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A boot can be a very particular thing, especially leather boots. Stock boots off the shelf are not designed to fit our unique feet perfectly. When you get a boot that is just a little too snug here and there, you might wonder if it will eventually stretch. Do leather boots stretch?
Yes, leather boots, with use, naturally stretch over time. The weight and stress you apply to the boots as you wear them will eventually cause the boots to shape to your feet. But the change will be minimal, and won’t be enough to correct for wrong sizing.
Some people like to use a leather stretching spray like this one (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com) to help stretch the leather on their boots. The spray conditioner is designed to help soften and stretch the leather as you wear it, which can speed up the break-in process.
If you plan to allow the leather to just naturally stretch over time with use, expect the changes to be gradual. No matter the stretching method, don’t expect the leather to stretch enough to correct for wrong sizing.
For example, if you need a wide-fit leather boot, but order a regular width, although the leather will stretch a bit, it likely won’t be enough to overcome the sizing error. Obviously, there may be some exceptions, but getting the initial sizing right is very important.
If you’ve ordered the correct sizing, and just feel like the boot is a bit tight here or there, you can expect the leather boot to eventually stretch and conform to the unique shape of your own foot.
In this article let’s discuss how and why leather boots stretch, and discuss a few tips on how you can stretch leather yourself to speed up the process.
Why do Leather Boots Stretch?
Real leather is a natural material, and it is created to stretch. Naturally, it is pliable, and since leather is a hide (skin), much like ours, it can stretch and change when under pressure.
The pressure from walking around in your boots is enough to make the leather stretch naturally, without any extra force or pressure. Leather also becomes softer and smoother over time as it stretches and will eventually have a worn look to it.
Because leather stretches naturally, it is wise to try to stay as true to your boot size as possible. Although the stretching may not be enough to overcome sizing errors, it is enough to make a boot that at first felt uncomfortable, eventually fit perfectly to the unique shape of your foot.
The stretching process will take time, and 100 hours of use is a nice general number to set as a break-in period. But how much will leather boots stretch?
How Much Will Leather Boots Stretch?
You can expect leather boots to stretch about a quarter boot size. In most cases, the stretching will not be enough to account for an entire half boot size, but there can be exceptions based on:
- Type of leather
- Treatment of the leather
- Age of the leather
You’ll also want to consider how much a boot will stretch from side to side to account for the width of your foot. This is one of the reasons I love leather boots is they eventually form to the width of my foot (as long as I got the sizing right).
Again, if you have extra wide feet, and order a regular width boot, it may be too big of an ask to think the leather will eventually fit perfectly to your foot. But if the sizing is correct, the leather will most often eventually fit comfortably against the unique shape of your foot.
Can Leather Boots be Overstretched?
Yes, leather boots can be overstretched. This typically happens when they are being stretched purposely and not via normal use. It can occur when left too long in the stretching process, or too much pressure has been put on the leather during the stretching process.
Although it has elasticity, when leather is overstretched, it can be shrunk back down but may not return to the original size. When overstretching is done, it changes the makeup of the material. This can make it difficult for the boot to be shrunk back to its original size.
This is one risk of buying used leather boots. If the original owner had wider feet than you, the boots will likely always feel a bit loose unless you buy an insert to improve the fit.
Can You Stretch Leather Boots Yourself?
Yes, you can stretch leather boots yourself. When done properly, it is perfectly safe to either stretch your boots yourself or have a cobbler stretch them for you.
There are plenty of reasons that you may need to stretch your boots. Some of the reasons you may want to stretch your leather boots are:
- They did not have your normal size
- Your feet may be a little wider than the average stock boot
- With age, feet do get a little longer and wider
- The boot is just too tight and uncomfortable in a few spots
Whatever your reasons for stretching your leather boots, it is safe to have it done or do it yourself, as long as you know how to do it properly.
How to Stretch Leather Boots Yourself?
If your leather boots are a little too snug and normal wear has not stretched them enough, or they are just too tight to wear, there are plenty of different ways for you to stretch your leather boots.
Using Leather Stretching Spray
This can be purchased at a shoe store or online. Most of these sprays are leather conditioners that are formulated to soften and stretch snug fitting boots while you walk. Here is an example of a popular leather stretching spray (affiliate link takes you to Amazon.com).
Using Heat to Stretch
When using heat to stretch your leather boots, you will first want to get a source of heat, like a hairdryer. You need to use caution so as not to burn the leather.
Slowly apply heat to the leather (don’t overdo it). Once it is hot, it will become softer and more pliable and you can start to pull and stretch by hand or use a shoe stretching tool.
This can be done simply by putting pressure and or weight on the shoe in the spots where you want the shoe to give. You can use a shoe stretching tool or anything that will fit in the boot and put pressure on the leather to stretch it.
Using Water to Help Stretch
If using water, you will want to fit a container or sink full of warm water and fully submerge your boots in the water. You will want to make sure they are completely wet, so work the leather under the water.
You can leave them in for about 10 or so minutes to make sure they are wet enough. When the leather gets wet it is more pliable. Once ready, remove from water and place a shoe stretching tool inside the shoe (or you can wear them as an alternative).
Will Leather Boots Shrink?
Just as boots can stretch, much like our skin, they can also shrink in the right circumstances. If leather is overstretched, it will be much harder to shrink them back. The process is much more challenging to shrink leather and can damage the boots.
It is not recommended to try and shrink your leather boots at home as this may cause severe damage or ruin them. If they are too large after use or stretching, a good alternative would be trying to use an insert to make up for excess space or seeing if a cobbler may be able to help.
How to Avoid the Need to Stretch Leather Boots
There will always be at least a small degree to which you need leather to form to your foot, but there are a few things you can consider if you want to increase comfort right from the beginning.
- Buy Custom Boots – There are several premium boot companies that make custom fit boots. These companies will ask you to send them the unique measurements of your foot, then they make the boot using a last mold that matches the shape of your foot. This will make the boot much more comfortable in comparison to a stock boot off the shelf. I’d recommend Nick’s Boots (visit).
- Moc Toe Boots – Moc-toe work boots can provide a bit more toe box space, and be a nice solution for those of you who suffer from cramped toes. Obviously, the fit can vary by brand, but buying a moc toe work boot is a nice idea if you need toe space. I personally like to use moc toe if I need steel toe – this provides extra toe room in my opinion. To read more, visit our article about the best moc toe steel toe boots.
- Adjustable Inserts – Some companies will use inserts that are adjustable and help adapt the boot to the proper width to match your foot. No, this won’t be an exact science, and I’d still recommend ordering a custom boot especially if you have cranky feet, but this is a nice, more affordable second option. For example, these leather boots made by Brunt Workwear come with adjustable inserts that can take your boot from regular fit (D) to relaxed fit (EE) – affiliate link takes you to bruntworkwear.com.