How To Fix Too-Tight Shoes . . . Chill Out!

how to stretch your shoes

I did something crazy this week. I bought these shoes! :-)  

I’ve been trying to get my “glam” on for the upcoming Alt Design Summit next week (which is a losing battle…but that’s a whole different story and post!) and my friend Emily suggested these shoes! The funny thing is I LOVE them…even though they are SO not what I would normally buy or wear. So when they came a couple of days ago (I ordered them online) I was bummed that while the RIGHT one fit like a glove, the LEFT one was a bit on the pinchy side. I hate having mismatched feet! (Does anyone else have that problem???)

I was considering just sending them back when I remembered seeing some crazy idea on Pinterest quite awhile ago where someone filled their shoe with a bag of water and set it outside in the snow to stretch it out. The concept being….when water freezes it EXPANDS. That’s why water pipes freeze and burst in unheated houses in the winter.

That couldn’t possibly work on SHOES! Could it?  Well, I decided to give it a try.  I realized if I did this I wasn’t going to be able to send the shoes back, but I figured the worst that could happen would be that the ice method wouldn’t work and I would just have to suffer in the name of fashion for a few hours. Something women have been doing for centuries. ;-)

shoe stretcher 3

So I took TWO zippered plastic bags, put one inside another (just to be safe!), and jammed them down into the shoe as far as they would go. I then carefully filled the bag with water and tied a piece of string around the top as another safety measure. I REALLY didn’t want to ruin these great shoes with my unproven attempt to get a little more wiggle room in them.

shoe stretcher

First I tried setting the shoe outside because it has been SO cold here lately…I figured it wouldn’t take long before it was frozen solid! Wrong. Several hours later it was still a bit slushy so into the DEEP FREEZE it went. Boy oh boy…they don’t call it a DEEP freeze for nothing!  A few hours later it was frozen rock solid! The fact that it was so tightly wedged in the shoe that I couldn’t even unzip it gave me hope that some real stretching was taking place.

After letting it thaw for a few hours on the kitchen counter I was able to pry the bag out of the shoe and tried the shoe on again. A huge improvement! As a matter of fact, they felt so good I didn’t want to take them off! So for a good hour or so last night I walked around the house in my fancy new boots and my pajamas. :-)

Maybe I could rock THAT look at AltSummit? I wish!!!


MORE Shoe Stretching ideas:

Stretching with Rubbing Alcohol

Grab a spray bottle and fill it up with some rubbing alcohol. Spray the inside of your shoes until they are slightly damp and pop them on your bare feet. Strut around in them until the alcohol dries. Repeat if your shoes are still a bit snug as many times as needed.

Hairdryer/Socks Method

Put on a thick pair of socks (or as thick as will fit!) and slip on your shoes. Aim a hairdryer on the tight section for a few seconds while wiggling your toes and and bending your feet inside the shoe. Keep the shoes on while they cool. If you need more room, repeat the process again.



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  1. Safaia says

    Just be cautious of the material. Ie. Leather and cold dont mix well for example, but I reckon if you do the freeze method and then rub the shoes down with the appropriate oil it would work just fine (same thing applys with the hair dryer method). And watch the material on the alcohol too, to make sure that its not goiing to mess it up (suede and such would spot, and leather can too)

  2. Safaia says

    Sorry, dead tired here lol, forgot to say thank you! I have wide feet and I always have issues finding shoes that fit quite right. The wide width shoes can even pinch a bit, usually I have to go 2-3 shoe sizes up before I find a pair of shoes that fit the front of my foot and those then leave blisters on my heels! So I totally sympathize with you, particularly since one of my feet IS a lil wider than the other. This is really really useful!

    • Doris Gordon says

      Buy your wide shoes from Zappos. You can return them within one year – postage free. I have wide feet too, EE. This is the only place I can get shoes as local stores do not carry EE. There is one store here that does, but it is about 25 miles away.

