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How to Stretch Steel Toe Work Boots? – 6 Simple Steps

Fact checked by Andrew Carnegie

how to stretch steel toe work boots

What will you do if your work boots constantly rub against your big or pinky toe because they are too tight?

Some people take the painful route and decide to remove steel toe from boot as a remedy for their ill-fitting footwear, thereby defeating their protective purpose. Some just give up and throw the shoes away. But you don’t have to be like them.

Spare your boots and learn the different ways on how to stretch steel toe work boots.

Ways to Stretch Steel Toe Work Boots

Because of their rigidity, it’s almost impossible to stretch or widen the steel in steel toe boots with just your hands. After all, it would compromise their protective feature if the steel toe can be easily manipulated or bent.

Thus, the methods listed here are geared towards stretching leather – the most common material used in making boots. 

Method #1: Stretcher Spray

This method to fix steel toe boots rubbing big toe is pretty straightforward, and you can use it if your boots are made of leather.

Applying stretcher spray slackens the fibers of the leather, allowing it to stretch. Made with alcohol-based ingredients, the product will evaporate quickly and not leave damage on leather work boots.

This spray is widely available online. But if you can’t find one, you can concoct your own by mixing equal parts of rubbing alcohol and water.

For this method, you will need the following:

  • Store-bought or D.I.Y. shoe stretcher spray
  • Steel toe boots

Here are the steps:

Step #1: Spray the shoe stretcher on the areas that need to be enlarged– at the toe box, the vamp, or even the entire boot.

  • Make sure to check the stretching spray that you will use, as certain formulas will only work on specific types of leather.
  • Some recommend applying the product to the interior of the boots to avoid damaging the leather.

Step #2: Wear your boots.

Method #2: Mink Oil


Mink oil is a staple when it comes to leather care, and a product that you can use to stretch work boots. To apply mink oil, all you need are the following:

Step #1: Using a soft cloth, rub a substantial amount of mink oil on the leather, particularly on your boots’ problem area.

Step #2: Leave the oil to sit overnight.

Step #3: Using another clean cloth, remove the excessive oil from the boots.

You can repeat steps 1-3 if the stretch is not enough.

Method #3: Boot Stretcher 

If you don’t mind investing on a gadget to do the job, then get yourself a steel toe boot stretcher.

Similar to shoe trees, boot stretchers are shaped like feet and can be adjusted so you can reshape steel toe boots according to your preferred dimensions. Moreover, they can also make boots wider, up to one size bigger than they originally are. 

You will need:

  • Boot Stretcher
  • Conditioner
  • Steel-toe boots

Here are the steps in using boot stretchers:

Step #1: Soften the material on your shoes by applying a conditioner.

Step #2: Position the stretcher inside the boots.

Step #3: Crank the stretcher’s toe block by turning the knob counterclockwise or clockwise. Continue adjusting the knob until you reach your desired stretch.

Step #4: For optimum stretch, it is advised to leave the stretcher in place for at least a day.

Method #4: Using a Broomstick or Mopstick

Using a broomstick or a mopstick is a cheap alternative to boot stretchers. Yes, you can use such cleaning tools to widen steel toe boots.

Materials needed:

  • Broomstick or mopstick
  • Steel-toe boots

Step #1: Insert and aim the stick to the tight area of the shoes.

Step #2: Press the stick down until the leather begins to stretch.

  • Hold the stick for 10-20 seconds.
  • Be careful not to stretch the leather too much. Otherwise, you will end up damaging your boots.
  • Repeat this step until you get the desired stretch.

Method #5: Using a Hairdryer


Heat has long been used in handling and manipulating leather. This is why even in stretching steel toe boots, heat is one of the go-to solutions.

However, you should also know that too much heat can damage your boots. So for this method, it is recommended to use a hairdryer to control the temperature that is being applied to your shoes.

For this method, you will need:

  • Hair dryer
  • Thick socks
  • Steel toe boots
  • Leather conditioner

Here are the steps:

Step #1: Soften the leather by applying heat on the surface of the boots for 2-3 minutes.

Step #2: Then, put your shoes on and walk around for a bit to stretch them. It is also best if you wear socks while doing this.

Step #3: Once your boots have cooled down, apply leather conditioner to restore the moisture 0f the leather. The conditioner also helps the leather to stretch.

Method #6: Using Ice


This method is interesting as it applies a principle that you have probably learned in physics: that water expands as it turns into ice.

For this method, you will need:

  • Resealable plastic bags or ice bags
  • Water
  • Steel toe boots

Step #1: Fill the plastic bags with water. Make sure that they are sealed to avoid spillage.

Step #2: Insert the water-filled bags into the boots. Make sure that the bags are laid on the areas you want to stretch.

Step #3: Put them inside the freezer and let the water freeze overnight.

Step #4: Take the boots out of the freezer and thaw the ice.

Step #5: Carefully take the bags out of the boots.

Repeat Steps 1-5 (and adjust the water contents) until you achieve your desired results.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why stretch steel toe boots?

People stretch steel toe shoes because of comfort. It is done to make ill-fitting pairs adhere to the feet more, and to eventually stop steel toe boots from hurting the feet.

How do you break in steel toe boots fast?

If you want to break in your steel toe boots fast, you can refer to the methods listed here. After all, the ways of stretching and breaking them in are similar!

Not only that, you can also use these methods to break in or stretch composite toe boots made of leather.

How can I make my steel toe boots more comfortable?

Finding the right size, stretching, and breaking in are all essential in keeping your boots comfortable. But you can elevate their comfort by doing the following tips:

  • Wear moisture-wicking, padded socks
  • Use foot inserts for additional support
  • Keep your steel toe boots clean and conditioned


While it is true that a little discomfort is a small price to pay when wearing steel toe boots, there is no reason not to make them fit well.

By learning how to stretch steel toe work boots, not only do you get your money’s worth but also protect your feet from the aches and pain of wearing tight shoes.

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