes, on low heat setting, really helped a lot! I wore 1 thick sock on my left foot and 2 thick socks on my right. After the first try, I let the boots cool off a little, then tried on some thin dress socks. I could then pinpoint the exact areas on the right foot that needed more attention. After the second try, both boots are snug, but not super tight like before. I think I can break them in MUCH easier, and less painfully, now. Very much appreciated, and my feet thank you for the stretching tip, too!

  52. Sally Schneider 03.05.2016 at 6:28pm #

    Yay. You can gently repeat the process. Just keep an eye on how the leather is doing. If you see any cracks, you’re going to fast.

  53. Georgie 04.01.2016 at 5:58pm #

    Holy cow! This really does work! I purchased a pair of expensive tap shoes online and they were so stiff and tight I could not stand it…. literally, I could not stand in them. I usually have been able to break in my tap shoes in a few weeks or so but I could not even leave this new pair on my feet longer than five minutes. I took them to a shoe repair place and they stretched them out for me, twice. While I could get them on easier, I could not tap in them due to the pain.
    I had been desperately searching for a solution and came across yours and decided to go for it. I did as suggested with thick socks and heat for three to four minutes. While they were still warm I took them off and stretched them out with my hands. I now can get the shoes on and make sounds without pain! I think I will need to go through the process a couple more times (at least for the right shoe) but I am so happy with the results! Thank you for the post!

  54. Chalyse 04.07.2016 at 12:17pm #

    Hi. I’m eager to try this! You didn’t mention water in the initial post, but somewhere in the comments, there is discussion of “water staining suede and synthetic not absorbing it”. Are you supposed to wet the leather before blow drying?

  55. Sally Schneider 04.10.2016 at 12:15pm #

    No, no water or wetting is used. I think that comment came from someone who had tried a wet method, or I did and had it floating around my memory banks. The method above is definitely the way to go.

  56. Sandy 05.08.2016 at 8:25am #

    Whether it was suggested or not, almost all shoe stretcher sprays/aerosols are 90% alcohol. Alcohol does dries leather, but you are supposed to follow up with a leather conditioner. It is advised you use a leather (suede/nubuck) conditioner after any stretching method and during the course of use to protect and restore from the elements and wear. Good luck.

  57. Sally Schneider 05.08.2016 at 11:11pm #

    Sandy, thank you for this great reminder. It would no doubt be a good safeguard to keep the shoes pliable after stretching them.

  58. Cc 05.12.2016 at 10:06am #

    good tip, will definitely try, but i am so sorry those shoes do not look well on you 🙁

  59. Sally Schneider 05.12.2016 at 10:08am #

    WHAT! You don’t like snakeskin shoes with red socks!!!!

  60. Cath 05.13.2016 at 9:10am #

    Does the change last? Or wear off after a while?

  61. Sally Schneider 05.13.2016 at 11:28am #

    Yeah, it lasts.

  62. Debs 06.15.2016 at 9:00am #

    This is a great tip, however, I must post about the appalling cruelty in catching and then killing snakes for their skin. They are kept in a cage having been caught in the wild with dozens of other snakes, then held out and a large needle is inserted into the nostril to “pop” the brain!!!
    Its barbaric cruelty.
    Please dont buy snakeskin anything

  63. Sally Schneider 06.16.2016 at 9:03am #

    I wasn’t aware of that when I bought them many years ago…

  64. Margaret-Anne Caufield 07.07.2016 at 1:03am #

    I bought a pair louboutin’s the killed my feet, so the sat in their pretty box and bag on my bedroom floor for a year after one wear. They’re patent leather so the hairdryer heated them up really quickly, I can now wear my beautiful shoes, without any problems at all. Thank you so much Sally 😀😘

  65. Sally Schneider 07.07.2016 at 10:12pm #

    Hurrrayyyy!

