Can You Shrink Too-Big Shoes?

Life is no fairy tale, and when it comes to shoes, we can't depend on a fairy godmother to show up and drop a pair of properly fitting, dainty glass slippers in our lap. In real life, buying shoes entails trying on different sizes and forms until you find a pair that fits your feet just right. Good shoes take you to good places. And shoes that keep slipping out of the heels or make your feet feel painfully trapped are as good as none. When you buy shoes online, the odds are high that you'll end up with a pair that's either too large or too small. This situation might also occur during an in-person shopping trip when you find footwear that ticks all the boxes except size. Even though your shoes fit perfectly when you got them, too, they may stretch out with frequent, prolonged usage.

Wearing shoes that are too big for your feet requires you to scrunch your toes to keep them on, which might trigger bunions and hammertoes in the long run, per the Foot and Ankle Institute. Oversized shoes also leave you vulnerable to disruption in natural strides, resulting in arch pain. While loose shoes can be hard to manage, returning or throwing your dream shoes away because they're only a half size too big feels like the most cardinal sin. 

In a situation like this, knowing how to shrink shoes can save you lots of headaches. There are tried-and-true methods to shrink your shoes to their perfect size that don't involve stuffing socks in the front to fill out the soles. For example, cold water can help you shrink any type of canvas shoes, stylist Jess Seaman tells The Sun U.K.. Here are some helpful techniques you can try when your shoes fit a bit loosely and you don't want to suffer to look stylish.

Shrink your shoes with the dryer method

When it comes to shrinking canvas, leather, or suede shoes, you can try the water and heat method, DC.ONE suggests. To begin with, soak the shoes in cold water to moisten the area that should be tapered off. Don't leave them in the water for too long, lest they get soggy. The heat generated from a dryer will help shrink the shoe, but you can also use a blow dryer set to medium heat to dry them. Since untreated cotton can shrink as much as 20% under intense heat, you can compress the cotton around your shoes by drying them in a tumble dryer or with a blow dryer for about 20 minutes. To prevent abrasion to footwear fabrics and color fading, keep the blow dryer about 15 to 20 centimeters away from your shoes. 

For footwear composed of delicate fabrics such as leather shoes and heels, you should leave them to dry naturally under direct sunlight. There's no one-size-fits-all drying method when it comes to shoes. Some shoes can survive a few rounds in a tumble dryer and some are best left to the mercy of natural heat. Make sure to keep your shoes' labels handy so you know how best to care for them.

According to HoodMWR, you might want to apply a specific conditioner that matches your shoe type after heating your shoes with a dryer to prevent heat damage. In so doing, you can restore the oils lost during the heating process and maintain the quality of your shoes. Once your shoes are dry, put them on and measure the fit. If the shrunk areas are still loose for your feet, you can repeat the process until they are tightened and you get the shoe fit you're looking for.

Shrink your shoes with vinegar and water

Another method you can try to shrink your shoes made of leather and suede is to use vinegar and water, per Shoe Selector. To use this method, dabble a clean cloth into a bowl filled with an equal mix of water and vinegar. After wetting the whole surface of each shoe with a damp cloth, let it air dry for at least 24 hours. Keep in mind that the leather can crack under direct sunlight, so be sure to coat a layer of conditioner on your shoe before warming them and not leave them under natural heat for too long. You might want to repeat these steps several times until your shoes are shrunk to your perfect fit. 

Another way to reduce the size of your shoes is with a clothing iron and a damp cloth, according to Shoerazzi. All you have to do is to place the cloth over the shoe as an extra layer of protection and run the iron over the parts that need some shrinking. For leather shoes, set the iron to low heat and gently iron down in broad strokes for even heat coverage. Meanwhile, cotton shoes might require higher heat. Pull the plug on the iron after about 15 minutes and remove the cloth to prevent your shoes from becoming heat-stressed and torn. Keep repeating the process until your shoes are shrunk to your desired fit.

Having a pair of shoes that fit you perfectly has a significant impact on your overall style, health, and confidence. Therefore, measure your foot size thoroughly and visit a physical store to test the shoes out in person if possible. Buying shoes online can be risky, especially when they don't come with a return policy. In case you're not sure how to fix your shoes at home, you can engage the help of a cobbler to retract the correct shoe size for your feet.