Do you have a pair of leather shoes that are just a little too snug? I'm going to show you how to stretch leather shoes, like Tieks ballet flats, so you can really enjoy wearing them. I'm going to talk specifically about Tieks, but these methods should work on most leather shoes for men and women.
One thing I love about leather shoes is their ability to mold to your feet. This is especially true of my favorite ballet flats, Tieks. As I mentioned in my full Tieks review, the soft and supple leather forms perfectly to my feet and I can wear them all day. I've been quite lucky with Tieks because almost every pair has fit me beautifully right out of the box (and I have a LOT of Tieks shoes so you should definitely check out my collection if you're trying to decide on a color), but I know some people that are in-between sizes can struggle to find their perfect pair.
I'm an 8.5 in most shoes and a size 9 in athletic shoes, and I always wear a size 9 in Tieks. I've tried a size 8 in the past and felt like they might be able to work if I stretched them, but the 9 usually feels glorious. Since Tieks are handmade, there is a little variation between each pair, that's part of the charm. But, those slight variations could mean that one pair might feel a little bit snugger or looser than another pair. I've only had a few pairs that I felt like I needed to stretch a bit before wearing.
How to stretch leather shoes
I've seen people recommend wearing 1-2 pairs of thick socks and wearing their leather shoes around the house to try and stretch them. This can cause some discomfort since the shoes were already tight to begin with. This can be effective if you wear them long enough and you need to globally stretch the shoes (like length and width).
If you just need to stretch a certain spot, like the toe box, I've read people using a balled up pair of socks or a golf ball and wedging into the toe box. Honestly, this method intimidates me a bit because I'd be afraid I'd overstretch them and end up with an oddly shaped shoe.
My favorite tool and what I use to stretch leather shoes is a two-way shoe stretcher. I have a pair of KevenAnna 2-way Wooden Shoe Trees and they work beautifully. They come in size small, medium, or large and can be used for women's or men's shoes. I ordered a size Medium to stretch my size 9 Tieks.
What I like about these is that you can use them to gently stretch the length, width, or both. They even have 12 different holes for the included bunion or corn plugs so you can stretch certain pressure points that are troublesome for you.
The construction on these stretchers is a tad flimsy, but since I don't need to use them often that works for me. If you're going to be stretching a lot of shoes, you might want to invest in a sturdier model, like this one from FootFitter.
A lot of people have asked me if you can wear Tieks with bunions. I mentioned in my post about how to care for your Tieks flats that my mom has a pretty sizable bunion and Tieks are the only flats she can wear comfortably. There's a picture included there so you can check it out. She didn't have to use a stretcher, but if you do have a bunion and want to stretch Tieks a bit before you wear them, you can use a 2-way stretcher like this that has the pressure point plugs to do it.
When using a shoe stretcher, just be sure not to overdo it. Once you've inserted the stretcher and it's become snug, give it a turn about 2 more times. Only leave in the shoe for 6 hours, then check the fit. You might need to repeat and give it another twist for another few hours.
Other options for stretching leather shoes
You can also use a chemical shoe stretching spray. I haven't tried this personally, but it's supposed to condition the leather while to allow for extra stretch when you're wearing them or using a shoe stretcher.
If all of this makes you queasy if you're dealing with expensive shoes, you can always take them to a cobbler. They have special machines and tools that can help stretch leather shoes effectively.