Shoe Care & Comfort

How to Stretch Shoes for Bunions

Having a pair of shoes that fit too tightly can be a problem for several reasons. The most obvious issue is that they are usually uncomfortable. This can lead to pain and aching feet by the end of the day. But, an even bigger problem is the foot conditions tight shoes can create. These include things like hammer toe and bunions.

A bunion is a bump at the base of the big toe. It is often extremely painful and can make it difficult to put pressure on your feet or walk. While many times, they occur because of genetics, external factors can cause them.

Foot problems can start at any age, but they are most common in early adulthood as your feet start to change. Women are more likely to get bunions than men. This is mostly because women typically wear tighter shoes and high heels that can cause this painful foot condition.

If you don’t have a predisposition to this painful foot problem, why create one with ill-fitted shoes? The good news is that there are ways to make your footwear more comfortable and save yourself from painful problems in the process.

How Can I Stretch My Shoes to Prevent Bunions?

This article will focus on several different ways to stretch different types of shoes safely. It may not be as simple as adding width or length, depending on where your feet are rubbing against the material. By following some of the useful tips listed here, you can lower your risk of developing painful bunions and other foot conditions.

First, we’ll cover the symptoms of a bunion, and what to look for if you think you may already have one. Any foot conditions like blisters, calluses, or even toenail fungus should be taken seriously. Many times, it can start with how well your shoes fit and how much room your feet have to ‘breathe.’

What Are the Symptoms of a Bunion?

How can you be sure if you have a bunion in the first place? The best way is to know what they look like and where they will be located on the foot. Bunions will form at a joint where the toe bends. If you look down at your feet and notice a ‘bump’ that looks rather bony on your big toe, it could very well be a bunion.

Bunions can sometimes turn red or hurt when you touch them. But, the biggest pain comes from something as simple as walking. The bump forms on the joint of your toe, and all your weight gets added to it whenever you press down. This can make it difficult to take a step on that foot.

Not only are these bumps painful on their own, but they can cause other conditions to form, such as calluses. This is even more common if you have tight shoes since the skin can rub up against the material of the shoe easier.

If bunions become severe and extremely painful, surgery may be required to remove them. Otherwise, you may need to wear bunion pads or special orthopedic shoes. However, if you catch it early enough, making sure your shoes fit properly and are not too tight can help to alleviate the pain and get rid of the problem.

How to Use a Shoe Stretcher

One of the easiest ways to expand your shoes is with a quality, durable shoe stretcher. Shoe stretchers are designed to extend the length or width of your shoe. Some stretchers will do both, like the Foot Fitter 2-Way Premium Shoe Stretcher. This particular shoe stretcher is engineered with German beech wood and stainless steel. It’s important to choose a stretcher that is strong, so it will work for years.

To use a shoe stretcher with bunion knobs, slip the device into whichever shoe is too tight. If you’re adjusting both length and width, turn the dials or knobs bit by bit, until you achieve the proper stretch. Leave the stretching device in your shoe overnight. In the morning, you should notice that your feet have more room within the shoe itself.

To make the stretching device even more effective, it is recommended that you use a liquid stretching spray. One of the best stretching sprays on the market is the Kiwi SELECT Universal Shoe Stretch spray.

To use, simply hold the spray 6-8 inches from the shoe and spray directly into it. You don’t need to saturate the inside of the shoe. A few quick sprays of the liquid will be sufficient. From there, insert the shoe stretcher. The stretching spray will help to soften the material of your shoes and allow the stretching device to have even more of an impact.

With the Kiwi spray, you can also just use your feet to stretch out the shoes. Spray the liquid into the pair that is too tight, and insert your feet. Within a matter of hours, the shoes will conform to your feet and create a comfortable, custom fit.

Do Stretchers Really Help with Bunions?

The best shoe stretching devices, like the one by FootFitter, are designed to give your feet more room wherever it’s needed most. Sometimes a little extra room isn’t always limited to just the toe or heel. If your feet are rubbing against the inside of your shoes near the toe, on the sides, you may need a little extra ‘stretching’ help.

