When you're in a rush, all you have to do is reach for your blowdryer and blast the shoe with heat to make it stretchable. Set it to medium-high heat, and hold it 12 to18 inches away from the shoe for 3 to 5 minutes. Once the leather is warm and more malleable, Vincent Rao Jr. of Vince's Village Cobbler, a shoe-repair shop in Soho, says you can put on a sock and then walk around in the shoe to help break it in. "Just make sure that when you're using heat on any leather, especially high-end leather goods, you have to be very careful with it that doesn't get discolored or doesn't stretch too much," he says.
But if you have a bit more time, Rao recommends getting a shoe stretching liquid instead. "Heat is something that's good, but the stretching solution is a lot more effective and a lot safer as well," he says, pointing to the whole "you could damage your shoes with the heat" issue as a reason to do things the old fashioned way. He recommends the TRG Shoe Stretch Spray ($8), which works on natural materials like leather, nubuck (think: Timberlands) or suede. Just spray the inside and outside of the shoe with the spray, and wear them while they're still wet. "That helps soften the material out to make it easier in your foot as you wear them and try to break them in," says David Mesquita, vice president of Leather Spa.
If you find that's still not enough, then its time to break out a wooden shoe stretcher, which uses a crank to help make shoes bigger width-wise. Pair a stretcher—like the FootFitter Premium 3"- 6" High Heel Shoe Stretcher ($27) for heels, and the Deluxe Wood Shoe Stretcher ($17) for flats—with some stretching spray, and you'll never have to deal with (or throw away) an uncomfy pair of shoes again.
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