Shoe Stretchers: A Comprehensive Guide - Pedilop (2024)

Are you tired of your shoes being too tight? Do you have a pair of shoes you love but can’t wear because they’re just too uncomfortable? or even worse, do they constantly give you blisters? If so, a shoe stretcher is a perfect solution for you.

A shoe stretcher is a simple tool that can make a big difference in the comfort of your shoes. This tool will help you stretch out the shoes in length and width, giving you more room and a better fit.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explain what shoe stretchers are and when to use them. Then, we will provide a complete guide on how to use a shoe stretcher for different purposes. Finally, we will answer some common questions that you may have about shoe stretchers.

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What is a Shoe Stretcher?

As the name suggests, a shoe stretcher is a multipurpose tool that helps you stretch out your shoes. They’re usually made of cedar or maple wood, metal, or heavy-duty plastic and are shaped to look like an actual foot.

Shoe stretchers generally have a steel rod (called T-handle) that runs through a wooden foot (called Toe Block) constructed in two halves. The wooden foot can be adjusted by rotating the steel rod handle. As a result, the steel rod increases the tension on the two wooden blocks, which in turn stretches out the shoe.

Furthermore, some shoe stretchers feature small holes for inserting little knobs called Ortho plugs or Bunion plugs. These knobs stand out from the rest of the shoe stretcher to apply extra pressure to the specific areas that require it most. Ortho plugs or Bunion plugs are must-have accessories for people who suffer from bunions, hammertoes, or other foot deformities.

Shoe stretchers are sized according to shoe sizes (for both men and women) and come in different widths (narrow, medium, wide, extra-wide). Shoe stretchers are sold in pairs even though they do not have left or right feet.

Before we proceed, please take a moment to look at the diagram below in order to grasp the “anatomy” of a shoe stretcher:

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When to Use a Shoe Stretcher?

There are a few key occasions when you would want to use a shoe stretcher:

  • When your shoes are too tight and uncomfortable.
  • In case your foot size falls between two sizes.
  • If you have one foot shorter/larger than the other.
  • When breaking in brand-new shoes. Here are more tips on how to break in shoes.
  • If you have swollen feet from standing all day (check out our list of 61 best shoes for standing all day) or due to pregnancy.
  • If your shoes are biting you and giving you blisters, corns, or calluses.
  • When you are suffering from bunions, hammertoes, or other foot deformities.

Types of Shoe Stretchers

There are seven types of shoe stretchers:

One-Way Shoe Stretcher

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When to use – If your shoes pinch your toes, are tight in the toe box, or if you wish to increase the width of the shoes.

A one-way shoe stretcher can only be used to stretch the width of your shoes. With this shoe stretcher, you can widen the toe box of the shoe and make it more comfortable.

Two-Way Shoe Stretcher

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When to use – If your shoes are too small or you want to break in brand new pair of shoes.

A two-way shoe stretcher can be used to stretch both the length and width of your shoes.

Boot Stretcher

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When to use – As the name suggests, you can use these to stretch leather boots. If you have a pair of boots that have a narrow toe box or if you want to break in newly purchased boots.

Boot stretchers have a long T-handle and are explicitly designed for stretching out boots. They come in different sizes and widths, just like regular shoe stretchers.

High Heel Shoe Stretcher

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When to use – If you have a pair of high heels that have a narrow toe box.

High heel shoe stretchers have a pointed toe to widen the toe box and reduce pressure on the toes and ball of the foot.

Cast Iron Ball and Ring Shoe Stretcher

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When to use – If you need to stretch a particular area of the shoe to prevent blisters, corns, or calluses.

A cast iron ball and ring shoe stretcher is an effective tool to loosen pressure points on shoes. This tool should be used in conjunction with a one-way or two-way shoe stretcher, as this type of stretcher can reach areas other stretchers cannot.

Toe Box Raiser

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When to use – If you have a pair of shoes that fit perfectly but the toe box is too tight.