Look for stretching devices that contain bunion plugs. These are small plug specifically designed to help with and prevent bunions from happening due to tight footwear. In most cases, you can put several of these plugs into pre-made holes on the sides of a shoe stretcher. Then, insert them into the shoes as you would before. The bunion plugs will provide a little extra room where it’s needed most. You can place them wherever you’re experiencing extra tightness, so they are easily customizable for your specific fit.

Can Every Type of Shoe Be Stretched?

Whether you use a shoe stretcher or just the liquid itself, most are designed to work on certain materials only. The Kiwi spray is considered to be a ‘universal’ liquid. That means it works on more materials than many others. But, the most common materials for stretching are:

  • Leather
  • Suede
  • Nu-buck
  • Reptile skin

Man-made materials don’t often expand well. For example, if you have a pair of sneakers that are too tight, you may not get the same effective stretch from a device or spray as you would with a leather dress shoe. In many cases with canvas or synthetic shoes, it’s best to buy a larger pair.

Can I Expand My Shoes at Home?

If you don’t want to use a stretching device, there are dozens of ‘home remedies’ for stretching out your shoes. If you do choose a DIY method, we still recommend using a stretching spray, if possible. It will help to soften the material of your shoes enough to make these methods even more effective. Otherwise, they may take longer to work.

  1. Wear thick socks: One of the easiest ways to expand your shoes is to walk around in them while wearing thick socks. The socks will help to protect your feet from bunions or calluses while you walk. The thickness will help to stretch the shoe out just enough so you can eventually wear them comfortably with your bare feet or thinner socks.
  2. Use heat: To help soften the material on your shoes, use a hair dryer while you’re wearing them. Heat the tight areas with the dryer on low, and move your toes back and forth to ‘bend’ the material. Be careful not to use too much heat, or you may affect the stitching.
  3. Use ice: One of the most tried and true home methods for shoe stretching is filling your shoes with bags of water and freezing them. The water will expand as it freezes. This will give your shoe just a bit of extra wiggle room for your feet. If you choose to use this method, be sure the bags are sealed tightly. Getting certain materials (like leather) moist can tarnish the way your shoes look.

Add more room to your shoes for bunions

Can Other Foot Conditions Be Prevented?

Almost no condition is 100% preventable all the time. But, wearing shoes that fit properly can significantly lower your risk for different foot and toe problems. Aside from bunions, the most common are:

  • Hammer toe: This is a condition in which your toe has an abnormal bend in the middle joint. In most cases, it’s a deformity. But, it can be caused by shoes that are too tight, pushing the toes against each other consistently.
  • Calluses: Calluses are thick and hard areas of skin. They are caused on the foot by excessive rubbing and friction. If your skin consistently rubs against the inside of your shoe, a callus or corn may form. Calluses and bunions tend to go hand-in-hand.
  • Toenail fungus: Shoes that are too small usually don’t give your toes a chance to breathe. This can cause your feet to perspire more than usual. Fungal infections love warm, moist, dark environments. A tight shoe is a great place for a fungus to develop. If it does, more drastic treatment measures may be required to get rid of it.

As you can see, it’s not just bunions you have to worry about with shoes that are too tight. Many of these conditions are painful, embarrassing, and can be hard to get rid of if you let them go too long. If you have shoes that are too small, stretching them out to fit properly can save you from a lot of discomforts in more ways than one.

It’s important to ‘catch’ a bunion as soon as possible. The sooner you recognize it for what it is, the sooner you can do something about it. Many times, treating it is as simple as adjusting the overall fit of your shoes.

Adjusting the way your shoes fit doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy a new pair. Shoe stretching devices and techniques work on brand new shoes, as well as footwear you may have had for years. Not only can these techniques help to save you from foot conditions, but they can save you money, too!

You can lower your risk of bunions and other foot conditions by following these tips and product suggestions. With so many quality products available, such as the Foot Fitter 2-Way Premium Shoe Stretcher, no one should have to live with tight, uncomfortable shoes.