Do Shoe Stretchers Work for Bunions?

My weekly date night with my husband is the only time when I truly escape the responsibilities of being a mother.  Like many other women, I love to primp myself up in short pretty dresses with nice pairs of heal shoes, purses to match, and a bit of make-up to lighten up my face.

On this particular night out, I was all dressed and ready to go. Just then, my 5 years decided it was time to compliment me:

Mummy! What are those bumps sticking out of your shoes?

At that point, even my husband could feel the date night vibe sizzling out.

I could go on struggling with ill-fitting shoes, because, wouldn’t you know it, my dress shoes are the most uncomfortable ones on my bunions, or I could do something about it. But what? A quick internet search and a few dozen reviews later, here is what I found out.   

Do Shoe Stretchers Work for Bunions?

Yes, shoe stretchers work for bunions provided they are the right type. A regular shoe stretcher will not create that much lateral space unless it has a metal bunion attachment. However, with the spacers, plenty of shoe stretcher spray, and at least 48 hours of down time, they will get you there. Alternatively, you could use a dedicated ball and ring shoe stretcher that will target just the bunion area and might work even better.

Is a Shoe Stretcher for Bunions Different from a Regular One?

Some people argue that all shoe stretchers will create more space and therefore could be used to relieve pressure on bunions. However, since shoe stretchers usually work to completely lengthen the shoe, you would end up wearing huge boat shoes before the pressure on the bunions would be alleviated. 

On the other hand, there is something to be said about shoe stretcher with dedicated bunion plugs. In some cases, they will work to create space for the bunions while also making the shoe more comfortable. But I must tell you from experience, nothing beats having a bunions specific shoe stretcher, also known as a ball and ring shoe stretcher.

A ball and ring shoe stretcher is bunion specific. This iron-made stretcher reaches far inside the shoe and narrows down on the toe box areas while protecting other parts of the shoe from expanding. So, it takes care of only the minute details of your shoes and gets your bunions to fit in.

Its uniqueness lies in its ability to concentrate on the specific area of your shoe creating the problem without affecting other parts. Its iron-made cast also makes it more durable than regular shoe stretchers.  

How do You Use a Shoe Stretcher for Bunions?  

If you still choose to use the regular shoe stretcher for your bunions, you can follow these steps. However, don’t forget that you are bound to get more than you bargained for.

  1.  Use a shoe stretcher spray. It helps to loosen up shoe fibers for ease of stretch. In case you need one, make sure to check out my Nick’s article on the best shoe stretcher spray.
  2.  Place the bunion plug in one of the pre-made holes on the stretcher. Do not leave out the plugs or else you will end up with really spaced out shoes.
  3.  Place the stretcher in the shoe and turn the metal bar clockwise. This works on the width of the shoes and gets the plugs stuck in.
  4.  Let it sit in for at least 24 hours before taking it out. Turn the metal bar anticlockwise to take out, check to see how they fit and go back to step 1 if you feel like you need a little bit more space.

Ball and ring shoe stretcher can be likened to a pair of scissors in shape and use. This is how you use them.

  1. As before, start by spraying in copious amounts of shoe stretcher spray.
  2.  Insert the stretcher into the shoe is a way that the ring end (positioned outside) and the ball end (inside) are on the exact pressure point.
  3. Pull the handles together to clamp the ball and ring.
  4. Push the metal rod into the hollow at the opposite end of the handle while holding tight to the handle.
  5.  Hold the handle tight in place by spinning the locking wheel.
  6.  Let it sit for a minimum of 12 hours.
  7.  Unlock the wheel in an anticlockwise direction, unclamp the ball and ring, and pull out the stretcher to remove. Check to see how they fit and go through the entire process once again if needed.

How Long Do You Really Need to Leave a Ball and Ring Shoe Stretcher in?

It may feel strange to ask this question again since I previously mentioned the recommended time is 12 hours. However, I thought I would take a couple of minutes to give you a few details derived from my experience on the matter.

It takes some time to stretch out shoes. Even if your shoes are made of natural fabrics like suede or leather, it still takes hours for shoe stretchers to work effectively on them. It may sometimes take up to 24 hours to see any significant difference.

For a ball and ring shoe stretcher, when you spin the wheel to the point where you feel some resistance, it means stretching has commenced. Notwithstanding, you may still have to leave the stretcher in your shoes overnight. Sometimes, it could be as long as 24 hours to 48 hours. Just remember to reapply shoe stretcher spray every 12 hours.   

What kind of performance can you expect from a shoe stretcher for bunions?

Although my bunions are quite uncomfortable, I imagine you would have a tough time noticing them at a glance even if I went completely bare feet. My grandmother, on the other hand, has been walking to and from work in business shoes her entire life and her bunions are the size of ping pong balls.

Because I love her and I want her to be comfortable, but also as an amusing little challenge for myself, I decided to try and stretch out a pair of shoes that I knew she loved but could simply not fit her feet in because of the bunions. These were leather shoes, mind you, and leather has an incredible elasticity when sprayed with shoe stretcher spray.

The answer was that it took 72 hours, a total of 4 fittings, 6 sessions with the stretcher spray, but those shoes now fit my grandmother’s ping pong ball sizes bunions. You can slightly see the bunion shape through the shoe, so some people would argue that I have ruined those shoes, but my grandma loves them and is now comfortable, so it was worth it.