How To Make Big Shoes Fit – 9 “Shoe-Shrinking” Methods That Prove Size Is Nothing But a Number

How To Make Big Shoes Fit

It’s happened to me a few times before. You see a pair of shoes so dang beautiful, you have to have them. The tongue says 10, and you’re a 9 ½ at the very most, depending on the brand, but they’re the only pair left.

You can’t just leave them for some lucky size 10 maverick to come along and steal. You’re under their shoe spell, and you’re going to buy them anyway.

Then, at the end of the month, when you’re transferring your savings back into your current account so you can afford food for the week, you get the doubt…why in the hell of it did I buy shoes that don’t even fit? Should I return them? Should I sell them on? 

Well, my friends. The answers to those questions are as follows…because they’re dope, no, and heck no!

So they don’t quite fit you…so what? There are things that can be done to make them fit you, and I’m going to guide you through each method, right here, today!

Method 1 – Stack up on Socks

stack of colorful socks

Okay, so you probably didn’t need my help to dream this one up, but it’s a solid fix that has smoothed the transition of hand-me-downs for generations.

Layer up your thin socks or opt for some chunky hiking socks that can fill out the excess space in those too-big shoes of yours.

Granted, this isn’t really a viable option for the summer months, but if you’re looking to pack out your winter boots or perhaps some fall sneakers, it’s an awesome way to salvage this size debacle.

Method 2 – Wear Them in the Evening

Did you know that our feet swell up significantly throughout the day?

By the time the first star peeks through the gloaming sky, your feet have grown half a size bigger, which means those shoes you thought were too big are quite possibly now a perfect fit — hurray!

So, if your big shoes are suitable attire for a night out on the town or an evening walk, by all means, wear them, and enjoy them.

Just remember that, come morning, your feet will have shrunk back to their daintiest form, and you’ll have to wait for them to hulk out again later on before your fancy shoes will fit you again.

Method 3 – Stuffing

You can use any number of materials to stuff your sizable shoes and secure them on your feet. For example, you could use cotton balls to pad out the toebox if you’re noticing your feet sliding back and forth in the open space.

Paper towels can be just as effective, as can some spare rags you’ve got lying around.

As long as the material is soft enough to cushion your toes, you’re good to go, although I wouldn’t recommend this for athletic shoes or walking boots as it’s not a secure enough fix. Stuffing is best used for a short-lived, non-strenuous activity.

If the space you’re trying to fill is around the top of your foot, you can always adapt this method by placing material underneath your insole and speaking of insoles…

Method 4 – Invest in Some Insoles

foot stepping on to an insole

Typically crafted from high-density foam or a gel-like substance, insoles provide a comfortable layer between the sole of your foot and the footbed of your shoe. 

They can help to keep your feet feeling fine as well as improve posture, but the reason I’m talking about them today is that the extra layer also uses up some excess space in big shoes.

I highly recommend fitting your shoes with some sort of orthotic inserts even if your shoes fit you nicely, as they have a number of health benefits, and as much as I love a bargain, it’s best to allocate a decent amount of money for buying insoles.

The cheaper ones aren’t as comfortable and don’t last very long.

Method 5 – Heel Grips and Heel Strips

Here we have another padding option that can be fairly effective in bringing a big shoe down to size. Heel grips and strips are slightly different products that achieve roughly the same thing.

Heel grips are little cushions with an adhesive back that you can stick on the heel lining of your shoe to pad them out and prevent them from rubbing, whereas heel strips are usually thinner and stick around your heel and Achilles tendon for extra support.

The simplistic design of heel strips means you can use them on pretty much any area of your foot to pad your shoes out in specific areas.

You can also opt for some sort of heel protectors that wrap around your heel and ankle to offer extra support.

My only concern with this method is that using supportive aids on areas of your body that don’t actually need support can have a detrimental effect on the muscle and joint strength, so heel strips and protectors should only be used every now and again.

Heel grips, on the other hand, are fine to use regularly.

