Do shoe stretchers work to make shoes bigger at home? My honest review (with video demo + before & after pics)
How many times have you wished a shoe was just a little bit longer or wider? I struggle to find shoes that feel "just right" & have my fair share of shoe fails despite studying shoe size charts before I buy.
Being able to make shoes bigger sounds amazing & too good to be true when you have big feet. So when I discovered shoe stretchers were a thing, I HAD to try them to see if they really work.
Shoe stretcher video demo & review
Here's a video demo showing my shoe stretchers kit, how to use them step by step, and my real world results. There's also written instructions below if you prefer.
My Shoe Stretcher Kit
I bought this Wavraging shoe stretcher kit at a good price on Amazon UK. I'm shoe size 9 uk (11 us), so I got the 8.5-12 uk size. There's also a smaller set for shoe sizes 3.5-8 uk.
Note that the same shoe stretcher seems to be sold under different brand names & Amazon do a whole bunch of different plastic and wooden shoe stretchers. This Eachway shoe stretcher on Amazon US looks the same as mine. It's available for women's shoe sizes 5.5-10 and 10-13.5 and mens' shoe sizes 6.5-10 and 10-13.5 us.
I didn't even know shoe stretchers existed until I saw these. They did ring a bell with old wooden contraptions I'd seen back in the day, like shoe trees to keep shoes in shape. So they're not a new invention. When I think of all the cute nearly new shoes I've given away over the years: where have shoe stretchers been all my life? Readily available from Amazon it seems!
I'll admit I was very skeptical. These cheap brands on Amazon can be hit and miss. But I figured they were well worth a try because if they worked they might just change my life.
My kit came in a handy storage bag. The pair of shoe stretchers are heavy enough (about 1lb (500g) each) but quite jangly and noisy. You also get little plastic bags with various bits and bobs. There are flat pieces to stretch shoe tops and small round bits to make shoes extra wide for bunions.
Oddly, there's a free shoe horn included too, which you should no longer need if the shoe stretchers fix your tight shoes. Finally, there's an instruction leaflet which explains how to use them well enough (with a few dodgy translations).
How do 2 way shoe stretchers work?
2 way shoe stretchers let you stretch shoes length-wise, width-wise or both ways at once.
The main foot shaped part goes into your shoe. The long handle has a heel piece midway down it. To make shoes longer, you put the heel piece inside the back of your shoe & turn the knob to move it backwards. This applies pressure to the back of your shoe, stretching it to make it longer.
The large foot shaped part has a left and right half joined together. To make shoes wider you turn the long handle to move these front pieces apart. This puts pressure across the front and sides of your shoe, stretching to to make it wider.
The Amazon shoe stretcher kit I bought is marketed as a 4 way shoe stretcher because it also caters for bunions and stretching the top opening or vamp of your shoe. But to me it's a standard 2 way length & width shoe stretcher with some additional features.
My shoe stretching results (before & after pics)
I've tested these shoe stretchers with 3 pairs of shoes to date (July 2022). All 3 pairs of shoes felt bigger after stretching, but leather and suede shoes got the best results. I also found they work best for stretching shoes for wide feet rather than making them longer.
Test 1: Making suede ankle boots wider
My suede boots feel much wider and more comfortable to wear thanks to these shoe stretchers. I'm amazed at the result & can finally wear them regularly after 5 years at the back of my closet.
I'd tried wearing these boots several times over the years, hoping they would get a little wider by breaking them in. That never worked but just leaving them to stretch overnight worked like magic. Happy days!
The width difference is hard to see with the naked eye, even though shoe stretchers work best for making shoes wider. The measurement across the widest part of my boots increased by 5mm (.2 in) approx, from 15.5 to 16 cm. This sounds tiny, but medium and wide shoes are only slightly different in width and this makes a huge difference to how they feel.
My TOMS were already wide enough, but they were very snug at my heel. I only kept them because TOMS advise they stretch a half size with wear. Mine didn't budge one bit!
I didn't expect stretching the TOMS to work, because they feel like they are made of upholstery fabric. When I first tried just making them longer it seemed to work but they soon felt too tight again.
So then I stretched the width a bit as well as the length. This made a noticeable difference. They now feel more roomy & I can wear sock liners with them.
Test 3: Stretching old leather shoes (general testing)
I also tested these shoe stretchers with a well worn pair of leather shoes I no longer need. Leather shoes are easiest to stretch. I could hear and see the leather stretch instantly.
These old shoes already fit me well. Post stretching just the length, they felt half a size larger & a bit too big on me. Stretching them width-wise made the shoes feel much wider too.
So overall, the shoe stretchers performed well in all 3 tests. Impressive stuff!
Do shoe stretchers make shoes longer?
Shoe stretchers can make shoes slightly longer but don't expect miracles. The shoes I stretched length-wise feel about half a size larger.
Shoe stretchers work best for lengthening leather shoes, due to their natural elasticity. I also found that stretching the width slightly as well as the length helps make shoes longer. When I only stretched the length, the result was not as good and did not last as well.
