How to Use and Where to Buy Shoe Stretchers

Wooden shoe stretcher
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Best case scenario, your shoes fit perfectly. You know your shoe size and width, you try on shoes late in the day when your feet are their largest, and you buy styles that don't have a tendency to pinch your toes.

But despite our best efforts to ensure comfortable shoes and a good fit, we still sometimes find that our shoes are too tight. This is when shoe stretchers come in handy.

Why Use Shoe Stretchers

There are several reasons one might find a need for shoe stretchers — shoes can shrink; feet can swell; we can land between two sizes; and bunions, corns or other foot imperfections can make our shoes hurt.

And when our shoes hurt, life can be pretty miserable.

Luckily, there are shoe stretchers, and they can help alleviate several of these problems and deliver a more comfortable shoe.

Shoe stretchers can expand the width and the length of shoes. For both benefits, in one device, you'll want to be sure to purchase a "two-way" shoe stretcher.

Several of them also come with little built-in holes. Plugs inserted into the holes can stretch the shoes in problem spots, like where a corn or a bunion is, or where pinching occurs.

What Materials Yield to Shoe Stretchers?

Shoe stretchers work best for suede, leather, and other natural materials. They don't work as well on vinyl because the material does not have as much give.

Shoe stretchers are also best suited to breaking in shoes that are barely too tight or expanding shoes that are close to the right size. If you're looking to stretch a size 7 to a size 9, you want a new shoe, not a stretcher.

Different Types of Shoe Stretchers

Shoe stretchers are usually bought as singles and will stretch both the left and right shoe, although not at the same time.

There are different shoe stretchers made for flats, high heels, boots, and other specific types of footwear. You'll need to be certain that you are buying the right tool for the job.

Typically sold in men's or women's size ranges — for example, men's size 6-8, there are also shoe stretchers that will stretch different areas of the shoe.

A two-way shoe stretcher will stretch length and width; a vamp or instep stretcher will lift the part of the shoe that sits on the top of your foot; and toe stretchers will help to lift the toe box of the shoe, providing more height for your toes. There are also boot stretchers that will help stretch the shaft of a boot, making more room for your legs.

How to Use Shoe Stretchers

When you buy shoe stretchers, you want to ask how the particular stretchers should be used, but normally, you'll need to use a shoe stretching liquid or spray. This will help to saturate the material and allow the shoe stretcher to work better — follow the instructions for the product you purchase, as each one is a little different.

Insert the shoe stretchers into the shoes, making sure they are expanded as much as the shoe will allow before inserting them.

Turn the knob to begin stretching the shoe. You will usually have to leave the stretcher in at least overnight, and sometimes for 24-48 hours. The longer you leave the stretcher in, the more the shoes will stretch, so you might want to try a shorter period of time first, as shoes that are too loose don't feel good either.

Before You Use Shoe Stretchers

Stretching your shoes is not difficult, but it may take a little practice to get used to the whole process. Practice first on a pair of shoes you don't care as much about before you ruin a pair of Manolo Blahniks by overstretching them.

Alternatively, you can contact a shoe repair shop if you're uncomfortable with the idea of stretching your shoes yourself. They will be happy to stretch your shoes for you. They may also be able to recommend specific products or tools for the kind of shoes you need stretched.

Where to Buy Shoe Stretchers

You can try a local shoe repair shop, or even a shoe store for shoe stretchers and stretching fluid. Alternatively, there are some links below that carry these products. has several different styles of shoe stretchers, including those for high heels and flats, as well as styles for men's and women's shoes.

This site also carries lots of other shoe and foot care products. has tons of boot and shoe stretchers including vamp stretchers, toe lifts, and shaft stretchers.

Joe's Shoe Service carries several types of shoe stretchers, as well as shoe stretching fluid and spray.