Thursday, February 10, 2011


How to Actually Stretch Too-Small Shoes

Oh, you've gone and done it again. You bought a way cute pair of shoes that make your feet look a half-size smaller ... because they ARE a half-size smaller. But they'll stretch when you wear them, right?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But if they don't, here's an easy way to stretch'em out. Seriously.

1. Fill up two Ziploc bags about half full (you were optimistic when you bought those suckers, remember?) with water. Make sure you get the bags with the blue + yellow = green technology to make sure that shit is SEALED. This is important.

2. Place said bags in each shoe.

3. Place shoes, waterbags and all, in the freezer. Walk away.

4. When the water in the bags freezes and expands, it gradually stretches your shoes. Ain't nuthin' but math and science, y'all.

5. Take the shoes out of the freezer, remove the bags, and immediately place your feet in them. This is where you're gonna need a bit of strength, since it's cold in there. But not as cold as walking barefoot through the snow because your shoes were too tight.

6. Chill out. (Haha! Sorry.) Watch a Real Housewives marathon, pay some bills, whatever. Let your newly expanded shoes mold to your feet as they warm up and constrict.

7. Demur when complimented on your adorable shoes that don't hurt at all, even though they're a size too small. Don't tell them that part.

8. Dance like no one's watching, even though they are, so you know, be cool.

Note: The Hairpin does not advise buying too-small shoes as regular practice, or else this might happen. Method to be used in case of cute-shoes-on-sale-last-size-emergency only.

Allison Davis is a writer and TV producer living in San Francisco.

Photo via ABeautifulMess

46 Comments / Post A Comment


This is only a good idea, though, if you know for a fact that your shoes won't look really odd after they've been stretched out. Because that happens sometimes.


Or that they don't have goldfish inside them.

Barbara Gordon

Can we get a similar tutorial for shoes that are just a bit too big? I never know what inserts to get, so I've been sticking kleenex down in the toes, which is not ideal and sometimes makes it look like I have toilet paper stuck to my shoe, but like, to the inside, which is weirder.

Bonnie Downing

ballerinas use lambswool in the toe of the shoe, because it conforms to the foot.

listen lady

everything comes back to "black swan" up in here, doesn't it.


I thought water stretched leather out? Years ago I read something about taking damp (not soaking wet, just damp) newspaper and shoving into the toebox of too-small shoes to stretch them out. One friend did it and claimed it worked....


My shoes? My shoes seem so small but I'm also scared about my shoes.

Yeah, I just did that and I'm ashamed.


wait, who told you what shame was?!


For specific areas that are tight (like the heel or baby toe sections), use a cotton ball of rubbing alcohol on the inside of the leather. Soak it then work the area out and the leather will loosen up. Not good for size transformations, but if there's a blistery section this can help.

Allison Davis

oooh, thanks, I'mma try this one!

Bonnie Downing

I have always wanted both of these tips.


Any tips on how to get your shoes out of a block of ice so you can stick your over sized feet in them?


Cover blown, wicked stepsister.


I want to chew on those barbie shoes! Don't tell me you didn't do that as a kid.


I just palpably felt that memory between my molars!


I once chewed off a bit of Barbie's toes… And no, I'm not a serial killer, though I remain a chronic nail biter (my own nails only!)


Oh god, as soon as I opened this page, my teeth started aching!

Katie Walsh

I slept with my first Barbie, the first night I had her (I think it was actually called "My First Barbie") and chewed off her hand in my sleep. And ejc, I'm a chronic nail biter too, it must be related.


@Katie: that is just a couple of steps below the people who accidentally roll over on top of and smother kittens in their sleep, on the sadness scale. I imagine you waking up and screaming, "what have I done???"

Katie Walsh

I was really confused and really disappointed. I pledged to love her just the same. Fortunately, my grandpa worked for Mattel and spent my childhood swimming in Barbies.


I didn't care much about the shoes since I already chewed my way through all their feet.




@Nutellaface The IT Crowd! I laughed so hard I cried.


am i the only one who doesn't understand this? am i to take my shoes - frozen in a block of ice - out of the freezer and then attempt to stick my feet in them? or am i to thaw them first? i would have thought the latter, however the author's comment re: "immediately" putting my feet in them, and a caution that it will be very cold, is making me feel otherwise. truly not trying to be pedantic, but i really want to know since i have some pairs i want to try this with.


i mean, how does one stick feet into shoes when there is already ice frozen into them? maybe i'm overthinking this. someone pass me a quaalude.

Katie Walsh

I think you put the water in the bags, and the bags into the shoes, then put the shoe in the freezer, pull out the bags when they are frozen. Right?

Allison Davis

correct! sorry if that was unclear! OMG pleeeeassssseeee don't forget the part about the bags. DO NOT put water directly into your shoes. DO NOT place your shoes in water. you will ruin the shit out of your shoes. I should also point out that this is really only meant for heels and flats where you can pull the frozen water bag out the top.


Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. That makes much more sense!


You put the baggies of water in the shoes, not the other way around. Your shoes will be chilly, but not frozen into a block of ice.


ahhh, so much clearer! thanks!


I have two pairs of shoes I will try this on. I will report back probably after this post stops getting pageviews. Collecting dust just like my too small shoes.
Sidenote: I had to buy shoes in China fast and wear a 9.5 they had up to 8s. It was a painful meeting.


I've never been happier to hear that my business is the right size.


anyone know how to stretch the unstretchable patent leather shoe? i just need a bit more room in the toe box is all...




Am I the only one who doesn't understand how this physically works? When the water begins to freeze and expand, doesn't it deform before the much firmer shoe material does? It seems to me the structured nature of the shoe would push the water up and out of the top of the shoe, well before the water would solidify completely into ice. Am I missing something?

Melanie Greenwood@facebook

@MandaX I think it would work. I live in Colorado and I've seen what ice can do. It splits concrete and even solid rock when it gets in a crack and freezes (and lets not forget it sunk the titanic!).


This is seriously exactly what I need. The toe-box of my favorite new shoes is not stretching like the sneaky sales lady told me it would and there is nothing weirder than feeling your pinky toes go numb.

sally hartsfield
sally hartsfield

I was highly skeptical -- BUT it worked. On a pair of cute vinyl shoes that were just a wee bit tight. Have been wearing them since eight o'clock this morning and they feel fine. Thanks so much.


This is awesome! I'm definitely going to do this.

Dirty Hands

Why is this page suddenly on the Hairpin "most viewed" list? I blame Black Friday!


You have a very nice furniture writing style that i appreciate. bean bags are a great way to show your point and the furniture and chairs are very comfortable in the home bean bag nerd


Va trebui sa gasiti un loc de unde sa inchiriati o masina in Romania . Acesta exista si nu este nevoie sa fiti cetatean roman pentru a inchiria o masina de la Promotor Rent a Car - inchirieri masini otopeni.


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