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What is the best shoe stretcher?

Buying new shoes can be rewarding. The fresh style and cushioning keep your feet comfortable and looking good. Breaking in new shoes can be challenging, though. Narrow toes, pressure points and firm materials such as suede and leather can make the early weeks of wearing new shoes uncomfortable, even painful. 

New shoes need to be stretched to better accommodate your feet and make it easier to put on and take off. Shoe stretchers have been around for a long time and make new shoes comfortable and painless. They apply consistent pressure to stretch shoes and keep patent leather from cracking if stretched too quickly.

For its stellar reputation and ability to accommodate both men’s and women’s sizes, the FootFitter Premium Professional Two-Way Shoe Stretcher is the the best available.

What to know before you buy a shoe stretcher

What are one-way and two-way stretchers?

One-way shoe stretchers stretch shoes in one direction — either the length or width of the shoe. Two-way stretchers can stretch the shoe in both directions, offering greater impact. Some stretchers claim to stretch three or four ways by focusing on the midsole or instep, but they really are modified two-way stretchers with different points of emphasis.

What shoe materials work best with stretchers?

Natural materials such as canvas, suede and leather work best with stretchers because they tend to hold the new shape the stretcher pushes out. Polyurethane and other synthetic materials also can be stretched, but they may need to be stretched again since they tend to lose their shape over time.

What kind of shoes work with a stretcher?

All kinds of shoes works with stretchers, but each type has a stretcher designed for that size and shape. A stretcher for flats or heels won’t work in boots, just as a loafer stretcher isn’t intended for industrial work shoes. Make sure your stretcher matches the type of shoe you want to stretch.

How much can a stretcher stretch a shoe?

Stretchers are meant to stretch a shoe slightly to increase comfort and address problem areas. If you stretch a shoe beyond one additional size, it could damage the shoe. 

When you first use a stretcher, try to limit the stretching to small increments, such as overnight. You can see how much stretching occurs in that time frame before deciding whether a 24- or 48-hour stretching period is required.

What to look for in a quality shoe stretcher

Toe block

This end part of the stretcher is designed like the inside of the shoe and pushed deep inside to the toe area. It can stretch the toe of the shoe one or two ways depending on the type of stretcher.

Heel block

The solid heel block is placed in the back of the shoe to hold the toe block steady while it stretches the front of the shoe.

Lengthening and widening wheels

The wheels or handles are the mechanisms that expand the toe and heel blocks. They can expand the shoe in both directions and should use the tension recommended by the manufacturer.

Stretching plugs

Stretching plugs are an important accessory. They can be placed in pre-drilled holes on the toe or heel block to address problem areas where blistering or rubbing is occurring. The plugs help that area of the shoe expand even more to give that part of the foot more space.

How much you can expect to spend on a shoe stretcher

For $10-$15, you can get basic stretchers with limited accessories. Stretchers with plugs are $15-$30, while premium ones made from hardwood with multiple plugs cost $30-$60.

Shoe stretcher FAQ

Does a shoe tree help stretch shoes?

A. Shoe trees do not stretch shoes, but they do play an important role in the process. Shoe stretchers stretch the shoe material, but a quality shoe tree can help hold the newly stretched shape in place.

Can shoe stretchers damage shoes?

A. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using a shoe stretcher. The type of material being stretched and the length of time the stretcher is in use are important.  The placement of the stretching plugs also can affect the final results. Stretching too long or with too much pressure can permanently change the shoe’s composition.

What’s the best shoe stretcher to buy?                      

Top shoe stretcher

FootFitter Premium Professional Two-Way Shoes Stretcher

FootFitter Premium Professional Two-Way Shoe Stretcher

What you need to know: It’s solidly crafted and works with sizes for both men’s and women’s shoes.

What you’ll love: Made from beech wood, it’s designed to last. It provides two-way stretching and has three relief plugs. The stretcher has 14 holes that can be used to target problem areas. An instructional book is included.

What you should consider: It comes with only one stretcher and is more expensive than most other stretchers.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top shoe stretcher for the money

Miserwe Premium Two-Way Shoe Stretcher

Miserwe Premium Two-Way Shoe Stretchers

What you need to know: This affordable pair of stretchers can be used on both shoes at the same time.

What you’ll love: Available in multiple sizes, they’re made from polyurethane plastic with a steel shaft. There are eight bunion and two high pad plugs. They come with a convenient carrying bag.

What you should consider: They’re not as durable as wooden stretchers.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

XYH Women's Premium Shoe Stretcher

XYH Women’s Premium Shoe Stretchers

What you need to know: These stretchers are a favorite for their consistent stretching pressure and stylish look.

What you’ll love: Designed for smaller women’s sizes — 5.5 to 10 — these are excellent at stretching shoes. They have 10 spot relief plugs and stretch both the length and width of the shoe. They’re made in designer pink with heart-shaped hooks.

What you should consider: They are limited in the number of sizes they are built for.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Steve Ganger writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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