There’s nothing worse than getting home with a brand-new pair of sneakers, only to wear them for an hour and realize they don’t fit your wider-than-average feet.
What now? Do you get rid of them? Do you continue to wear them even though they’re tight? Or… Do you learn how to stretch sneakers for wide feet so you can wear them comfortably and without pain?
We think we know what you would choose! If you’ve found yourself in this position, we’ve put together a list of ways to stretch shoes, complete with what kind of shoes each technique would work for.
They’re not foolproof methods, so there’s always a chance that your shoes won’t be able to be helped by trying them. But they’re worth attempting.
Why Stretch Your Shoes?
Shoes that are too tight—especially in the toe box, the widest part of the foot—can lead to you developing unpleasant and painful foot conditions that make life difficult. You may find yourself with:
- Joint pain
- A change in gait
Gait changes can lead to other foot problems like plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuroma, sesamoiditis, overlapping toes, tendonitis, and more.
Most of the time, if you’re wearing shoes that fit you properly, both in length and width, you’re at far less risk of developing these conditions.
How To Stretch Sneakers for Wide Feet
There are several ways to stretch sneakers for wide feet. Be aware that some of these methods can permanently damage your shoes, so only do them if they’re absolutely necessary.
Use a Shoe Stretcher
A shoe stretcher is a handy device that can be quite effective at making your shoes wider. It’s designed to fit almost any shoe and is fairly safe for use on many different types of material.
They’re also quite easy to use. Simply insert the inner-shoe-shaped section into your shoe until it fits snugly. Then, rotate the handle four or five times until it’s tightly against the inner of the shoe and you can feel—and see—the shoe stretching.
Don’t overdo it—you can always stretch them more later. Leave the shoe with the stretcher inside it overnight or for at least 8 hours. When you remove it, the material should be stretched enough to give your feet more room.
It’s important to note that you usually only get one shoe stretcher in a set, which means you can only stretch one shoe at a time. That means you will either need to buy two, or you will need to stretch your shoes one after the other.
You can buy one online or get one at your nearest shoe store.
Suitable for: Leather, canvas, mesh, and nylon.
Use a Hairdryer
You can also stretch your shoes using heat. A hairdryer is the safest option, as it’s relatively low heat and you can actively control the amount of heat you apply and how closely you apply it.
Direct the hairdryer’s heat at the shoes for 15 to 30 seconds. Focus more on the toe box and the sides of the upper. Don’t leave the air blowing in one spot for more than a second or two. Keep moving the hairdryer over the upper so it heats evenly.
You can either do this while the shoes are on your feet or put them on immediately after heating them. We recommend leaving your feet out of the shoes while heating them to avoid any accidents that could burn you.
If you want this process to be more effective, wear thick socks and get straight into the shoes while they’re still warm. Wear them for a few hours and they should stretch.
You can repeat this process once or twice more if you need to stretch the shoes even more than they stretched the first time.
Suitable for: Canvas, nylon
Freeze Your Shoes
Although heat can help you stretch your shoes, you can also use cold. This method uses the fact that water expands slightly when it freezes into ice.
You’ll need a few ziplock bags. Fill two bags with water, making sure not to overfill them. Then, you’ll need to stuff the bags into your shoes so that they take up the space inside the upper of the shoe.
Be careful to make sure the bags are firmly closed before trying to place them in your shoes. Try to push them right down into the toe box, but don’t force them if it feels like the bag might break.
Once each shoe has a bag inside it, place them in the freezer in a safe place that doesn’t come into contact with food. Leave them overnight and check how they’ve stretched in the morning.
Suitable for: Canvas, mesh, and nylon
If your shoes are only a little too tight, you can try wearing a thick pair of socks with them for the first few times you wear them for an extended period.
The thick socks might make your shoes feel too tight, but that’s the point. The upper will be forced to stretch slightly to accommodate your feet in the socks.
We recommend trying this two to three times, wearing the shoes and socks for a few hours at a time. You should find that the shoes fit better next time, and it’s a safe way to stretch your shoes without damaging them.
