If you’re fashionable or a longtime fan of cowboy boots, you’ve probably recently purchased or are considering purchasing a new pair. Congratulations!
But before you put on your boots – whether for line dancing or strutting down the concrete runway in your favorite dress with cowboy boots – they need to be comfortable.
Learning how to break in cowboy boots or stretch them is essential for new boots to feel comfortable and avoid painful blisters.
Today I’m going to show you 7 different ways to stretch cowboy boots. These techniques can also be used on other types of tough leather boots at home. Many involve products that soften and relax the leather in preparation for stretching.
Cowboy boots are made from some of the most rigid leather available, so a good pair should last you a long time, making them some of the most durable boots available.
Check out my post on how to break in cowboy boots made of softer leathers, such as fashion ankle boots and knee boots.
How to Break in Cowboy Boots & Stretch Them Out
1. Break in Cowboy Boots with Thick or Double Socks
This is one of the easier – and less expensive – ways to stretch out cowboy boots.
You only need one pair of thick socks (or two pairs) to wear with your cowboy boots. You could make it even more entertaining by doing a two-step in two socks, bwahaha!
The pressure from wearing two socks will widen and heighten the toebox, resulting in a more comfortable, custom fit. It’s easy enough, but it can be painful. So, take it slowly at first to avoid painful blisters.
If you intend to wear your cowboy boots frequently, you can invest in thick socks designed specifically for western boots. There is padding in all the right places, and it will stay upright rather than sagging.
2. Use Lotion to Break in Cowboy Boots
That is, conditioning lotion! Softening the leather on your cowboy boots results in a more subtle leather that stretches more efficiently and safely.
Before attempting the double sock method to stretch out cowboy boots, apply leather conditioning oil or lotion to your boots.
How to Break in Cowboy Boots with Lotion:
- Using a dry cloth, wipe down your boots. If the boots have dust or debris on them, clean them gently with a damp cloth.
- Using a small applicator brush, test the conditioner on a few hidden spots.
- When the boot is dry and you’re satisfied with the results, apply a dime-sized amount of the conditioning balm to a cloth and rub it in a circular motion on the boot.
- Using a rag or cloth, remove any excess product.
- Wear your cowboy boots around for about 30 minutes or until they are dry to the touch, or use a shoe stretcher overnight.
Using leather conditioner on a regular basis will keep dirt and debris from accumulating on your leather boots and drying out and cracking the leather. This will extend the life of your boots by strengthening the leather while keeping it soft and supple.
3. Steam Your Cowboy Boots
Steaming the inside of your boots to soften and break in the leather is a specific method for stretching out cowboy boots. And you can do it from the comfort of your own home.
However, it can be a messy process, and you risk being burned by hot steam or water, so proceed with caution! I would recommend putting on a pair of dishwashing rubber gloves.
How to Use Steam to Stretch Cowboy Boots
- Direct steam to the inside of the boot area you want to stretch with a garment steamer or a kettle. Allow it to sit for about 20 seconds.
- Remove the steamer from the area and press it with your finger. If it’s not soft and pliable, steam it for another 15 seconds. You don’t want the leather to become completely saturated with steam because this could cause damage to the boot.
- When they’re soft but still hot, put your foot in the boot and walk around until they’re dry. If you take them off before then, your feet may not have enough time to stretch out the boots completely.
4. Break in Cowboy Boots with Boot Stretching Spray
A boot stretching spray, like leather conditioner, will hydrate the leather and make stretching easier. This is true whether you intend to break them in with socks or a boot stretcher.
Shoe stretching spray is an excellent choice for all types of materials, not just leather. Shoe or boot spray, unlike leather conditioners or oils, is simple to apply and use.
Stretching Spray for Breaking in Cowboy Boots
- Remove any dust or dirt from your cowboy boots with a dry or slightly damp cloth.
- Spray the product onto the area of the cowboy boots that needs to be stretched, whether it’s the foot, toes, instep, or shaft.
- Wear your boots around or use a boot stretcher overnight to stretch them out before the spray dries.
