How to Stretch Climbing Shoes

The simple and basic formula for climbing shoes— they should fit tight!

However, if you have purchased a pair of small-sized climbing shoes, you probably know that sometimes, tight can be a bit too tight.

Now, what can you do in this situation?

Moreover, you are sure to run out of luck if this occurs after it’s too late to exchange, right?

Don’t panic!

There is a solution, and that’s stretching.

That’s right! You have the option of stretching your climbing shoes if they are too tight in your feet. But remember this only works for the shoes designed with leather material.

Rock climbing shoes are designed one or two sizes smaller so that they offer the best grip on the rocky surfaces. However, too tight of a shoe can cause huge discomfort in your feet, which ends up ruining your adventure.

Thankfully there are some easy steps that you can follow to stretch your climbing shoes.

We are going to talk about those helpful steps in this article. Additionally, we will inform you on whether you should consider stretching your climbing footwear or not.

Let’s dive into the details!

Fast and Easy Methods of Stretching Your Climbing Shoes

There are three quick ways for you to stretch your climbing shoes and make them comfortable on your feet.

Method 1: Using Hair Dryer

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  • Hair Dryer
  • Socks


Step 1: Stuff Your Climbing Shoes with Some Socks

In the first step, you need to stuff as many socks as you can into your climbing shoes until the entire shoe is full. Roll the socks into tight balls and maintain pressure so that every inch inside is pushing against the frame for best results.

Make sure not to leave any room inside the shoe. The more tightly you pack your socks, the better your shoes will stretch.

Step 2:  Heat Your Shoes with Hair Dryer

This step is critical. You need to lightly heat your climbing shoes for about one to two minutes. To execute the process properly, hold the hairdryer about 6 inches above your shoe. Now, as you heat your shoes, move the dryer back and forth continuously to make sure the entire pair gets evenly heated.

Keep on doing this for one minute and see the result. If the shoe still feels cool, heat up for another 30 seconds to one minute and check again. Make sure that you don’t spend too long on one spot of the shoe because if it’s thin rubber, it may melt.

Though the dryer shouldn’t damage your footwear, avoid using high heat for safety.

Step 3: Stuff More Socks When the Shoes are Warm

Now, it’s time to stuff more socks inside your shoes. Since they are warm, the shoes give a little, and you can push in more socks for a better stretchability. Pack them down as lightly as you can and let the shoe stretch.

The heat causes the shoe materials to expand slightly and get flexible, which allows you to add more socks into it for a better result.

Step 4: Let the Shoes Cool Down and Check the Fit

Leave the socks you have stuffed inside until your shoes cool down. After they cool off, take the socks out and check the fit. You can know better by walking around wearing them and wiggling your toes.

If you feel comfortable, you have succeeded with the process. In the meantime, if it’s still too tight wearing them, you can follow other methods for a better result.

Method 2: Freezing the Shoes


  • Plastic Sandwich Bags
  • Freezer


Step 1: Fill Plastic Sandwich Bags with Enough Water

Get a couple of plastic sandwich bags ready and make sure they have zipper seals. Now fill those bags with enough tap water so that you can fill up the inside of your shoes. You need to remove the excess air from the bag before you seal them and stuff inside your climbing shoes.

Make sure not to leave a lot of extra space between the bag of water and the sides of your shoes. For a better stretching result, the water must entirely fill your footwear.

Step 2: Insert the Bags into the Shoes

After you have sealed the bags, place them deep enough so that they fill the toe cavity. Now lace your shoes around the sandwich bags. Once you complete the process, the bag should be securely in your shoes, similar to your feet.

You can use your fingers to check the gaps between the bag of water and the sides of your climbing shoes. If the bag doesn’t fill the shoe, you may have to add more water or possibly another bag of water.

Step 3: Place the Climbing Shoes in the Freezer

In this step, you need to place your climbing shoes into the freezer and wait for around 8 hours. Place them on the top shelf so that they get colder faster. You may have to leave them for more than 8 hours.

However, make sure to remove your shoes after 12 hours so that you won’t damage the materials.

Step 4: Take the Shoes Out of the Freezer and Let Them Dry

Let your shoes dry for about 30 minutes before you pull the water bags out of them. However, don’t leave them for more than half-hour as the condensation may wet your shoes and make them vulnerable to wear and tear.

Step 5: Remove the Water Bags

After the shoes get dry, remove the bags of water carefully. Make sure you pour the water down the drain and either wash or discard the sandwich bags.

Step 6: Let the Climbing Shoes Thaw

It usually takes a couple of hours for your shoes to thaw. For a better result, lay a plastic bag down before letting them thaw, or you can also thaw them in the sink for easy cleanup.

