How to make shoes bigger is a common concern for those with wide feet, or for those trying to make use of a pair of shoes of the wrong size. Bony bumps on joints like a bunion on a big toe, hammer toes, and even different-sized feet mean that shoes must be made bigger.
There are different ways to stretch shoes; some processes have better results than others BUT I’m going to cover all the options for you. Some require the use of a product, and some are FREE. It’s up to you how you decide to go about it!
Whether you choose mechanical shoe stretching or funky traditional methods, here are 11 ways to make shoes bigger.
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1. Make Shoes Bigger With A Shoe Stretcher
Using a proper shoe stretcher is by far the most effective and reliable way to stretch out shoes that are too small. It’s important to know however that it is a time-consuming method, and if your shoes are really tight, the stretching process could take several days.
You may need to consider using a pair of shoe stretchers, if both shoes need to be made bigger, or if you don’t mind doing one at a time go for one. You can pick up shoe stretchers at street markets, shoe shops and online.
I recommend this shoe stretcher from Amazon:
I’ve recommended this brand many times across my blog, as it’s effective for breaking in even the toughest boots (in particular my tight Dr. Martens, which you can read about here).
It’s well priced and just gets the job done properly without hassle. It’s also a nice staple to keep in your shoe closet, as it’s likely you’ll be needing to use it many times across your lifetime, just like me!
Shoe stretchers are also suitable for keeping dress shoes smart and sneakers free of creases. The added benefit of using shoe stretchers is that once in place, the shoe stretchers even maintain the shape of your shoes. Here’s how to properly use them:
What You’ll Need:
- A pair of shoe stretchers/just one if you don’t mind doing one shoe at a time (with toe point, heel fixture, and sturdy and flexible cord)
Step 1: Insert the toe point in toe-box area.
Step 2: Insert heel cap at the back of the shoe.
Step 3: Use the sturdy expandable brace to increase the toe and heel tension.
Leave the shoe stretchers in your shoes for 24 hours and then remove them to check the results. You may need to increase the stretching time depending on how they feel on your feet.
2. Make Shoes Bigger With A Raw Potato
If a shoe doesn’t fit and you get blisters there’s that split second in which you think: toss or keep. But before you despair, double check your pantry and see if you have a bag of potatoes to hand!
Sounds odd, but believe it or not you can use a raw potato to stretch out the toe box of your shoes.
Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Find a large potato, that’s roughly the right width and height to be able to fit in the toe box of your shoe. Make sure the potato is fresh, hard in nature and free of any mold.
Step 2: Stuff the potato down into the toe box, until you see the material of the shoe upper straining slightly. Of course, don’t damage your shoe by using a potato that’s much too big, just go with one that will create a good amount of resistance.
Step 3: Leave the potato in your shoe overnight. The potato will do all the stretching work whilst your shoe isn’t in use.
Please note the degree of stretch you can expect is moderate from this method. You’ll have to repeat the process for a better effect. Of course a proper shoe stretch would be better, but this is a free (or very cheap) option you can try if you have a large potato at home.
Alternatively you can try stuffing your shoes with balled up socks instead of a potato. The socks will be softer of course and less effective then the dense potato, but if stuffed tightly they will strain the upper and help the shoe become bigger.
3. Make Shoes Bigger With Water In Ziplock Bag
Another practically free method I have for you is to use a zip locked bag of water to stretch out your shoes. It sounds strange, but it works!
Zip-lock plastic bags seal tightly, and you can fill a bag with water to just under half. Then you can place it inside your shoe and pop your shoe in the freezer. As the water freezes it will expand, gently streching out the upper of your shoe with it.
You can maneuver the soft bag half-full of water and gently put the largest mass of water in the areas you want to stretch. Leaving it overnight for at least 12 hours inside shoes in a freezer can do the trick. You may need to repeat the process for more stretch.
What you’ll need:
- Medium-sized zip-lock plastic bags
- Pair of shoes
- Fridge freezer
- Water in a jug
Step 1: Half-fill a medium-sized zip-lock bag with water.
Step 2: Remove the excess air from the bag.
Step 3: Zip-seal the bag and slide the bag into the shoe. Place the most water in the area you want to stretch.
Step 4: Once you’ve secured the zip-seal bag, put the shoe (or pair of shoes) in the fridge to freeze. The frozen ice in the bag hardens and pushes against the sides of the shoes you want to make bigger. This can take a couple of hours.
Step 5: Leave the shoes in the freezer overnight. The Zip-lock water bags will expand overnight.
Step 6: Next day, let the bags thaw for 20 – 30 minutes to get these out of the shoe cavity.
Step 7: Remove the zip-lock bags. You may need to repeat the process until you’re comfortable with the fit.