What if you don’t have any boot or shoe stretching spray on hand? Rubbing alcohol, applied with a spray bottle or dabbed on with cotton pads, can also be effective. You can repeat the steps outlined above.
5. Try a Boot Stretcher
Using a shoe stretcher, as described in my post about how to stretch leather fashion boots, works wonders on cowboy boots in a variety of places, including the instep, shaft, and toe area.
For cowboy boots or other tough leather boots, I would recommend premium or heavy duty professional western boot stretchers. If you use the stretcher as directed on the box, this method is convenient, effective, and safe.
How to Stretch Cowboy Boots with a Boot Stretcher Stretcher:
- As needed, insert any plugs into the stretcher (and where you need an extra stretch).
- To soften the material and prepare it for stretching, spray shoe stretching liquid inside the cowboy boots. If you sprayed too much and it’s dripping, dab some with a cloth to dry it off.
- Insert the stretcher’s toe block all the way into the boots, until it reaches the end of the toe box and can’t go any further.
- Turn the handle until the toe block expands to the width of the boot to stretch the width of the boot.
- Turn the dial one or two times to achieve the desired stretch. I’d start small and work my way up if necessary. Leave it in for at least 6 hours or overnight.
- Turn the handle counterclockwise to loosen and remove the toe block from the cowboy boots.
- Put on your boots. Repeat the procedure, turning the dial clockwise one more time than in step 5.
6. Dunk Cowboy Boots in Water to Break them in
This is one of the more extreme methods for stretching cowboy boots, but it is tried and true, and many swear by it for a custom fit. And, to make you feel less stressed, I’m only talking about wetting the outside of the boots in water, not completely submerging them!
Water naturally loosens the leather fibers, allowing it to stretch more freely. However, there are some significant drawbacks to this method.
The leather may dry out or fade as a result of these factors. Not to mention that it will be a lengthy process because the cowboy boots will take a long time to dry.
Stretching Cowboy Boots in Water:
- Fill a tub, bathtub, or bucket halfway with warm water.
- Immerse your boots in water, foot first, without allowing water to enter the interior of the boots. Weight down the boots with your hands to keep them from floating back up.
- Remove the boots as soon as you notice the insole becoming slightly damp.
- Put on some socks and go for a walk to loosen and break in the leather. Warning: your socks will get wet, but you can avoid this by putting a plastic bag over them before putting on your cowboy boots.
- Walk around in wet boots until they are dry or nearly dry. For a better custom fit, wait until the boot is completely dry or very close to it.
- Because water dries out leather, add some leather conditioner or oil to the boots to hydrate the material and prevent cracking.
Have you tried this cowboy boot stretching hack but ended up with squeaky boots? It’s most likely because you didn’t completely dry the boots. Try out my tips on how to stop shoes from squeaking in my post about how to stop shoes from squeaking. Hopefully, they will be useful!
7. Get a Cobbler to Break in Your Cowboy Boots
Most of these do-it-yourself methods require varying amounts of time and effort and may yield varying results. Perhaps some unfavorable ones! If you want to be safe and/or don’t have the time, take them to a shoe professional: a cobbler.
Because cobblers are shoe-altering professionals, this is the safest way to stretch boots. They can make shoes bigger or smaller, as well as repair all types of shoe and boot injuries.
Cobblers are shoe stretching experts who will ensure that your too-tight cowboy boots are safely stretched while keeping the leather subtle and strong.
Be prepared to wait a little longer for your custom-fitting boots – anywhere from a day to a week. But what’s a week when you can wear perfectly fitting cowboy boots?
The ideal situation is, of course, to buy a pair of perfectly fitting cowboy boots! However, unless you have a pair of cowgirl boots custom fit to your feet, you will most likely need to break in the cowboy boots to some extent.
I hope this cowboy boot stretching guide saves you from the agony of ill-fitting boots and having to deal with annoying returns. You can now shop online knowing that you understand how to stretch cowboy boots!
It’s critical to find the right cowboy boots for you, in terms of size and shape. Cowboy boots, like feet, are made differently, so try on different styles, brands, and sizes to find the best one for you. You can avoid post-purchase boot tampering – and potential regret!
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