The breaking-in period with your shoes is a special kind of hurt that often ends in blisters and aches and makes you never want to wear that particular pair ever again. Ugh, but they're so dang cute though! Personally, I feel like this experience always happens more with leather boots, because your whole foot is enclosed and your heel will rub against the back or your toes will feel all scrunched together.
"Gently stretching out your boots could save you a few days of discomfort," says Theresa Ebagua, founder and designer of Chelsea Paris. "If you feel tightness at the toe or the back of your heel, it’s a sure sign your boots need to be stretched out."
But first, what allows leather to stretch?
Ebagua explains that leather is composed of collagen, which encourages elasticity. "Influenced by warmth and pressure, leather’s elastic properties enable us to manipulate the material." You've prob noticed that by wearing the same leather shoes frequently, they'll have that worn-in feel because even walking "generates heat, which softens the leather, and allows the boot to mold to the shape of [your] foot."
Let it be known though, that once your boots are stretched, you can't revert them to their original size. "Leather boots are formed on a last [editor's note: a "last" is a mold that resembles a foot] when produced, making them shaped to size," says Ebagua. "Since the properties of leather are so distinct, the leather won’t contract to make them smaller." Just be wary of that info, so you don't end up with shoes that were once too snug and are now too big.
Some ~stretching~ methods
As described above, simply walking in them over time is one suggestions, but if your feet can't take it there are some other options:
Use wooden shoe trees. These contraptions not only help your shoes retain their shape, but they can expand your shoes a bit because they exert some force on the material. Overall, they also prevent creasing and freshen up your footwear. Wood smells > sweaty smells, any day.
Use a special spray. A spritz of stretch spray can soften the material and then your feet can more easily mold to the boots. In most cases, you'll apply it on the inside of your too-tight shoes, wear a pair of socks, then slide your feet in. You can also opt to spray it, and then use a wooden shoe tree afterwards to help expand it.
Blow dry them. Again, heat is the key to stretch, so wear your boots with some thick socks and gently blow dry them. This will make them less stiff and allow them to fit your feet more comfortably.
Take them to a professional. Ebagua says your local cobbler will have all the machinery to properly expand your boots. You might want to take this route with a pair of $$$ boots if you're worried about messing them up on your own.
Can these same methods work on non-leather boots?
"Most fabrics are delicate, so I always seek the expertise of a local cobbler to avoid compromising the integrity of the material," cautions Ebagua. "Though, if your boots are lined with leather, those methods are transferable." Certain stretch sprays also tout that the effects work on canvas and fabric shoes, but read the directions thoroughly. While it may be worth giving them a try, results aren't guaranteed.
Some leather boots for you to shop! You know you want to...
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