how to soften and stretch leather boots

How To Soften & Stretch Leather Boots: 6 Most Effective Methods Revealed

Leather boots are an essential footwear choice for any style-conscious individual. However, new leather boots can be tight and uncomfortable to wear initially, as they only stretch and soften over time.

Another important thing to note is that leather boots are often made of slightly thicker leather, compared to leather shoes and boots made of other materials such as fabric and vinyl.

The thickness of leather boots can cause you to feel initial discomfort when wearing them and also increase the time it takes to break them in. However, there are ways to speed up this process!

While you should always select the correct-sized leather boots to begin with that naturally adapt to the shape of your feet over time, there are some creative ways to stretch and soften your leather boots, making them more comfortable to wear.

Here’s a quick summary of the methods we’ll cover in this guide:

  1. Using A Boot Stretcher
  2. Using A Stretching Spray
  3. Wearing Leather Boots Indoors
  4. Conditioning Leather Boots
  5. Using Boot Trees in Leather Boots
  6. Stuffing Newspaper into Leather Boots

It’s also important to note that there are specific areas on your leather boots that you can stretch. These are mainly the toe cap, the calf, and the ankle areas. We’ve made sure to cover these areas in our guide and the FAQ section. 

Method 1: Using A Boot Stretcher

Boot stretchers are a highly versatile tool that you can use to increase the width and length of your leather boots. They can easily allow you to stretch your boots and can even prevent toe and foot deformities like hammertoes, corns, calluses, and bunions if applied correctly.

Take note that you’ll need to use a boot stretcher like the Houndsbay Professional Boot Stretcher and not a typical shoe stretcher. This is because boot stretchers are specifically designed for stretching boots – they have a longer adjustment handle and have a shape that is more suitable for leather boots. 

How to Use a Boot Stretcher For The Toe & Ankle Areas

To use a boot stretcher to soften and stretch the leather around your toe and ankle areas (the overall width of your leather boots),  you’ll need to insert it until it is snug in the front and the heel block is touching the back of your leather boots.

Now, turn the handle clockwise until it is snugly tight, and make 3 to 4 more turns to stretch and widen your boots. You may also apply a stretching spray or a liquid to the leather for better results. 

Similarly, you can use the wheel knob in the boot stretcher to move the heel block backward and stretch the length of the boots. You can also use attachable bunion plugs (if your boot stretcher has them) to stretch specific problem areas of your leather boots and even raise the boot vamp using the heightening pad.

By using a boot stretcher, the leather of your boots expands causing the fiber structure to stretch. This effect will not only make your leather boots feel more comfortable over time but can also make them feel softer as the density thins. 

How to Use a Boot Stretcher For The Calf Area

To stretch your leather boots around the calf area, you’ll need a special tool, such as the FootFitter Shaft Shaper. These inserts are perfect for stretching the areas around your calf (especially for knee-high leather boots).

Simply place them into your leather boots and turn the adjustment screws until they are tight. Then turn them a little more so that the leather stretches. Just ensure not to overstretch it, as the leather around this area is typically thinner and softer, compared to the rest of your leather boots. 

Method 2: Using A Stretching Spray

A stretching spray is a product that stretches your boots by loosening the fiber structure of your leather and subsequently softening it. Even though all leather stretches when wet, leather stretching sprays allow the leather to stretch without damaging it.

We’ve tried and tested a few stretching and softening sprays and the best one we have come across is the FootMatters Professional Boot & Shoe Stretch Spray. The reason we like it is that it doesn’t fade or damage your leather boots and instead conditions it!

How to Use a Stretching Spray to Soften and Strech Leather Boots

You can use the spray on your leather boots and wear them around your home to stretch them out. Apply the spray on areas that you feel are too tight and they will soften to adapt to your foot’s natural shape. 

Moreover, you can also use this softening and stretching spray in combination with wooden boot stretchers for the most effective results. Just ensure that you don’t overstretch your leather boots, so use a moderate setting on your boot stretchers when using them with a spray. 

Method 3: Wearing Leather Boots Indoors

The easiest way to soften and stretch your leather boots is to wear them as much as possible. Wearing them indoors is often used to break in new leather boots, and could be done just once a day over a one to two-week period. 

stretching leather boots at home
Stretching Leather Boots at Home

As your leather boots may feel a little uncomfortable when they’re brand new, we recommend wearing them only for short periods to reduce discomfort and any chance of blistering.

You can also do this with existing or used leather boots. However, ensure to clean the soles of your boots before you begin wearing them to prevent any build-up of odors. The more you wear your leather boots, the better they will adapt and shape around your feet.

Additional Tip: You can also wear them while using thicker socks. That will help cushion some of the pressure and will also help to stretch your leather boots over a period of time. 

Method 4: Conditioning Leather Boots

Conditioning is good for softening leather boots that may fit well but have hardened over time or been in storage for extended periods. By conditioning leather, you can also improve its durability and give it a more refreshing appearance. 

