Have you ever been told by a sales assistant that the shoes you’re trying on will “give”? So have I! But what does it mean?

Will my shoes stretch or give?

Some shop staff use the word “give” to mean “stretch”. They might encourage you to purchase a pair which are too tight when you try them on, by saying “they’ll give over time”.

Here are my 5 fool-proof ways to tell if your shoes will stretch:

Question 1: Are they lined?

A. If yes, the double layer makes your shoes less likely to stretch than a single unlined piece of leather.

Question 2: What are they made from?

A. Woven fabric and synthetic leather uppers are less likely to stretch than leather. Stretch fabric will usually give to the shape of your foot.

Question 3: Are the uppers stitched?

A. If there’s a row of stitching where you need the shoe to stretch, this will either prevent the “give” effect or the stitching will break under pressure. If there’s a larger panel without stitching, this may stretch a little where your foot pushes against it. Beware of unstitched straps on sandals, because they can quickly stretch and become too long.

Question 4: How stiff is the upper material?

A. Patent materials have an extra coating which creates the shine effect. This is like adding an extra layer which as you’ve seen in Question 1, adds stiffness and reduces the ability to stretch. Any coated materials or extra thick leathers are less likely to give in a short period of time. Suede usually stretches more than standard leather, especially if it’s lined with a stretchier material such as pigskin leather.

Question 5: How much time do you have?

A. Are you willing to go through pain to (possibly) get comfortable shoes? How many wears could you put up with discomfort, before you achieve the holy grail of comfortable, beautiful shoes?

Can I get my shoes stretched?

This is always risky. You should consider the following 6 points before using shoe stretchers, methods on the internet, or taking your beloved pair to a cobbler.

1. Your shoes can become overstretched, or stretched in the wrong places leading to a further compromised fit

2. Stretching could break the stitching, so the life of your shoes could be shortened

3. The upper material could be weakened or torn

4. Shoes will never stretch in length, because the sole and structure prevent this

5. They might not stretch enough, so you could waste time or money

6. The look of your shoes could be altered

Will my shoes get more comfortable?

Unless your shoes have a serious design flaw (I remember a pair of Puma Mostro trainers with a hard plastic heel stiffener – ouch!), they should become a little more comfortable with wear. The upper will crease where your foot flexes, and the material should lose some of its out-of-the-box stiffness…eventually!

One last warning: If you buy shoes which are too narrow and they stretch to accommodate your feet, you could end up with some unsightly bulges on the sides of your shoes.

The moral of the story

You should always buy shoes which fit your feet on first wear, because they’ll look and feel great on you.

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