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How To Stretch Shoes Wider For Bunion Relief

If you suffer from bunions, you know just how uncomfortable they can be. That pain can be exacerbated by shoes that are too narrow in the toe box. This is a problem especially with dress shoes (for women and men both), but running shoes can also cause problems. Stretching out your shoes to make them wider can help you gain some much-needed relief. In this article, we’ll cover different ways you can do that.

If you don’t want to spend money on specially designed bunion shoes, you can use these tips and tricks to make your current shoes more forgiving on your bunions.

1. Use a Shoe Stretching Kit

If DIY isn’t your thing, you might consider purchasing a professional shoe stretching kit. They go for between $25 and $50, but you’ll have the tools you need to stretch your shoes.

Typically, these kits come with a spray that you use before inserting the shoe stretcher into your shoe. The spray is necessary to loosen up the fibers. Without that important prep step, the stretching will be less effective.

After you insert the stretcher, twist the widening handle to stretch and expand your shoe. Keep it in for 24 hours before trying on your shoes to gauge the new fit.

If you have a lot of shoes you want to stretch, a shoe stretching kit makes a great deal of sense. You’ll also want to double-check that you’re getting a kit that is designed for stretching shoes for bunion relief.

Shoe stretching kits will always expand your shoes, but it might not be in the right areas if you have bunions. Make sure that you get one with bunion plugs so that you can make the top of the toe box where your bunion sits more comfortable.

2. Freeze Overnight

If you have a bag and a freezer, this is an easy way to stretch your shoes. Stuff a large zip-lock bag filled with water inside your shoe. Freeze the shoe and the water overnight.

Water expands as it freezes, which will stretch out your shoes. When you take your shoes in the morning, remove the bag and then let them dry for 30 minutes before trying them on.

One point of detail: this only works well if the shoes is really filled up with water. Make sure you top the bag off enough so that it will actually provide an expansive force on the shoe.

3. Wear Thick Socks

This might be an uncomfortable option for some, but it’s an easy way to stretch your shoes. Simply wear thick socks with your shoes for an hour at a time. Your shoes will gradually loosen and be more comfortable with your bunions.

4. Spray With Rubbing Alcohol

You’ll want to check this technique on an unseen area first to make sure that you avoid damage and discoloration to your shoes. You might also want to try this on an old pair of shoes first to see your results.

The process: simply mix equal parts water and rubbing alcohol, and spray (or rub) it on your shoes. Try your shoes on immediately after you’ve sprayed them to see how the fit is. If it’s still too tight, you can repeat the process.

You’ll want to make sure, though, that you go easy on the rubbing alcohol spray, as too much could damage your shoes. If you have shoes with natural fabrics, this is a great option.

5. Use Wet Newspaper (or a Potato!)

Like the freezer option, take a wet newspaper that can fill the inside of your shoes or a large potato (that you’ve peeled) and insert it into your shoes. Leave the setup overnight and try on the shoes in the mornings to see if they are stretched out and more comfortable.

If it’s still a little tight the next morning, allow your shoes to sit with the wet newspaper or potato in them for another day and that should stretch them out enough so that it’s comfortable for you again.

6. Use a Spoon to Soften Fabric

If you want to have shoes stretched like Queen Elizabeth, you should use a spoon to soften the fabric, which you can then stretch. Her personal stylist, Stewart Pavin, uses a spoon strap and stretches the Queen’s shoes with the back of a spoon.

It’s helpful to have a strap so that you don’t have to grip the spoon so tightly. All you have to do is use the back of the spoon to press furiously in areas that rub your feet. 

It’s important to remember, though, that this method is gradual, so don’t expect immediate results. Just keep working at it!

Other Tips for Bunion Relief From Shoes

If you’ve tried all of these techniques and none have worked, don’t worry. There are other things you can do. Here are two more good options.

Change The Lacing on Your Shoes

First, you can try changing the lacing on your shoes. You can also use this technique in conjunction with stretching your shoes if you’d like. 

I’d personally recommend starting with changing the lacing, because that might solve your problem. You can always move on to other options if that doesn’t work. At least you did the easiest thing first. 

The bunion step-over technique is a lacing pattern developed specifically to help with bunion pain. If you need more specific directions, if you have a notably wide foot or narrow foot and need to account for a bunion, check out these lacing techniques

Buy New Shoes With a Wide Toe Box

If all else fails, of course another option is to buy new shoes that have a wide toe box. Pick shoes that are known for their roomy toe boxes like Altra. You also might want to look at the stitching on the shoe.

It will be particularly uncomfortable for you to have stitching over a bunion. A shoe with a mesh fabric will be more comfortable because it’s more forgiving. If you have a stretchy and roomy upper, you will stay more comfortable when you walk and run with bunions.

If you’re still having problems finding shoes that are comfortable, check out a specialty brand that is more likely to have shoes for people with bunions. And you could always purchase men’s athletic shoes if you’re a female with wide feet and bunions.

One final tip: shop for shoes later in the day. That’s when your foot swells, and you’ll get the most accurate fit. It will be prime time for you to discover if a particular shoe irritates your bunion.

Final Thoughts

Although it is annoying to deal with bunions, you can make your shoes more comfortable by stretching them out and even lacing them differently. Try one of the techniques that most appeals to you and give it time. Those shoes will get more comfortable!

Rachel Basinger
The Wired Runner