How to Stretch Toe Box of Hiking Boots? (9 Easy Ways & Tips)

Over the years, I’ve learned how to stretch the toe box of hiking boots. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to get the right size, you just need a little more space. 

In fact, many times, you’ll have the proper fit for hiking boots in all of the other areas, but the toe box will just feel a little bit small. 

Luckily, some tried and tested methods exist to give you a bit more room in the toe box area. Here are some of the best methods I’ve learned to stretch the toe box in hiking boots. 

Quick Summary 

  • If your hiking footwear causes your feet to hurt, you can try to stretch them. 
  • Many homemade techniques are effective at stretching shoe materials. 
  • If you cannot fix the issue yourself, seek professional advice from a cobbler who may have the right tool. 

9 Methods To Stretch The Toe Box Of Your Hiking Boots 

The toes of your hiking boots can be one of the most problematic areas when achieving maximum comfort for your feet.

If your toes feel squished, or you have bunions, it could lead to an uncomfortable hike. Depending on your shoe type and what it’s made of, here are a few methods that should help give you some extra space. 

1. Wear Your Shoes Inside The House 

wearing hiking boots around the house

This method is one of the most common ways of breaking in a new pair of boots before using them out on a hike.

It will take a week or so but will ensure that you’ll remain pain-free on the trails. 

Put on your boots, and then walk around the house with them on your feet.

I like to at least wear them for an hour a day during the break-in period, but wear them as much as you can tolerate to stretch them out and help them mold to your foot. 

2. Try The Freezing Water Method 

Water increases in size when it turns to ice, which you can use to stretch out the front of your hiking boots for more room. This trick suits synthetic boots better than leather ones, as leather doesn’t respond as well.

Fill a Ziploc bag with water, close it well, and fit it into your boot’s toe area. Freeze your boots, and the ice will gently expand the toe space.

3. Put On Hiking Socks 

Wear socks when trying shoes
Wear socks when trying shoes

This method is another way to break in the boots and add space by simply wearing them. 

However, instead of just using your regular socks, or one pair of hiking socks, put on two pairs (or more) of thick socks.

Keep these socks on as you wear the hiking boots around the house, even if it initially feels very tight. As you walk around with the thick socks, your boots will stretch.

Again, this technique may take several days to complete. 

4. Use A Shoe Tree

Shoe trees are a useful tool to stretch any kind of shoe and work great in getting a bit more space in your hiking boots. They won’t stretch them a lot but work well if you just need them to fit a little bigger [1].

They’re also good to use in your boots in between hikes because they help them to keep their shape better and can’t also prevent the outer shoe from cracking. 

Insert the shoe tree into the boots and leave it in there for 24 hours. Check your boots after 24 hours and note if they require any more stretching. 

5. Use A Shoe Stretcher 

a wooden shoe stretcher on a box
Courtesy of Traci

A specialized tool that you can try for stretching hiking boots is a shoe stretcher (or a boot stretcher) [2].

It allows you to obtain an even stretch without compromising the boots’ integrity There are two different types of shoe stretchers. 

A one-way shoe stretcher will stretch out the width of the shoe if it feels too narrow. A two-way shoe stretcher will stretch both the width and the length if you feel like you need to make the shoe larger all around. A two-way stretcher can possibly help you achieve a full size larger. 

Shoe stretchers are a great investment if you often purchase expensive hiking boots because, as mentioned, they won’t ruin the material at all. In addition, shoe stretchers work great for all the other types of footwear for hiking or other activities.

6. Use Newspaper Or Sock Balls 

adding newspaper in my hiking boots

The newspaper method to stretch hiking boots has been around for a while and doesn’t require any special equipment.

Tightly roll up some newspapers in a ball (or you can use socks rolled into a ball) and stuff the paper or the socks inside the toe box of hiking shoes.

Leave it in the boots until the next day, and then check to see if they require additional stretching. 

7. Try A Shoe Stretch Spray 

You can use this specialized product to loosen the material a bit and help it mold to your feet, and ease the areas where you feel pressure or pinching. Simply spray the product over the outside of the boots and walk around the house wearing the shoes for about half an hour.

Wearing thick socks as you perform this step will help with the stretching process. 

8. Use A Hair Dryer 

Applying heat is a great way of stretching boots, and most people own a blow dryer, which is a good source of directing heat in a specific area. This method works for both synthetic and leather shoes. 

With the shoes on your feet, run the blow dryer over the areas that feel tight and keep moving them over them, focusing on the ones with the most tightness. For this method to work, you don’t have to use the highest heat setting. Typically, the medium heat setting will prove sufficient. 

Afterward, keep wearing the shoes for at least an hour so they don’t shrink back to the original size. For leather shoes, apply a leather conditioner as well to protect them from damage.  

Related Article: How Much Toe Room You Should Have in your Hiking Boots

9. Visit A Cobbler 

cobbler fixing hiking shoes in his shop

If you’ve tried all the above methods and just can’t seem to get your shoes to fit right, seek professional help. A good cobbler will likely know additional tips or tricks and have the right tools for making your hiking boots feel more comfortable.

After all, if you’ve invested in a pricy hiking boot, you’ll want to ensure that it keeps you pain-free.  

How your hiking boots fit greatly determines how much you’ll enjoy your outdoor adventures.

Our Recommendation

While you want your shoes to fit snugly, you don’t want them too tight, or you could have blisters and other problems. We suggest you check some of these premium hiking boots for wide feet first before rushing into a shop to buy your next footwear.

Here is a list of hiking boots that we personally tried and tested:

In order to prepare for your upcoming hiking expedition, I hope this guidance, which is based on our experience, has helped you stretch your hiking boots.


How Do You Make a Homemade Shoe Stretcher?

Make a homemade tool to stretch shoes by using any technique that we’ve mentioned above. If the homemade options do not work, try looking for the professional help of a cobbler. 

Do Shoe Stretchers Really Work?

Yes, a shoe stretcher is a great way to increase your shoe size without damaging it. As the tool stretches the material, it will increase in both length and width. 

How Can I Expand My Shoes by Freezing?

Place some sealed bags filled with water into the toes of your shoes and then place them in the freezer. As the water turns to ice, it expands the shoe and helps to widen the problematic areas. 

Does Wet Newspaper Stretch Shoes?

Yes, balling up wet newspaper and stuffing it inside your shoes will help you to stretch them even more than dry paper. As the balls of paper dry inside the shoe, it expands and hardens, making it roomier in the toes.  

How Can I Stretch My Shoes Overnight?

Putting balled-up paper in your shoes, using shoe trees or a stretcher, or trying the freezer method are all good ways to stretch your shoes overnight.  


Christina Utz

Christina Utz

Christina Utz is a professional writer, mountain addict, and hiking enthusiast. She successfully finished a rock climbing class and a wilderness survival course, and by the age of 24, she hiked more than 1800 miles and finished over 260 different trails! Her expertise in hiking and outdoors helped numerous people to fulfill their adventurous spirit!
E-mail: [email protected]

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