Mythbusting: Freezing Shoes

A recent popular trend has been to stretch shoes by putting a bag of water in them and freezing it. Correctly identifying that water does expand when frozen, and when that happens it stretches out your shoes. Leather shoes are meant to stretch a little, and it’s a service most cobblers will offer, so the idea is to save a little money and do it at home.


I will always recommend using professional shoe stretching services and equipment.
Used with persmission ©Bob McInnes

However take a pair of shoes to a good cobbler, and he sometimes says he can’t do it, that’s not because he’s rude, or lazy, I’m grateful to him for being honest. The truth is some shoes aren’t suitable for stretching, and if you try to it’s most likely going to damage the shoes. Plastic, fabric, mesh are materials that have a little give but won’t retain that shape, and will also very easily crack or split, so they’re totally unsuitable for any stretching technique.


Sadly my gold Zanottis have decided to crack, even high quality patent and polished leathers crack too easily

That also doesn’t mean all leather shoes are okay to stretch either. Many modern “leather” shoes are made with various other materials for the lining, if you’re okay with damaging the lining of your shoe, then by all means stretch them. Treated leathers also struggle to stretch, they’re stiffer because they’re coated with plastics, and will crack quite easily.

It only really leaves the high end unfinished, calf, kid, snake and napa, all leather shoes. Now if you want to risk them in the freezer by all means, I had my Balenciagas stretched professionally. Remember that water will simply and blindly expand in all directions, so the end result may not necessarily suit your feet. Plus the moisture and condensation from freezing may cause the glue in the shoe to break down as well.

I don’t have any shoes with water damage, but this is risk you run if you cause moisture damage to untreated leathers
Used with permission ©davidd

This technique might work for some, but it risks damaging your shoes, as well as making your shoes worse for your feet. I have nothing against stretching shoes but I will always leave it to the professionals.

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