Patent leather is a fine leather that has been had a coating applied to give it a glossy, shiny finish. Creating this effect has definitely stood the test of time as a fashion statement, as it first appeared in the early 1800’s in the U.S and has been going ever since. The UK can, of course, trace it slightly further back into the end of the 1700’s.
Patent leather allows for shoes to be manufactured in any color, and often they are very vibrant indeed. As well as the mirror-like finish, the application of the patent layer makes the leather virtually waterproof so there is a practical gain. Generally speaking, the layer applied is now based on a plastic that is specially designed.
If you are tempted by a completely unfitting pair of designer patent leather shoes just because they are in the sale, don’t do it! Patent leather is not as flexible as a normal leather shoe, and whilst they can be stretched a small amount for comfort, they cannot be stretched very much. So, indulging yourself by buying shoes a size too small in the hopes that they will ‘stretch to fit’ is not going to work for you with this material.
If, however, you have bought a pair of patent leather shoes that were a good fit in the shop, but have developed a bit of a pinch point, or a slight rub, then you can address that area very carefully with a reasonable expectation of success, and improve your comfort with the shoe.
Fortunately for most people, it isn’t extending the length that is the issue – unless you really did buy those designer shoes in a size too small because you couldn’t resist them! In general terms, a shoe will be either slightly too restrictive across the broadest part of the foot or the calf area in a boot in most cases.
The first, and often most sensible option is to take the shoe along to a specialist cobbler and explain your problem to them. Any leather or shoe repair and care shop will be pleased to take a look at the problem for you and can offer advice on your particular issue. The staff there are experienced and will be able to advise whether or not they consider that they can achieve the result you would like by stretching your footwear.
If, as is often the case, you are time-constrained, and who isn’t? Then perhaps finding and locating a specialist and taking time out to visit just isn’t possible for you. Well, you will be pleased to know that there are now shoe stretching services based online who will not only do the shoe stretching for you, but many services will also arrange to collect and deliver your shoes back to you. You really can do most things these days without leaving the house, including having comfortable feet!
The last option, and it’s last for a reason, is to have a go at stretching them out yourself. Clearly, if the shoes are very important to you, or a significant investment, then either of the two options above would be a better place to start. However, if you have nothing to lose, or are feeling really confident, then, start by having a good look at your shoes, and identifying exactly where your problem area is.
One main factor to consider if you need to stretch a shoe is to also look at the inside of the shoe – some patent leather shoes are lined with leather, which is a flexible material and will accommodate your work to stretch the shoe. Alternatively, the shoe may be lined with a plastic based compound that looks like a leather inner, and that does not stretch. If your shoe is lined with fabric, or a silk, then be very careful as either may well tear.
The sole of the shoe, depending upon where you are looking to add to the comfort, may also come into play here. If you are trying to stretch the shoe slightly longer rather than increasing the width, then any shoe with a sole which extends up and over the toe will not accommodate an increase in length.
There are several ways to try to stretch your own patented leather shoe;
A gentle starting point would be to stuff the shoe with a rolled-up sock, hard. And then leave at least overnight. The theory is that it exerts a gentle and constant pressure (a bit like having your foot in them for 12 hours) and that the shoe will move slightly to accommodate the shape.
If you would like something a bit more permanent, and shaped, then shoe trees can be purchased that fit inside the shoe, can be adjusted to the shape you would like and will stretch the shoe to fit. The good thing with a shoe tree is that they can be put into the shoe all of the time they are not on your feet, ensuring that the shoe stays stretched.
For drastic action, and if you really have tried everything, then heating the shoe slightly will achieve a greater change in the patent leather upper. For this method, you put on a pair of thicker than normal socks – with a view to stretching the shoe towards the shape you desire. Use a hairdryer, on a warm setting (not too hot!) and play the hairdryer over the shoe carefully for up to 20 seconds. Move your feet slightly to ensure that the shape is taken up by the shoe. Rest the heat, allow the shoe to cool, then repeat.
It is vital that you are careful, monitor any color change, and keep one eye on the condition of the plastic covering. Any damage done by getting it too hot, or using the hair dryer for too long, will be irreversible. It really does pay to start cautiously and remain cautious if you are trying to stretch your patent leather shoes using this method.