If you’ve not owned a pair before it’s hard to know whether or not Vans stretch over time with regular use. Before you spend any money on a pair, here is a guide to help answer the question, filled with pictures, a video and my own personal experience as a long term customer and fan of the Vans brand.
Vans stretch slightly up to half a size bigger over time with regular use (6 months to 1 year of daily wear). Vans stretch in the width of the shoe instead of the length. It’s best to purchase a pair of Vans that fit comfortably, as they won’t stretch out that much. Avoid an overly tight fit.
For help with Vans sizing and what size to buy, I have a full written guide here, including size charts.
Here’s a video of me showing how my Old Skool and Slip On pairs of Vans have stretched over time, so you can get a good visual:
Next lets take a detailed look (with photos) at the Vans design and how it behaves over time, plus ways you can make your Vans stretch out quicker if they feel too tight.
Stretchability Of Vans
Vans’s manufacturing process uses vulcanization to shape, form, and mold the shoe to be stronger and last longer. Because Vans use this method to make their shoes, they have to use materials that can withstand the heat during this process. Due to this, you will find that most Vans are made from canvas or suede, and some have synthetic leather in some areas.
Because of this hardening process, you might feel that Vans are quite snug around your foot. But do they stretch later or keep this rigid form?
Canvas and suede can stretch slightly and change in half a size but not more. The stretch will happen mostly when you wear it often and over time. Think of it as woven material. The fibers are woven together but can stretch out to form a closer weave, creating more wiggle room inside the shoe. That is exactly what happens when you buy Vans and wear them often.
Some Vans are comprised of a 2mm leather cover. Although the shell’s inside is polyester, and the artificial leather is covered with plastic to make it more water resistant, the fit and stretch stay the same as any other Vans made of suede or canvas.
Considering Stretch When Choosing Vans Sizes
As Vans are generally true to size; you don’t have to consider a stretch when buying a pair. Think of it this way: the shoe will always stay the same size if you have narrow feet. However, the fibers expand and give you a comfortable fit if you have wider feet that press against the material.
When it comes to Vans, whether you go for the Slip Ons or the Sk8-hi sneakers, you wouldn’t have to size up or down. The initial fit of the Slip Ons, however, does feel a little tighter but still comfortable. The reason for this is the design has no laces, so it needs to be a closer fit so it won’t slip off your feet accidentally.
Different Vans Shoes And Stretchability
If you know Vans, you know that the brand has many styles to offer. Most styles are unisex, and they are super fashionable. Although most are made from canvas or suede, and some have synthetic leather pieces, the shoe’s form can also influence the stretch over a more extended period of wear.
Vans: Slip-On Shoe
When you want to go for an all-time favorite, the Slip On Vans, it’s best to purchase your actual size. The slip-on style cannot be tightened later when it has stretched out a bit, and the elastic panels on the sides give the design that extra stretch necessary to get your foot in the shoe.
These elastics panels will also wear out and might lead to a looser fitted shoe after heavy wear. Mine are over 5 years old and are still going strong. They have definitely stretched out a bit and don’t feel as tight as they used to, but I really like this as they are super comfy and have molded to my feet.
Vans: The Authentic Shoe
This low-top shoe is the go-to for most who want to own Vans but are still determining if any other styles will fit their personality. The simple but original shoe won’t need any sizing up or down for fit, as the laces will keep anything in place should it stretch out too much, which is unlikely for the authentic style.
Vans: The Old Skool Shoe
The original shoe from Vans is a classic, has been with the brand for 50 years and is one of their signature styles. The low top is slightly higher than the authentic style, thus giving the foot more security.
The reinforced toe will feel secure and fits well. The slight stretch in the material might give you that extra space you need, making this design ideal for those with slightly wider feet. I love my Old Skools and find they stretch out a little bit over time.
Vans: The Era Shoe
The era style has been the go-to for skaters since this style went viral in 1975 by the Z-boys. It doesn’t look that great (some might even call it ugly), but the snug fit and laces make it perfect for skaters who want to keep their shoes along the way. Luckily, you can manipulate the fit a little with the laces.
Vans: The Sk8-Hi Shoe
The only high-top Vans produce, but definitely a favorite. These are great for those who love the look and are worried about the stretch. Although the stretch remains insignificant, you have more area to manipulate the fit with laces from bottom to top around the ankle.
How To Stretch Vans?
Let’s say you bought your pair of Vans, and find them to be true to size but a little stiff, and your foot needs space to breathe. Luckily, there are a few ways to make the shoe fit perfectly.
Method #1: Use A Hairdryer To Stretch Vans
A hairdryer is a fast and easy way to stretch out your Vans. The key is to put them on wearing thicker socks you would not normally wear with them, and then start blow drying.
- Set the hairdryer on medium heat and focus on the heel and sides of the foot where you want it to set out. Keep the hairdryer 20cm away from the material, and only use it for 10 to 15 seconds at a time. The material will soften and expand a little.
- When the Vans are warm feeling, walk around the house in them until they cool. This method is excellent for leather Vans as well.
Method #2: Wear Your Vans For Short Periods, Often
Walking around for hours in shoes that hug your feet a little too much is a horrible experience and might lead to some people giving up on stretching them out. You can still stretch out your Vans by wearing them for short bouts, but often.
Wear your Vans for short trips out and take them off as soon as you feel uncomfortable. Wearing them for a shorter period but more regularly will give you the same result as walking with the Vans the entire day, but without ending up with blisters and sore feet.
Method #3: Bend And Move Your Vans To Stretch Them
Bending your shoe sounds unconventional and scary. However, the sturdy vulcanized shoe won’t tear or rip as long as you do the bending stretch correctly.