Toe box raisers are small tools that raise the height of the shoe’s toe box, giving your toes more room to spread out. Moreover, they reduce pressure on the top of your toes and prevent chafing.

Vamp and Instep Raiser

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When to use – If your shoes fit but the vamp (the upper part of the shoe that covers your foot) is too tight.

Vamp and instep raisers are designed to stretch out the vamp and instep of a shoe, giving you more room in the forefoot area.

How to Use a Shoe Stretcher

How to Stretch the Width of the Shoes

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You Will Need:

  • One-way shoe stretcher or two-way shoe stretcher
  • Shoe stretching spray

Process:

Step-1 Spray the shoe stretching spray on the inside and outside of the shoe. Give the spray at least 5 minutes to absorb and work its magic.

Before applying the shoe stretching spray to the entire shoe, we suggest testing it on an unconscious spot first. This will help you determine whether the shoe stretching spray will cause any damage to the material.

Step-2 Close the toe block by turning the T-handle anticlockwise. If you are using a two-way shoe stretcher, rotate the lengthening drum clockwise so that the heel block touches the toe block. If you don’t do this, the heel block won’t fit into your shoe.

Step-3 If you need to stretch a particular area of the shoes, insert the Ortho plugs.

Step-4 Insert the shoe stretcher into the shoe and push it in as far as it will go. Make sure you insert it carefully to avoid damaging the shoes.

Before continuing, if you are using a two-way shoe stretcher, turn the lengthening drum anticlockwise so that the heel block reaches the back of your shoe.

Step-5 Now, turn the T-handle clockwise to open the toe block of the stretcher. Continue rotating the T-handle until you feel resistance. When you reach this stage, give it a couple more turns to achieve the desired stretch.

However, be very careful as over-stretching the shoes can cause irreparable damage.

Step-6 For most effective results, leave the shoe stretcher in place for at least 12 hours. The stretcher should not remain in place for more than 12 hours at a time, as this will damage the shoes.

Step-7 After 12 hours, remove the shoe stretcher. Turn the T-handle anticlockwise and carefully pull out the tool to remove the shoe stretcher.

Step-8 After removing the tool, wear the shoes and walk around for 10 minutes. You will notice that the shoes have now stretched out and fit better.

If you do not achieve the desired results, repeat the process. Make sure you insert a cedar shoe tree into your shoes once you’re satisfied with the results.

How to Stretch the Length of the Shoes

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You Will Need:

  • Two-way shoe stretcher
  • Shoe stretching spray

Process:

Step-1 Spray the shoe stretching spray on the inside and outside of the shoe’s heel counter. Allow the liquid to absorb for at least 5 minutes before proceeding. Make sure to use a good-quality shoe stretching spray to avoid damaging the shoes.

Step-2 Close the toe block by rotating the T-handle anticlockwise. Next, turn the lengthening drum clockwise until the heel block touches the toe block. This step is necessary to ensure that the shoe stretcher fits into your shoe.

Step-3 Insert the shoe stretcher into the shoe and push it all the way in.

Step-4 Rotate the T-handle clockwise to open the toe block of the stretcher. Continue rotating the T-handle until the toe block covers the entire toe box of the shoe. Avoid giving extra rotations, or else you will increase the width of your shoes.

Step-5 Turn the lengthening drum anticlockwise until the heel block reaches the shoe’s heel counter. Continue rotating the lengthening drum until you feel resistance. When you reach this point, make a couple of more rotations to achieve the desired stretch.

Step-6 Leave the shoe stretcher in place for at least 12 hours. It’s crucial not to leave the shoe stretcher on for more than 12 hours at a time, as doing so may damage your footwear.

Step-7 After 12 hours, remove the shoe stretcher. To remove the shoe stretcher, begin by turning the lengthening drum clockwise until it contacts the toe block. Next, turn the T-handle in an anticlockwise direction to close the toe block. After that, carefully pull the shoe stretcher out.

Step-8 Wear your shoes and walk around for a few minutes to test the results.