So if you only stretch your shoes length-wise and find it makes no real difference, stretching them again both length-wise and width-wise may work. Go easy with width stretching though, because you can overdo it and end up making your shoes too big and wide.
Do shoe stretchers work to make shoes wider at home?
Yes, shoe stretchers work best for making shoes wider, especially leather shoes. You start to see the shoe widen instantly as you turn the handle. Once you leave the stretcher long enough to work, your shoes should stay wider too.
I was amazed at how easy it was to stretch the width of my suede ankle boots. The measurement across the front of the boots has increased by 5mm (.2 in) approx. That sounds tiny, but it makes a huge difference to how they feel. No more tight pinching feeling at the sides of my foot. Finally, these boots are made for walking.
While it's always best to only buy the right size shoes in the first place, it's extra hard finding wide shoes in big sizes. So, if you need wide shoes & the leather shoes you love only come in medium width, you may be able to widen them to fit.
TIP: Experiment first with stretching tight shoes you already own, or failing that worn shoes you no longer need. That way you can judge how much wider you can make shoes, before you spend your hard earned money on new shoes that are too narrow for you.
Do shoe stretchers work with boots?
One limitation with these shoe stretchers is you can't use them for most boots, because they won't fit inside them.
But they do work with low boots once you can open them enough to get the stretcher in. If you just want to make boots wider, you only need to get the front foot part in. The heel piece does not need to go at the back of the shoe - you can just forget about it which helps.
I was able to make my suede ankle boots wider & much more comfy to wear, even though the manufacturer is up front that these shoe stretchers don't work with boots. I'm so glad I gave it a go!
How long does it take to stretch shoes?
Shoe stretchers don't work instantly unfortunately. You need to leave them for at least 24 hours, but the longer the better really. I left my shoes to stretch for 36-48 hours in my tests to give them plenty of time to work.
If you rarely wear your stretched shoes, you might need to stretch them again before you wear them too.
How to use a shoe stretcher (step by step)
Set up the shoe stretcher
The main foot shaped end should be curving upwards towards the back. The left and right halves should be joined together. If there's a gap, turn the silver handle left to close it.
The black heel piece towards the back should have the wider part at the bottom (turn it downwards if needed).
Optional: add bunion attachments
If you have large bunions or your foot is particularly wide at specific spots, attach the small round piece(s) to add extra stretch at those points.
Insert the shoe stretcher
Put the main foot shaped part of the shoe stretcher into the shoe, with the black heel piece inside the back of the shoe (thin end visible at the top). If the heel piece won't fit in the shoe, keep turning the knob to the left to move it closer to the front until it does.
Stretch the shoe length (if needed)
To make the shoe longer, quickly turn the knob to the right. The knob will turn more slowly the more you do this. With leather shoes you may actually hear them stretching. To make the shoe as long as possible, keep going until you can't turn any more.
Otherwise, it's handy to take a note of the approximate number of turns you made, to replicate for the other shoe or for reference for any further stretching attempts.
Stretch the shoe width (if needed)
To make the shoe wider, turn the long silver handle to the right. Keep turning and you will see your shoe becoming wider as the left and right sides of the stretcher open up. To make your shoes as wide as possible, keep going until you cannot turn the handle any more.
Otherwise, don't overdo it and just stretch the width slightly at first. A tiny difference in width can make a big difference to how your feet feel. You can always repeat the process if you need them wider again. Unless you turned it to the max, keep a note of how many times you twisted the handle, so you know how much to turn it for the other shoe to match.
Stretch the shoe opening (if needed)
To add more room in the upper vamp, pop the flat black piece into the front of your shoe on top of the stretcher.
Leave the shoe to stretch for 24 hours plus
You need to leave your shoe stretcher in place for at least 24 hours to work properly, the longer the better really.
Remove the shoe stretcher
If you stretched the width, turn the silver handle left to close the left and right halves back together again. Then keep turning the knob left to nudge the heel piece forward until you can remove the stretcher from the shoe.
Try on your shoe to test the fit
See how your shoe feels on. If it is still not long or wide enough, repeat the process, stretching further than before and/or leaving it to stretch for a longer time which may work better.
Are shoe stretchers effective?
These shoe stretchers worked well for me & I'm really pleased with the results. I only wish I'd known they existed sooner. I could have been wearing my tight suede boots 5 years ago!
Shoe stretchers work best for:
- making minor size adjustments
- making shoes wider (rather than longer)
- shoes made from leather, suede or other materials with natural stretch
They won't work miracles. Stretching won't increase shoes by a whole size. But they work well for making small adjustments that can make a big difference to how your feet feel.
So if your new shoes are way too small, don't mess about with shoe stretchers: just return them & get your money back.
But if your closet is full of cute shoes that are too tight, shoe stretchers could be the solution.
PS If you have the opposite problem & your shoes are too loose, here are 3 easy ways to make shoes smaller.
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