Cycling shoes – especially ones designed for the road – are often touted for their highly supportive and stretch-resistant constructions that cradle the riders' feet in ultra-efficient cocoons. If that fit isn't just right, though, that foot-hugging cocoon can feel more like an iron maiden.
Riders with specific issues such as Tailor's bunions or bone spurs can be especially susceptible to excruciating pain. The common solution for those riders is to resort to wider or generally roomier lasts that can relieve the pressure but compromise the overall fit in the process. BikeFit's unusual Bunion Shoe Stretcher, on the other hand, allows riders to make point modifications in their otherwise well-fitting footwear.
The scissor-type device is very simple, comprising a basic ring-and-ball setup at one end and a thumbwheel at the other. To use it, just insert the ball end into the shoe, locate the ring over the spot in question, squeeze the tool, than gradually tighten the thumbwheel over time (typically overnight for us) until you achieve the desired amount of reshaping.
It's not a perfect process, especially with modern cycling materials whose mesh and synthetic leather panels are specifically designed not to stretch. The Shoe Stretcher's durable cast iron construction is more than a match for such comparatively flimsy materials but even so, our various test shoes reverted to their original shape after a few weeks. The one exception was heat-moldable shoes, where the reshaping was semi-permanent, but even with standard shoes, we found we could get longer-lasting results by moistening up and/or heating the areas in question with a hairdryer first.
As long as the reshaping took, the difference on the road was like night and day, particularly for shoes with stiffer and more unyielding uppers. No longer did we have to leave certain sections of some shoes a bit loose to prevent irritation. We could happily snug things down as tight as we dared with no long-term discomfort to speak of and certainly no stinging pain.