If you’re not happy with the results, repeat the process. Once you are satisfied with the results, make sure you place shoe trees in your shoes to help them retain their shape.

How to Stretch Boots

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You Will Need:

  • Boot stretcher
  • Shoe stretching spray

Process:

Step-1 Apply a generous amount of shoe stretching spray to the toe box of the boots. Leave the liquid to absorb for at least 5 minutes before proceeding.

Step-2 Rotate the T-handle anticlockwise so that the toe block is closed, which will make inserting the boot stretcher easier.

Step-3 Insert the boot stretcher into the boot and push it all the way in.

Step-4 Start rotating the T-handle in a clockwise direction to open the toe block. Continue turning the T-handle until the toe block completely encloses the boot’s toe box.

Step-5 Spray the shoe stretching spray and rotate the T-handle only once.

Step-6 After 2 hours, spray the shoe stretching spray again and rotate the T-handle in the clockwise direction once more.

Repeat step-6 until the T-handle has been turned four times.

Note – Our cowboy boots were extremely tight in the toe area; therefore, we turned the T-handle four times. Please feel free to adjust the number of times you turn the T-handle according to your boot’s fitting.

Step-7 Leave the boot stretcher in place for 8 hours after giving the fourth rotation.

Step-8 After 8 hours, release the tension of the boot stretcher by rotating the T-handle anticlockwise. Next, take the boot stretcher out of the boots.

Step-9 Wear your boots and walk around for a few minutes to check the results.

Repeat the process if you’re not satisfied with the results. When you’re pleased with how your boots fit, insert a cedar shoe tree into each one to help them keep their shape.

How to Stretch Tight Women’s High Heels

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You Will Need:

  • High heel shoe stretcher
  • Shoe stretching spray

Process:

Please follow the same steps mentioned in how to stretch boots.

How to Stretch Shoes for Bunions

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You Will Need:

  • Cast iron ball and ring shoe stretcher
  • Ziplock bag
  • Chalk

Process:

Step-1 The first and most critical step is to identify the shoe area that needs to be stretched. For this, you’ll need to put on your shoes and walk around for a few minutes. This will allow you to pinpoint the exact location where your bunion rubs against the shoe.

Once you have identified the area, mark it with chalk. Make sure you mark the area on both shoes.

Step-2 Place a ziplock bag over the marked area and secure it in place with a rubber band. This will protect the shoes’ exterior from getting scuffed when you use the cast iron ball and ring stretcher.

Step-3 Insert the ball end of the stretcher in the shoe with the ring end at the spot where your bunion rubs.

Step-4 Clamp the ball and ring together by squeezing the handles.

Step-5 Hold the handles in place and insert the metal rod into the groove on the handle. Rotate the locking wheel until it holds the handles securely in place. Leave the cast iron ball and ring shoe stretcher in place for 6 hours.

Step-6 After 6 hours, release the tension on the stretcher by rotating the locking wheel in an anticlockwise direction. Carefully remove the stretcher from the shoe.

Step-7 Put your shoes on and walk around for a few minutes. If you’re not satisfied with the results, repeat the procedure.

However, keep in mind a cast iron ball and ring shoe stretcher can permanently deform and damage your shoes. Therefore, we don’t recommend using them on newly purchased shoes.

Alternative to Cast Iron Ball and Ring Shoe Stretcher

If you don’t want to risk damaging your shoes, you can try using a one-way or two-way shoe stretcher.

All you need to do is place the ortho plugs in the holes provided on the stretcher. These plugs will help stretch your shoes in the specific areas where you need more room.

Please follow the same steps mentioned in how to stretch the width of the shoes.

How to Raise the Toe Box of the Shoes

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You Will Need:

  • Toe box raiser
  • Shoe stretching spray

Process:

Step-1 Spray a significant amount of shoe stretching spray to both the inside and outside of your shoes’ toe area.

