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.
How to stretch suede shoes
Ever since Elvis told us not to step on his blue suede shoes, suede has become an impulse-buy to many. His popular rendition of the song has captured a lot of young men and women then and now as apparent in the fact that suede is still a mainstay in the fashion industry. If you’re interested to know how to stretch suede shoes that are a tad too tight for your liking, then read on as we have several DIY techniques for you to try at home.
You can stretch suede shoes by wearing them for a couple of hours with thick socks and spraying them with a stretch spray. An alternative for stretch spray is alcohol to help break the shoe faster. The freezer and the blow dryer method work just as well for stretching suede shoes. It’s also better to invest in proper shoe stretchers or consult a professional to ensure the shoes stretch correctly.
Are suede shoes better than leather shoes?
Suede comes from the same material but it’s a thinner and lighter type of leather. This characteristic gives it more flex than regular leather, making it more versatile when making a variety of designs. Keep in mind that suede isn’t meant to be stretched too much in length and width, unlike leather. It’s more susceptible to tearing if you’re not doing the stretching methods incorrectly.
What are the different methods of stretching suede shoes?
Stretch sprays have the capacity to expand the shoe material by at least ¼ to ½ sizes if done correctly. Start by spraying the insides of the shoe. Using a cloth is fine for hard to reach areas. If the spray you’re using says it’s fine to spray on the outside, then you can also do that. After that, put on a thick pair of socks and wear your suede shoes for a couple of hours to accelerate the expansion of the suede materials.
Alcohol is another alternative if you don’t have stretching sprays available. Mix alcohol and water equally then put the resulting liquid in a spray bottle. Rubbing the alcohol with a cotton cloth is an option if you don’t have a bottle with you. Do not spray or wipe the outer and only focus on the inner portion. This is because suede is sensitive and can stain easily when in contact with water and alcohol. Wearing thick pairs of socks and running or moving in repetitive motions hastens the expansion of the suede.
If these methods don’t suit your liking, another popular method to stretch suede is by utilizing either hot or cold temperatures. In this technique, simply fill a zip-locked bag with water and put it inside your shoe before placing it in the freezer overnight. As the water freezes and expands so do your shoes that stretch with it. Repeat the process until you’ve achieved your desired fit.
The hot method of stretching your suede shoes meanwhile is done with the aid of a blow dryer. Proceed by wearing a thick pair of socks just like the other methods mentioned. Put the blow dryer on low heat. The warmth of the blow dryer essentially mimics the heat produced by your feet, therefore, speeding up the process of break-in and stretching of your shoe.
Take necessary precautions when doing the last two methods as they may do more harm than good. If done incorrectly, very low temperatures can tear suede while hot temperatures can damage the fabric permanently.
What’s the most effective way of stretching suede shoes?
The most effective way of stretching suede shoes is by using shoe stretchers. They’re cheap, affordable and get the job done. Most shoe stretchers have the ability to extend the fabric in length and width. DIY methods can only do so much and by using them, you’re exposing your shoe to risks that may earn you a visit to a cobbler. There are a variety of shoe stretchers for different types of shoes so get one that fits your needs.
Once you have a shoe stretcher in hand, spray the shoes with a solution before inserting the tool into your suede shoes. There’s a handle that you can twist a few times in order to tighten it. When you’ve reached the desired snug, turn the handle a few times before leaving it overnight.
It’s recommended to get two shoe stretchers at the same time so you can stretch both of your shoes simultaneously. Some say 6-8 hours of stretching is enough but in order to get the best results, it’s best to leave the shoe stretcher for up to 24-48 hours.
Can I use a shoe stretcher for suede shoes that are too small?
Shoe stretchers can extend your shoes by up to ½ sizes at most without damaging the integrity of the shoe. If you intend to stretch a size 7 shoe into a size 9 then it’s definitely better to get a new pair than destroy that small pair. You’ll also risk getting calluses, blisters, joint pain, or more if you wear a size that’s a tad too small for you.
Can I stretch my shoes without any DIY or shoe-stretchers?
If the new pair of suede shoes you just bought is a tiny bit too tight, you can break them in at home by wearing a thick pair of socks. Put another pair of socks on and squeeze into your shoes. You can move or leave it on for a couple of hours to ensure the suede stretches naturally. You can also try to stuff wet newspapers inside your shoes overnight. As they dry, they’ll expand and stretch your shoes like a low-budget shoe stretcher.
Suede shoes are notorious for being quite tight when they’re freshly bought. They naturally stretch over time and can extend up to ½ in size with regular use. You can hasten the break-in and stretch of your suede shoes by using a lot of different DIY methods we’ve discussed. If all else fails, asking a professional for advice always helps.