There’s more to basketball than shooting and dribbling—tradition and an entire culture flows through the sport. And any basketball enthusiast will know that the shoes are just as important as the actual sport; they need to fit well to provide the best support for the player. Since a good pair of shoes usually has some stretch to them, you may be wondering if basketball shoes can stretch as well.
Basketball shoes will stretch, but the extent to which they do so will depend on their material and how often they are worn. New basketball shoes will often feel stiff and tight, so many players will deliberately stretch them out to gain a feeling of comfort and better support while playing.
So, should you purchase basketball shoes that are easier to stretch? Is it a good thing if they stretch easily? How do we even know if a certain pair will stretch more than others? We’ll answer all of those questions and more below.
Factors That Affect How Basketball Shoes Stretch
Like any other shoe, basketball shoes will stretch. The extent to which they stretch depends on how the shoe fits your feet, the shoe’s material, and the shoe type.
Basketball Shoe Fit
Tighter basketball shoes will mean that you constantly exert force on your shoes even if you’re just wearing them and sitting. When the shoes are the right size, there is no additional pressure like this that leads to stretching.
Additionally, usually, basketball shoes will stretch wherever you place the most pressure during play. If you jump or bend your toes a lot, then the toes will stretch out. For most players, the midsole will stretch out the most.
Basketball Shoe Material
Some materials are more breathable and flexible than others, making for a more lightweight and malleable shoe that can easily stretch. On the other hand, some basketball shoes are a bit stiffer to protect the ankles and toes and may be harder to stretch as a result.
As a general rule of thumb, the uppers—the part covering your foot above the sole—are typically made from a mix of leather and synthetic mesh or a blend of canvas and leather. The sole is almost always made of rubber but will not stretch regardless of the type of shoe. While these are the industry standards, you will want to double-check on your specific pair in case different materials are used.
Let’s examine the stretchability of the most common basketball shoe materials:
- Leather – The reason cow leather is used so commonly for basketball shoes is that they are flexible, stretchable, and durable.
- Synthetic Mesh – Synthetic mesh is breathable and soft to the touch.
- Canvas – Made from hemp cloth, canvas is also stretchable and comfortable.
Leather ranks as the most stretchable despite its sturdiness; unlike synthetic mesh and canvas, leather naturally conforms to the shape of your feet with use. Synthetic mesh and canvas can easily be stretched using DIY methods or just from use. Choose synthetic mesh if you want a more breathable shoe and canvas for a long-lasting one.
It’s also worth noting that basketball shoes made of or partly made of more uncommon materials—such as vinyl, metal, or plastic—are the hardest to stretch. It’s possible but will require extra work.
Basketball Shoe Type
The actual type of basketball shoe matters, too—not just the material. Since different types of basketball shoes are designed for certain tasks, pressure is placed on different spots. With increased pressure comes a quicker rate of the material stretching.
Let’s look at the four types of basketball shoes and where stretching is most prominent; this can help you plan for deliberate stretching for a longer shoe lifespan:
- High-Top – Designed to help with ankle protection and jumping, the fabric on the back of the shoe will be the most prominent area to stretch if used in play.
- Mid-Top – These allow for movement at quick turns, but to accommodate the force of quick turns, the sides will stretch more than the rest of the shoe.
- Low-Top – These shoes allow you to be the fastest and quickest. While running around the court, there’s going to be excess force on the top and front of the shoes. These areas will stretch the most.
- Performance Sneakers – Performance shoes are well rounded and will have stretching that occurs evenly throughout. Depending on your play style, this might change, however.
Should You Stretch Basketball Shoes?
The only time you should deliberately be stretching basketball shoes is if they are uncomfortable to wear. If the shoes are fitting too tight—even if they seem to be the right size—you will want to stretch them. This will help you avoid blisters, pain, and poor circulation in the feet.
Since most basketball shoes are made with easily stretchable material, you should wear them for a couple of days before wearing them on the court.
How to Stretch Basketball Shoes
Stretching basketball shoes is a fairly easy process. If you find your shoes uncomfortable or too tight, here are some tactics and tips to help you stretch them:
- Just Wear Them – If the pain is not too bad, you can go ahead and wear them for 5-10 minutes at a time. Walk around and naturally break them in with use.
- Thick Socks and a Blow Dryer – Wear a pair of thick socks and fasten the shoes on. Then, apply low or medium heat from a blow dryer on the tight areas. Don’t let the air dryer stay in one area for too long.
- Stuff the Shoe – Stuff the shoes with socks or other material to emulate you wearing them.
- Shoe Stretch Sprays – Many sprays are available to stretch leather and other fabrics. After spraying, you will need to walk in the shoes for a greater stretch.
When stretching, be careful not to stretch too much at a time. The last thing you want is for the canvas or mesh of the shoes to rip during the process.
How Should Basketball Shoes Fit When Stretched Properly?
The entire point of stretching basketball shoes is to make the player feel more comfortable while playing. But, if stretched too much, the shoes may become less comfortable to use. Here are a few factors that should be present that are signs your shoes are adequately stretched:
- Ankle Support – The shoes should not be so loose that your feet slide around in them. This will cause your ankles to not be properly protected from heavy impact.
- No Pain – There should not be any pain while wearing the shoes, and no blisters or markings afterward.
- Proper Fitting – Your feet should feel snug and comfortable in the shoes. The squeezing you may have felt before stretching should be gone.
Time will gradually stretch basketball shoes. But, the rate at which each part of the shoe stretches will be different depending on their fit and how you wear them on the court.
Breaking in the shoes so that they can stretch is essential if you want them to stay comfortable and provide the right support for your needs. Not only is comfort provided with properly stretched basketball shoes, but your chances at injury decrease as well. Since stretching is a fairly easy process, you should go ahead and do it if you need to. Remember, only tight basketball shoes need to be stretched!