Take the toe box of the shoe in one hand and the heel part in the other. Slowly bend the two sides toward each other at the bottom, thus, sole meeting sole. Stop when you feel resistance, and hold it there for a few seconds.
This method is incredibly effective for the high tops to help with the material over the arch. Some people have a high arch that presses uncomfortably against the high-top material. Repeat this method each time before you put on your Vans until you feel the shoes fit nicely and snugly without being too tight.
Method #4: Freeze Your Vans To Stretch Them
My logic says that anything that gets cold will shrink. That is certainly not the case here. When using a freezing method to stretch shoes, it involves the expansion of. Sounds weird right?
The only thing that does expand when it freezes is water. SO use this to your advantage to help you stretch out your Vans, and save your poor feet doing all the work.
- Take a Ziplock back or any similar bag that you can seal. Fill it with water and ensure it is sealed tightly before placing it inside the Vans.
- Next, place the shoes in the freezer and keep them there until the bag freezes entirely. The freezing water will expand and stretch the material of the Vans.
- Take the Vans out of the freezer and remove the zip lock bag. Allow your Vans to warm up and you’ll find they will have stretched out a little.
For the leather Vans, you might have to repeat the process two to three times. With the canvas Vans, you can also wet the shoe on the outside where you want it to stretch and insert the water bag, although please note wetting the canvas may cause the dye to fade some.
Method #5: Use A Shoe Stretching Tool On Your Vans
Investing in a shoe stretcher would be a good idea if you are a shoe lover. These tools are specially made to stretch shoes in width and length, and you can set them as you wish. Because Vans need stretching in width, you should get a tool that stretches both ways and not only in length.
Alongside a shoe stretcher you could also try a shoe stretching spray if you wish. Spray this on the area you want the Vans to stretch. Set the stretcher as wide as the shoe will let you before inserting it into the shoe. When it is in place, set it to expand until you feel the shoe’s resistance.
Set the Vans aside and take the shoe stretcher out after 12 hours at first. The longer you leave it, the more it will stretch. Vans can stretch up to half a size; keep the tool in for a shorter period if you only want a minimal stretch.
Method #6: Wear Thick Socks To Stretch Your Vans
One of the more conventional and easy methods to stretch your Vans is to wear them around the house with thick socks. You can wear two or three pairs at a time to increase the stretch. This is a sure way to stretch out your Vans, but it might be uncomfortable.
Another thing you can try is to compact a few pairs of socks inside your Vans tightly and leave it this way when in storage. This will stretch out your Vans gently over time.
Method #7: Ask The Experts To Stretch Your Vans
Some of us don’t have time for these DIY or at-home stretching remedies for Vans that fit too tightly. That is also fine. You can take your Vans to the nearest shoe repair shop and ask them to stretch it. They have the correct tools and experience to know exactly how to get your Vans to fit like a glove.
How To Prevent Vans From Stretching?
If you were lucky enough to find a ‘Cinderella fit’ when you tried on your first pair of Vans, you may be looking to prevent them stretching out at all. So how would you go about keeping them from stretching?
Luckily, Vans aren’t meant to stretch out that much. Skater shoes are rigid and sturdy, must stay on the feet, and withstand fast and hard contact with the ground.
It is easier to prevent Vans from stretching than going through the trouble to get them to stretch that half-inch. It would help if you stayed clear of the methods mentioned above to keep your Vans the perfect size.
- Only wear socks thin enough to keep the form of the shoe, or if you dare, go barefoot.
- Please don’t get your Vans hot or wet while wearing them.
- Don’t wear them for long walks, or for any rough prolonged activity.
What To Do If Your Vans Are Too Stretched Out?
Another scenario that might explain your situation would be that you have had your Vans for a while, and now they stretched too much for your liking. With the laced Vans, this isn’t too big of a problem, as you can easily manipulate the tightness of the laces to get a snug fit again. But the slip-on Vans might pose a problem.
There is no need for worry, as the minimal stretch you might encounter in slip-on Vans can easily be fixed. The first way to shrink your Vans again would be to wash them. Some warn against detergents as these can compromise the soles’ materials and reduce your shoes’ lifetime. Thus, you can follow two methods:
- Machine wash – to shrink, you will have to wash it with lukewarm water, but don’t use any detergent, and set the spin to as low as possible. Let it dry in the sun, or add it to a dryer (for extra shrinking).
- Place the Vans in a bucket of lukewarm water. Let them soak, and then add them to a dryer.
Another way to increase the size of the shoe slightly is to remove the inner sole and replace it with a thicker, more appropriate one. This could be advantageous, as a thicker, comfier inner would be nicer to wear for extended periods.
Vans have a few insoles you can add to your favorite pair, or replace your current inner with. Footsouls are one of the options and have a soft, memory foam texture that slips into the shoe without removing the original insole.
Another option is the Comfycush insoles. Some newer versions of each Vans type have Comfycush already in the shoe, which is removable. Still, you can add the Comfycush insoles to your standard Vans, especially when you want to shrink the space. Remove the original inner for a tighter shoe before installing the Comfycush.
You don’t have to go for an insole from Vans; you can add anyone you want for support and comfort. You must only ensure that it fits perfectly.
If unsure, ask a podiatrist or a Vans store assistant how the insole should feel and fit. The general rule of shoe insoles is that you shouldn’t feel something extra in the shoe (it should form part of the shoe) and shouldn’t move around.
Your Vans should fit comfortably snug, as they were designed to keep the foot in place, absorb contact, and keep the feet safe on hard surfaces. They will stretch a little as time pass, but not too significantly that you need to adjust the size you wear.
For more Vans content, check out:
Lorna is a footwear geek and the founder of Wearably Weird. She created a YouTube channel in 2021 for fellow footwear fanatics, dedicated to detail-rich footwear reviews and info. She has a fashion media qualification (awarded in 2011).