One of the most annoying things about buying shoes is that unlucky moment when you buy a pair that’s too small. But they look good, and you’ve spent a lot of money on them — you’re not about to give up on them so quickly. You might think suede is an impossible material to stretch, but the below techniques show that stretching suede shoes is possible.
Stretch the Shoes with Socks
You’re bound to have socks lying around, so put on a few pairs and shove your feet into the suede shoes.
The socks increase the width and length of your feet, so the suede is forced to adapt to the new measurements. When you take the socks off, you’ll find the shoes significantly roomier than they were before.
Socks are excellent if you need a quick stretch before a night out. Just be sure the socks are thick enough to stretch the suede shoes but thin enough to keep your feet safe. Don’t cut off circulation or possibly sprain your toes because the combination of socks and tight suede proved to be too much for your feet.
Wear your suede shoes with socks for a few hours around your home. After hours are up, take off the socks and see if the suede has stretch to your desired amount. If the suede shoes are still too tight, then put the socks and shoes back on and repeat the process as much as necessary.
Socks with shoes are generally considered the safer option for stretching if you’re concerned about using sprays or shoe stretching devices. It’s unlikely you’ll stain your suede shoes with socks unless the socks themselves were poorly dyed. And since the socks add moderate thickness and width to your feet, it’s not probable you’ll tear your shoes.
Take your shoes off immediately, though, if you sense pain or numbness while wearing socks with your tight suede shoes.
Use a Stretch Spray
Stretch sprays include chemicals in them that permanently expand the shoe material, stretching them. There are some designed for leather, but some leather stretch sprays can also be used for suede.
Be sure to read the instructions of the spray carefully, as some brands are designed for the shoe’s exterior while others should be applied on the outside of the shoe.
Liberally apply the spray to the shoes. Put on a thick pair of socks and walk around outside for a while. The movement from walking and the added thickness of the socks will help the spray stretch the shoes. If you can’t walk, moving your feet and toes around while sitting is also acceptable.
The spray needs movement to expand the suede material — that’s the primary goal of using socks while wearing the shoes. Even if you’re sitting in front of the television, be sure to maintain constant toe and foot movement while wearing the sprayed shoes with socks to stretch out the suede materials.
You should feel the material expand after thirty minutes to an hour of constant foot movement. If you don’t sense a change, remove your feet from the shoes and reapply the spray to the suede’s interior and exterior. Repeat the process until you achieve the desired roominess in the shoes.
If done correctly, the stretching spray should expand the shoe ¼ to a ½ a size.
Employ a Shoe Stretcher
Gone are the days of stuffing a shoe to the brim with newspaper or socks. A shoe stretcher is designed to fit the length of the shoe and gently expand the material into a new width or length.
There are shoe stretchers for high heels, boots, sneakers, and a variety of other shoes. Ensure you buy the right type of shoe stretcher for the shoes you hope the expand. Also, guarantee that you get a shoe stretcher that’s around your natural sized foot.
You can use a shoe stretcher on its own: put the stretcher into the shoe and use the manual crank to widen it.
Some stretchers only widen the toe area of the foot, others the length and some have a combination of lengthening and widening to provide the most comprehensive shoe stretching results. The stretcher’s mechanics will determine the process to expand the shoe, so keep the instrument’s instructions close by to ensure proper operation.
For improved results, spray the shoes with stretching spray before using the stretcher. You can leave the stretcher in the suede shoes overnight to provide longer-lasting results. Be sure to check on the shoes frequently at the beginning of the stretching process, though.
If done without much supervision, you could accidentally set the stretcher for too long or wide and accidentally rip your shoes. If your suede shoes look stressed and on the verge of a tear, you could rescue them before a hole forms. Thus, check on your shoes regularly, especially if you’re new to using a shoe stretcher.
If you own one stretcher only, you can only stretch one shoe at a time. If you need the shoes for an important function, be sure to start the stretching process early to avoid a rushed night of suede shoe stretching.
If the shoe is still too tight after using the shoe stretcher, repeat the shoe stretching process. You might need to stretch for 24 to 48 hours to achieve long-lasting results.
Use a Hair Dryer
If you don’t have a shoe spray handy, you can use a hairdryer to facilitate the stretching process.
Heat causes many substances and items to expand, so the same process is correct for the shoes. However, since suede is made from leather, you’ll have to be careful using a hairdryer to stretch the material. Too much heat would discolor or dry out the leather, causing cracks. With enough supervision, you can safely use a hairdryer to stretch suede shoes.
How to Use a Hair Dryer to Stretch Suede Shoes
- Put one or two pairs of thick socks on your feet and insert them into the shoes. Conversely, you could use a shoe stretcher instead of your feet.
- Turn the hairdryer on low heat and point it at the shoes. The tip of the hair dryer should be about six inches away from the shoes to avoid too much heat damaging the shoes.
- Rapidly move the nozzle in different directions while still aiming toward the shoe. Turn off after 30 seconds and inspect the shoe.
- Repeat the process as necessary. If the leather looks as if it’s drying or starting to crack, stop the blow dryer immediately and apply a leather conditioner to the suede.
Using a blow dryer provides quick stretching results, but the shoes could revert to their original size after a week or two — especially if you wear the shoes in cold weather. If you use a hairdryer to stretch your shoes, pay attention to the leather at all times to avoid damaging the material with heat.
Put Your Suede Shoes in the Freezer
Yes, a bit counter-intuitive compared to the last shoe stretching method, but it still works.
Use the freezer method if you’re afraid of damaging your suede shoes with too much heat. Some shoes, especially shoes made of high-quality material, could get more easily damaged from excess heat.