Using zip-lock bags is even more malleable than the newspaper method. You can also add water if you want to stretch areas wider. You don’t have to wait for water-logged newsprint to dry. In most cases, the zip-lock bag freezes more quickly.
The fabric the shoes are made from should be able to be frozen. Some plastics won’t work and can crack and break.
4. Make Shoes Bigger By Wearing Them In the House
When you know that the pair of shoes you bought is just what you want, but their fit is tight, you can wear them at home to stretch them. It’s best to put on the new (and tight) shoes in the evening after work at home. You don’t have to walk or stand but sit down and watch a series of something with your feet elevated.
Your feet are the most natural shoe stretcher you can get! There are no specific instructions or steps to follow. Just slip your feet into the tight shoes, and then sit down and relax.
But it is suggested that you first relax your feet, especially after a full day’s work. A quick foot soak, and then set your feet to work – to make your shoes bigger. It would help if you did this for a couple of consecutive evenings. You will be able to gently ease the fit.
5. Make Shoes Bigger With Soaked Newsprint
It’s not only the toe cap of a pair of shoes that can pinch your feet. The heel can be too tight or the instep too short. And mostly, you only find this out when you get home. You know the excitement of going to a shoe shop or market vendor to get the shoes you’ve been eyeing. The size or number of the shoe is what you think fits. And you dash home without trying on the shoes.
You wear them out for the first time and find they become increasingly uncomfortable as the day goes on. Before you consider getting rid of them, try out this newspaper stretching method.
What you’ll need:
- Sheets of newsprint
- Bowl filled with water
Step 1: Shred the newsprint roughly, into fine strips.
Step 2: Place shredded newsprint in the bowl of water, until it is covered.
Step 3: Soak newsprint thoroughly for an hour.
Step 4: Ball up the wet newspaper in your hands and squeeze out the excess water.
Step 5: Mold the newsprint into a shape that fits the opening towards the toe box of your shoe. Then put the newsprint across your bare foot to create a mold.
Step 6: Remove the newsprint and leave the mold to harden. After it sets you’ll have a mold that you can insert inside your shoe, as a homemade stretching tool.
6. Make Shoes Bigger By Wearing Them With Thick Socks
There are many shoes and sandals on the market, and each brand can have sizing variations. Even if you purchase your correct size, some shoes will feel like they need to be made bigger. Feet differ in size and shape, and our left and the right foot are usually not identical. Even with millions of different pairs in shops and markets, getting the right pair often takes more work.
Here’s the good news – you can wear thick socks to make your shoes bigger. Wearing thick socks to stretch shoes is often the most obvious choice. You can also wear two or more layers of socks to improve the stretch and make your shoes bigger quicker.
It must be noted that although this free method is good, you can’t make shoes a size or two bigger with thick socks alone. At the most, you can make a tight pair of shoes fit better. Socks won’t do the work of proper shoe stretcher, but it’s worth a try if the fit of your shoe is only slightly too tight.
The simplest way to utilise thick socks is but putting them one at home and wearing the tight-fitting shoes around the house. This is an excellent way to stretch leather shoes in particular, which can often feel at little too tight at first.
Making shoes bigger by wearing thick socks can take 10 days or more, and you must do the stretching every day for an hour or two.
What you’ll need:
- A pair or two of thick socks.
Step 1: Put on the thick pairs of socks. You can decide layer-by-layer when the fit is big enough. With multiple socks, you can start off with a single pair and, as the shoe stretches, add another the next day.
Step 2: Put on shoes and wear them around the house, to gently stretch them out.
The thick socks will gradually expand the size of the shoes. This is a great FREE option to try at home.
7. Thick Socks And A Blow-dryer
A great way to stretch out and make your shoes bigger is by using heat on them to gently soften the upper in the areas that need expanding. This method works best for leather shoes, so please keep that in mind.
Grab your hair dryer. Slip on a thick pair of socks, and put on the shoes you want bigger. Use your hair dryer on medium heat if the shoes are too small. Then simply direct the heat to the tightest spot.
What you’ll need:
- Hot air electrical blow dryer
- Thick socks
- Comfortable chair or stool
Step 1: Slip on a pair of thick socks.
Step 2: Put on the shoes you want to make bigger.
Step 3: Sit down comfortably.
Step 4: Plug-in the blow dryer.
Step 5: On medium heat, direct the blow dryer toward the spot on the shoe that you want to make bigger.
Step 6: Hold the heat there for 20 to 30 seconds.
Step 7: After 20-30 seconds, let the part where you applied the heat cool down. Gently massage it, and wiggle your toes inside the shoe to move the upper around.
