How To Stretch Dress Shoes

We’ve all been there, men and women, who have fallen in love with a beautiful pair of shoes and just had to have them, not really paying too much attention as to whether they really fit or not. Or even, knowing that they were just a little bit on the snug side already but still wanting to have them.

They’re limited edition, you’ve been lusting after them all season and now suddenly they’re on sale at an amazing price, so you can’t let them go to anyone else, even if they are a half a size too small! Your options next are, you could see sense and just take them back, get a refund, or swap them for something that fits properly.

You could just grin and bear it, bring them out for very special occasions only, and ensure that there’s not going to be any walking, or standing, or pretty much any activity that might involve you placing your feet on the ground involved! Alternatively, you could take a look at a few tried and tested industry expert techniques to just give those shoes the gentle stretch that will make them pretty much perfect.

We’ve already covered off all the main tricks and perhaps the potato over-night in the shoe isn’t for you? Nor do you like the idea of filling your expensive new leather shoes with oats either. What is this, some kind of farm or basic restaurant with potatoes and oats on the menu?

You’ve been walking around with blisters all week, and merely the sight of your new dress shoes is starting to make you feel ill. How will they be ready to wear in time for the wedding at the end of the week? Will you be able to get them to stretch? If you’ve spent a lot of money on the perfect pair, it can be very annoying if they feel too tight. There are quite a few different options which can be used to stretch your leather dress shoes.

Poorly fitting shoes will rub against your skin, causing painful blisters and, in extreme cases, resulting in you developing corns and blisters. Wearing ill-fitting shoes is very bad for your feet.  Your feet work very hard for you, so they deserve to be looked after.

Stretching out your dress shoes will result in a permanent alteration to their shape. If your shoes are just a little too tight and the end is in sight, then you should carry on breaking them in rather than stretching them, as painful as this may be.

In the end, your shoe should mold to your foot and be more comfortable to wear, but perhaps you have chosen a style that does not fit your foot shape properly. You can make your dress shoes more comfortable by stretching out the leather. How do you do this?

Wear Thick Socks and Apply Heat

One of the most popular methods of stretching leather is to apply heat to your shoes directly while wearing them with thick socks. This speeds up the stretching process. Many who try out this method use a hair dryer to create the heat. This added heat can help the material to loosen up a little more quickly than it would otherwise.

Make sure to just use a medium heat level and only direct it at your shoe for about 30 seconds at a time to avoid causing damage. If you find that certain areas fit more tightly than others, you can focus more of the heat on those spaces.

While you are wearing them, you should move your feet around for a minute or so. Try to bend your foot and the shoe. Leave them to cool a little and then repeat this process.

It may take a few tries to get your shoes into the shape you want, so be patient and careful. Don’t try to apply too much heat for too long as it can result in a ruined pair of shoes. Take your time, use only small amounts of heat at a time and do plenty of wiggling until they feel more comfortable.

Traditional Shoe Stretchers

Shoe stretchers, which are usually made from cedarwood, are widely available online but are not the cheapest item to purchase. If you constantly need to stretch out your shoes, particularly if you have broad feet, then you may want to think about investing in these specialist tools.

Shoe stretchers are foot-shaped and are placed into the shoe in the same way a foot would. They are left in the shoe overnight and will stretch your shoe. Some shoe stretchers have separate parts for stretching out the toe area. Less traditionally, you may choose to insert other objects into your dress shoes to stretch them out.

Make sure not to use anything in the shoe that is pointed or oddly shaped, as this can result in the shoe stretching in some odd ways. If you can use a standard shoe stretcher, that’s going to be the next best option to wearing them around yourself until they’ve stretched out.

Potato Power

Yes, a potato. Stuff it into your shoe and leave it overnight. A potato will actually absorb bad odors and it is strong enough to be stuffed into the shoe. While this may sound like a ridiculous idea, it is actually quite clever as well as economical.

Potatoes are much cheaper than shoe stuffers, and you can even eat them afterwards if you really want to!

If you try out this option, make sure it’s a potato that doesn’t have any bruises, cuts or other issues. This can result in a mess in your shoes when you go to remove it, and nobody wants moldy potato in their shoes!

Cowboy Capers

To stretch out their boots, cowboys would fill their boots with oats and then some water. The oats would swell up and stretch out their boots. This is a very quirky method. If your budget is super tight but you are looking for a way to stretch your shoes and happen to have some oats in your pantry, then go ahead.

Do remember that this is a messy process. As much as you might like the quirky idea of stretching your shoe by using oats, remember that it will be a massive waste of time and effort if you do not use enough.

