The Great Boot Stretching Experiment of October 2015.

TO: Journal of the American Boot

FROM: Iris Vander Pluym

DATE: October 11, 2015

SUBJECT: Research Paper Submission

Dear Sir or Madam:

Attached please find my latest work for consideration by your esteemed publication.


-Iris Vander Pluym


Harnessing the power of dihydrogen monoxide: A method for gently enlarging a leather boot.


A long existing and well known problem in this field occurs when a pair of boots fit comfortably in the store, however post purchase, walking in them for more than a few minutes will produce pain, blister(s) and a general state of intense unhappiness in the wearer (the “pain problem”). An experiment was conducted to determine whether properties inherent in the phase change of H2O from liquid to solid to liquid again could be harnessed to gently and effectively stretch a leather boot. The results were positive and highly encouraging. Although more research is needed, it appears that the new method addresses the pain problem simply, safely and cost-effectively.


The pain problem has plagued boot wearers for millennia. Its causes have been variously attributed to a number of phenomena, e.g. manufacturers failing to maintain size and shape consistency during boot production, variations inherent in materials such as leather, naturally occurring asymmetries in the size and/or shape of an individual wearer’s feet due to genetic or epigenetic phenomena, the impact of recent activities known to affect the feet (such as prolonged standing, walking or running) as well as deformative injuries to the foot.

Historically, attempts to address the pain problem have included the strategic attachment of band-aids and/or moleskin, application of liquids and aerosols and inflatable devices of dubious provenance and efficacy, employing any of an enormous array of devices purporting to reshape footwear, and recourse to an industry of professional shoemakers who claim to employ superior equipment and advanced techniques to boot stretching, sometimes at considerable cost. Additionally, a harmful and ubiquitous myth that boots require a “break-in period” persists in the culture at large. In this view, the pain problem is cast as a necessary and inevitable burden to bear in order for an individual to acquire a comfortable pair of boots, wide demand for all of the aforementioned products and services notwithstanding. However, the only thing that typically breaks during the break-in period is the unfortunate boot wearer’s blistered skin.

The boots used in this experiment were acquired at a Steve Madden store on Bleecker Street in NYC in the fall of 2014 (the “Madden boots”). The wearer got some limited use out of them through spring of 2015, but due to the pain problem specifically with the right boot, she would generally eschew them in favor of wearing less attractive, more comfortable boots, particularly if even a small amount of walking was foreseeable. By the summer of 2015, several pairs of the less attractive, more comfortable boots were in a state such that repairing them would prove impossible or prohibitively expensive. Thus by attrition and default, the Madden boots had suddenly become the wearer’s primary boots for autumn 2015.

Figure 1 depicts the areas of particular concern on the right Madden boot.

Figure 1.

maddenbootfig1Right Madden boot.


H2O has a well-known property whereby as it changes from liquid to solid phase at or below a temperature of 32°F (0°C), its volume becomes noticeably increased. It was hypothesized that the resulting expansion could be harnessed to permanently enlarge the right Madden boot such that the pain problem would be eradicated.


A one gallon Ziploc® freezer bag was inserted into the right Madden boot and spread fully into the shape of the interior. The bag was then zipped closed except for an accessible opening at the exterior zipper location on the boot. Using a rocks glass, liquid H2O was carefully poured into the opening of the Ziploc® bag until it could hold no more without spilling, and the Ziploc® bag was completely sealed.

The right Madden boot was placed in a standard Whirlpool® freezer on a sheet of Saran® plastic wrap, along with a brightly colored Post-It® note attached that read:


Figure 2(a) illustrates the positioning of the boot and the Post-It® note in the freezer along with several other items including ice trays (empty) and a martini glass (also empty). The portion of the Ziploc® bag which was extended outside the boot in order to fill it is also visible above the note.

Figure 2(a).

bootorigRight Madden boot with note in freezer.

This precaution was taken so that should anyone else open the freezer door they would be discouraged from disturbing this important experiment. As a further precaution, Figure 2 was immediately uploaded to Facebook along with a status update:

“Presently, I have a boot in my freezer. FYI.”

Thus colleagues, family, friends and lovers were put on notice about the experiment and provided with documentation about this exciting research project. General merriment promptly ensued on the thread, as well as an important discussion concerning inaccurate wording on the Post-It® note:

Dr. KC: … technically, don’t you have a hypothesis?

Dr. IVP: Yes. But I wasn’t going to rewrite the post-it. LIFE IS SHORT.

Dr. LR: fixed

Figure 2(b).

boothypothesisRight Madden boot in freezer, with proposed edit to note.


The right Madden boot was left in the freezer overnight, and removed the following morning. It was placed on a paper towel in a room temperature environment, and complete phase change from solid back to liquid was observed later that day.

Both Madden boots were then worn while walking to dinner at a distance of approximately 3 ½ city blocks from the laboratory facilities, and back again. Figure 3 depicts the Madden boots at the restaurant.

Figure 3.

bootsThe Madden boots after the right boot underwent the experimental condition.


No pain, blisters or other discomfort were observed by the wearer at any time subsequent to the procedure, and similar results were also obtained during subsequent wearings of the Madden boots. Further research is needed to determine whether and to what extent the effect can be replicated in boots made of other materials, for example faux suede.


The groundbreaking method described herein appears to address the notorious pain problem by expanding leather boots easily, inexpensively, and in less than 24 hours. Also: the author’s Facebook friends are hilarious.


Comments on this post are considered peer review.

This entry was posted in science by Iris Vander Pluym. Bookmark the permalink.

About Iris Vander Pluym

Iris Vander Pluym is an artist and activist in NYC (West Village), and an unapologetic, godless, feminist lefty. Raised to believe Nice Girls™ do not discuss politics, sex or religion, it turns out those are pretty much the only topics she ever wants to talk about.

3 thoughts on “The Great Boot Stretching Experiment of October 2015.

  1. This experiment is the work of an artist but would not have been envisioned, let along executed in the scientific manner, if not an enlightend and bold activist, as well. The bootmaker should reward you handsomely for this work, as it has the potential to render useable and valued products that “tens of loyal customers” currently find a source of frustration, bitterness and dubious mental health. Your experiment will reconvert these people to satisfied and loyal patrons.

    While this breakthrough research does not fall in the realm of politics, sex or religion, it has provided something boot buyers everywhere will want to talk about and act upon.

    There could be a prize of some kind in your future related to this innovation. Well done.

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