In extreme cases, foot binding was done by breaking the toes in several places and folding the broken toes under the sole of the foot, then breaking the arches of the feet, effectively snapping the feet in half. This was of course intensely painful for the girls who had it done to their feet.
Once the feet had been broken they would be bound, by wrapping in a cloth strip ten feet long and two inches wide. The binding cloth was wound repeatedly around the feet, at each pass being pulled tighter, bringing the ball of the foot and the heel gradually closer together. At the end of the binding the cloth would be pulled very tight, by this time the girl's toes would be almost touching her heels.
The bound feet would then require lots of care throughout the binding process, which lasted several years. Over this time, the girl's life would essentially revolve around her feet, and she would suffer from constant debilitating foot pain. Each day the feet would be unbound and massaged. While they were unbound the toenails would be trimmed to keep them from injuring the toes, and then the feet would be re-bound tightly. When bound the girls would have to walk long distances on their feet to crush them further.
Girls from poor families would have the binding done by an elder female family member, whilst those from richer families would have a professional foot binder to do it. The professional foot binder would tend to bind the feet more tightly and relentlessly as he would not listen to the girl's cries of pain. The result would be exquisitely painful feet of less than three inches in length, which was seen as the ideal size.