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How to Stretch Dance Shoes? (& Avoid The Pain!)

How to Stretch Dance Shoes? (& Avoid The Pain!) – Did any of this happened to you recently? You’ve recently purchased a pair of dance shoes, such as high heels or dancing shoes, and have worn them on a few occasions. but now you feel that they are a bit too tight and painful. Unfortunately, you’re unable to exchange them at the store anymore, and are in a tricky situation! Was it a waste of money? What can I do to fix that? Because deep down, you know you love those shoes!  Well, good news, we will be able to help you fix that and give you many tips in this article!

learn how to stretch dance shoes with suede soles, latin dance shoes and ballroom dance shoes

Dance shoes are an extension of the dancer, offering support, flexibility, and style, but finding a pair that fits perfectly can sometimes feel like a performance in itself. Because a dancer’s feet are their foundation, well-fitting shoes are crucial to comfort, performance, and injury prevention. Over time, dance shoes may require stretching to accommodate a dancer’s changing feet or simply to break them in for better comfort. Understanding the materials used in dance shoes, such as leather or canvas, is the first step to effectively and safely stretching them.

There are a variety of methods available to stretch dance shoes, from mechanical stretchers to manual techniques, each suitable for different shoe materials and specific areas of tightness. Whether using a blow dryer to gently warm and expand the shoes or employing shoe stretch sprays coupled with stretching devices, the goal is to achieve a comfortable fit without damaging the shoe’s integrity. Proper post-stretching care is equally important to maintain the shoe’s condition and extend its lifespan, addressing common fit issues whilst ensuring they’re ready for the next performance.

How to Stretch Dance Shoes?

Different materials of dance shoes require different methods to stretch them. Let’s take a look at the three main materials used in dance shoes. In this post, we will cover some tips and tricks to stretch your dance shoes in general. Then we will get into more specific style of dance shoes such as Latin dance shoes, ballroom dance shoes, swing shoes and more. 

1- Put some thick socks on

Put some thick socks on to protect your feet from bruising or injuring while stretching your new pair of dancing shoes at home.

2- Heat your shoes with a hair dryer

Target the tight areas with the hair dryer, make sure to move,  flex, point your foot, roll your ankles, and move your foot in all directions. Direct your attention to the specific tight spots, usually around the big and little toes.

Avoid heating the heel area, as this may cause the shoes to become too loose. With this technique, your shoes can stretch up to a whole size, but be careful not to overdo it.

3- Walk around to break in your dance shoes until they feel comfy

Walk on carpet or wooden floor to avoid damaging your dance shoe sole, specially if they are suede dance shoes.

Understanding how to stretch shoes for dance depending on the type of shoe materials.

When considering how to stretch dance shoes, it’s vital to account for the type of material they are crafted from, as this will dictate the appropriate stretching methods.

Leather Dance Shoes Materials & How to stretch leather shoes

black boots leather lace up for latin dancing

Leather dance shoes are treasured for their durability and ability to mould to the foot’s shape, making them a predominant choice for many dancers. They can be gently stretched using a variety of techniques, including shoe stretchers or applying controlled heat with a hairdryer. The heat should be concentrated on areas that are particularly snug, often around the toes. As leather is a natural material, it requires a delicate balance of moisture and stretching to avoid any damage.

How to stretch leather dance shoes?

How to stretch leather dancing shoes?

When it comes to stretching leather shoes, there are several methods you can try, but one of the most common is using a hair dryer. Start by heating the shoes evenly for a few minutes, then put them on while wearing thick socks for around an hour. This technique will help stretch your shoes and create some additional space inside. If using a hair dryer is not your preference, you can also take your shoes to a cobbler or shoe maker to have them professionally stretched as a last resort. But we will give you many tips before that!

womens knee high leather boots for dancing

How Stretch Dance Shoes Guide

How to stretch your dance shoes using a hair dryer technique?

To stretch your shoes using a hairdryer, focus the heat on the tightest areas of the shoes. As you heat these areas, move your foot around by flexing, pointing, and rolling your ankles. Ensure that you’re only heating the sides that feel too tight, which is typically around the big and little toes. Avoid heating the heel area, as this may cause the shoes to become too loose. With this technique, your shoes can stretch up to a whole size, but be careful not to overdo it. You want the shoes to fit comfortably, but not be too loose.

Finally, walk around in your shoes and socks (on carpet) until they are comfortable to make sure they are the perfect size!

How to stretch Tap Shoes ?

To stretch tap shoes that are too tight, especially at the toes, you can use a few different methods. One technique involves using a shoe stretcher spray such as Stretch Genie in combination with shoe expanders for the best results. Another method is to apply a leather softener like mink oil, saddle soap, or coconut oil to the shoes and then wear them with thick socks, using a hairdryer to gently warm the shoes and help them stretch. Additionally, wearing wet socks in the shoes can also soften and stretch the leather, a technique borrowed from figure skating. It’s also possible to use heat to stretch the shoes by evenly heating them for a few minutes and then wearing them with thick socks for about an hour. Remember to use these methods cautiously to avoid damaging the shoes.