Wait until your shoes feel warm before trying them on. Now check the fit by walking around and wiggling your toes.

Method 3: Soaking Your Shoes

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  • Shower
  • Newspaper


Step 1: Put Socks and Slide on Your Shoes

Before you soak your climbing shoes, pull on a pair of socks for some padding as it assists in maximizing the stretch. Now put on your shoes and lace them up.

Using a thicker pair of socks helps more for stretching as they take up more space inside your shoes. However, they shouldn’t let you feel uncomfortable at any cost.

Step 2: Turn on the Shower with Shoes On

The next step may sound weird, but this is the important one. You need to turn on the shower while wearing your climbing shoes. Remember, warm water will ensure that the fabric expands as much as possible. Wait for a few minutes for the water to warm up before soaking the climbing shoes.

Step 3: Put Your Feet Under the Water to Soak the Shoes

Try holding your feet under the water for about one to two minutes. Also, make sure to move around so that every area of your shoes gets wet.

During the process, you should feel the water inside your shoes, soaking through your socks.

Step 4: Walk Around and Wiggle Your Toes to Stretch Further

As the warm water works well to loosen up your shoes, you have to walk around and wiggle your toes as much as possible for a better stretch result. The longer you carry out this process, the faster your shoes will stretch out.

However, be careful as you walk around in the wet shoes as they can easily slip. Try walking around on a towel or rug for safety.

Step 5: Climb in Your Shoes When They are Damp

The best way to make sure your climbing shoes mold to the shape of your feet is by climbing on them. But, make sure you do the process carefully as the shoes may be slightly slippery and uncomfortable. Climbing on damp shoes is not comfortable, but it surely helps with quick stretching.

Step 6: Remove the Shoes and Stuff Them With Newspaper

Get out of your shoes and pack newspaper tightly in the toe cavity. You can then fill the rest of your shoes with more newspaper. It will prevent your shoes from shrinking back up as they dry out.

If you can’t find any newspaper, you can use either paper towels, washcloths, or socks as an alternative.

Step 7: Let Your Shoes Dry

Now place your shoes in the sink or on a waterproof surface and leave them to get fully dry for about 24 to 48 hours. After they are dry, put them on to see whether they fit or not.

Why Do People Prefer to Stretch Their Climbing Shoes?

The idea of stretching your climbing shoes is to make sure your feet feel comfortable while putting them on. As you may know, comfort is what you seek the most if you are new to climbing.

Some people may find one foot bigger than the other after buying a pair of climbing shoes. This situation leads to one shoe fitting very well and the other fitting tight against the foot.

In this case, stretching the one that fits miserably is the most reliable option. Moreover, people prefer to stretch their climbing shoes to mitigate such hassle.

Should You Stretch Your Climbing Shoes?

Well, it depends!

If you are a beginner and have bought the pair that fits tightly, you can consider stretching it as comfort is the key when starting.

While stretching, make sure that you follow the safety steps. Some of the methods of stretching can cause damage to the materials and make them vulnerable to wear.

What to Look for in Your First Pair of Climbing Shoes?

When you buy the first pair of climbing shoes, getting the right size is of utmost importance. You need the one that is of the right length and fits comfortably in your feet so that you achieve ultra-comfort while climbing.

Therefore, as a novice climber, comfort is that one key factor that you should look for in your climbing shoes, and is directly related to the sizing and fitting of your footwear. Keep in mind that not all the shoes stretch after a few climbs, a lot of them won’t stretch at all, especially the lined or synthetic ones.

Video Tutorial on Stretching Climbing Shoes

Follow this video tutorial to learn the exact process of stretching your climbing shoes:


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Yes, they do! When you buy a pair of climbing shoes, they should be relatively tight at first, especially the ones that are supposed to stretch after a few climbing sessions. However, you shouldn’t buy too-tight shoes in the first place that cause your feet discomfort while attempting the first climb.

When you put on the climbing shoes, make sure that the toes are flat or comfortably curved. Also, make sure your toe knuckles aren’t bunched painfully against the top of your climbing shoe. Similarly, your heel should have a snug fit for a better climbing result.

Well, the climbing shoes are designed to have only their upper part get stretched, that too if it’s made of leather material. The rubber rand, heel rand, and toe cap can stretch temporarily, but they start to spring back soon.


There you go! Stretching your climbing shoes is not that difficult.

By following any of the methods above, you can easily reshape your footwear and find the best fit. Just remember to take caution when following any of the mentioned stretching steps. You wouldn’t want to damage the pair by either heating them more or overdoing the processes while trying to find the perfect fit.

While getting a better fit, don’t forget to keep your climbing shoes clean.

Choose the method wisely and work on it carefully to get the best result.