How to Stretch Leather Boots

Sometimes your new pair of leather boots just won’t stretch in the way that you need them to. This could be because the size is slightly off, because they have a unique design, or even just because they have shrunk over time. Instead of having to buy a new set of leather boots and start all over again, you can use some little-known tricks that are perfect for stretching shoes out to new sizes. From a shoe stretcher to freezing the boots entirely, there are a few ways to open them up and save you the cost of a new pair.

Buy a Boot Stretcher Tool

There are a few varieties of boot stretcher out there, and each one is meant to fit a particular type of boot. If you find that your boots are too narrow to wear, for example, then you will need one that can open up the design without tearing the material or distending it. When dealing with the width of the boots you want to wear, you should use a one-way boot stretcher: you can get these simple boot stretchers at most medium or large shoe stores, or track them down online if you prefer.

One-way boot stretchers, when used correctly, should increase the size of your boot by around one half-size to a full size in total. If your boots are two sizes too small for the size that you usually wear, boot stretchers might not be enough to salvage them, and you are probably going to have to buy an entirely new pair. You can get most types in either wooden or plastic varieties, but the end result should be more or less the same – the only significant differences are price and portability.

If a one-way boot stretcher isn’t working, you can use a two-way boot stretcher instead. These have a rotating handle that can help you widen and elongate your boots, giving you more room for your heels or toes while also making them easier to wear if they feel slightly too small. A shoe stretcher is technically the same type of product, but without the long handle, which can make it harder to use for boots with a high neck: the process would be almost exactly the same, but you would need to fiddle more with the widening system.

If that still isn’t enough to make your boots fit comfortably, then you can turn to a calf stretcher. A calf stretcher can stretch your leather boots down the calves, rather than just the very bottom, which is perfect for people who want to wear tall boots that are slightly too thin for them. They can work on both zip-up and slip-on boots, making them a versatile option for most designs.

Using a Boot Stretcher

But how do you actually use a boot stretcher? Most of them, regardless of the exact type, use the same method for stretching shoe and boot materials: you slip them inside the boot, expand them until you see the materials start to resist and stretch out, then leave it in place for around six to eight hours. The stretching process can take a while, and removing the stretcher early might result in almost no change. It might also take a few nights to stretch them out, depending on the exact materials used in that specific pair of boots.

Other than that, there isn’t anything else special involved: you just put your one-way stretcher, two-way stretcher, or calf stretcher in place, then leave the boot stretchers until they manage to widen the space inside your boots.

DIY Stretching

If you don’t want to – or can’t – use boot stretchers effectively, there are still other shoe stretch techniques that you can rely on too. There are various ways to stretch shoe materials through some DIY ingenuity, and if you have the right items lying around your home, you might be able to do some of the more minor techniques almost straight away! Here are some DIY options for making your leather boots stretch out properly.

Leather-Stretching Spray

When you need to stretch shoes and boots out properly, the best way to do it yourself is through a specially-made spray. These sprays can help you stretch leather boots by wearing them: you spray it onto the pair of boots, slip them on, and then wear them while they are still wet. The leather used in the leather boots will begin to stretch out over time, gradually loosening then hardening again once they fit around your feet properly. The process can take a while, but it also guarantees that you can stretch leather boots out to a size that you feel comfortable in.

If you don’t want to buy this spray directly, you can make something similar for the calves of your leather boots by putting an equal amount of alcohol and water in a spray bottle. While it can work on any leather parts, the calves are the most effective: spray the mixture onto the calves, then inside your boot, and then wear them until the stretching process is complete. If you don’t want to wear wet boots, you can combine this with a normal boot stretcher tool like the ones mentioned above: the loose and wet leather can be pushed out more effectively.

Once the boots are wet with your leather conditioner or spray, you just have to wear them. This process can take upwards of thirty minutes, but it works most effectively when you wait until the leather dries since this means that they are properly solidifying around your feet and won’t shrink back to normal.


If a spray isn’t an option, water can be. By dunking your boots into a large bucket or container of water for about five minutes, you can get the leather wet without having to use any special mixture. After they have been able to soak for a while, put them on, and wear them for at least thirty minutes (or until they dry out). On its own, this water won’t do much – but if you combine it with leather conditioning cream, the boots are very likely to maintain their stretched-out shape once they dry. Since you are wearing them, you won’t have to guess at the sizes as you might with a stretching tool.

Thick Socks

If your boots are only slightly too tight and don’t necessarily need a major stretch to fit properly, then you can sometimes rely on thick socks to do the job for you. If you wear thick socks (or even multiple layers of socks) and put the boots on, you can sometimes force them to stretch out naturally without having to irritate your feet. The thicker you can make your feet while still being able to wear the boots, the more effective this becomes.

Repeating this for around thirty minutes every day for most of a week can often help break in your boots, but it can also be uncomfortable and hurt your feet if you keep going this for too long. Don’t commit to any long walks, and consider wearing your boots around the home rather than taking a walk at all if you are worried about them suddenly hurting while you are far from your house.

Hot and Cold Air

When nothing else seems to be working, you can always try to stretch leather boots using a blow dryer. Applying hot air to leather can help loosen it up, relaxing it and allowing it to be reshaped if you wear thicker socks or use a stretching tool. This doesn’t take long to set up, and you can repeat it daily, making it one of the better methods to ensure that the leather on your new shoes can stretch without forcing you to buy anything you don’t already own. Be sure that you don’t move the blow dryer too close or hold it still for too long, though. The heat can damage your leather boots, and a powerful blow dryer might even cause permanent marks that can’t simply be wiped off the leather itself.

On the other hand, you can also expand your toe space by using ice. Packaging a bag of water into the toe area and placing your boots in the freezer for around 8 hours can be an easy technique for creating a solid wedge in that space, which can then expand the leather around it to make more room for your toes. Over the course of 8 hours, the freezing water will fill the area and push the leather away, with the cold temperature giving it a greater chance of retaining that shape when the water defrosts.

Other Tips

Now that you know how to stretch leather boots using a range of different techniques, it can still help to have some minor pieces of advice if you end up dealing with particular problems or roadblocks that make it harder to adjust the boots

  • Leather can only stretch so far, and pushing it beyond a safe limit can lead to permanent damage. Never try to make an extreme stretch in the leather unless you were planning on throwing away the boots anyway – if it doesn’t work, you might leave them completely unusable.
  • When looking for boot stretcher tools online, it helps to try and filter your results down. Close the sidebar, adjust your search terms and try to track down one that will fit your boots – not all stretchers are identical in size, and some might use a different adjustment system altogether.
  • Some online stores sell boot stretchers in pairs, with the second one essentially being a ‘free’ extra. However, you can use this to stretch out two different shoes at once, meaning that you don’t have to do each boot separately if you want matching footwear. Just remember that you should insert and adjust them in the same manner. Otherwise, the leather on each boot could be mismatched.
  • Boots come in all shapes and sizes, and not all techniques will work equally on each one. Don’t be afraid to try something new if your boots don’t seem to be stretching with a certain technique you chose and give yourself some time to experiment if you need to. Also, try not to rush things: if you should be leaving your boots to stretch for at least eight hours, don’t try to wear them after six unless you need them for some urgent event.
About the Author

Hey, I'm Lilly Harvey. If there's two things I'm passionate about in life, it's shoes and writing!

Combining both my passions with my Fashion Design degree, I've helped create Shoe Adviser to help readers choose the best shoes for them, enjoy!

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