  3. says

    I have VERY wide short feet. I work in a factory. There was a time when steel toed work shoes were required. Life was hell wearing ST work shoes. If I found a shoe wide enough, it would have to be a size and a half bigger, and then only three of my toes would fit under the ‘steel’, and the other two were being ‘knarred’ up by the steel. Very unpleasant. The other part of work shoes, was that being leather, they usually needed to be stretched. Almost everyone wide feet or not, complained about breaking in new shoes. One night, I accidentally left my shoes out on the porch, and it rained. I was upset, and dried them out the best I could, but I wore those shoes that day until they dried on their own. Being wet, stretched them out, so from that day forward, whenever I got new work shoes, I would purposely walk around in wet grass until they were good and soaked, then when they dried, they were comfortable. I know, not good for dress shoes, but it sure worked for work shoes!

  4. Joyce says

    I can’t wait to try this…I have mis-matched feet too!! They’re almost a 1/2 size difference and I have the hardest time with shoes. Txs so much for the tip! And those boots are just too adorable…glad you got them.

  5. Alisha says

    Love the boots. I would NEVER be brave enough to wear them! LOL I would have 15 years ago or so, but never at my age! LOL And this has to be the BEST shoe stretching idea I’ve ever seen.

    Sending you some love!

  6. Jeanne says

    For years, I have used a tried and true method for stretching my shoes. I figured that shoes naturally stretch when we “break them in” due to our feet sweating and pressure being put on them from walking around. So when my shoes were a tad tight, I would taken a washcloth and dampen it (the wetter it is, the longer your shoe will take to dry, but it must be damp enough to impact the fit). Then stuff the washcloth down into your shoe. Once it has sat overnight or a few hours, put those babies on and walk around the house as Jillee did. It really works!

  7. Sunshine1985 says

    I love those boots! I’m sure you will look wonderful. I can’t wait to try this out on a few pairs of shoes. I usually stretch my shoes out the hard way…you know with blisters all! LOL. Have a great day Jillee! Oh and Thank you! :)

  8. Debra says

    When I was in basic training for the Army, boots ALWAYS hurt, and so we were instructed to put our boots in a tub full of water until they were soaked and then wear them until dried out. They fit like a glove and didn’t rub blisters on long marches. Works great for leather! :)

  9. Suzi says

    Oh my goodness! This is so great. I have painful bunions so it is really hard to find any shoe beyond sandels that will work. Closed in shoes are almost always impossible to tolerate. This just might ramp up my wardrobe! Thanks so much.

  10. Mary S says

    I had no idea there were so many people with the same problem I have.My right foot is a full size smaller than my left foot.My father’s and youngest son’s are the same way,so I would think it is inherited. I will definitely be trying all of the tips since I have several shoes that pinch.

  11. judith says

    My daughter gets her shoes from NIKE. She is able to order two different sizes for the same price as getting two the same size. Her mother just wears clogs and that solves the problem for her. I know there are other online sites that sell mismatched shoes.

    • CTY says

      Thanks Jillee! Sounds pretty good to me. I think I’ll stick my faux black patent leather pumps in the freezer. Like Amanda (from FL) they won’t freeze outside here (CA). I was thinking if you set up the bag and poured crushed ice in first, then added the water, they would freeze up much quicker. Just as long as I don’t defrost ‘em and cook ‘em up for dinner.
      Here’s an old hikers trick for hiking boots and probably work boots too. If they fit but you get the blisters because they are not yet broken in; wear 2 lightweight pair of socks. This will cause the friction to occur between the socks.

  12. Desiree says

    Oh my gosh I’m so excited to try this! After having my daughter almost 16 months ago now, my feet never went back to their pre-preggers size, but at the same time, I don’t have the heart to just throw my old shoes away. I keep telling myself I’ll just spend the money on some fancy shoe stretcher. But, the whole point in enjoying your blog is saving some moolah! Muuuaaaah! Thanks Jillee!!!

