Using a shoe stretcher on cycling shoes

Shoe stretchers are hardly anything new. But I have never heard of anyone using them specifically on bike shoes. I thought it might help the fit of some of my shoes and I have had good results, so I want to share it here.

A little background: I was having issues with shoe / pedal / cleat comfort for some time. At first I thought I was getting “hot foot” from my choice of pedals on both my road and mountain bike. The fact that it was happening with two different sets of pedals should have been a clue that the pedals were not the culprit. Nonetheless, I switched to bigger platform pedals. They did not make a dramatic improvement. I then noticed the sensation of heat was due to the shoes being too tight around the toe box. I like the feeling of snug shoes when I start riding. But I realized that my feet were swelling as I rode. This is not uncommon, BTW. It is why cycling shoes are made with on the fly fit adjusters. All of my shoes were the right length, had a comfy snug heel cup, and the toe box was comfortable for about an hour of riding. But after that the fit was just too tight, even if I loosened all 3 of the adjustments all the way. I realized I needed to get wide shoes. Sidi makes wide width options on many of their shoes. But getting all new shoes, or even getting one new pair in size wide was not appealing. My shoes were in great shape and had broken in nicely. I even had an unused pair.

And they were all real leather. So I decided to try stretching them. Bike shoes are “techy” and have a lot of synthetic materials like velcro, composites, etc. compared to fashion shoes. I don’t know if bike shoe makers discourage stretching. And since I have never heard of anyone doing it I feel like I must make some kind of disclaimer about manufacturers and support and all that. So if you want to try this on your shoes you might want to check with the shoe manufacturer. I didn’t. But I lead a risky life that way.

So here it is:

widener0

A shoe stretcher. No carbon fiber, no lightweight alloy. Weird.

A few notes: This is a nicer model with no plastic bits. After reading a few reviews I decided to spring a few more bucks and get the nicer stretcher. I have not been disappointed. With the nicer model you only get one and it works left or right. Unless you are in a hurry to stretch your shoes I see no reason to get a pair. I allowed stretching to go 12 hours so. I just timed it so I was not without shoes. Those metal knobs can be moved to the different holes corresponding to where you are getting hot spots. I stretched my tightest shoes twice with the knobs moved to different positions.

widener1

Using a shoe stretcher is as exciting as watching a shoe stretch. But the results are worth it.

When I stretched my shoes I removed the liner. I think the liner would just get crushed. And I undid all the straps. It seemed like stretching with the straps tight would put a lot of stress on them.

widener2

Slather them up with whatever they call that shoe stretch liquid stuff

I also used shoe stretcher…um, liquid? Spray? There does not see to be an agreement over what to call it, but the shoe store that fixes all of my shoes recommended it. I have never stretched without it so I can’t really say if it helps. But the end result was good and the spray was cheap, so what the heck. The results?

widener3

A stretched shoe. Contain your excitement, please.

So far so good. I noticed the difference right away. My shoe fit is now in the middle of the range of strap adjustment and not somewhere past the widest setting. I still loosen as I ride but I never reach the limit of the range of adjustment. And I realize I need to start loosening my shoes before they get too uncomfortable. Recovering from an over tight shoe takes a while and can be downright distracting. I store the shoes with nice wooden shoe trees so they don’t shrivel up and go back to their old size. I don’t know if that would happen actually, but a shoe tree can’t hurt.

So while your mileage may vary, my experience with stretching bike shoes has gone well thus far. Whether or not you need it or if you should stretch your (probably) expensive bike shoes is up to you!

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