While you have purchased a new set of shoes, fitting into them can be a task especially if they are narrow. And if they are made of suede, then the challenge increases ten folds as suede is known to be the most finicky material of all in terms of stretching. Little does everyone know, that suede possesses some natural elasticity which when used right, can work in your favour.
You can consider stretching suede shoes but going overboard with stretching can spoil the fabric and the overall quality of the shoes. If you are worried about going wrong with stretching your finest pair of suede shoes, then we are here to help you stretch it right so you can fit into your classy suede shoes with perfection.
Can you stretch suede?
Suede is a type of leather, that is thin as well as soft and stretches better than leather as it is made of real animal skin. It contours very well to the actual shape of your feet. Suede can be stretched naturally. While the material may look very delicate, it is fairly easy to get in a pair of suede shoes due to its soft texture and shape.
However, if the suede shoes are very narrow, it may give you a hard time if you want to fit into them. You may need to be patient as stretching suede naturally can take time. But, if you want quick results, you can consider stretching them carefully with our tips mentioned below.
Difference between stretching suede and leather
While leather might look stiff and non-elastic, it becomes difficult to stretch it and you may have to wait for the leather to start wearing out before it actually contours to the shape of your feet. However, that is not the case with suede as you can go fairly easy on the material. Suede is a lightweight form of leather and turns out, is thinner than leather.
Therefore, it has more flexibility as compared to leather material. While it is thin, it may not be as durable and hence requires greater care and maintenance. But being thin, it is also versatile in terms of design and you may find a large variety of suede shoes upon searching or buying online. And since it is far more stretchable than actual leather, the variety is endless.
How to Stretch Suede Shoes Wider (Detailed Guide)
Now that we know about the basic properties of suede, here are some tips for you to try to stretch your suede shoes wider:
Use a spray solution
There are various spray solutions specifically available for shoes, that condition the surface as well as make sure that the shoes remain safe and can soften to stretch further. If it is only by a few inches that you want to spread your shoes, then a spray solution always works. It is the most convenient and cost-effective option as well.
Use Suede sprays
There are specific suede shoe sprays available that make sure to take care of the fabric and do not contain any harsh chemicals that can spoil the shoes. They help in immediate stretching and get absorbed very easily. It is also considered to be a great alternative to the stretching tool.
Spray on the insides of the shoe
If the insides of the suede shoes feel too crammy, you can also spray some mild amounts of spray on the insides of the shoe. Use a soft cloth or your fingers and gently run in the nooks and corners for the spray to reach every surface of the shoe. Make sure to read the instructions carefully before you apply the spray solution.
Tip: Make sure to check for the material and the type of insole that your shoe has. Certain soles that are made of plastic and hard rubber are tough to crack and do not give in easily when it comes to widening them. Therefore, you may want to think before trying to widening them either by using a spray or a stretcher.
Read the label of contents of the spray bottle very carefully. Certain chemicals and substances can affect the texture and the color of the shoes. You do not want to spoil your favorite pair due to a shoe spray.
Use a Shoe Stretcher
There are various types of shoe stretchers available based on how much you want to widen the shoes and at the same time the area of the shoes you want to target for widening. From stretching the shaft to even the toe region, you can choose one based on your needs.
Shoe stretchers also come with multiple attachments that work for different sections of the shoe.
It would always be helpful if you spray a shoe stretching solution before using a shoe stretcher as it softens the fabric and makes it easier to widen the shoe. You can also leave the spray on the shoe surface overnight and accordingly use a stretcher the next morning.
You can then insert the shoe stretcher and slowly rotate the handle clockwise until it fits snugly inside the shoe. If your budget allows, you can buy two stretchers for both your shoes, else you can stretch one shoe at a time.
Once the handle starts feeling tight after inserting, you can rotate it an additional 3-4 times to stretch the shoe.
