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Creative Ways to Stretch Leather Shoes
Leather shoes can be stretched with do-it-yourself methods at home. One method involves freezing Ziploc bags of water that are placed in areas of the shoe you want stretched. Another method uses a rubbing alcohol solution to stretch the shoes.
Fill each bag 1/3 full of water from the tap. Be sure to seal the bags completely! Now place each bag in the area of the shoe you want to stretch. Most often this is the forefront of the shoe, or the toe-box. You want to make sure that the bag fills up all the excess space. Add more water, if necessary. If the shoe has an open toe, pull the bag slightly through the toe so that it just pokes out the other side.
Once the bags are in place, you can pop your shoes into the freezer. Allow the water to freeze completely so that each bag is full of ice. Water, as you may remember from your elementary school science class, expands when frozen. The expansion of the water molecules will permanently stretch the leather of your shoes. You can try this approach with faux-leather shoes but the results will rarely be permanent.
Once the bags are frozen solid, remove the shoes and let them thaw for 20 minutes. (This will make it easier to remove the plastic bags.) Wipe off excess water on the shoes, and try the shoes on for size. This method of stretching should be able to increase shoe size by a half to a full size.
Another do-it-yourself method for shoe stretching involves a spray-on mixture of rubbing alcohol and water. Start by mixing one part isopropyl rubbing alcohol with three parts water. Pour this mixture into a spray bottle, and spray the mixture on areas of the shoe that feel tight. Slip the shoes on and wear them around the house until the alcohol mixture dries. This method results in minimal stretching, but, unlike the ice method, it offers a custom fit.
No matter which approach you decide to take, it is a good idea to treat your leather shoes with a leather moisturizer. You want the leather to be extra-soft and supple so that it will not crack when stretched. Some people treat their leather shoes with a basic conditioner such as Vaseline or saddle soap, but you can also purchase sophisticated leather-specific products at most shoe stores. Professional cobblers use a “shoe stretching” spray before stretching leather shoes with a machine. Whatever product you decide to use, softening your leather shoes before you stretch them will give you better results.