Shoe stretching is the act of making leather shoes slightly larger. Typically, shoe stretching is for leather shoes that have become stiff with age, however, you can use these stretching tips for any leather shoe. Before trying any of these stretching methods, make sure that the shoes are, indeed, made of leather. These methods do not work as well on synthetic materials and some may even damage non-leather shoes beyond repair.
Traditional shoe stretching is done with wooden or plastic inserts that you place inside the shoes to make them a little larger or wider. Some inserts have screws in them to gradually increase the size of the shoe. This is the best way to stretch shoes evenly and safely, so use them if you have them. You can buy a variety of insert styles online, averaging from about £13 to £39 per insert as of March 2010.
It's possible to stretch shoes with the frozen water method; it isn't highly recommended, but it can help you in a pinch. Fill some plastic zip bags with water and place them inside the shoes. Quart sized bags work best for this step. Place the shoes, with the bags inside, into the freezer. Allow the shoes to sit overnight. In the morning, take out the shoes and remove the bags. The shoes will be slightly stretched because water expands when it freezes.
Another way to stretch shoes is by softening them, which you can do with peeled potatoes. Slip a peeled potato inside each shoe and let them sit for about 24 hours. Slip the shoes on after you remove the potatoes. The shoes may still feel tight, but after several minutes, the softened leather will expand around your feet.
Use alcohol to stretch leather easily. Dab some alcohol onto a cotton ball and rub it over the outside of your shoes. This will probably take the finish off the shoes, so make sure you have polish on hand to restore the shine when you're finished. The alcohol safely moistens the shoe without damaging the leather. Put the shoes on after rubbing them down and wear them for the rest of the day--this should stretch out the leather.
Put your shoes on over thick socks to help stretch them out. This will likely make them feel extremely tight and uncomfortable, however, when you remove the socks and shoes after a few hours of wear, the shoes will have expanded slightly.