How to Break-in Cowboy Boots in a Day

You bought a great new pair of jeans or an adorable dress two weeks ago, but you just found the perfect cowboy boots today. Your problem is that the Western Dance and Barbecue is tomorrow. You definitely don’t want to Two-Step your way into feet full of painful blisters. What are you going to do? You need to break in those boots without wearing them. You can break in new cowboy boots overnight. While this is not the best way to treat your new cowboy boots, you can make them more comfortable for a special occasion. 

Your new cowboy boots are leather, and over time, even a fairly short time, they will form to fit your feet like they were custom made. Until then, and especially if you have a big event coming up soon, you can break them in by softening tough leather with lotion or heat, scuffing up the soles so you don’t slip, or using ice to stretch the toe box.

5 Ways to Ease into New Boots Overnight

Those of us who have worn new boots know that even the best ones may not be a perfect fit right out of the box. New leather is stiff, so there may be places that pinch a bit or rub a hot spot on your toes. Your heel may slip a bit at first in a new pair. Don’t despair. Over time your boots can be as comfortable as your feet are in fuzzy socks. 

A note about heels slipping 

It is normal for your heels to slip a little bit in brand new boots. It happens when the leather is stiff and new. After the boots have been well worn and broken in, your feet should not slip anymore. 

If you need to wear them right away, you may want to try a heel cup or a half-length insole that goes into the toe of the boot. Often people’s heels slip because their feet slide forward in the boot. A half-length insole placed in the toe will force your foot back in the boot, holding it securely in the heel. If the heel is too wide, a heel cup will cushion your heel and take up some extra space again, securing your foot in the boot.

Scuff up the Sole

The hard leather sole of your boots is going to be slippery. You may need to add a little traction to the sole so you don’t slip. This is as easy as wearing them for a walk. Put on those boots and take a walk on a street with a rough surface like gravel or rough asphalt. This will add some texture to the sole. If your street is super smooth, take a little bit of sandpaper and rough up the soles. Just a little texture improves the traction, but you can still dance in them. 

Heat or Steam

Supplies: Hairdryer, tea kettle with water, thick socks, and your feet. The new leather of your boots will be quite stiff when you first put them on. If it pinches or pokes your feet, you can heat it to stretch it out a bit. 

One way to stretch the leather is to use a hairdryer. This will be effective if there are small areas the need stretching around the toes or on the sides of the foot. Set the hairdryer on medium heat and, holding it at least six inches away, direct the heat toward the part of the boot that bothers you. When the leather is warmed up and soft, perhaps 1-2 minutes, slip on the boots wearing the socks you prefer and walk around in them until the leather cools. Repeat as necessary. Be gentle with your new leather boots so that you don’t over-stretch them or damage them with too much heat.

If the hairdryer doesn’t soften them enough or the leather is thick, you may need to add some moisture. Boil water in the tea kettle. Hold the boot upside down over the spout and let the steam fill the boot. You want the leather to warm up and soften, but you do not want it to be wet. When the leather is warmed up, put the boots on and wear them until the leather is cool and dry. They must stay on your feet until they dry. Leather tightens up as it dries, and if you take them off, they may shrink too much or dry in an odd shape.

Leather Conditioner

Supplies: Leather conditioning lotion or oil, mink oil, or moisturizing hand lotion. You can purchase a leather conditioner that you can rub in and soften up your new boots. Check with the Western store where you bought your boots to make sure you buy an appropriate product for the finish on your leather. If you are unsure of what kind you got, you can apply the conditioner on the inside of the boot, and it should not affect the outside finish.

Simply rub the conditioner into the inside of the boots. The leather will absorb the moisture and become more pliable. Then wear the boots so they form to your feet. Thoroughly work in the conditioner in any places that particularly poke or pinch you.

You can also use a good moisturizing hand cream if you do not have any leather conditioner. Be sure to keep it on the inside of the boot, so you do not damage the exterior color or finish.

Ice

Supplies: Four heavy-duty freezer bags, water, room in your freezer for your boots. This method is the extreme opposite of heat. You may think that this couldn’t possibly work, but it is a clever and gentle way to stretch the whole toe box of the boot if it is too snug. 

Fill two zip freezer bags halfway with water. Double bag them to be sure they don’t leak.  Carefully put the bag of water down into the toe of the boot, making sure that the water fills in the toe box. Then sick the boots in the freezer. As the water freezes, it will slowly expand, stretching the leather just a little bit.

Alcohol or Wine

Rubbing alcohol, white wine, cotton balls, heavy old socks, and your feet. When your new boots only have small areas that pinch, you can loosen those areas with rubbing alcohol or wine. This method is not going to stretch a whole boot that is just too small. The benefit of rubbing alcohol is that it dries quickly, making the process fairly easy. Wine may take a bit longer to dry, and you need those boots to be completely dry.

Use a cotton ball or a rag to apply the alcohol or wine to the inside of the boot wherever it is tight or pinches. Then, just like with the heat/steam method, put on the boots and walk around in them. Your socks will absorb the moisture, so choose some old ones that are not your favorites.

The Best Ways to Break In Boots Take Time

Live in Your Boots

The truly best way to break in your boots is to wear them. Since you won’t want to get blisters, ease into them a few hours every day and wear them with thick socks for comfort. In a few weeks, your boots will feel like extensions of your feet. If you take good care of them by conditioning the leather and keeping them clean and dry, they will last for many years. 

Boot Stretcher

If you are a boot wearer, you probably have a boot stretcher. This device can slip into your boots and open up to the size you need. Leave it in place overnight (or overnight for several nights in between wearing) until they have stretched to the comfort level you want.

The Soaking Wet Way (Only for Work Boots)

You may have heard that a quick way to break in your new boots is to dunk them in water. While there are some situations when a person might choose to do this, it is not recommended for nice boots, dressy boots, anything with a finish that you want to keep looking sharp, or boots you need to wear tomorrow.

Some folks, especially those who work on ranches or farms, wear boots as a matter of course. They are a necessary part of daily life. Work boots do not need to look nice. They need to be strong and fit well. If this is your situation, you may want to try the soak and size method. Put on your thick socks and boots, stand in the water trough until the boots are soaked, and then wear them until they are completely dry. You will be tramping around and working all day in wet socks. If the boots dry without your feet in them, they won’t fit properly.

This method is likely to ruin the look of the finish on the outside, so it is not for your dressy, pretty, expensive boots.

Conclusions

The best idea is to buy your boots at least three weeks before you need them and wear them to break them in. If that is simply not a possibility, you can stretch out tight spots with either heat or ice. You can soften up the stiff leather that rubs you the wrong way with leather conditioner, alcohol, or lotion. Whatever method you choose, if you treat your boots well, they will last you for many, many years.

Related Questions

  • How do I properly store my cowboy boots?
  • What inserts can make boots more comfortable?
  • How do I clean my cowboy boots?
  • What kinds of leathers are cowboy boots made of?

Leave a Comment