Some materials shrink when put in a cold environment; others expand — such as water. Place bags of water in the soles of your shoes and place your shoes in the freezer. The water will start to freeze and expand — stretching your shoes in the process.
For added sanitation, place your shoes in a plastic bag before putting them in your freezer, especially if you use your freezer to store food.
Keep the shoes in the freezer for 24 hours. Once that much time has passed, take the shoes out of the freezer and let them get to room temperature before you put them on. Walk around in your shoes to see if they’ve stretched to an amount with which you’re comfortable. If you want more expansion, put the bags of water back in your shoes and repeat the process.
Make sure you use high-quality bags to hold the water as a cheap bag can break and leak water onto your shoes. When water freezes onto the suede material itself, the leather could stretch in unsightly ways, discolor, or in other ways create cosmetic blemishes in the shoe.
If you want a way to stretch your shoes but don’t have the time to actively monitor your shoe’s stretching, such as with the blow dryer, and you don’t want to spend a few hours wearing your tight suede shoes on socked feet, the freezer method is an excellent, non-invasive way to stretch your leather shoes while going about your life.
When you take the shoes out of the freezer, though, be sure to let them warm to room temperature and apply leather butter on them, as the shoes’ material could have dried up in the freezer’s arid environment.
Shoe Stretcher Tips
Check Your Sole
Despite the stretchiness of the suede leather, the sole of the shoe is made from much tougher, non-stretchable material. In such a case, you’ll have to check to see if the bottom of the shoe will get in the way of stretching. Heavy work boots tend to have thick soles that won’t stretch well, but it is possible if you show your shoes to a professional footwear expert.
You might think that it’s impossible to stretch heavy thick, rubber soles or shoe soles made from other non-malleable material. However, checking in with a professional footwear expert could give you the option to stretch your shoes without damaging the item too much.
If you love your shoes and can’t bear to part with them, the shoe expert could increase the size of suede shoes a quarter to a half size at an affordable price. Do your research to see if stretching the sole of your shoes would be a necessary obstacle to get over to properly enjoy your shoes.
Avoid Using Shoe Stretchers on Narrow Shoes
Some shoes are designed to be narrow, and so trying to stretch the suede leather could tear the suede from the sole or tear holes in the leather. The top layer of the shoes — the part that holds your foot — would look like a bubble over the smaller sole, leading to an unfortunate aesthetic result.
If you think the shoes are designed for narrow feet, but your feet don’t fit into the shoe, you might have to cut your losses and find a different pair of shoes. See if the company you bought your shoes from will allow a return.
You could risk stretching the shoes to make them wearable, but if stretching narrow-designed shoes prove fruitless, you could damage your ability to return or sell the shoes.
A shoe stretcher helps break in shoes faster and enables you to increase shoe sizes a quarter to a half size up. But they can’t perform miracles — they can’t change the amount of material the shoes come with or the size of the sole. There might be little you can do to properly stretch narrow shoes, especially with a shoe stretcher and shoe stretching spray.
Talk to a Shoe Professional First
Shoe professionals see, handle, and understand shoes for a living. They’ll know how to properly stretch suede shoes without breaking them or damaging the appearance of the shoe. You can use their vast knowledge of shoes to find the best ways to stretch your suede shoes.
A shoe professional will most likely know what stretching methods work the brand and style of shoe you own. They can offer wisdom on the best process for you to use at home. Or, if you want to save yourself time and the risk of messing up your shoes, you could pay the shoe expert to stretch your shoes for you.
That way, you know your shoes are in good hands and that they’re not likely to break or rip the shoes (unlike you, the novice).
Do some research in your area to see if there are shoe experts who will talk to you about your shoes. They might offer a small consultation fee. If your shoes are essential to you, though, the cost could be worth it to ensure your shoes are wearable.
What Not to Do When Stretching Suede Shoes
Going Too Quickly
The last thing you want to do is rush the stretching process in suede shoes. Stretching the shoes too quickly could rip the material, cause the leather to separate from the sole, or lead to bulges in the leather in which some portions are stretched more than others.
Stretching too quickly is especially true with using shoe stretchers or even your hands to stretch the leather material. Rushing the stretching process isn’t a good plan, as mistakes happen in an instant but, in some cases, can never be reversed.
Go slowly when stretching your suede shoes. Don’t wear too many socks at once, or don’t expand your shoe stretchers immensely upon placing them in your shoes. Set aside a couple of hours to stretch your shoes properly, ensuring the long-lasting results you want.
Not Using Enough Stretching Spray
Stretching spray is your friend when you hope to widen or lengthen your leather shoes. You should always follow the instructions on the spray’s bottle, as different brands will have different directions you should follow. In general, though, using more stretching spray helps you get the results you want.
Suede is made from leather, and leather dries up over time. You need to moisturize it continuously, so it needs even more moisture to make it stretch as opposed to ripping.
If you haven’t worn your suede shoes in a while and hope to stretch them again, use lots of shoe stretchers to help the process. It will make the stretching process go faster and reduce the chances you damage your shoes.
Not Knowing When to Give Up
You’ve worn double pairs of thick socks, doused the shoes in stretching spray, used shoe stretchers, and blow dryer, but the shoes are still too small. Rather than keep going and risk harming the suede leather, it would be best to call it a day. You’ve done all you could to stretch the material, but you probably bought the wrong size.
Patience is vital when it comes to stretching shoes. It could take that one last trip around the block wearing socks to get the shoes to the right width. But continuing when the shoes can’t stretch anymore is a fruitless endeavor. It would be best to see if you could return the shoes or sell them to someone with a smaller shoe size than you.
Your suede shoes mean a lot to you, and so you want to stretch them a bit to make wearing your shoes the most comfortable possible. When it comes to shoe stretching, follow these tips to get the best results possible without damaging your shoes.