Introduction: Stretch the Calves of Your Boots

About: Photography teacher, woodworker, and general repair man

I love two things in life, saving money and my wife. So, when she needs shoes, I spring into action and find great deals on well made shoes which will last a couple of years instead of a couple of months. She needed brown boots for work and I found these which originally retailed for $350 on ebay for under $70. The only problem is that they were a little tight in the calves which made them tough to zip up the last inch.

This has been a problem in the past and will continue to be a problem in the future so I decided to investigate a calf stretching device only to find out that they are $245! I'm sure the accuracy of that device is wonderful, but I'm looking for a cheap, effective way to make these things 5% wider. Low and behold, I had everything that I needed already in my house!

Side note, I seem to fix shoes a lot. Probably because I buy them slightly used. But, I have a couple of other tutorials if you need to repair your soles or restore stacked heeled boots.


Wood - 2x4's will work, I used a 4x4.

Shims - I ended up using six.

Dish Towel

Shoe Strec

Step 1: Cut And/or Shape Your Blocks

As I said, I decided to use a piece of scrap cedar 4x4. I cut it directly in half. Then, I cut the outside corners at a 45 degree angle.

I feel like it is important to note that an ankle is not as large as a 4x4. This isn't a huge deal to me because I only needed to stretch the calf but if you need to do more of the entire shaft, you may wan to opt for a pair of 2x4s.

Step 2: Spray Your Boot

This step is pretty simple. Shake the can to vigorously mix the chemicals and then lightly spray the inside of the boot. The fluid soaks into any fabric sections well but takes a bit to penetrate leather.

Let it sit for 2-3 minutes.

Step 3: Stretch That Boot!

Wrap the wood in a dish towel to further blunt the sharp corners of the wood. In that first photo, you can see where I attempted to make a jack-bolt. It works, it's just more complicated than it needs to be to stretch this boot what little it needed to be stretched. I'll add an optional set of steps at the end to explain how it was made.

With your wood wrapped, put it into your boot and zip/lace/whatever it closed. Then, jam your shims as far into the split in the wood.

Let it sit for 4-6 hours. If it needs further stretching, repeat the process pushing the shims further into the boot.

Step 4: Optional: Jack-bolt

If you really need to stretch your boot aggressively (not recommended), you can build a jack-bolt into the system pretty easily. Mine is made out of literal scraps of stuff that I had around the garage.

Start by drilling a hole large enough to hold your bolt head and the nipple or pipe that you will be using to push against. I like to keep as much of the wood as possible so that I don't accidentally blow throw the side which I'm applying pressure. Originally, I had only bored out about 1/2" (12mm) but I needed a little more depth so I then went to about an inch deep.

Then, using some nuts, a length of threaded rod, and a 1/2" x 2" pipe nipple, I was able to make the jacking mechanism that you see. It is important to use a washer (preferably two or more) between the pipe and the jacking nut. If you don't, the nut will start to slide down into the pipe and it will become incredibly difficult to turn which forces the wood apart.