Do Suede Shoes Stretch with Wear?
My Christmas gift from my sister this year was a beautiful pair of suede shoes from Sketchers. While she chose them for their famously comfortable insoles, I ended up falling in love with the luxurious look of the suede. And then I started to worry: will my famously wide feet stretch out the leather and ruin the sleek design of the shoe?
Do Suede Shoes Stretch with Wear?
The simple answer is yes, suede shoes do stretch out with wear and it’s actually by design that they do so. Suede is nature’s memory foam, which is why it’s used so often in shoes that are designed and sold to be comfortable.
Suede shoes, more than any other type of shoe, will mold themselves to the shape of your feet. They do not have enough “give” to stretch out as much as an entire size point, so if you bought a pair that is a size or two smaller than you usually buy, just return it and get a new pair.
However, if they feel just a little bit uncomfortable when you first slip them on, do not worry, that is where suede shoes shine: using just a touch of a shoe stretcher spray they will give and stretch where needed.
How much give do suede shoes have anyway?
While most people consider the fact that suede shoes stretch with wear as a negative aspect, there are certain situations where you may want to see your shoes stretch out.
After having spent about 6 months with my new Sketchers, and also reading up on a few expert forums, I would say that you can expect suede shoes to stretch to a maximum of half a size. However, there is a big caveat there because not all suede shoes are the same.
In the first place, I am reminded of a pair of suede boots my wife got for me from a trip abroad. She bought the damn things just half a size too small but no matter how much a muddled through the pain and kept wearing them, they never gave.
The reason for that was that they had a tough Vibram outsole that stretched out over the tip to help with waterproofing. They also had several layers of heat insulation on the inside, but I think it was the outsole that really kept everything super tight.
The second thing you should consider is the fact that suede is one of the easiest fabrics to imitate. Everything that I have said so far relates to real suede.
Fabrics usually have a lot more give into them, but faux suede, especially cheap faux suede has the huge disadvantage that the stretching process makes it smooth out into something looking more like pure leather and is clearly visible even from afar.
There is also the fact that most of the things that you can do with suede shoes to prevent them from stretching, and I am going to talk about towards the end of the blog, do not really work on faux suede. So the conclusion here, as pointless as it may be for me to point it out: do not buy faux suede shoes!
How long does it take for suede shoes to stretch?
Getting back to my legendary wide feet and their encounter with the Sketchers, I would say that, despite my best efforts, it only took about a week until I started noticing a bit of stretching going on.
It was not as bad as I had feared, and the shoes became infinitely more comfortable, especially when I had to slip in and out of them. However, it should be noted that I did not take any special precautions with them and I wore them every day for that entire week even when the weather started getting cloudy and rainy.
I avoided using them in heavy rain but they did get wet on several occasions. I have a desk job, so I did not walk that much except going to the office, picking up the kids or doing groceries, but they were on my feet for at least 9 hours a day.
The good news is that, after that first week, and as soon as we started getting a bit of sunshine, I went back to wearing the shoes for the next few months and they did not suffer any further visible stretching.
They do get dirty really fast and it’s really obvious when they do, and I have written several articles on how to clean them, especially on how to get tar off shoes, so make sure you read those too for some of the best advice I was able to find on the web but also a few tweaks and tricks I manage to come up with on my own.
Does wearing suede shoes daily increase the stretch damage?
You may have realized by this point that I tend to abuse the shoes I fall in love with. So when I tell you that my Sketchers saw a lot of wear during the last six months, you can trust that they were significantly abused. Having said that, there are two ideas that I need to point out.
Firstly, is that my experience is based mostly on just using this one pair of high end, expensive shoes. I have no idea how well a cheaper suede shoe might comport over time. While reading up online on how to take care of suede shoes it felt like most people were happy with suede shoes and usually it was just a matter of daily care.
Secondly, I have to get back to the faux suede shoe conundrum. I bought a cheap pair of those as well, an impulse buy while procrastinating, so I did not notice they were faux suede until I got them.
From the first time I tried them, they felt like cardboard shoes and within a few days of wearing you could see crease marks in them. Ultimately, I threw them away within the month, but the real suede shoes, I am certain I will enjoy them for at least a few more years.
Can you prevent suede shoes from stretching with wear?
So now we come to the big question of what you can do to prevent suede shoes from stretching. One of my other passions is car detailing, and the one thing everyone in the automotive industry will repeat ad nauseum is that leather is alive, you need to take care of it just like you take care of your own skin.
Therefore the best thing you can do to prevent suede shoes from stretching is to spray them with a leather softener. Despite what your intuition might say, the softener will not just encourage the leather to further stretch out!
On the contrary: it will keep it supple so even though you are pressing against it with your feet all day, it bounces back when you take your shoes off. Personally, I use the same leather softener I use on my car, and I apply it every two to three months when I get around to cleaning the inside of the car.
The other thing that I do is I actually listened to the advice I got from the sales person (yes, I was there when my sister bought the shoes, how else would she have known they were the right size?) and I got the suede leather water proofing spray. I am not sure what the shoes would have looked like without it, but I did wear them in several heavy storms and, even though they got wet, they leather did not give a fraction of an inch even when wet.
All of this is a fairly winded way of saying that, yes, suede shoes will stretch out with wear but mostly only in the parts where you would want them. I wish my shoes had not stretched out to accommodate my wide feet, but they did and ninety percent of the time I am grateful for it because they are so incredibly comfortable I sometime do not even feel they are there.