It’s generally a better idea to use a more standard method or take your time to find a pair of cowboy boots that fit correctly to begin with. This can make the shopping process take a little more time, but your feet will be thanking you when they aren’t covered in blisters.

Water Babies

Plump bags of water can be nestled into your shoes and then placed in the freezer. The ice will expand overnight and your shoes will be stretched out.

However, the leather may be damaged, so you might need to apply something to the leather afterwards. You can apply a leather oil, leather conditioner, saddle soap or polish to your shoes after they have stretched.

This also isn’t a highly recommended method, but of course the choice is up to you. It’s typically a much better option to just wear the shoes and try to stretch them out yourself for short periods throughout the day. It might take more time, but at least your shoes will have a much lower chance of being ruined.

Bridal Magic

An Australian bride desperately needed to stretch out her wedding shoes. Craftily, she made her own shoe stretchers. She used foot-shaped water bottles filled with water and covered with cloth. She placed these in her shoes and left them for a few days. Presto! Stretched shoes!

This is a truly unique option, but it’s not impossible to apply. Like any of the less conventional methods out there, do make sure to be careful not to place too much pressure on the shoes and give them plenty of time to stretch out well.

Magic Alcohol Rubbing Spray

You can make a mix of rubbing alcohol and water. Spray this inside your shoe and rub it onto the inside leather. Pop on some socks and wear the shoes immediately. The alcohol and water mix will help to soften the leather of your dress shoe and help it to mold to your feet.

This is typically thought of as an option to use in a pinch. Generally speaking, the quicker methods can stand more of a chance of stretching the shoes out too much or just causing damage to the shoes themselves. If you have the time, it’s far better to stretch them out yourself.

Soup Spoon

No, not all your cutlery can be used to stretch your shoes, but you can use a soup spoon. The semi-circular cup of the spoon imitates the shape of your foot. You can press the spoon into areas of the shoe that are hurting you. You can insert the spoon into the shoe and press it down so that the end presses into the leather.

Storing Your Dress Shoes

When you are not wearing them, you can stretch out shoes by stuffing them with balls of newspaper or socks. This will help your shoes to adjust to the shape of the papers and socks. This is pressure without heat. The longer you leave them, the more your shoe will stretch. Don’t forget that your shoes are made of leather and that you cannot undo stretching! It will be permanent.

Because of that, it’s really the best option to try to stretch out your shoes with your own feet. That way, they will stretch to fit the shape of your actual feet rather than some object that may not be exactly the correct shape.

Our favorite four tricks of the trade for stretching

The four most sensible and tried and tested techniques that should work without causing any lasting damage are stretching with ice, using a bottle, using heat from your own feet, and trying out a shoe stretcher. Each has proven to be successful on many occasions but each of course does still come with its precautions.

Taking the necessary precautions

If you are stretching with ice, you must make sure that your bags are absolutely water tight. The bags need to be durable as you don’t want any water to leak and it’s best to pad out the front and toe area only. Pop the bags of water securely inside the toes, into your refrigerator and leave them over night.

The bottle trick is also a neat and handy one to try out at home if you want just a gentle stretch. Find some bottles that are roughly foot shaped and wrapped with soft cloths then gently push these into the shoes and leave overnight. You won’t get a dramatic change to the overall shape of your shoe but this should provide just that extra little bit of give you need.

As we’ve already established, your shoes will most likely give with time, so be patient, wear them in regularly just around the house and you will be surprised how much this can help to loosen up the leather. 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there and you have soon clocked up plenty of extra wear time without a blister in sight.

If it’s both length and width that you need to eek a bit of extra room out, then a shoe stretcher really could be just the thing you need. Place one in each shoe, give them a couple of extra twists and hey presto, you should be able to create that extra bit of wriggle room you were looking for!

So there you have it, some extra insider secrets on what are really the most effective, not gimmicky, ways to help stretch out your shoes.


There are a number of methods that you can use to stretch your dress shoes. Wearing shoes that are not comfortable is one of the worst feelings ever. Your toes may be pinching, the heel of the shoe may be rubbing your own heel raw, or the shoe may be far too tight for you.

If you are thinking of stretching your dress shoes, you may consider going to see a professional cobbler. Although there are many home products and methods that you could use to stretch your shoes yourself, there are also many things that can go wrong.

It is highly recommended that you seek professional advice or shop online for special shoe stretchers that you will be able to use over and over again. Your beautiful dress shoes need to fit you perfectly. If you have tried and failed to break your shoes in the traditional way, then it may be time to do some professional stretching. Be your own cobbler and learn to stretch your dress shoes like a pro.


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