Suede dance shoes materials

open toe salsa shoes with glitter

Suede, a type of leather with a napped finish, is another common material for dance shoes, providing both flexibility and grip. Suede can also be stretched, but due to its textured surface, it needs to be handled with care to maintain its unique qualities. Suede stretchers or specially designed sprays that condition and relax the fibres can be used to attain a better fit.

How to Stretch Suede Dance Shoes?

how to stretch suede dance shoes

How to stretch Suede Shoes?

Stretching suede shoes requires some extra care and attention to avoid damaging the delicate material. Here are a few tips on how to stretch suede shoes:

  1. Use a stretching spray: Look for a stretching spray specifically designed for suede shoes. Apply the spray inside the shoes and wear them for a few hours until they dry completely.

  2. Use a shoe stretcher: Invest in a shoe stretcher that is designed for suede shoes. Insert the stretcher into the shoe and adjust it to stretch the desired areas. Leave it in the shoe for a few hours or overnight.

  3. Stuff with newspaper / Plastic bags: gather some old newspaper, and stuff that into your dance shoes. Leave it in overnight to help stretch the shoes.

  4. Wear them in: Wear your suede shoes around the house with thick socks to help break them in gradually. This will help stretch them out over time.

Remember, suede is a delicate material, so be careful not to over-stretch or damage the shoes in the process.

How to stretch Dance Shoes Guide

Fabric and Canvas Dance Shoes Materials

In contrast to leather, canvas shoes are made from a lightweight and breathable fabric. They are a go-to for styles like ballet, where flexibility and a snug fit are key. Canvas dance shoes can be stretched using the damp method, where water is applied to the tight spots and the shoes are then worn as they dry, allowing them to conform to the contours of the feet.

Fabric shoes, often used for a variety of dance genres, may include materials such as mesh or other synthetics. While their ability to stretch can differ based on the specific textile composition, a common approach is to use the freezer method. This involves filling a sealed bag with water, placing it inside the tight section of the shoe, and letting it freeze, causing the water to expand and gently stretch the material.

How to stretch canvas dance shoes?

How to stretch Canvas dancing Shoes?

Canvas shoes are known to be less stretchy, which means there’s not much you can do to loosen them up if they’re too tight. In such cases, the best solution is to opt for a different size of canvas shoe. This also work when you want to know how to stretch jazz shoes.

ballet flats canvas dance shoes

How to stretch Dance Shoes Guide

Manual Stretching Methods

How to stretch dance shoes using rubbing alcohol and alcohol-based solutions?

An alcohol-based solution can be utilised to stretch dance shoes more precisely:

  • Create a solution of equal parts water and rubbing alcohol.
  • Spray or apply the solution onto the inside of the shoes, focusing on the areas that require stretching.
  • Wear the shoes immediately while they are still damp and move your feet to help expand the material.

This method is particularly useful for spot-stretching, allowing dancers to target specific regions such as where bunions might form or where the shoes are especially tight.

Stretching dance shoes with socks

One can stretch dance shoes using thick socks. The methodology is straightforward:

  • Wear one or more pairs of thick socks to create a snug fit within the shoes.
  • Put the shoes on and walk around for about an hour to allow the material to stretch.

The pressure caused by the thick socks will gently widen the shoes, providing more room in the toe areaand reducing the chance of pain while dancing.

Mechanical Stretching Techniques for your dance shoes

Stretching Dance Shoes Using a Shoe Stretcher

A shoe stretcher is a tool specifically designed for enlarging tight-fitting dance shoes. It is particularly useful as it allows for targeted stretching in areas that may be causing discomfort. For a uniform stretch, a two-way shoe stretcher can expand both the length and width of the shoe. On the other hand, a four-way shoe stretcher can also adjust the height and instep, which is beneficial for shoes with high arches or tight top lines. To use, one simply inserts the stretcher into the shoe, turns the handle to expand it, and leaves it overnight. Considering the delicate materials of dance shoes, one should proceed with caution and gradually increase the stretcher size. Should the task seem daunting, a professional cobbler can assist to ensure the shoes are stretched adequately without being damaged.

Stretching dance shoes using Shoe Trees and Stretching

Shoe trees are another tool for maintaining the shape of the shoes after the use of a shoe stretcher and are particularly effective for maintaining the shoe’s form in the long run. While shoe trees are not typically used to stretch shoes, their insertion right after wearing them aids in minimising creases, controlling moisture and maintaining the overall shape of the shoe. It is important to choose the correct size of shoe tree because an overly large tree can overstretch the shoes, whereas a smaller one would not hold the shape effectively. Shoe trees made of cedar are recommended as they also help absorb moisture and odour, keeping the dance shoes in a pristine condition.

Benefits of using shoe trees

Shoe trees, typically carved from wood or constructed from plastic, are essential for maintaining a shoe’s shape after each wear. Inserting a shoe tree into a pair of dance shoes when they are not in use helps to absorb moisture, thus averting the sole from warping. Beyond moisture control, shoe trees also smooth wrinkles and creases in leather, sustaining the shoe’s appearance and comfort.

