Crafted in durable beech wood. Offers width and length stretching. 14 holes for targeting areas that cause foot discomfort. Includes 3 spot relief plugs. Comes with instructional booklet.
Some size inconsistencies reported. You only get one. Expensive.
Long handle and toe block. Made from beech wood. Stretcher works for most men's and women's boots. Stretches length and width. Includes 3 spot relief plugs. Includes instructions.
Unisex, but runs large. Doesn't fit small or narrow boots. Not recommended for cowboy boots – best suited for work and hiking styles.
Exceptional deal. Comes in a pair. Sturdy. Stretches length and width. 10 spot relief plugs. Includes handy carrying bag. Available in several sizes for men's and women's shoes.
Not as durable as wooden competitors. Quality control issues: missing components and stretchers with irregularities.
2-way shoe stretcher. Wooden toe block. 4 spot relief plugs. Budget-friendly price. Available in several size options.
Basic model. Metal components feel flimsy. Some users didn't notice much difference after using it. Sizes run small.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Sometimes old technology works best, and that is the case with the shoe stretcher, a device that has been around as long as ready-to-wear shoes have been on store shelves. The shoe stretcher does just what it says: it stretches shoes, using even, consistent force to stretch leather or fabric material in specific spots on a shoe.
Shoe stretchers are gaining popularity, in part thanks to the increased demand for classic shoe styles made with high-quality materials. These materials are long-lasting, but breaking them in can be uncomfortable. Certain materials, like patent leather, can wrinkle and crease when breaking them in; a shoe stretcher can prevent or reduce these cosmetic flaws.
The different types of shoe stretchers can throw a wrench into the buying process. Which shoe stretcher would properly shape your shoe to fit your foot? Read our buying guide to gain insight into these useful devices, pick up a few tips on using them, and determine which type of shoe stretcher would fit your needs just right.
Shoe stretchers do a great job of creating a near-perfect fit for most people. There are a few things to know as you look over the available models.
There are two main types of shoe stretcher: one-way and two-way. A one-way model will stretch shoes either lengthwise or widthwise, while a two-way device stretches lengthwise and widthwise. Subtypes are available that stretch specific parts of the shoe, like the mid-arch or instep. These may be advertised as “three-way” or “four-way” stretchers, but they’re usually just minor variations on a standard two-way stretcher.
A shoe stretcher can only push shoes up at most one size. Stretching any farther than that may permanently damage the shoe material. A stretcher’s purpose is to slightly stretch a shoe’s upper section to increase foot comfort. For example, a person with a bunion, which tends to cause the joint of the big toe to jut outward, may need to adjust the shoe material at that spot to accommodate the shape of their foot.
To get the best fit, purchase shoes that fit as well as possible at the toe, heel, and ball of the foot. Use a shoe stretcher to perfect the fit.
Natural materials respond best to shoe stretchers. Canvas and leather will hold the stretched shape. You can stretch many synthetic materials, like polyurethane, but these tend to revert back to their original shape over time and must be restretched.
Specialized stretchers are available for boots and high-heeled shoes. These specialized stretchers are sized and shaped to the contours of these types of footwear.
Stretch out shoes very slowly, starting with an initial stretch time of about six to eight hours and then turning the adjustment handle/knob to the next level to increase the pressure and amount of stretch.
Stretching plugs are offered in various rounded shapes, from circular to oblong. Match these shapes to the unique contours of your feet to get the best fit from a stretching process.
Shoe stretchers appear to be simple devices at first, but they can get pretty complicated, especially if the user needs to tackle points in the shoe that cause hot spots (places that rub against the foot as you walk). Shoe stretchers typically have a handle that makes it easier to insert the stretcher and controls the stretching force.
Toe block: The most recognizable section of a shoe stretcher, the toe block is a sturdy piece of wood or plastic that resembles the shape of a shoe’s interior. Depending on the type of stretcher, this block may be a single piece, or split into two pieces that push apart to stretch the sides of the shoe.
Heel block: The heel block is a solid piece of wood or other sturdy material that fits into the heel of the shoe and holds the toe block in place.
Lengthening wheel or handle: The lengthening handle or wheel, when turned, increases or decreases the distance between the heel block and toe block. This helps stretch the shoe lengthwise.
Widening wheel or handle: When turned, this wheel or handle increases or decreases the distance between the two halves of the toe block (in a two-way or widening shoe stretcher).
Stretching plugs: These are the specialists of the shoe-stretching operation. When placed in pre-drilled stretching-plug slots, a stretching plug puts pressure against a specific spot within the shoe during the stretching process. This widens the space around parts of the foot that commonly suffer “hot spots” or blistering.
Stretching-plug slots: These are pre-drilled holes in the toe block (and sometimes the heel block) where stretching plugs can be placed.
Not all shoe stretchers have this exact configuration. For smaller shoe styles, spring-loaded stretchers that double as shoe trees are available.
Two-way stretchers can simultaneously stretch shoes lengthwise and widthwise. They can also selectively stretch either length or width alone.
The least expensive shoe stretchers are about $10 to $15, and the quality of their build and accessories tends to reflect that price point. More choices, like the build material of shoe stretchers and the quantity and shape of stretching plugs, are available in the $15 to $30 price range. Premium shoe stretchers made of hardwoods with lots of shaping and stretching plugs can be found for $30 to $50.
We were impressed by the Jaro Vega Shoe Stretcher, which provides two-way stretching for heels as high as 4 to 9 inches. The Echodone Cedar Shoe Tree/Stretcher offered an interesting value proposition as users can store their shoes on it after stretching them. And for those whose bunions are driving them crazy, the FootFitter Bunion Shoe Stretcher may be just the single-purpose stretcher they need.
Q. I have high-heeled shoes and pumps that I want to stretch a bit. Can I use the same shoe stretcher on both types?
A. If the heels are less than about 3 inches in height, you may be able to use the same shoe stretcher. However, if some of your shoes have heels greater than 3 inches high, you’ll need to purchase a shoe stretcher specifically for these higher heels. That’s because the angle of the toe block is steeper to accommodate the steeper angle of high heels.
Q. I want to stretch a couple of pairs of work shoes made with synthetic leather. How can I keep the material from returning to its original shape?A. After stretching the material, store the shoes on shoe trees when you’re not using them. These are available in different configurations — you can purchase a storage rack with the trees standing straight up or buy pairs of shoe trees that slip into your shoes. These will help maintain the new shape for a longer period. They’re also great for ensuring natural materials hold their shape after they get wet.
Q. Should I pretreat my shoes with a shoe stretch spray before stretching them?
A. Many shoe stretcher manufacturers recommend doing so (and, not coincidentally, happen to sell these sprays or even bundle them with their stretchers). Typically, stretch spray is applied to the inside of the shoe and allowed to sit for a few minutes before starting the stretching process. Just be sure to read the instructions before using the spray to make sure that the shoe material won’t be damaged by the pretreatment. Be especially cautious with softer leather, suede shoes, and thin materials, as a spray might soak through and stain the outside.
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