  13. Marinel says

    My mother use to stretch her shoes with rubbing alcohol. You have to be real careful about how wet you get them because the alcohol will stain leather. Otherwise it works great, especially on patent leather.

  14. KimH says

    I have the same problem with one foot being a little bit bigger than the other.. I think everyone does but not everyone is aware of it..

    I was told by a leather dealer when I was buying a form fitting Harley vest to use Avons Skin So Soft to get the jacket to stretch out across my boobs so that they didnt flatten them like pancakes as it was when I tried on the vest. He said to rub it on the underside of the leather & work it in.. I did just that and it worked great!

    I’ve always had a problem with pinchy shoes so I started using that trick on my shoes too. Just take a little bit of oil, dime to nickle size on the end of your fingers, any kind works!, and dab a bit in where its pinching, put the shoes on and walk around for a couple minutes and it’ll loosen up the leather almost immediately. I’ve used this many many times on real leather & I’ve used this on man-made materials. It works and it works fast.

    I even convinced some construction guys who were limping along where I worked to try it since they were in severe pain trying to break in new pairs of boots.. Within 1 day they were walking normally and thought I was a miracle worker… haha.. Just passing along great info that was passed along to me.

  15. says

    Thanks for the tip, I love your boots, tooo cute. I would like to know if you have a tip on shoes that slip up and down,not because they are too big but the material inside the shoes is slick (they are dress shoes) and when worn with hose they slip up and down and I literally walk out of them. I have not worn them but once due to this problem. I paid a good price for them and love them. I cannot return since they have been worn. I would appreciate it if you know of anything I can do.

    • Linda says

      Look in the pharmacy/foot department at Walmart, or Kmart, Target, etc., there are things that you can put into your shoes that help you protect against blisters. That should help with the slipping. You might be able to use moleskin, found in the same dept., to glue in to help you keep your feet in your shoes. Just a thought…….

      • Gwyn says

        You can also find gel inserts for various areas in your shoe that help. Heel cup, heel spacer (fits along the back of the shoe), pad fot the ball of your foot…all the places Linda suggested usually have these as well. The heel cups work really well for taking up the space and keeps your heel from slipping.
        Great tips, thank you!

  16. Kathryn says

    My left foot is 1/2 size smaller than my right; however, I have a nuroma on my left foot, so it kind of comes out even. I just have to make sure the shoes are wide enough and have enough cushion on the ball part and not too high a heel. Love your boots, by the way. :-)

  17. cowgrl808 says

    This worked for my Dingo, leather cowboy boots… it happened by accident but worked like a charm.. Picked up boots brand new at a garage sale for $5.00, wore to a weekend saddle ride, got caught in a torrential downpour, happened to be on the wagon-ride.. a sitting duck.. Boots filled with water..took off, drained water, put back on..they dried on my feet by that night. Today they are the most comfortable shoes I have.. I wear them to work for 8-10 hours and I am fine. They fit like a well made, form-fitted glove.. probable only will work with leather though..

  18. Comet says

    I wonder if for too large “fabric based” shoes –tennis kind? etc.–if you couldn’t do what we try to avoid doing to our clothes–shrink ‘em in the dryer! IF you got them wet and then chucked them in the dryer with a load of towels or even one towel and let them get hot they might shrink.

    If you have a big difference between the one foot and the other you can try getting the shoes to fit the LARGER foot and then using “toe filler” technique—this can be a simple cotton ball pulled and rolled into the right shape down in the toe or one of the pads they sell in the shoe dept. Or you can go more “extreme” if you need to—I am missing toes and have to use a roll of either one of those soft fluffy slipper socks or the fluffy stuff they place between a plaster cast and your skin to make the difference up. I have a professional (and very expensive!) item made to fill in this area and find I never use it and just stuff the toes to where I need to. On heels this might not work but they do make a mid-shoe pad to GRAB the ball of your foot so it doesn’t slide forwards.

