Monday, May 27, 2013

How to stretch out cheap flats -- and why you should be less of a pushover than me

I have weird feet. My shoe size ranges between a 9 - 9.5. My feet are very narrow with very high arches, which means that it can be difficult to find flats. Regular width flats will often just slide off my feet when I walk, even if they are the correct length.

I've also found that most inexpensive flats stretch out a good deal after wearing them in. Because my feet are already so narrow, this can cause a flat that once fit to just be too big. I started buying a shoe size down when buying flats to combat this.

I like doing this, because it enables me to still buy inexpensive shoes and (usually) get them to fit very well after some stretching. I'm opposed to spending a lot of money on flats because I go through them quickly -- even more expensive (and presumably better made) shoes never have a long life with me.

Here are my tips for intentionally buying shoes that are a bit too small with the hopes of stretching them out:

- Never spend a lot of money on the shoes. My rule for cheap flats is only under $20, with under $15 being preferable. If you're going to drop more than $20, you should buy shoes that fit from the outset.

- Some shoes are stretchier than others. If it feels like it won't stretch, it might not.

- Do not attempt to stretch out shoes if you just had a pedicure and you want to keep it looking great for awhile. Toes get a bit squashed in this process.

- Do not buy shoes that are too small and think that you will stretch them out at a dance. I recently did this, with the shoes pictured above. It was a really stupid move. I was incredibly uncomfortable halfway through the dance. Also remember that dancing in uncomfortable shoes is more painful than walking in uncomfortable shoes.

- Do not wear the still-too-small shoes to see a friend for lunch. I did this the other day, (the same damn black flats!) and it was another mistake. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get some good stretchin' time in, because it was slightly raining out (see the end of the post for how walking around in the rain helps), and because I would only have to walk to and from his car.

A wrench was thrown in my plans after lunch when my friend expressed desire to continue hanging out after we had finished eating. I recognized this for the rare opportunity it was, and I sure as hell was not going to squander it.

My friend is a bowtied gentleman who seemingly hates hanging out with people. Getting him out of his apartment to hang out with me is like pulling multiple teeth. Particularly if the teeth in question are going, "Maria, I don't want to leave this mouth and go to a really fun gay bar with you and some of your friends, I don't drink and I think I'll just watch television." And then you, yanking out the teeth are all like, "Come onnnn, teeth! Just get a seltzer with lime in a lowball glass and everyone will think you're drinking." And then the teeth are like, "You're misinterpreting why I don't want to go to the bar."

So as soon as there was the opportunity to hang out with this friend (with the bonus of being able to procrastinate, my favorite hobby) I leaped at it! And I sagely thought to myself, "I cannot ask him to take me home first to change shoes. The risk of him changing his mind while driving me there and just dropping me off so he to return to his busy schedule of misanthropy is too great."

We ended up at the mall. At first it was fine, and I had hopes that it wouldn't be a problem. But eventually, my feet hurt. A lot. So then I was compelled to buy some new flats, at Payless, for $20.** (Luckily these flats fit - and I think they're cute to boot!) Immediately after exiting the Payless I forced my friend to hold all my shopping bags and my purse and used his shoulder to steady myself while flopping around and changing shoes. "Maria, you're like falling apart. What is the matter with you? [Pause. At this point I am still hobbling around, using his shoulder to stabilize while I put on the other shoe.] Stop touching me."

The moral of the story.... only wear the still-too-tight shoes out when you know exactly where you'll be going for the whole day. Or do, if you need a reason to justify buying another new pair of flats. (An alternative moral of the story is, of course, that you should probably not be as much of a pushover with introverted friends as I am.)

**Eagle-eyed readers will now note that I have purchased two pairs of shoes, adding up to $35, one pair of which does not fit. Why not just spend more money on a good pair of shoes that fits and you wouldn't have to hobble around? To which I respond: Shut up.

Anyway... back to the task at hand:

Gather some socks and a hair dryer. Wet the socks. Put them on. It's gross. I know. Put on the shoes.

Blow dry the shoe with your foot clad in the wet sock still in it. Hold the hair dryer very close to areas that pinch more -- on me, right around the big toe and pinky toe. I would guess that's the same area of concern for almost everyone. You should smell the material of the shoe heating up and stretching. It's a weird smell.

While drying the shoes, change your foot position fairly regularly. Scrunch your feet down so they are more crammed into the ball and toe-area of the shoe. Then rock back and forth from heel to toe. If it hurts or pinches more, lean into that area and add heat.

Once you've had enough of that (I never blow dry for very long - it's cumbersome and uncomfortable) tip toe around your house.

After walking around on tiptoes for a bit, I usually sit on my couch and watch television or putter around online. I sit with one leg crossed over the other and rock the foot on the ground from ball to heel, switching legs occasionally.

If necessary, repeat another day.

Another good way to stretch out shoes is to walk around in the rain. When returning inside from the rain leave the shoes on for a while.

Give your toes a break after a while of this! It is hard on them.