Method 6 – Metatarsal Pads

Sometimes referred to as ball-of-foot pads, metatarsal pads are essentially small insoles designed especially to sit beneath the balls of your feet. These are fantastic for using in open-side or open-toe shoes when an insole isn’t an option.

Metatarsal pads are discrete alternatives, providing low-key protection to all the sensitive areas around the beginnings of your toes, and as a bonus, they add some traction too, which is particularly helpful for heels and flats that don’t quite fit right.

All about surreptitious support, companies make these squishy little pads in tons of different colors, so you can match them with the interior of your shoe, and keep your style on fleek!

Method 7 – Honey, I Shrunk the Shoes

While we’re waiting on the scientists to create the first shrink ray, we can replicate their minimizing effects on our shoes using (drum roll please)…water.

That’s right, folks; normal water is all you need to physically shrink your shoes down to size. Well, if you’re shrinking leather or suede shoes, you’ll need a little spray bottle too, but otherwise, nothing but clean old H2O!

The only issue with this method is that if done incorrectly, there is a slight risk of damaging your shoes, so be sure to check the label to assess whether it’s a possibility before super soaking your sneaks.

If the label gives you the all-clear, let’s get shrinkin’!

  1. Soak your shoes – As we’ve just discussed, you’ll need a spray bottle for giving leather and suede shoes a light spritzing, but for other materials, a full soak is fine.

If I were you, I would brush your suede shoes after spraying them to prevent the fibers from stiffening. Something like this 4-way brush will be perfect for the job.

  1. Dry them off – The best method here is to either let them dry naturally in the sun and air, or by using a hairdryer on a warm but mild setting, as some materials are prone to heat damage — I’m looking at you, polyester. 

As if by magic, once dry, your shoes should have contracted ever so slightly.

  1. Try them on – See how you like the sizing. If they’re still too big, you may need to repeat the process a couple more times, but always prioritize the materials. Suede will need to be revived and brushed after each shrinking session. I recommend something along the lines of this Care & Cool suede conditioner. If you’ve been shrinking leather, you’ll need to massage it with a generous amount of leather conditioner before continuing.

While this method is surprisingly effective, wearing your shoes frequently may gradually stretch them back out, and you’ll have to shrink them all over again.

Method 8 – Elastic Bands

You’ve got to be pretty handy with a sewing needle for this one, but many have reported that it does help to give their shoes more of a snug fit.

The action plan here is that you’ll take some high-strength elastic bands, stretch them out over an interior section of your shoe (normally the heel), then stitch them in place. The elastic resistance of the bands then yanks the shoe materials inwards, reducing the severity of gaps between shoe and foot.

Here’s how it’s done…

  1. Pin the elastic band in place – Use safety pins to fix the elastic band in place and hold the tension of the stretch.
  1. Sew the band to the shoes – Lots of neat small stitches will help to keep the elastic nice and tight, leading to a smaller fit and a longer-lasting hold.
  1. Unpin the elastic band – Mission complete. Pop your shoes on, see how they feel, and give yourself a pat on the back for being a straight-up surgeon with a sewing needle.

Method 9 – Seek Professional Help

a cobbler measuring a shoe mold

Possibly the best thing you can do to solve a shoe sizing problem is to contact a cobbler. Though it may seem like a job from the Middle Ages, cobblers are still around, and they’re amazing.

They won’t be able to completely reform the shoe into a smaller size, but they will have a bunch of tricks up their sleeves to make them fit better.

Something of a rarity in this day and age, cobbling services can be pricey, so it’s best to save this option for your fanciest shoes. As awesome as that pair of floral Vans you bought on eBay are, you’d be wasting your hard-earned money taking them to a cobbler.

Summing Up This Shoe Size Dilemma

As long as they’re not drastically too big for you, there’s a good chance that one or a combination of the methods covered here today will make your shoes more wearable.

Just remember that although the shoes may feel smaller internally, externally they’re still larger than your other shoes, which can increase the chance of tripping, so tread carefully, friend. Otherwise, enjoy your lovely new shoes!

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