Step-2 Rotate the T-handle anticlockwise to close the jaws of the toe box raiser. This will make it easier to insert the toe box raiser into your shoes.

Step-3 Insert the toe box raiser into your shoes.

Step-4 Rotate the T-handle clockwise once the toe box raiser is in place. This will open the jaws of the toe box raiser and help stretch your shoe’s toe area. Keep rotating the T-handle until you reach the desired tension.

Step-5 Every hour, spray a generous amount of stretching spray on the toe box and rotate the T-handle once in a clockwise direction. Do this until you have turned the T-handle twice.

Note – As our leather shoes were better fitted, we only rotated the T-handle twice. Please feel free to adjust the number of times you turn the T-handle according to your shoe’s fitting.

Step-6 After rotating the T-handle twice, leave the toe box raiser for another 4 hours.

Step-7 After 4 hours, remove the toe box raiser by rotating the T-handle anticlockwise. Next, put your shoes on and walk around for a few minutes to see if you’re satisfied with the results. If not, repeat the process.

How to Stretch the Vamp of the Shoes

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You Will Need:

  • Vamp and instep raisers
  • Shoe stretching spray

Process:

Please follow the same steps mentioned in how to raise the toe box of the shoes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens when you put on a pair of tight-fitting shoes?

When you put on a pair of tight-fitting shoes, the pressure created by the tight fit can cause your feet to swell. This, in turn, can lead to discomfort and pain.

Additionally, wearing tight-fitting shoes for an extended period can also lead to severe foot problems such as –

How long does it take to stretch shoes with a shoe stretcher?

The time taken by a shoe stretcher varies depending on the type of shoe, type of shoe stretcher, how tight your shoes are, and what shoe area you’re trying to stretch.

In most cases, shoe stretchers will take about 8 to 12 hours to stretch the shoe. The key is not to rush the process as it will take time for the shoes to adjust and take their new shape.

However, a shoe stretcher should not be left for more than 12 hours at a time.

If your shoes are on the larger side, consider reading our article “How to Make Big Shoes Fit” for guidance.

Can I damage my shoes by using a shoe stretcher?

Yes, if used incorrectly, a shoe stretcher can damage your shoes. A shoe stretcher is putting pressure on the shoes from the inside. As a result, this pressure can lead to cracking, peeling, and even a complete breakdown of the shoe.

Can I use a shoe stretcher on any type of shoe?

Yes, a shoe stretcher can be used on any type of shoe.

However, shoe stretchers work more effectively on leather shoes, canvas shoes, suede footwear, and other footwear made from natural materials. This is because these materials are more pliable and can be stretched without damaging the shoes.

On the other hand, shoe stretchers are not effective on shoes made of synthetic materials like PVC or polyester. This is because these materials do not have the same level of flexibility as natural materials. Additionally, even if they are stretched, they will return to their original shape after some time.

Is it necessary to use a shoe stretching spray?

No, it is not necessary to use a shoe stretching spray. However, using it can help speed up the stretching process.

The stretching spray helps soften the material of the shoes, making them more pliable and prone to stretching.

Is it possible to stretch shoes half a size?

Yes, it is possible to stretch shoes half a size.

Can I stretch shoes a whole size?

No, you cannot stretch shoes a whole size.

How does a wooden shoe stretcher compare to a plastic one?

From a quality perspective, wooden shoe stretchers are better than plastic ones. This is because wooden shoe stretchers are more sturdy and durable. On the other hand, plastic shoe stretchers are cheaper. Additionally, they are lighter in weight, making them easier to use.

The bottom line is that it really depends on your needs and preferences. If you’re looking for a durable and long-lasting shoe stretcher, then go for a wooden one. However, if you’re looking for a cheaper and more convenient option, then go for a plastic shoe stretcher.

Can a cobbler stretch shoes?

Yes, a cobbler can stretch shoes. Cobblers have the necessary tools and experience to stretch shoes without damaging them.

Shoe Stretchers: A Comprehensive Guide - Pedilop (2024)

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