  66. HeatherG 07.24.2016 at 2:01pm #

    I am afraid to use heat on patent leather pointy toe JCrew loafers with a bow can I heat the wooden shoe stretchers before I put them in and crank them bigger each day/

  67. Sally Schneider 07.25.2016 at 4:18pm #

    I’m afraid I don’t know. My Jimmy Choo snakeskin shoes were a desperate experiment that worked. You would need to decide if too tight shoes are worth pushing your luck with. Please let us know what you discover.

  68. Peg Purdue 08.22.2016 at 2:38pm #

    I just rescued a pair of Taryn Rose suede pumps with this trick … THANK YOU!

  69. Christina 08.23.2016 at 1:39pm #

    Would this method work on sateen fabric shoes?? I believe they’re man made. I ordered them wide and they kill my feet bad!! They’re for my upcoming wedding.

  70. Stacy 08.24.2016 at 3:14am #

    Hi! I bought a pair of Jimmy Choo pumps for my wedding and was really thrilled. I knew my number from a pair of sandals that I have and ordered the same number from the internet (no jimmy choo boutiques in the area to try them on). Once they arrived I put them on full of joy and I immediately felt the pain on my toes. My toes were so cramped that it took all my enthusiasm away…. But I was determined to break them in. After wearing them for an hour a day for 4 days I saw no difference. Not even a slight one and was beginning to search for flats for my wedding so I could change after the ceremony. Buy why buy designer shoes to wear for only one hour? So I googled about stretching shoes and came across your post. Oh my God! I was sceptical and didn’t believe that there would be a difference but Oh My God! My shoed are now so comfortable!! You didn’t just save my shoes, you saved my wedding day!

  71. Sally Schneider 08.24.2016 at 10:19pm #

    Thank you for letting me know. That is WONDERFUL!!!

  72. Candy 09.04.2016 at 10:39am #

    Saved my graduation shoes! My new CLs were essentially amputating by last 2 toes on both feet. A little hair dryer action and I’m doing a happy dance!

  73. Olivia 09.20.2016 at 6:40am #

    Definitely trying this on all the heels i have purchased and have not worn because they are too tight hallelujer

  74. Kitty 09.21.2016 at 7:59pm #

    I’m thrilled this worked!! I was afraid the alcohol method would dry the leather out.
    I put on callous pads and two pairs of socks. These Frye boots now fit beautifully! Professional stretching didn’t work for me either. Thank you so much!!!

  75. Caroline 09.27.2016 at 5:44pm #

    How sad that you have to wear snake-skin shoes. Snakes are usually skinned alive as the skin comes off much easier. Why do you think that snakes should suffer such a painful death for you to have a dubiously fashionable pair of shoes?

  76. Sally Schneider 09.27.2016 at 9:41pm #

    I bought the shoes quite a few years ago before I stopped to think where they might have come from. I did not know until your comment, and looking into it that it is truly a terrible practice. Thank you for calling it to my attention.

  77. Roli 10.05.2016 at 10:54pm #

    Hi. Does this method work on fabric shoes per chance?

  78. Sally Schneider 10.05.2016 at 11:15pm #

    I haven’t a clue. What have you got to lose if you try it gently, perhaps with only one pair of socks and watch carefully for signs of stretching or breaking point?

  79. Nichole 10.21.2016 at 10:52am #

    thanks!! I just got 4 pair of very expensive shoes at a steep discount (Proenza Sholer, YSL, Versace and Givency) and man do these designers run SMALL! Knowing this I ordered them a full size larger. They came yesterday and all but one pair are a bit too snug in the vamp of my right foot (which is a half size bigger than my left). I’m so glad to read that this works on designer shoes without harming them. I REALLY dont want to send them back so I’m going to give this a try! Thanks!!

  80. Sally Schneider 10.21.2016 at 10:58am #

    Hi. Although I’ve received NUMEROUS testimonials that the method works, I’d try this on one pair just to see if it works enough for your comfort level. If it’s a go, then you can apply to the others. Good luck (sounds like you scored!)

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