If you are a regular shopper of sales, you’ve almost certainly run into the problem of the almost-but-not-quite shoe. It’s perfect and beautiful and by a designer you love, and it’s so cheap, and it’s almost your size, but not quite. You buy it anyway because you are an incurable optimist and you think maybe if you wore it with thin tights, or thick socks, or if you only wear them when you’ve had enough to drink that you can work through the pain, maybe they’ll work out. But they just don’t feel right and thus you never wind up wearing them. It’s a tragedy of unimaginable proportion, but it need not be, because there are things you can do to make them fit better.
1. Stretch a tight shoe
If your leather, suede, or vinyl shoes are just a smidge too tight, they can be stretched. The product that does this is called “shoe stretch,” and all you have to do is spray it on the places where the shoe is too tight, and it will stretch the leather out without messing up the leather. Make sure to test this on an inconspicuous part of the shoe first, just to make sure the shoe stretch won’t change the color or anything. This is an especially good trick if a shoe is too tight in one specific place, like at the back of the heel, or if it rubs over the bone at the outer edge of your foot.
2. Add insoles to slightly too big shoes
If your shoe is a bit too big, that is a pretty good problem to have, because it means you have room to add cushy insoles that will make the shoe smaller and also feel pretty good under your feet. This is especially good news if your heels are high enough to make your feet sore after a couple hours. (I once got a pair of these in a Fashion Week swag bag, and it was the best job perk I’ve ever received. Like, even better than that time I had health insurance.)
3. Try heel grips in shoes that are too roomy in the back
The back of the heel is a common place to have fitting problems. If your shoe fits through the toe but your heel keeps sliding out, try these cushy stick-on padded grips. At this point it seems like it’d be more comfortable to buy a too-large shoe and stuff it with insoles and heel grips than to buy a shoe that actually fits. (That’s probably a bad idea for medical reasons, but I spent all night at a long party in my highest heels, and right now I just want to dip my feet into a big bucket of hot wax and never move again for the rest of my life.)
4. Stretch your snug boots with fat socks and a hairdryer
If a boot is a little bit too small all over, you generally still have a bit of room to stretch. Put on some big, fat, athletic socks, stand up in your shoes, and blast them with heat from a hairdryer. The heat will help the leather stretch, and the weight from your foot will push the shoe out into the proper shape. Soon your boots will be comfy all over.
5. Go to a professional
Cobblers and shoe repair shops aren’t just for rich people with fancypants riding boots. A professional shoe repair shop can stretch out a shoe carefully, and they can probably get even better results than you can. If you have a problem with a shoe that you just love too much to leave unattended in the back of your closet, drop by your local shoe repair place for a consultation. They can probably help.