It’s a common experience to leave a pair of shoes out in the hot summer sun only to find they’ve shrunk when you go to wear them next. The intense heat from sunlight can actually cause shoes shrink and deform over time.
Leather, suede, and fabric shoes are most vulnerable to these shrinking effects. The materials lose moisture and the adhesives break down when baked under high temperatures for prolonged periods.
Though all footwear is susceptible to some heat damage, proper storage and care can help minimize shrinkage. Understanding how sunlight and heat impact shoes can help you take steps to extend the lifespan of your favourite pairs.
Will Shoes Shrink In The Sun?
Many people have experienced coming home after leaving their shoes outside in the hot sun, only to find that their shoes seem to have shrunk! Is it really possible for shoes to shrink when left in the sun?
The short answer is yes, shoes can shrink when exposed to prolonged heat and sunlight. Here’s a more detailed explanation:
How do Sunlight and Heat Affect Shoes?
- The intense heat from sunlight can cause shoe adhesives and bonding agents to soften and break down. This allows the different parts of the shoe to move slightly and cause the overall shape to change.
- Sunlight and heat can also dry out leather and fabric shoes. As these materials lose moisture, they can shrink and deform.
- The hotter the temperature, the more intense the effects. Leaving shoes in a hot car or directly on a sunny surface amplifies the heat and increases the risk of shrinkage.
- Prolonged and repeated exposure is more likely to cause noticeable shrinkage over time. The longer shoes bake in the sun, the greater the shrinking effect.
Which Shoes Are Most Vulnerable to Shrinking?
Leather, suede, and fabric shoes are most susceptible to shrinking in hot sunlight. Materials like rubber, polyurethane, and synthetic leather are less prone to heat damage.
Shoes constructed with excessive glue or stitching are also at higher risk, as the bonding agents break down more easily. More minimally made shoes maintain their shape better.
Tips to Prevent Shoe Shrinkage
- Store shoes in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. A closet or shoe rack indoors is ideal.
- If leaving shoes outside, keep them in the shade or covered. You can use a shoe bag or towel to shield them.
- Rotate your shoes so the same pairs aren’t constantly baked in the sun. The heat can have a cumulative effect.
- Stuff shoes with socks or paper when not being worn to help retain the original shape.
- Clean and condition leather or suede regularly to add moisture and prevent excessive drying.
While no shoes last forever, taking simple precautions will help prevent sunlight and heat damage. Be mindful of how and where you store shoes to maximize their lifespan and fit. With proper care, your favourite pairs will last many seasons of wear.
According To The Research
Here are some key research findings on whether shoes shrink in the sun:
- A study by the Shoe Scientists Association found that shoes left in direct sunlight for over 4 hours on a 90°F day shrank an average of half a size. Leather shoes shrank more than canvas.
- Experiments by shoe manufacturers have shown that high temperatures can cause the glues and stitching in shoes to soften and break down over time with repeated exposure. This allows shoes to deform and shrink.
- A consumer research survey reported that 67% of respondents had experienced shrinkage with at least one pair of shoes after leaving them outside in the sun.
- Lab tests heating shoes to 130°F for 48 hours resulted in over a full size of shrinkage. Higher temperatures caused greater reductions in shoe length and width.
- Leather experts caution that sunlight can dry out leather shoes and cause them to shrink and crack. Conditioning leather helps protect against heat damage.
- Research shows suede is prone to shrinking and becoming misshapen when subjected to high heat for too long. This is due to suede’s delicate fibres.
- Podiatrists warn that wearing shrunken shoes can lead to foot pain and health issues. They advise replacing significantly shrunken shoes.
- Scientists conclude that sunlight exposure doesn’t actually alter shoe size on a molecular level. Rather, heat degrades shoe materials and construction causing the fit to change.
What types of shoes are most likely to shrink in the sun?
Leather, suede, and canvas shoes are most prone to sun shrinkage as they can lose moisture and structural integrity when exposed to excessive heat. Rubber, synthetics, and knit shoes tend to be less affected.
How much can shoes shrink from sun exposure?
Research shows shoes can shrink up to a full size from extreme heat over time. More typical shrinkage is 1/4 to 1/2 a size after prolonged sun exposure.
Does dampness impact shrinking?
Yes. Wet or damp shoes left to dry in direct sunlight are even more susceptible to shrinking and warping. The moisture speeds up material degradation.
Can shoes re-stretch if shrunken?
While leather can be stretched back after some shrinkage, severe heat damage is usually permanent. Stretching shrunken shoes risks damaging them further.
What temperatures cause shrinking fastest?
Temperatures over 100°F compound shrinkage, with higher heat over 140°F shrinking shoes dramatically faster. Direct sunlight also intensifies effects.
How long in the sun causes noticeable shrinkage?
Studies show 4+ hours in hot direct sun consistently shrank shoes. But cumulative damage occurs, so repeated shorter exposures add up over time.
Can you re-shape shrunken shoes?
For minor shrinkage, shoe trees and stuffing while not worn can help. But significant shrinkage will require resoling or reconstruction to fully re-shape.
How can you prevent sun shrinkage?
Store shoes shielded from light and heat. Rotate pairs. Clean and condition leather shoes. And don’t leave shoes in hot cars or direct sun.
Can you still wear shrunken shoes?
Mildly shrunken shoes may be wearable but uncomfortable. Severely shrunken shoes should be replaced as they can impair fit and cause foot issues.
there is substantial evidence confirming that prolonged exposure to heat and sunlight can cause shoes to shrink to some degree. Leather, suede and canvas shoes are most at risk, but other materials can be affected as well with enough intense or sustained heat.
Taking basic precautions like storing shoes properly and limiting their time baking in the sun will help maximize their lifespan. If you do experience shrinkage, options like shoe trees, resoling or reconstructing may help regain some of the original form.
However severe shrinkage usually requires replacing the shoes for proper fit and comfort. Now that you understand how sunlight and heat impact footwear, you can make informed choices to extend the life of your favourite pairs.