How to Widen Steel Toe Boots? Not easy, find 3 Hacks here

It may make me look like a cheapskate but I love buying off-brand work attire like steel toe boots. Most people prefer buying these types of things from big brand names because they hope that will guarantee them a certain level of comfort.

After wearing mine for a couple of hours of building a new fence out in the yard, I have to admit that I started wondering if there was any way of widening the toe box of my new steel toe boots.

example of a shoe stretcher to widen steel toe boots
example of a shoe stretcher to widen steel toe boots

How to Widen Steel Toe Boots?

The only chance you have of widening steel toe boots is to try to expand some of the layers of fabric inside the shoe and to put in a thinner insole. Because the toe box itself is made from steel designed to take immense amounts of pressure, there is absolutely no way that you can widen the shoes further than the confines of the steel toe insert.

Der Schuhspecialist

Find Wide Work boots and shoes online

What Are Steel Toe Boots Made From?

In order to devise a technique for widening steel-toe boots, you first need to understand how they are made. The entire process starts with a reinforced steel toe box. In some shoes, the steel goes all-around your toes and under the balls of your feet. In others, it just goes above and around the toes and the balls of the feet but does not go under the toes.

In both cases, the metal part gets an inlay of foam and protective material is covered with a layer of hard-wearing leather and is then glued or sawn to the rubber soles of the shoes.

Regardless of the type of metal toe box being used, the point here is that even if you were to put the shoes in a metal press to squeeze the box to make it a bit wider, you would first have to pulverize the rubber soles and even cut through it if the shoes have the half-metal box inside.

The design of the shoes also tells you just how useless leather stretching sprays really are because no matter how much spray you use and how much pressure you exert from inside of the shoe, the leather itself will feel absolutely no pressure.

Therefore, the only chance you have to widen steel toe boots has to come within. The insole is one of the first things to go, and, in some desperate cases, people have resorted to using the shoes without the insoles.

Instead, they have chosen to wear extra thick woolen socks that provide warmth and a little cushioning. Again, this is definitely not how you should go for good, long-lasting effects, but it does show you how important the insoles are in maximizing the space in your shoes.

How Much Give Do Steel Toe Boots Have?

Three basic areas have a little bit of give that you can exploit in your attempts to widen steel toe boots. There are the insoles that I have already mentioned, the interior felt or cushioning layer underneath the steel tow, and the leather just before the steel toe begins.

The insoles usually take up a lot of space and the good news is that these are usually cheap, thick insoles just thrown in there to provide a little bit of support.

However, if you were to remove them entirely, you would feel every stitch on the bottom of the shoes, every slide, and turn, and your feet would tire incredibly fast.

However, by removing the old insoles and putting in a pair of orthopedic insoles, you will get more support than before, the shoes will become more comfortable because of that, and also because orthopedic insoles are very thin, you would get a few hundreds of an inch in space in the toe area.

Related: Best Thin Insoles in 2022

The EasyFeet Arch Support Insoles for Men and Women are an excellent choice if you are looking to get some more space in your steel toed boots by changing out the insoles.

Plantar Fasciitis Arch Support Insoles for Men and Women Shoe Inserts - Orthotic Inserts - Flat Feet Foot - Running Athletic Gel Shoe Insoles - Orthotic insoles for Arch Pain High Arch - Boot Insoles

Buy on Amazon

Alternatively, you could try to push against the interior lining of the shoes in an attempt to get a little bit more space. The radical decision would be to reap it all out, but you should know that at least part of that lining has a secondary structural effect and you may unravel the entire shoe.

However, the good news is that there is a way of pushing against the lining in such a way that it will actually create some space in there to widen steel toe boots.

Finally, you could attempt to use a regular boot stretcher and plenty of stretching spray to try and push forward the entire steel toe box. You should start by soaking the leather just behind the steel toe box and really max out on the shoe stretcher.

I have written a complete article on the best shoe stretcher spray on this website, so if you do choose to go that route make sure you read that first.

There is very little leather there and the steel toe is kept in place in several other places as well, but there is a chance you might get a little bit of extra space that way as well.

Use Water to Widen Steel Toe Boots Effortlessly

Some people widen regular shoes, particularly running shoes, by using ice. You would do it by putting water in a big zip lock bag and squeezing it into the toe of the shoes. Next, you would put the boot, zip lock, and water into the freezer. As the water freezes, it expands and starts pushing on outwards.

In cases where the steel toe box has a design flaw and one of its edges is bent inwards, you will be able to use the freezing water to push that edge out. The water will not do much to the entire box itself, but small irregularities might pop out that way. Also, if something heavy has fallen on the shoes and warped the metal, the freezing water might actually push it back.

You should be aware that, as the water starts expanding, the bag will be the first one to give. Also, because the ice will expand a lot, there is very little chance that you will be able to yank it out while frozen. All of which means, the frozen water method may or may not work to widen your steel toe boots, but it will definitely get them soaking wet.

Use a Steel Boot Stretcher

If getting your shoes soaking wet is not something you are too excited about, there is one final alternative you might consider.

You could go with a steel shoe stretcher to widen steel toe boots. As we have already firmly established, there is no way of expanding that metal box, but a shoe stretcher will do most of the things we have already discussed in one smooth push.

The reason why you would go with a steel boot stretcher is that they are usually a bit more sturdy than wooden ones, so you can really push them out to the max. The Nanny McPhee Steel Boot Stretcher is an excellent choice for this type of job.

Shoe Stretcher Metal Footwear Extender Adjustable Length & Width Unisex-1 Piece (Men)

Buy on Amazon

You should start by soaking the shoe in shoe stretcher spray, and now you know where to go to read more about shoe stretcher sprays. Ensure you soak not only the area behind the steel toe box, but also the inside and even the insoles. You may even want to insert a thick piece of cardboard underneath the front part of the boot stretcher.

Once all of these steps are complete, be sure to really turn the shoe stretcher as far as you possibly can. Give it a couple of hours to work and then come back with some more spray and try to turn it up even higher. If you notice that you can turn the knob some more, then you can be sure you are getting somewhere. Leave the shoe stretcher in for another 48 hours and then take it out and try the shoes.

The shoes will probably feel a lot more comfortable by the second time you try to stretch them out, but you may want to repeat the above process a few more times. However, there are a few red flags you should be aware of.

First of all, every time you stretch a shoe, make sure that you inspect all the seams and make sure the thread holding the shoe together is not giving out.

If after the initial 2 hours of stretching you find that you can stretch the shoes some more, you will definitely be tempted to just keep stretching it every 2 hours, rather than wait for 2 days, trying the shoes out and then coming back to stretch if necessary.

However, it is impossible to unstretch shoes, so it is much better to take it slowly and devote an entire week to stretching your shoes the right way.

How to stretch and widen steel toe boots

How to Stretch Steel Toe Boots by wikiHow

Conclusion on how to widen steel toe boots

Any shoe cobbler will tell you that it is nearly impossible to widen steel toe boots, and you should not read into this article that I disagree with the traditional opinion. However, I was never one to accept the sayings of popular wisdom without trying to push the limits a little bit.

Sometimes what feels like a very uncomfortable shoe needs just the tiniest, most delicate shoves, to go from uncomfortable to being your favorite shoes. And since some of the techniques we have discussed in this article are actually completely free, why not give it a go?

Related shoes and boots guides