Stretching Tight Shoes in the Freezer

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I often read things on Pinterest that make me shake my head and think “no way, that will never work”!  But occasionally I find myself with a problem where I’m willing to try an unusual solution!

Occasionally I have been known to pounce on items on the sale rack that might not quite fit – sometimes it’s because I know I can make an easy alteration myself but other times I have the wish or hope that circumstances will change.

Such was my issue about three years ago when I was shopping at the flagship Nordstrom in Seattle.  I stumbled across a pair of black Manolo Blahnik peep toe pumps marked down to under $200 on a sale rack.  I tried them on and I believed them to fit – just like Cinderella’s sisters believed that tight shoes would for them!

My feet, however, did not appreciate them – no matter how much I may have coveted them. I tried them on and worn them around the house a few times.  I even hobbled to dinner in them one evening (I lasted until I sat down and then they were off under the table).  Oh the stupid things we do in the name of vanity.

I took them to a local high-end shoe boutique where they put on their stretcher.  Not enough difference to matter.  I had resigned them to being that thing in the closet that I looked at and admired but never wore again.

But then I got the idea to search Pinterest for ideas – and there were plenty of them for tight shos.  One actually recalled my knowledge of science – the idea of using the expansion quality of ice to allow for a gentle stretch via physics.  The basic concept is to take plastic bags filled with water and stuff them into the part of the shoe that requires expansion and all the water to freeze, forcing a gentle stretch.  I decided I had nothing to lose so I gave it a shot.

My shoes stuffed with room temperature gel packs.

My shoes stuffed with room temperature gel packs.

The idea of using plastic bags of water scared me so I decided to use some room temperature gel packs that had come in a refrigerated box.  (I was uncertain what the properties of the packs were, but they were tightly sealed so I figured they might work?!)  I stuffed the packs tightly into the shoes making sure that the spaces in the tight areas were fully filled.  Then I put my shoes in the freezer and left on an overnight trip.

Guess what?  It worked!  The first thing I observed is that the now-frozen packs were very difficult to wedge out of the shoes.  I decided to wait and let them thaw to avoid any damage to the shoes.  I noticed a bit of give in the shoes but still wanted them to be slightly looser so I repeated the process again the next night.

I noticed the first time that there was some moisture from condensation that had seeped into the shoes.  This time I lined the inside with a layer of plastic wrap before putting the gel packs back in so protect the inside of the shoes.  The second round gave just enough additional stretch to make these comfortable to wear so I was able to take them with me on a cruise to wear in the evenings.

Like any heels, I still can’t manage a long day in them, but I’m proud to say my Pinterest fix worked like a champ.  I would be reluctant to try this on suede or other delicate materials (silk, satin) due to the condensation issue – but for leather I’d do this again in a heartbeat!

High heels and a bottle of limoncello - the partial contents of The Jetsetter's freezer.

High heels and a bottle of limoncello – the partial contents of The Jetsetter’s freezer.


About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last eighteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 48.5 US states. Although she averages 200 days a year on the road, she loves to return to “the homestead” in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and cocktail mixology.

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