    I had tried using padding at the back of the shoe but that just puts your foot at a weird angle and gives you more problems.

    • Murphy says

      I have heard that the main danger of putting cloth shoes in the dryer is the glue. It can’t stant the heat and the upper and lower parts of the shoe separate. True, a shoe repair shop can reglue if the cotton upper hasn’t lost its shape, but that may not be the low cost solution you are seeking. I’d stick to wearing an extra pair of socks.

  19. Shari' says

    Jillee I have a new pair of tennis shoes I just bought for work (I’m on my feet for eight & a half hours-I clean 2 buildings for our school district)…I love them, hard soles, comfy everywhere except in the toe area. They squish & pinch my pinky toes. I already bought a half size larger than I wear & in wide to try to avoid this but it backfired and I’m bummed. Wonder if the water in the bag would work for them??
    Thank you for all your wonderful tips & emails, love them!! :)

  20. Linda I says

    Fantastic ideas, as usual. Thanks. I have lovely bunions from years in retail and some shoes are just a skosh too snug in one spot. I am going to try this tomorrow when I get home! Incidentally, most people have two different sizes of feet. Imagine if shoe companies recognized this! Horrible for them but great for consumers.

  21. D.L Presley says

    I have heard but have yet to try something else that will swell, and thats dried beans. Fill the bag with the beans and add the water as if you were soaking the bean over night to cook the next day…… ~ This is supposed to work pretty good for the more stove top type boots. (I would also highly recommend the one bag for the stretching contents and another one for any leaks or mistakes!)

  22. Rachel says

    This may be an old wives tale, but I was told that the left side of your body (hand, foot, and even breast, lol) will typically be a touch larger than your right side because your heart is on the left side, so there’s more blood over there and more blood = bigger. It’s not always noticeable but sometimes it is, just depends on the person. But I do seem to notice shoe salespeople offering me the left shoe to try on first when I shoe shop.

    My mom was riding her bike barefoot when she was ten or eleven and caught her right big toe in one of the spokes while popping a wheelie. It broke her toe and her mom didn’t take her to hospital for some reason, so it heeled all crooked so her right foot requires significantly more room in a shoe than her left foot does, so she always has a hard time finding shoes.

  23. says

    Great idea! I have tried the wet the shoe and wear it until it dries method with pretty good results, but this method sounds even better. Going to try this as it is inevitable that at least once a year I will buy a pair of shoes because of how cute they are, even though one or both may be a bit snug.

  24. says

    Jillee what to do with tight shoes? Here in RSA we make the shoe wet with methylated spirits and then put them on with socks(Male) or stocking if you are a lady. The freeze idea will work but it has the danger that your shoe will OVERSTRECH or even tear the uppers and will be destroyed! This will only really work with leather as man-made materials do not always strech

  25. Linda says

    Darn! I literally gave away 10 pairs of shoes last evening :( ..somehow my foot has increased in size for a 9 to a 9 1/2 and that extra 1/2 is the difference between enjoy your shoes and having sore feet. I needed this information yesterday! I will take and file this info for another time.

  26. says

    I’m known by those around me as a common sense solution/problem solver for home & life and this is brilliant. I once worked at Nordstrom and learned from the shoe department shoes can be stretched & how but requires special tools. LUV THIS!!

    Also, when discount shoe shopping (like at DSW) I always look at sizes a bit larger & smaller since a shoe may not sell because the size it is labeled isn’t accurate. I recently got a pair of boots (sale $38 for list $140) in a 7W that fit like the 8 medium I would typically wear. However, this approach has typically worked for me going UP in size not down.

    P.S. To Casey Sliger above – Nordstrom will sell you a pair of shoes for the price of ONE if you are more than 1 size different in both feet.

  27. Bonita Turner says

    Boy, would I love to have a best friend like you. Crazy/creative enough to have lots of fun, but kind and generious to share so many wonderful ways of doing “life”. You help me from going completely crazy in the cornfields of Iowa. Thank you.

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