If the stories are to be believed, Queen Elizabeth II, the current Queen of England, has staff on hand to stretch out each pair of new leather shoes she acquires, which I’m sure join a collection of hundreds, if not thousands.
It’s a pretty swell setup she’s got going on over the pond, but we common folk can’t rely on such luxuries, leaving us to battle the inevitable rubbing and blisters head (or foot) on.
We know those awesome new leather boots of ours are going to be comfier than our slippers eventually, but is there any way we don’t have to sacrifice our immediate wellbeing to break them in? That’s precisely what I endeavored to find out!
Say goodbye to your blisters, friends. Welcome to the ultimate guide on stretching leather boots and shoes.
1st Method – These Boots Were Made for Walking (Short Distances)
The best way to keep your feet happy when introducing them to the rigid environment of new leather boots is to wear them for very small jaunts.
The boot will start getting used to your foot, molding into the right shape, while your feet will get used to the boots, strengthening certain muscles.
So, if you need to pop over the road to the store for a few bits and bobs, take your new boots for a test drive. Does your friend live on the next block? Don your new booty beauties and head on over.
Just remember to take them off when you get there, for the sake of both your feet and good manners.
2nd Method – Pamper Your Boots to a Massage with Stretching Sprays and Leather Conditioners
I’m well aware that it sounds like I’ve just completely made leather stretching spray up, but I’m on the level, I swear it. I’ll prove it to you. I’ve used this FootMatters Professional Boot & Shoe Stretch Spray for years now, and it works like a charm.
The science behind the process is a mystery to me, but the general idea is that the spray softens up that tough, new leather, leaving it more malleable.
Conditioners such as this popular honey-based solution work in the exact same way, and as a bonus, it can also extend the lifespan of your leather footwear and restore it once it starts to look a little bedraggled — hurray!
These kinds of products will all have slightly different chemical makeups, so be sure to check the user instructions before application. Once you’ve learned how it’s done, apply the product, then step into your new boots and strut your stuff for a while.
If you want to save a buck or two, you can also make a basic leather stretching solution yourself by mixing equal amounts of water and alcohol, then decanting it into a spray bottle with a misting function.
3rd Method – Invest in a Shoe Stretcher
An adjustable shoe stretcher is another way you can loosen up those fresh leather boots without torturing your toes. You simply stick them in, expand them, and let the stretching commence.
You may have to leave them in there for a couple of days, but if you can resist the urge to wear your boots during this period, your feet will thank you profusely.
Boot stretchers tend to focus on stretching the toebox and ankle section of new footwear, so if your boots are particularly long, it’s also a good idea to invest in something like these boot trees, that can stretch them out from the ankle upwards.
4th Method – Spoon Your Boots
No, not that kind of spooning. I’m talking about a literal spoon, the bigger the better. Spoons are the perfect shape for stretching out your leather boots. Just stick them in there and start levering your way to a comfortable fit.
You can use wooden or metal spoons, I suppose. Metal is easier on the leather but bends easily. Wood is slightly more abrasive, but it holds its form — the choice is yours.
5th Method – It’s Old News
Instead of leaving your old newspapers on the bench for someone else to read (as nice as that is), save them, dampen the pages ever so slightly, then roll them up into balls, and stuff them into your unforgiving boots.
The trick is to let them rest until the newspaper has completely dried up, then once you unload the paper, you should notice there’s a little more wiggle room than before and a tad more flex.
6th Method – House Hiking
It’s the oldest trick in the book, one employed by your mother, your mother’s mother, your mother’s mother’s mother, and your, well…you get the point.
If you weren’t forced to wear your new smart shoes around the house to break them in before a term at school, you’re either an alien or Queen Elizabeth II.
It turns out that sometimes the old ways are the best ways, because donning a thick pair of socks, and having a jaunt around the house in your new leather boots is a fantastic way to break them in without putting too much stress on your feet.
Of course, if they’re too tight to accommodate thick socks, you may have to scrap this method altogether, but if you can manage it with the laces untied, it’s still worth a shot.
7th Method – Heat ‘em Up!
Applying a spot of heat to leather is a natural way to get it to relax a little, enabling you to stretch it out easier than normal.
I’d recommend using a hairdryer rather than leaving them out on a sunny day or placing them by the fire, as you’ll have more control of the direction and temperature of the heat.
Any old hairdryer will do, but if you don’t have one, this BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium Travel Dryer is affordable, reliable, and tucks away nice and small when not in use.
Alternatively, if money is no object, why not treat yourself to this electric shoe/boot dryer and warmer. It will help you stretch your boots, and then you can use it as intended to get your footwear nice and cozy before a brisk winter’s walk — nice!
Once you’ve chosen your warming weapon and sufficiently heated the interior of your leather boots, it’s time to stuff them. You can use the newspaper or boot stretcher methods I mentioned earlier, or you can go rogue and use socks, or, well…whatever really.
Just be sure to administer the heat gently and evenly, as leather isn’t as tough as you might think and can be easily damaged.
In fact, Once they’ve cooled down, I recommend following this method up with some leather conditioner, just to make sure they’re good and moisturized.
8th Method – Freeze ‘em Down!
Here’s a method you may not have heard of before. Take some sealable sandwich bags, fill them with water, and place them in your boots. Now, move the frozen peas out the way in your freezer, and leave your boots to rest in the sub-zero temperatures.
As the water in the bags freezes, it will expand, pushing the leather out. Just make sure the bags are properly sealed, otherwise, the water might escape and freeze into your insole, which would be tragic!
Some might worry that the cold would be damaging to leather, and while you should absolutely avoid making any direct contact between the upper and ice, it’s not strictly true.
Cold mostly only ever poses a risk to leather once they’ve already been dried out by excessive heat, as the cold can then cause premature cracking.
9th Method – Rope a Friend in to Do the Job
I know I said that if you’re not royalty, having a helper take care of the painful parts of the stretching process isn’t an option, but hey…if you’ve got a friend willing to take on the job, let them do it.
We’ve all been jealous of our friend’s footwear at some point, so if your new leather boots have caught their eye, they may jump at the opportunity to give them a whirl.
It’s important they don’t wear them for too long, though, otherwise, the boots will start to mold to their feet rather than yours, and then it’s going to take more than a little stretching to get them feeling comfortable for you.
Leather Boot Stretching: Summarized
You see, you don’t have to throw your feet under the bus when it comes to stretching out a new pair of leather boots. You can use these methods to gently bend your boots to your will.
My final piece of advice is to combine a few of these methods to speed the process up without damaging your feet or your boots.
For instance, you could use the warming method, followed by the house hiking method, followed by a conditioning, then finish things off with the newspaper technique.
You’ll be showing off your awesome new leather boots around town in no time at all. Enjoy!