Suitable for: Leather, canvas, mesh, and nylon
Use a Shoe Stretching Spray
You can find a shoe stretching spray online or at shoe stores. It’s very easy to use. Just spray your shoes until they’re damp and then slip them on—with thick socks if you want to—and walk around in them for a few hours.
This should cause the material to stretch slightly to the right size for your feet. One of the great things about this method is that it’s suitable for leather and is unlikely to damage leather, nubuck, and suede.
Note that some sprays will instruct you to spray the outside of the upper, while others will tell you to spray inside the shoe. Read the instructions carefully before applying so you know how your spray is meant to work!
Suitable for: Leather, suede, canvas, and nylon
Use Rubbing Alcohol/Isopropyl Alcohol
You can also make your own spray if you don’t want to buy it. However, because it contains alcohol, it’s not the safest option for leather or suede shoes.
Mix equal parts water and isopropyl alcohol in a small spray bottle and shake it well. Spray it inside the shoes, put them on with thick socks, and walk around for a few hours.
You can also lightly spray rubbing alcohol on the upper of your shoes and wear them with thick socks. This will cause the upper fibers to loosen and your shoe to widen.
Alternatively, you can soak a pair of socks in rubbing alcohol and wear them for a few hours inside your shoes. It can be uncomfortable to have wet socks, but this can be a very effective way of widening shoes.
Suitable for: Canvas, nylon
Use Oats or Grains
Oats and grains swell when they absorb water. So they can easily be used to help stretch your shoes if you don’t want to place them in the freezer or use heat.
Fill two ziplock bags with grains or oats and top them up with water. Make sure it’s tightly closed with no air trapped inside, and stuff them into each shoe. The bags should fit tightly into the toe box.
Leave your shoes overnight; in the morning, they should be stretched wider than before. Throw the grains or oats away after use—they’re no longer safe to be consumed!
Suitable for: Leather, suede, canvas, mesh, and nylon
This trick is easy; most of us have old newspapers lying around the house! Simply stuff the shoes with newspapers and leave them overnight.
Make sure the newspapers fill each shoe and are tightly packed into the toe box. The uppers should stretch out after a few hours as the pressure of the newspaper pushes on them.
Suitable for: Leather, suede, canvas, mesh, and nylon
Wear Them In
Many of us forget that it takes time to wear new shoes in. Wear your shoes with socks for four to five hours a day; they should stretch out slightly and mold your feet.
It’s a good idea to wear thicker socks than you would normally for the first few days. Once the shoes have stretched, you can move to your usual thickness socks.
Suitable for: All shoes
Other Tips for Getting a Good Fit On Wide Feet
Shop For Shoes In the Afternoon
Your feet swell slightly during the day, as you stand, walk, and move around. As the blood pools in your feet, they swell a little and may make your shoes feel tighter.
The best solution is to shop for shoes in the afternoon when your feet are swollen. Finding the perfect-sized shoe when your feet are normal size is great, but they may feel tight when your feet swell.
But finding the perfect-sized shoe for your swollen feet means that your feet will always be comfortable when they’re a little swollen—you might just need to tie them a bit tighter when you first put them on in the morning.
Choose a Wide Size
Many shoe brands offer wide sizes as well as regular sizes. If you often find your shoes too tight when you buy them, check if the brand offers shoes in wide sizes. That way, you can get the right length but just a touch more space in the width.
Use a Thinner Insole
Taking out the existing insole and putting in a thinner one can make more space in your shoe. Take note that this doesn’t make your shoes wider, but it can place your foot lower down in the shoe, which creates a slightly different fit and may feel better on your feet.
The sides of your feet may be sitting against the more stretchy part of the upper, which moves more easily and gives you feet some more space.
Research Shoe Brands
Not all shoe brands fit the same way. Some have a naturally wide fit, while others run narrow. It’s worth researching shoe brands to find those with a slightly wider fit than others, and then shop that brand to find out if it fits you comfortably.
On the other hand, you then know which brands you should avoid shopping for because they’re naturally narrow.