Softening your leather boots with a conditioner will also make stretching them much easier and in turn, they will be able to adapt to the shape of your feet more effectively. It also helps to prevent any brittleness and cracking, by adding a layer of protection against water damage or stains. 

How to Use a Conditioner to Soften Your Leather Boots

To begin this process apply a suitable leather condition to a soft, lint-free cloth and rub it into the leather in circular motions. Use moderate pressure for this and ensure that you cover all areas of your leather boots evenly. 

After the conditioner has dried, remove any excess remaining for a glossy finish. Let your boots dry overnight to ensure that the leather has absorbed all of the oils for a supple and soft finish.  

Method 5: Using Boot Trees in Leather Boots

A boot tree is a tool that can be used to help maintain the shape of your leather boots. After a long day of wear, boot trees can help sustain the look of your boots and smooth out any wrinkles in the leather.

As leather is a natural material, it may shrink a little after use. Therefore, you’ll be able to use a boot tree such as the FootFitter Western Cedar Boot Tree, to maintain its shape and reduce its shrinkage by stretching them out when storing your leather boots. 

Moreover, they have moisture absorption properties and prevent water damage to your leather boots. They can also help prevent fungal or bacterial growth as well as stiffening caused by the sweat of your feet.

Using Boot Trees in Leather Boots

Simple place a boot tree into each leather boot and ensure that you adjust them so that they are slightly larger than the shape of your feet. This will stretch them slightly and make them more comfortable to wear the next time. 

Boot trees are slightly different from boot stretchers, as they are designed for when you’re storing your leather boots. 

Method 6: Stuffing Newspaper into Leather Boots

If you want an affordable hack to stretch your leather boots, you can try stuffing them with newspaper. This can help to stretch out your boots from the inside for easy wearing. However, take note that this method may not be the most effective, and we would always recommend using high-quality boot stretchers. 

How to Use Newspaper to Stretch Your Leather Boots

Crumple up newspaper into medium-sized balls and stuff them into each leather boot. Make sure that you press them into your boots so that the leather stretches out slightly. 

Repeat this process until both of your leather boots are filled. Store your leather boots for about 12 – 24 hours before removing the newspaper. 

What to Take Note Of When Softening & Stretching Your Leather Boots

Stretching and softening your leather boots will make them feel more comfortable to wear, especially if done correctly. We also wanted to make sure to share important information about things that you should take note of during the stretching and softening process. 

  • Only Use Leather Conditioners – Only use conditions for your boots that are suitable for leather. This helps to nourish them and also soften their natural texture. Using general cleaning solutions may damage your leather permanently.  
  • Don’t Overstretch Your Leather Boots – When using booth stretchers and trees, make sure to adjust them incrementally. Overstretching your leather boots can loosen the fiber structure too quickly, which can lead to tears, wrinkles, and creases. 
  • Give Them Some Time – Stretching leather boots can take time, as the leather naturally adapts to shapes. Therefore, give the stretching process some time for your leather to slowly adapt to the shape of your feet. 
  • Maintain & Store Them Correctly – If you feel that your leather boots are retaining their shape, make use of boot trees. Also, remember to store your leather boots in dry and ventilated storage areas. 

Frequently Asked Questions

In the next section, you’ll be able to find some of the most frequently asked questions that will hopefully address more specific queries around softening and stretching leather boots. 

How Do I Stretch Specific Parts of My Leather Boots?

When it comes to stretching leather boots, you’ll be able to target specific areas that you feel are too tight. You’ll be able to use the different methods that we mentioned above to loosen specific areas. Here’s a quick reference:

  • Stretching the toe area of your leather boots: Use a boot stretcher and adjust it around the toe area. Use bunion attachments if they are provided. 
  • Stretching the ankle area of your leather boots: Use a boot stretcher to adjust it around the ankle area. Ensure that you get the right-sized boot stretcher that can expand the ankle area
  • Stretching the calf area of your leather boots: Use a boot tree designed for knee-high leather boots and set them accordingly
  • Stretching the width of your leather boots: Use a boot stretcher and set the width to stretch it accordingly.
  • Stretching the length of your leather boots: Use a boot stretcher and set the length to stretch it accordingly 

How Often Should I Stretch & Soften My Leather Boots?

Leather boots generally take about 1 – 2 weeks to adapt to the natural shape of your feet. Softening and stretching your leather boots should be done within that period and can reduce the break-in time by about 50%. 

When it comes to storing your leather boots, ensure that you use a boot tree to retain its adapted shape. 

Can All Leather Boots Be Stretched?

Yes, all types of leather boots can be stretched. This also includes leather cowboy boots and knee-high leather boots. Take note that there are special boot stretchers for various types of boots. 

For best results, use products that are suitable for the right size and type of your leather boots and ensure not to overstretch them.

About Gerrit

Co-Founder, Researcher & Writer At Leatherskill

I’m a leather enthusiast who spends most of his free time crafting, researching, and writing about the many facets of this versatile material. Thanks for reading!