We’ve all been there. The excitement of buying a new pair of loafers quickly transforms into a struggle as your feet pay the price of a poor fit. It begs the question, do loafers stretch?
Loafers do stretch, but the amount they stretch depends on the grade of the leather, as well as the structure of the shoe. Suede loafers stretch more than full-grain leather loafers, while the coated finish of patent leather stretches the least.
After reading this you should have a better idea of how to choose loafers that fit for the long haul. No more guesswork.
But even if they’re a little tight after trying to break them in for a while, you’ll also learn exactly what can be done about it.
If necessary, techniques can be used to actively stretch loafers. These include the use of shoe trees and shoe stretch sprays.
Let’s get to it.
What Makes Loafers Stretch?
Loafers stretch because leather is a skin that reshapes and reforms under pressure.
But there are many different styles of loafer made from many different grades of leather. This plays a large role in determining just how much they stretch.
Some loafers just stretch more than others.
This is important because it can help you select what size would be best for you. You can predict how much a specific pair of loafers might stretch based on its features.
If you think they’ll stretch a good amount over time, you may want to go for a slightly tighter fit to begin with to prevent it from feeling too loose after a few months.
For example, go for a size 9.5 instead of a 10.
If you don’t think the loafers will stretch much, go for a more comfortable overall fit right from the outset.
Consider the following factors.
1. The More Seams It Has The Less It Will Stretch
Think of seams like a net that wraps around the leather of the shoes. Your foot may try to stretch it out, but the seams act as reinforcement and push back.
The more seams a pair of loafers has, the less it will stretch.
All loafers will have the classic moccasin-style stitched seam on the vamp. This will definitely make loafers stretch out less than a pair of slippers, for instance.
But you’re less likely to find loafers with multiple seams as you might with a pair of Oxfords.
Brogue loafers are less common, but not uncommon.
Always bear in mind that the more brogueing and seams a pair of loafers has, the less it will stretch.
2. Lined Loafers Will Stretch Less Than Unlined Loafers
Think of a lined shoe as a double-layered shoe.
It’s an additional layer that adds reinforcement and reduces the amount that a pair of loafers will stretch under pressure.
Unlined loafers are popular because of the laid-back, casual appearance of a relaxed fit. But people don’t usually think about the stretch.
Lined loafers look more structured and also feel more structured as they’re less likely to give over time.
So, if you’re going for an unlined pair of loafers, bear in mind that they may stretch out more than you might think.
3. The Grade Of Leather Is So Important
This is probably the most important factor to consider when it comes to stretch.
More rugged, napped grades of leather like suede and nubuck will stretch more than full-grain leather.
Suede loafers are incredibly popular due to their versatility and that casual, warm aesthetic.
But bear in mind that you may want a slightly tighter fit at first as the suede will gradually stretch out due to the pressure and moisture from your foot.
Patent leather stretches out the least. The high-gloss coating is an additional layer of reinforcement that reduces the amount that the leather gives under pressure.
6 Easy Ways To Stretch Loafers
You may find yourself struggling to cope with a tight pair of leather loafers. It’s definitely possible to stretch them out using a bit of force.
But this isn’t a decision you should take lightly, because there are definitely risks.
You could potentially overstretch them, stretch them in the wrong places, or weaken the stitching.
Plus, in general, any pair of leather loafers should stretch out even a little after you’ve worn them for a while. So do give it some time before you take measures into your own hands.
This is what tip number 1 is all about – it’s the least intensive and safest method for the shoes, but does require the most patience.
You may get to a point where you’re tired of waiting. If you accept the risks and are simply tired of aching hoofs, you can try out any of the methods from 2 to 7.
1. Build Up The Use Gradually
It’s highly recommended you do this first.
A common mistake when breaking in a new pair of leather loafers is wearing them for full days at a time.
Although it’s incredibly tempting to show off a new pair of shoes immediately, restraining yourself could save you some grief.
They’ll most likely be a little uncomfortable at first.
Try wearing them for short periods first, then gradually build up to wearing them for longer periods.
For example, wear those loafers out to lunch or to the grocery store. Short trips where you know you’re coming back home to your already broken-in Derbys soon.
After a few weeks, you may find that the leather has naturally stretched and shaped around your foot due to pressure and moisture. Even just a little.
