Buying footwear is a bit of a guessing game. Sure, you have picked the right size and even made sure the width is right for your feet. If you are lucky, they will fit perfectly. Sometimes however, a pair turns out to be a tad tighter than you expected.
If the shoes are extremely tight, the best thing to do is return them and get a size bigger. But there are cases where a return is not the best solution.
Maybe they just pinch your feet slightly and the next size is too big. Or the problem could be that your feet swell in the afternoon, causing the shoes to get uncomfortable. Or maybe you have bunions or corns that need just a little more space.
In these cases, a shoe stretcher will be handy. This is a simple device that expands the length, width and sometimes height of your shoes. It can be used on most shoe materials including leather and suede. Here are the top 5 shoe stretchers you can buy today.
Most of the shoe stretchers you will come across are designed for use with flat shoes. If you want to stretch your heels, try this one by Sibba. It’s one of the best shoe stretchers for women’s shoes.
They come in a pair with a plastic mould that goes into the shoe and a long steel shaft to control the stretching. They include corn/bunion plugs for targeted stretching and 3 adjustment options (width, length and height).
- Great at stretching heels.
- Several adjustment options including the ability to stretch specific spots.
This natural wood shoe stretcher can also be used as a shoe tree. A shoe tree is almost similar to a shoe stretcher and is used to maintain the shape and form of shoes.
Made from cedar, this stretcher has a smooth high quality finish with metal knobs. It uses a spring mechanism that has just the right amount of tension to stretch your shoes without damaging them.
- Made from 100% natural cedar. No varnish or lacquer is used in the finishing.
- Because of the natural cedar, it leaves your shoes with a nice aroma, which helps combat bad shoe odours.
- In addition to shoe stretching, it can be used in preventing shoes from creasing and deforming. You just need to leave them in your shoes for 24 hours to help them recover.
This stretcher is made from beech wood with a metal handle. You can use this shoe expander to widen your shoes or, by using buttons, target specific spots that pinch you.
It looks simple but this shoe stretcher is heavy duty with many customers saying it works better than some pricier stretchers. To use it, you simply insert the wooden end into the shoe and then turn the metal handle clockwise.
This causes the two wooden halves to open sideways, gently expanding your shoe. It can be used on both the right and left shoe.
- Sturdy design.
- Can stretch targeted spots in the shoe.
- Easy to use.
This stretcher focuses on expanding the instep. If you have bought a new pair of shoes but the upper feels too tight, this stretcher will help. In addition, it can also stretch the length of the shoe.
The mould is made from polyurethane plastic while the handle is steel.
- One of the best at stretching the instep.
- Includes pressure relief plugs that can be used to target specific problematic spots especially for those with bunions and other foot problems.
This elegantly designed hardwood stretcher can expand your shoe’s width and length. It comes with three buttons that can be placed at different locations of the stretcher to target specific areas of your shoes.
It comes as a single stretcher, not as a pair, but can be used on both the left and right shoe.
- Can stretch the width and length as well as relieve pressure from specific spots of the shoe.
- Nice design with a sturdy build.
How to pick the best shoe stretcher
Shoe stretchers are generally easy to shop for. They do not have many fancy features to confuse you. But there are still a couple of things you should keep in mind to make sure you buy the best.
This is the most important feature. Before buying a shoe stretcher, check how many stretching options it has. A majority of shoe stretchers have three: length, width and spot stretching. This is enough for most people. If your instep tends to be high, get a stretcher that can also expand the shoe upwards.
b. Check what material it is made from
The best shoe stretchers are made from wood. Not only does this give them a nice look, it also makes the stretcher durable. You can use it for years. Polyurethane plastic is also a common material though it does not have the elegant look and longevity of wood. As for the handles, most are made from steel.
c. Shoe compatibility
As I mentioned earlier, most shoe stretchers are designed for flat shoes. If you want to stretch non-flat shoes such as heels, look for specialty stretchers made specifically for those shoes. We have included a heel stretcher in our top picks above. If you wear boots, you will also find a wide variety of boot stretchers to choose from on Amazon.
Generally, what you need to be most careful about is poorly designed shoe stretchers that don’t exert enough tension or tend to break too easily.
Frequently asked questions
Q: Why do I need a shoe stretcher?
To expand the size of your shoes for a better fit. If your shoes feel a bit narrow, you have bunions that rub against your shoes or your feet tend to expand at certain times, a shoe stretcher can be a big help.
Q: Will a stretcher damage my shoes?
A good quality stretcher will only exert enough pressure to expand your shoes but not damage them. Make sure you follow all the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results.
Q: How to use a shoe stretcher?
Some shoe experts recommend applying a shoe stretcher liquid or spray on the shoe before using a shoe stretcher. You can do this if you have the liquid or spray nearby but it is not essential. The shoe stretcher on its own is enough.
- Take the shoe stretcher and turn it to its smallest size. If it is a widening stretcher, turn the crank anticlockwise to make the stretcher narrower. If it is a two-way stretcher (width and length), turn both handles. Reducing the size of the shoe stretcher allows you to fit it easily into the shoe.
- If you have bunions and want to expand a specific part of the shoe, whether it’s the small toe, large toe or hammer toe, attach the bunion plugs or buttons before you put the stretcher into the shoe. Use the pre-drilled holes on the shoe stretcher to attach the buttons on the right areas where you want to make extra room.
- Insert the shoe stretcher into the shoe and push it in as far as it’ll go.
- Turn the handle until the shoe stretcher becomes snug and you can’t pull it out of the shoe.
- After the shoe stretcher tightens, turn the handle three or four more times. Do not turn it further as this could damage the shoe.
- Leave the stretcher in the shoe overnight to allow the shoe material to adjust to the new shape.
- Remove stretcher by turning the handle the other way until it becomes loose.
- Repeat for the other shoe, if necessary. Most shoe stretchers are designed for use on both the right and left shoe.
Tip: If you want the shoe to stretch more without damaging it, use a hair dryer set on medium or high heat. With the shoe stretcher already in the shoe, direct the hair dryer at the shoe, making sure you maintain a 20cm distance from the shoe to avoid damaging it. Blast the shoe with hot air for about 10 seconds.
Q: How to stretch shoes without a shoe stretcher?
Use a shoe stretcher liquid: This is a liquid (or spray) that you apply inside or outside your shoes to soften the leather or suede material. Once you put on the shoes, they’ll mold to your feet.
Break them in: If your new shoes are only a little tight, wearing them often can stretch them. Wear a thick pair of socks and wear them for an hour at a time around the house. As they stretch, wear them for longer until you can comfortably spend a day in them.
Use a hair dryer: Wear the shoes with a pair of (ideally thick) socks on. Hold a hair dryer 20cm from the shoes and blast them with hot air for 10-30 seconds depending on how delicate the shoes are. As you heat the shoes bend and stretch them using your feet. Keep the shoes on for a couple hours to keep them from shrinking back down.
Stuff them: Wet pages from a newspaper and push them into the shoe, packing them compactly to make sure they take on the shape of the shoe. As the papers dry, they’ll expand and harden, stretching the shoe. This technique is not ideal for leather shoes as the moisture can damage the leather.
Q: How long should I leave a shoe stretcher in?
6-8 hours or overnight.