Got one foot larger than the other and find that the toe box is a little too narrow? There are a few reasons why your toe box might be a little snug, but this is one of the most common. The question is, can you actually do anything about it? The answer is yes.
You can stretch the toe box of your hiking boots by using a hairdryer to loosen them up, wearing thick socks, using a shoe stretcher, and wearing them out around the house. There are loads of ways to make some extra space for your toes.
For all of our top tips and tricks, make sure you scroll down so that you can learn more about how to achieve the perfect fit (and more on when they don’t fit).
How Do You Know That Shoes are Not the Right Fit?
Did you know that two-thirds of people wear shoes that are too narrow? If you’re worried that your hiking shoes or boots are not quite the right fit, there are a few things that can help you determine if it’s true. They are as follows:
- The toe box is too narrow, too low, or both
- Your toes hurt when you put your boots on
- The shape of the shoe doesn’t conform to your foot
- The height of the heels puts stress on your toes or other parts of the foot
- You get sores on the back of your feet or heels or cuts on your toes
Interested to know how you can make sure you get the right fit every time? Check out this helpful video from Your Average Gent – it has some great tips.
Read here to firgure out if you can simply wear your running shoes hiking instead of proper hiking boots?.
Tricks to Stretch the Toe Box of Hiking Boots
If you have established that the boots are the right fit and it’s just a case of one foot being a little bigger or the boot is a little narrower than expected, here are a few methods you can try for stretching the toe box.
#1 Wear Them in Around the House
This method takes a good few days, maybe longer, but it is also one of the easiest. All you need to do is wear the boots around the house while you are cleaning, working, just going about your day. You only have to do this for 30 minutes, and after a few days, you will notice stretching.
#2 Wear Thick Socks
Wearing really thick socks, or two pairs of regular socks can help to stretch out the toe box. When you have your foot snugly in the boot, bend your foot to loosen the area in question and stretch out the toe box. You can keep repeating this until you get what you need from it.
#3 Use a Hair Dryer
This method only works for boots made from synthetic materials. Leather boots should never go anywhere near a direct heat source as it can soften the leather, weakening it, as well as cause cracks and premature ageing that cannot be reversed.
To stretch your synthetic boots, place the nozzle of the hairdryer inside the boot so that it is pointing at the toes. Leave it running for a few minutes to relax the material and then try the boots on. You can repeat as necessary until they are comfortable enough.
#4 Freezing Water Method
This is another method for synthetic materials only. Extreme temperature changes for leather boots will cause cracks and dry the material out – damaging it. Leather needs to be moisturised, hence the regular care that needs to go into them.
For synthetic boots, place a Ziploc bag of water into the boot and ensure it is right at the toes. Then, put it in the freezer and leave it overnight. The water will expand as it freezes, leaving you with wider toes the next day – just don’t put them straight on your feet! Brr!
#5 Get a Shoe Stretcher
These are great, and everyone should have one. They can stretch the toes as well as the general width of the boot, depending on the model you get. All you need to do is slide it into the boot and give it a good twist. At this point, you should feel some tension from the boot.
Leave it like that, and use a 10% alcohol spray on the upper of the boot while the stretcher is inside. Ensure it remains like that, with the twisted stretcher, overnight. When you come back the next day, twist it gently again and then remove it – wider toes.
#6 Different Types of Shoe Stretchers
You do have to be wary of the different types of shoe stretcher that are available on the market. After all, they each do different things. Here’s a quick rundown:
- One Way. Designed for boots that are pinching the toes.
- Two Way. Makes the boot longer and wider.
- Boot Stretcher. Made to make the toe box and width of a boot wider.
- High Heel Stretcher. Designed to fix narrow toe boxes on high heels.
- Cast Iron Ball and Ring Stretcher. Great for bunions, corns, and hammertoes.
- Toe Box Raiser. Made for toe boxes that are too tight at the top.
- Vamp and Instep Raiser. Alleviates pressure on the instep by raising the vamp.
#7 Use a Shoe Tree
These are very similar to shoe stretchers, but they work differently. They don’t have a twisted handle, you just put it directly into the boot so that it can maintain its size and stretch. You can also increase the amount that it is stretching for slow and steady results.
Sneaky shoe trees are under £5 and work wonders, these really are the best for the price.
#8 Try Using a Newspaper
This might seem like an unusual method, but it can actually be very effective. Dampen some newspaper and scrunch it up in your shoes, leaving it to dry there. As the paper dries, it will expand, leaving the toe box a little roomier than before.
Read Here: Are Hiking Boots Bad For Your Feet
Now you have all the knowledge you need to get those boots stretched out and ready for your next big hike. Just remember, sometimes it is a case of your boots being a little too small in general and you might be better off buying a new pair. Use your best judgement.
If you enjoyed this chapter of our outdoor living guide, you should make sure that you check out the rest of the series. We cover everything from how to choose the best boots for every outdoor situation as well as quick survival tips and hiking etiquette.
A seasoned camper and hiker, there is nothing he doesn’t know about the Great Outdoors. Hiking alone, with friends, or even little ones, he’s done it all. A trained survivalist, he gives Bear Grylls a run for his money.