2. Wear Thicker Socks
This isn’t a permanent measure, as wearing thick socks with loafers very rarely looks anything other than awkward.
But while you’re breaking them in, it can be something of a secret trick.
The volume those thick socks add to your feet puts the leather under more pressure. It’ll stretch more and fast-forward your comfort.
Once you’re happy that the loafers have become a snug yet comfortable fit, you can go back to the infinitely more stylish no-show socks you’ve temporarily shelved.
3. Use A Shoe Stretch Spray
Shoe stretch spray is pretty cheap and there are a range of them available on Amazon.
Kiwi Select Shoe Stretch Spray On Amazon
It’s effective but incredibly simple at the same time.
It works on the basis that moist leather stretches easier than dry leather. Most sprays have some sort of rubbing alcohol – it’s a safe way to moisten the leather without damaging it.
This is much safer for the integrity of the leather than dampening it with water, for instance.
But it’s important to realize that the spray itself doesn’t have any magical stretching capabilities.
It simply makes it easier for actual pressure to reshape and reform the shape of the shoe. This pressure could come from your foot. However, a popular, but more intense alternative would be to use a shoe tree.
That brings me nicely on to the next option.
4. Use A Shoe Tree
Shoe trees are essentially “stretching devices”, usually made from either cedarwood or plastic.
Stratton Cedarwood Shoe Tree On Amazon
They used to be a pretty specialist device you’d only find at the cobblers, but now you can find a whole bunch of them available online.
The shoe tree is inserted into the shoe and is great for preserving and maintaining the form, shape, and length of a pair of leather loafers.
In other words, they’re less likely to wrinkle and deteriorate over time.
They’re also great if you want to stretch out a pair of loafers a little, especially after spraying some shoe stretch spray over them for good measure.
Cedarwood shoe trees have the added benefit of a nice aroma and moisture-absorbing properties.
They reduce the amount of sweat left in the shoe. This reduces the damaging effects of this moisture over time, as well as the odor.
5. Ice It From Within
Now we’re getting a little more intensive. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of this method. Damaging the leather is more of a risk.
However, it may be worth a shot if the other tips in this list haven’t worked for you.
Fill a small plastic bag with water, push it into the tightest part of the shoe, and repeat this for the other shoe. This in itself can be quite difficult.
Place both shoes in the freezer overnight. You’ll probably want to place the shoes in a larger bag before you put them in the freezer, simply for the sake of hygiene.
As the water inside the bags turns into ice, it’ll expand the shoes from within. This is a quick and efficient way of stretching them out with additional force.
But remember, there’s always a chance that it’ll overstretch them or weaken the actual leather itself.
6. Find A Professional
Let’s face it – cobblers know what they’re doing. You can find a whole heap of useful information online. But at the end of the day, years of first-hand experience and expertise will come out on top.
Shoe repair stores and cobblers are becoming pretty niche, but they do exist.
Most of them will provide stretching services and do a very effective job of it. They’ll be able to use their tools to stretch out a pair of loafers in exactly the spots you need.
It won’t be as cheap as doing it yourself, but the results will be more comfortable and the process will most likely be safer for the loafers.
Leave it to professionals whenever possible.
Do Some Styles Of Loafer Stretch More Than Others?
Gucci loafers stretch, but not necessarily more than penny loafers. In a similar way, penny loafers stretch, but not necessarily more than tassel loafers.
The actual style of the loafer won’t make it any more or less likely to stretch. What will make a difference is the grade of leather, the lining, and the seams.
For example, an unlined pair of suede Gucci loafers will stretch more than a lined pair of patent leather penny loafers.
It has nothing to do with the style and everything to do with the lining and the type of leather.
There’s a lot of uncertainty that comes with buying a pair of leather loafers.
It’s difficult because you can never be truly sure what it will look like and feel like a few months down the line.
Sure, it fits today. But leather is a fickle mistress, shifting and reshaping as it pleases.
Use the knowledge I’ve laid out here to try and predict whether a specific pair of loafers will stretch before you buy it. You can use that prediction to choose the right size right from the start.
You may still find them a little bit tight after trying to break them in for a while. Now you know exactly what can be done about it.
Enjoy and have fun with it.