Step 8: Repeat the process each day until the shoes are broken in and larger feeling inside.
The advantage of this process is that you can gradually feel how the shoe becomes bigger. You can monitor the size changes and feel the shoe get bigger.
A drawback, especially with leather shoes, is that the shoes can dry out from the heat. You can quickly burn the leather, so be careful and use common sense to gauge how the process is going. You must also stick to the 20 – 30 seconds sessions. It’s also a good idea to use a leather conditioner to restore the moisture in the leather after each time you use heat.
8. Making Genuine Leather Shoes Bigger At A Cobblers
Quality leather shoes stand out, and if you find a deal that’s too good to pass up you might even consider squeezing your feet into a pair that don’t fit right. I’ve certainly been there.
Footwear fanatics like myself might tell you how often shoes are stretched professionally in shops, and cobblers. It’s normal for cobblers to have customers walk in, know what they want, pay and leave, and then call back a day later. The results are often great, but this method can be pricey.
If you’re on a budget and want to give stretching your leather shoes a go at home, cobblers often have great tips, like soaking a pair of thick socks in 91% Isopropyl rubbing alcohol, wearing them inside your shoes and then using heat to speed up the stretching process. You’ll need to wear the socks soaked in rubbing alcohol in your shoes and walk around for at least an hour, before using a blow dryer to soften the leather.
The combination of the thick socks, rubbing alcohol, and heat, expands the leather. Speak to any Italian high-end shoe retailer, and they’ll say this method will make your shoes fit like a glove!
Here’s how to go about it:
What You’ll Need:
- A pair of medium-thick socks
- 91% Isopropyl rubbing alcohol
- Medium-sized stainless-steel bowl
Step 1: Pour 91% Isopropyl rubbing alcohol into a medium-sized bowl
Step 2: Soak a pair of medium-thickness socks in 91% Isopropyl rubbing alcohol
Step 3: Slight squeezed-out excess 91% Isopropyl rubbing alcohol
Step 4: Put on socks
Step 5: Step into shoes and lace these up
Step 6: Walk around in your home
You can stretch your good leather shoes with this method. Please note the stretching of the shoes will happen along the width of the shoe. Check that you are doing the process correctly.
Ensure you don’t damage the stitching on the sides. Overstretching can easily damage the shoes too. You can also easily crack the leather. Be sure to watch out for any of this happening and make sure to well condition your shoes with a leather oil or conditioner.
9. Use A Pair Of Dual Shoe Stretchers
If you’re in a hurry to make your shoes bigger before an event, try using dual shoe stretchers to get the job done quick.
Leave the shoes stretched overnight – and repeat the process till fitting improves. The stretchers (for boots, too) are designed to widen the instep and the raiser of boots. Shoe stretchers are adjustable and raises the instep plate to lessen pressure from the ankles.
Always go slow with stretching footwear, even though boots are rugged in construction.
What You’ll Need:
- Dual shoe stretchers.
- Your shoes or boots.
Step 1: You can use the dual stretchers on the left and the right side.
Step 2: Fit Stretcher to target the instep (as you want to enlarge the bit over the ankle and the top of your foot).
Step 3: Leave the shoe stretcher in place for 6-8 hours (you must get the leather to expand).
You can get good results when you work slowly. The leather expands gradually, which makes the process manageable.
Make sure you don’t force the process. You can damage the leather if you push the process too fast.
10. Remove Inner Soles
One of the easiest and quickest ways to alter the size of a pair of shoes is to remove the inner soles. This can quickly be done with a couple of sneakers or walking shoes. The removal of the inner soles works well. There is no stretching involved.
All you need to do is check whether the insole can be removed from your shoe, and if so pull it out. Sometimes insoles are glued into the shoe, so be aware of this.
You can keep the inner soles until the shoes break in and feel bigger and then put these back in if needed.
11. Make Shoes Bigger With Soaked Corn
School children a generation ago will tell you with delight how they stuffed their shoes with corn kernels to get them bigger in size.
What you’ll need:
- Dried corn
- Bowl of warm water
Step 1: Put dried corn in a bowl (ratio 1x corn and 4 cups warm water).
Step 2: Let the corn soak for 2 – 3 hours to absorb most of the water
Step 3: Kids love this – stuff the soaked corn into the school shoes. Make sure these are tightly packed.
Step 4: Leave overnight
Step 5: Corn swells up to 3 times in size, and the next day the shoes are bigger
This is one of the oldest and most tried methods despite sounding a little kooky!
For more footwear sizing content, check out:
How To Break In Air Force 1s FAST (7 Ways)
How To Break In Vans (7 FAST and Painless Ways)
How To Break In Converse (FAST, Painless Methods)
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).