Keep it inside for 24 hours and rotate the handle counterclockwise to remove the stretcher. If the stretch seems appropriate after wearing, repeat the same procedure for the second shoe.
Tip: You may want to use a shoe stretcher very carefully and if you want to widen the suede shoes by only a few inches, then do not place the stretcher in the shoes for very long. Avoid using shoe stretchers for extremely narrow shoes or even sandals as it can cause them to tear if the material is not strong as well as change the shape of the shoe permanently.
Insert a Toe Block
Toe block is like a wooden block piece that you can insert in the toe box of the shoe to make them wider. Simply place and push the toe block inside the toe region of the suede shoe and it makes it more roomy and spacious for your toes to not feel cramped up inside the shoes.
Since suede has better stretch and elastic properties than leather or any other material, it will barely take a day to get the right amount of stretch. You can also use a shoe spray additionally to aid in the stretching and keep the shoe protected.
Alternatives: If you do not have a toe block handy, you can consider pushing in socks stuffed with newspapers of waste potato peels in the toe section of the shoe. It will give you the same results more or less.
Wear thick socks
This has always been a tried and tested trick and works as great protection against shoe bites and friction. Thick socks make your feet size larger which widens the shoes automatically while also keeping your feet protected against the new and rough, unused fabric of the shoes.
It is also effective for people who have bunions or corns and calluses on their feet. Socks are also good if the insoles of the shoes are hard on your feet.
Use the shoes often
Wearing the shoes constantly allows the shoes to adjust and contour to the shape of your feet. Especially with suede shoes, the material has a natural stretch which enhances the shoes to mold as per the shape of your feet.
However, if the shoes have a narrow fitting, it may cause your feet to feel cramped up after hours of use, which is why you can practice wearing them at home before using them for work or any other location outside of the home. If comfortable, always carry a spare set of shoes to replace the new ones with the old pair if the shoes start hurting.
Moreover, stretching the shoes as per your feet size naturally is the safest and natural way to widen the shoes without harming the material or the design by other methods.
Heating with a hairdryer
While heating with a hairdryer is not a very highly recommended trick, you can try this if you need immediate results, especially in colder areas. Make sure to condition the shoes first with a leather or suede-specific conditioner to not wick away the natural moisture of the shoes.
If the shoes feel very dry, apply some conditioner after heating with a hairdryer and make sure to be gentle with the drying. Do not prolong the healing process or keep the dryer level at max as it may spoil the fabric and make it extremely dry.
Tip: While heating may help to a certain extent, keeping the suede shoes near a heater or fireplace will only worsen the material and quality of the shoes. This method is best avoided. Rather, you can choose sunlight over such alternatives as it heats the shoes only gently and is effective especially in the summers.
Rubbing alcohol spray
Apart from natural suede sprays and leather sprays, alcohol is also a handy option for stretching your suede shoes. Simply prepare a solution of alcohol with water and pour it into a spray bottle to use in gentle amounts. Spray it specifically on the areas that require stretching.
Use a thick pair of socks with the shoes and wear them about the house. Stretch the specific areas that require widening and spreading. Do not keep the alcohol concentration strong as it may cause discolouration or unwanted reactions on the shoe surface.
Stretching in the freezer
This might be considered a very risky method but can be quite helpful due to the naturally expansive nature of water when it freezes. Simply take a zip bag or plastic bag, fill it with some water and stuff it inside your pair of shoes.
Keep the shoes along with the bag in the freezer and allow it to stay overnight or for a few hours depending on the amount of stretching that you need. If it stretches way more than what you need, then the shoes have been spoilt else, if it stretches in control, you get your newest comfortable pair of suede shoes, wide and stretched!!
Consult a Cobbler
A cobbler understands your shoes more than you do. If you do not want to risk spoiling the quality of your shoes, you can always take your shoes to a cobbler and he can suggest some ways out. While he may also use a stretcher or a few more professional tools, they are good at using the tools correctly and know-how appropriately the shoe needs to stretch as per the width of your feet.