For dancer’s who invest heavily in their footwear, the routine use of shoe trees can significantly extend the life of their shoes, preserving the shoe’s structure and the snugness of fit from its first wear through to the last. Dance shoes that are properly cared for with shoe trees will exhibit consistent performance, vital for dancers who rely on predictable support and fit from their shoes.

How to stretch Dance Shoes Guide

I don't have a shoe tree. What else can I use?

Not everyone got a shoe tree at home ! But we can always find an alternative:

  • Use newspaper / plastic bags / socks
  • When you buy your dance shoes, some dance shop will give you what they use to keep the dance shoes shape (foamy little white thing on the picture)
How to stretch dance shoes using shoe tree

Other tips to break in and stretch your Latin Dance Shoes & ballroom dance shoes?

  • In case you don’t have a conventional shoe stretcher, you can still stretch your shoes by using any other object that would fit (such as a small water bottle) or use newspaper.
  • Women’s dance boots & women’s dance shoes can be a bit tight on the front of the shoe, on any open toe  models. We would recommend you to take your shoes off and bend the front part in a rolling action up and down. This exercise helps to increase the shoe’s flexibility.
  • If the front part still feel tight, they will still loosen up while dancing. But they will hurt att first. Add a bit of wax under the front  of the toe material. This will avoid the shoe to break into your feet while you are breaking them in.
  • For gentlemen’s shoes that require stretching their dance shoes: we’ve got an easier life! Simply sit down, put your dance shoes on and open your Netflix! Then while watching your favourite TV show (maybe Dancing with the stars!), simply Arch your foot by bending it with your hands and then flex your foot and toes. Repeat this exercise for a while.

How to stretch Dance Shoes Guide

Caring for Dance Shoes Post-Stretching

Once dance shoes have been stretched to the desired fit, maintaining their shape and condition is crucial. Proper care ensures lasting comfort and support, as well as the shoe’s flexibility and balance that are essential for dance performance.

Maintaining the Ideal Fit

Regularly wearing your dance shoes is key to preserving their ideal fit. Store them on a shoe tree to help retain their shape and prevent shrinkage. If a dancer notices any tightness returning, they should repeat the stretching process promptly to maintain both comfort and stability, ensuring their shoes act as an extension of their feet rather than a hindrance.

Caring for Stretched Areas

The areas of the shoe that have been stretched require special attention. One should condition these areas with a suitable leather cream or balm to maintain their suppleness and prevent cracking. Avoid moisture as it can cause the leather to contract; if the shoes become wet, allow them to air dry away from direct heat. Frequent checks for wear and tear, especially in stretched sections, help in identifying if reinforcement or professional repair is needed – a vital step for ensuring the dancer’s safety equipment is in top condition.


Frequently Asked questions

What methods can I use to stretch my dance shoes in the comfort of my home?

One can utilise the Water, Ziploc, and Freezer technique for a gentle stretch or apply a softener and stuff the shoes with material such as newspaper for an overnight stretch.

The best procedure for enlarging character shoes is to wear them with thick socks and gently heat the tight areas with a hairdryer, allowing the material to expand for a better fit.

One can effectively widen dance shoes using a shoe stretcher overnight to target areas that need enlargement, especially around the toes.

It typically requires several hours in the freezer; however, it is critical to check the process every few hours to prevent overexpansion and water damage.

How to keep my dance shoes from smelling bad?

How to stretch Dance Shoes Guide

How to Pick Latin Dance Shoes?

When it comes to Ballroom dance shoes and Latin dance shoes, it’s crucial that you choose dance shoes that fit very tight. Most dance shoes will stretch a little after you dance. So if your dancing shoes are already not tight enough, it is most likely that they will stretch even more after couple of social dances.

The reason why you want your dance shoes to be tight is because in latin dancing and ballroom dancing, you will execute a lot of spin and pivot. Especially while dancing Bachata and dancing Salsa. If you feet are not held securely enough, you might get more chances to have an accident and inured yourself.

To ensure a proper fit, check that there is no space between your foot and the shoe at the heel or toes, as this can cause instability while dancing. The heel should fit securely in the back of the shoe, while your toes should reach the tip without bending to fit.

Dance shoes are designed to be like a second skin, providing both support and stretch to your feet. Unlike regular street shoes, dance shoes are soft and pliable, allowing them to conform to your foot’s shape over time. Choosing the wrong dance shoe will either feel loose and roomy or too tight, leading to discomfort and pain such as biting at the back of the heel or toe squeezing.

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How to stretch Dance Shoes Guide

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We hope that this guide helped you understand how to stretch dance shoes. Feel free to contact us if you have any issues with our shoes – and we will help you and guide you through the process of how to stretch dance shoes.

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How to Stretch Dance Shoes Guide

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Thank you for reading our Guide on How to stretch dance shoes.

Dance Teacher at Latin Dance Shoes Australia | Website | + posts

Dance teacher, music passionate and Latin dancers aficionado!
Founder of Latin Dance Shoes Australia