Do Running Shoes Stretch?


Shopping for running shoes can be a daunting task, with so many to choose from. And when you need good running shoes, you have to consider how they fit now, as well as how they will fit later. Should they fit snugly or have some give? Will they stretch with time? 

Running shoes will stretch, but not much. As the shoes spend more time on your feet, the material will loosen a bit and conform to the shape of your foot. Don’t pick out a pair of running shoes expecting that they will stretch, though. Running shoes should be comfortable right from the start. 

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons that running shoes will stretch, how to choose the right size for your needs, and how to stretch out your own running shoes if they feel a little tight. 

Will My Running Shoes Stretch?

You should purchase a running shoe that fits comfortably on your foot, right out of the box. Running shoes, unlike leather material, do not stretch much with use, so picking out a pair that fits comfortably right from the start can make the most sense. 

Your running shoes may not stretch out, but they can conform to your foot and feel a little different after wearing them for a few days. Some reasons for this include: 

  • The material softens and loosens while being worn.
  • It conforms around the natural shape of your own foot. 

Because the running shoes can break-in, it is a good idea to wear them around before running a big race. Breaking in your running shoe will make them more comfortable and can alleviate any potential pain while wearing them.  

What Size Running Shoe Should I Get?

This will depend on how the original shoe fits. If you try on one size and it fits comfortably, with just a little snugness, then this is probably a good fit. Bear in mind that research has shown that our foot volume increases slight during running, so if the shoes a really tight it may be worth going up half a size.

Running shoes should not feel tight or pinch your feet. Some things to consider when picking out the right size of shoe for you include:

  • If the shoe is loose when you try it on at the store, then size down. 
  • If the shoe is a little snug but comfortable, stick with that size. 
  • If the shoe is so tight it hurts, it is time to size up. 

You want a little bit of snugness in a running shoe, but not so much that it ends up hurting when you walk out of the store

Try on a few different sizes and walk up and down the aisle in them a little bit. Snug, but not tight and painful, is the best option. 

The Benefits of Stretching My Running Shoes

You should break in your running shoe before you run competitively in them. Your shoes may conform to your fit over time, but if you do not break them in first, you may hurt the foot and cause sore and painful feet. Some reasons to consider breaking in your running shoes include:

  • Natural feeling: To get used to the shoe and forget that it’s even new. 
  • Comfort: To make you feel more comfortable in the running shoe. 
  • Safety: To prevent injuries and any leg or ankle problems. 

Never put on a running shoe and assume it will be fine when you need to run competitively. Stretch it out ahead of time, so you are completely comfortable in it first. 

How Can I Stretch out My Shoes?

When purchasing a new pair of running shoes, they should fit comfortably on your foot. If you have mistakenly purchased shoes that are uncomfortably snug, you may need to find whatever stretch is in them and work it to your advantage. Here are some options.

Blow Dryer and Thick Socks

You will need a few things in hand to make this one work, but it is really effective. The steps to use include:

  • Bundle up. Pick out your thickest pair of socks and put them on along with the shoes. 
  • Heat it up. Turn on the hairdryer and let it blow at the areas that are tight. Only use the blow dryer for twenty seconds on the shoe. 
  • Move the heat around. Keep the blow dryer heat at medium and wave it back and forth, so you do not burn the material. 

This method will only take a few minutes to complete, and your shoes should fit a little bit better before you start to run. 

Zip-Lock Bag Method

This is a great method for running shoes and any type of shoe that does not contain leather. To make this one work:

  • Fill.  Load up a Zip-loc bag with water, enough to fit snugly into your shoe. 
  • Stuff. Pack this into your shoe, making some arrangements, so it fits near the tighter spots. 
  • Freeze. Place the whole shoe, with the bag still in place, into the freezer. 

The shoe and bag of water need to stay in your freezer overnight at least. This causes the water to turn into ice, which causes it to expand. This is a slow and natural way to stretch out certain parts of your shoe, so it fits better. 

Shoe Stretch Sprays

There are a few sprays and liquids out there that promise to help out with stretching any shoe that you want, even running shoes. You can put the liquid or spray onto the areas of the shoe that are tight and then wear them around a little to stretch. Before using these, consider:

  • What spray you need. There are different types based on the material of the shoe. 
  • How much you need. Always start with a small amount and add more later. 

This method works if you only need a little bit of stretch to the shoes. If you need quite a bit, one of the other methods is better. Just make sure you pick the right type of spray for the material you have. 

Wear the Shoes Around the House

The easiest method to use is simply to wear the shoes around your home. You should do this for a short amount of time each day, slowly increasing how long you wear the shoes until they are comfortable to wear all day long. This method is simple, just:

  • Put the shoes on like you plan to normally wear them. 
  • Set a timer for how long you want to wear them. Half an hour is a good starting point. 
  • Do your normal work around the home until the timer beeps. 
  • Slowly increase the time until the shoes are comfortable to wear. 

This method often takes the longest to complete. It will take a few days at least, though it may take even longer than that depending on how long you wear the shoes and how stiff the material is. It is the most effective, though, and has the lowest risk of harming the material in the show while it stretches. 

Stretching Out Your Running Shoes

Purchasing a new pair of running shoes is a smart decision to help you get prepared for running for fun or for a competition. When you pick a shoe that is the right size, it will fit comfortably and make running easier. 

Choosing shoes that are too tight can pinch your feet and cause blisters and calluses to form. This will make running too painful. The right pair of running shoes, ones that fit perfectly out of the box, can make running more comfortable. 

References

The effects of walking, running, and shoe size on foot volumetrics

How snug should shoes be/ Will they stretch? | Styleforum

Shoes Too Tight? 7 Ways to Stretch Your Shoes & When to Do More (healthline.com)

HOW TO STRETCH RUNNING SHOES: The Easy Way (theshoesfinder.com)

Top 8 Reasons for Pain on Top Of Your Foot (beltsvillefootcare.com)

Mark Norman

I've been running for over 6 years and now try to balance it with life as a dad to two young kids. I'm not super quick, I just try to run consistently, not always easy! I'm lucky enough to have run the London Marathon twice along with countless other half marathons and 10ks. I'm also one of the Run Directors at my local parkrun.

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