Remember: Suede stretches with time
While we have suggested the above measures of stretching suede shoes, you may still want to play safe and wait for the suede to naturally flex out. Regular wearing will allow the shoes to naturally contour to the shape of your feet and adjust to your walking pattern to give you snug-fitting.
If you feel that it has spread enough and you do not want to widen them anymore, you can always use a spray protectant to stop it from getting wider. In the end, the shoes should be of ideal size, neither too tight nor too loose to cause discomfort.
Factors to consider before stretching suede shoes
Now that you have known how to stretch suede shoes, the question lies, are they really stretch friendly? As a layman, you may not be able to figure it out. Here is how we can help:
Layers & Lining
If there is a single suede lining over the shoe, then it is fairly easy to stretch it, but the more the layers, the more the strength, and the greater the difficulty to stretch the shoes. If the material seems too thick or has multiple layers, you may simply want to get it replaced if they are new or consider taking them to a cobbler for repair.
If you have purchased a pair of suede shoes from a reliable brand and want to loosen it by a few inches, then you can take the risk of widening the shoes, else do not risk with tampering the shoes and consult a specialist.
If the upper layer has some additional stitching that extends to the entire shoe design, then the stretching can harm the design and cause the stitches to spread. Especially if there are straps or intricate designs and stitches, then the shoes can wear out, and hence, you don’t want to consider stretching them.
Time for stretching
If you are patient enough and resistant to a few blisters and shoe bites, then you can wait for the shoes to stretch naturally. However, depending upon the strength and quality of the material, you can choose the quicker and faster methods above to stretch the shoes in no time.
Be ready to compromise on any of the following factors if you want to stretch your suede shoes wider:
- Looks of the shoes and the shoe design
- Weakening of material
- Waste of time and money if the shoes don’t give in
- Compromised fitting if the stretching goes wrong
Taking Care of Suede Shoes
Suede is not like any regular pair of shoes and hence needs special care when it comes to suede maintenance. Here is what you can do to make the suede shoes last longer:
Use an eraser to remove stains from suede
Suede does not need water or excessive rubbing to remove any stains or dirt on the surface. All you can do is use an eraser and gently rub it over the entire surface of the shoes. This not only softens the surface but also removes any stain and dirt.
After rubbing with an eraser, you can move a brush over the surface of the shoe. Use a suede brush specifically meant for suede shoes with finer bristles. This also removes the eraser particles off the shoe and softens the surface.
Spray protectants are always helpful to maintain the quality of the shoes. Make sure to use gentle sprays and not go overboard with quantity. Keep the shoes at least 1 foot away from the spray nozzle for the particles to spread gently and evenly on the surface.
The bottom line
Suede shoes look very smooth and stylish and are very different from any usual pair of leather shoes. However, stretching them is fairly easy than any other material if done correctly. Suede has natural stretch and elastic properties.
Additionally, the shoes wear out with time easily to contour to the shape of your feet due to their natural memory foam properties. Suede does not require excessive maintenance either. However, you need to be careful while stretching them as going overboard can spoil the surface and may even rip off the material or design.
Read our tips to stretch and widen your suede shoes safely and tell us which trick worked best for you in the comments section below.
Brandon R. Katz is a registered professional nurse who has been instrumental in providing us with an informed opinion on the medical aspects of footwear. He graduated from NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and currently provides his services at a non-federal long-term care hospital in Brooklyn, NY.
Brandon proves to be the champion in the group of expert writers with his in-depth knowledge in foot health, how to take care of it adequately, and what shoes, socks, or insoles will be supreme for you. He has previously worked with hospitals where he has foreseen both inpatient and outpatient departments and has been a practicing nurse since 2009.
Brandon hails from Jersey City, NY, and has a loving family of four with a small popper called Rozo. His decision to become a nurse arises from the desire to be in the position of helping and rehabilitating people.