Have you ever bought a pair of boots that you loved on the rack, just to find out they’re a little too tight? Rather than letting them collect dust in your closet, you may want to consider trying to stretch them. While this may seem easier said than done, it’s usually possible to stretch out boots with the right tips and techniques, depending on their design and materials.
Before you add a pair of beloved boots to your donation pile or request a return, consider trying to stretch them on your own.
Not sure how to widen boots at home? In this article, we’ll help you understand how to know when boots are too tight, the materials you’ll need to stretch them, and steps for you to follow (and avoid) to achieve the perfect fit.
Understanding Boot Tightness: Signs and Symptoms
The key to finding the right pair of boots begins with understanding how they should fit and just how tight they should be. While you may be used to boots fitting a little snugly, especially before you’ve broken them in, there’s a fine line between just right and too tight.
So, how should boots fit and how can you tell if new boots are too snug right away? Here are some tricks for checking their fit:
- Put a finger behind your ankle – When you try them on, place your finger between your ankle and the back of the boot shaft. If your finger fits comfortably in that space, you’re in the clear, but if you notice your toes are crammed to the front of the boot with a finger behind your ankle, they’re probably too tight.
- Make sure your toes have room – If a pair of boots fits correctly, your toes should have some room to move. To test this, put on your kicks and stand up straight. If you can comfortably wiggle your toes, you have the right fit, but if there isn’t enough room to move them around, you may need boots with a wider fit.
While tight boots may just feel like a mild discomfort, they can lead to more serious consequences, including friction and blisters, calluses, and even Morton’s neuroma, or pinched nerves in your toes. If you’re already noticing any of these symptoms, it’s a clear warning that the pair you’re wearing is too tight.
What You’ll Need for Effective Boot Stretching
If you’ve concluded that your boots fit too tight, there’s no need to worry. In a few simple steps, you can try widening them on your own. If you’re wondering how to stretch boots at home, you’ll want to collect a few supplies before getting started.
While the method and materials vary depending on the boots and their design, here are some things you may need to help your boots fit well:
- A pair of thick socks
- A shoe stretcher
- Leather conditioner
- A blow dryer or clothing steamer
- Water and sealable plastic bags
Since you won’t need all of these supplies at once, make sure to pick a method or two before gathering your materials. You’ll also want to consider whether your boots are made of leather or synthetic material, like nylon or polyester, since this will influence which stretching methods are most effective.
Methods for Safely Stretching Different Boot Materials
When you’re figuring out how to stretch boots, consider several methods, since the design and fit of your pair may mean that some approaches work better than others. Here are several techniques you can use to soften and widen your boots to achieve the perfect fit.
For Textile Boots: Use Ice
Since water expands when it’s frozen, you just might be able to stretch your boots using only ice and sealable plastic bags. First, you’ll want to fill two plastic bags with water (about ⅔ of the way full).
Then, insert one plastic bag into each boot and place both in the freezer. As the water freezes, it will expand, causing the plastic bag to put pressure on the toe box or shaft of the boot, depending on where you placed the bag, and stretch it.
For Textile or Leather: Use Thick Socks
One simple approach to making your new boots a little roomier is to wear them with thick socks, or even layer a couple of pairs on your feet before slipping on your boots. This can gently stretch out the material, especially if they’re genuine leather, while molding them to the natural contours of your foot.
However, this is most effective if you need a slight adjustment, so it may not be the most effective method if you’re looking for something that offers serious stretch.
For Leather: Use Heat
If you’re trying to stretch a pair of leather boots, your blow dryer or steamer might just do the trick. Heat can make genuine leather softer and more flexible, making it easier for it to stretch and expand. It’s important to keep in mind that heat can cause the leather to dry out and crack, permanently damaging your boots, so you’ll want to take your time when using this method.
If you’re using a blow dryer, hold it about four to six inches away from your boot for about a minute at medium heat. Then, while the boots are still warm, put them on with a pair of thick socks to achieve an effective stretch.
If you’re using a steamer, hold it underneath each boot for about 30 seconds at a time (without surpassing three total minutes for either boot). Make sure to test the boots and try them on in between steam applications to avoid over-stretching them or damaging the leather.
Tips for Avoiding Damage While Stretching Tight Boots
When navigating how to stretch out boots, you want to be on the lookout for any signs of damage, including tears in the leather or stitching. While most methods are relatively gentle, it’s still possible to ruin the look or feel of your boots if you’re not careful, so here are some tips to help you ensure you get the stretch you need while maintaining the appearance and integrity of your kicks:
- Use a leather conditioner – Before stretching leather footwear, consider applying a high-quality leather conditioner to your boots. This is essential to preventing cracking as you stretch them, and may also make the leather more soft and mailable, requiring less effort on your part to effectively widen your boots.
- Test your products before applying them to the entire boot – If you’re using an oil, spray, conditioner, or other treatment during the stretching process, you’ll want to test it out on a small, hidden area of the boot first. This allows you to determine whether it causes discoloration or damage to the leather or other boot material before it’s too late.
- Try them on as you go – While leather can shrink, it’s difficult to restore a boot’s exact original form once they’ve been stretched. That’s why it’s important to try them on as you go so you don’t stretch them out too much and end up with boots that go from being too tight to too wide.
By keeping these tricks in mind, you can confidently try various techniques to loosen your favorite pair of boots so they’re comfortable in no time.
Additional Techniques for Stubbornly Tight Boots
If you’re looking for other boot stretching methods, there are products you can purchase that can make this process even easier, especially if you have a stubbornly tight pair. Here are some techniques for extra-tough boots:
- Use a shoe stretcher or shoe tree – There are items like shoe stretchers and shoe trees that can help take the grunt work out of this process. Typically made from wood, metal, or plastic, they typically include a hand crank to help you manually stretch the boots lengthwise or widthwise, depending on your needs.
- Apply leather stretching spray to the outside of your boots – If you’re unsure how to stretch leather boots, you may want to consider buying a material-specific treatment, like leather stretching spray. They’re designed to loosen the material and are easy to apply directly to the exterior of your boot.
- Try using newspaper – Rather than opting for ice to fill your boots for adequate stretch, you can also give newspaper a try. After finishing your favorite section, crumple up the pages and use them to fill your boot, making sure to stuff them as tightly as possible for maximum stretch and hold.
If none of these approaches work, you may want to consult a professional, like a shoemaker or cobbler. While this may seem like a pricier alternative, you’ll still be able to get the most out of the boots you purchased and create a fit that’s perfect for the unique shape of your feet.
Maintaining the New Fit: Aftercare for Stretched Boots
Once you’ve achieved the fit you’re looking for, it’s important to maintain the shape of your boots. Try to wear them often to ensure they maintain a comfortable stretch. When storing your boots, consider inserting boot shapers, which are typically made from metal and wood or plastic, to keep them feeling comfortable until their next wear.
Craft the Perfect Fit with Vionic
At Vionic, we know there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to footwear, which is why you’ll find many of our boots and booties in both medium and wide-width options.
Our boots are also available in whole and half sizes, so you can feel confident you’ll find the perfect fit. From winter-ready weather-resistant shoes for women to summertime sandals and ballet flats, we have the styles and selection to level up your closet.
Whether you’re looking for comfortable boots for women or durable options for men, we have the best in boot styles that prioritize your foot health. All of our boots, shoes, and sandals feature built-in orthotics, so no matter the weather or occasion, you can treat your feet to style and support.
WebMD. Understanding Corns and Calluses – The Basics. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/understanding-corns-calluses-basics