If you’re fashionable or a longtime fan of cowboy boots, you’ve likely just bought or thinking about purchasing a new pair of western boots. If so, congrats!
But before you put on your boots – whether to go line dancing or strut on the concrete runway with your favorite dress with cowboy boots – they better be comfortable.
Learning how to break in cowboy boots or give them a good stretch is essential for new boots to feel comfortable and avoid getting any painful blisters.
Today I’m going to walk through 7 ways on how to stretch cowboy boots. You can also use these methods on other equally tough leather boots at home. Many involve products that will soften the leather, relaxing it to prep it for stretching.
Cowboy boots are made with some of the most rigid leather around, so a good pair should last you a long while, making them some of the most durable boots.
Check out my post on simpler ways to stretch leather boots, made of softer leather materials, like fashion ankle boots and knee boots.
How to Break in Cowboy Boots & Stretch Them Out
1. Wear Thick or Double Socks to Break in Cowboy Boots
This is one of the more manageable – and cheaper ways to stretch out cowboy boots.
You just need one very thick (or two pairs) of socks while wearing your cowboy boots. You could even make it fun by doing a two-step in two socks, bwahaha!
The pressure from wearing the two socks will increase the width and height of the toebox, leading to a more comfortable, custom fit. It's simple enough, but it can get a bit painful. So do it little by little to avoid any painful blisters.
If you’re planning on wearing your cowboy boots often, you can invest in thick socks specially made for western boots. There is padding in all the right places, and will stay upright instead of sliding down.
2. Break in Cowboy Boots with Lotion
Conditioning lotion, that is! Softening the leather of your cowboy boots result is a more subtle leather that will stretch more efficiently and safely.
You can apply leather conditioning oil or lotion to your boots before trying the double sock method to stretch out cowboy boots.
How to Break in Cowboy Boots with Lotion:
- Clean your boots with a dry cloth. If the boots have some dust or debris on them, clean them with a subtly damp cloth.
- Test the conditioner on a few hidden spots using a small applicator brush.
- Once dry and you’re pleased with the result, put a dime-sized amount of the conditioning balm on a cloth and rub in onto the boot in a circular motion.
- Wipe off any excess product with a rag or cloth.
- Walk around wearing your cowboy boots until they are dry (approximately 30 mins or when dry to the touch) or use a shoe stretcher overnight.
Applying leather conditioner often will protect your leather boots from dirt and debris accumulating onto and drying out and cracking the leather. This will increase the longevity of your boots by strengthening, yet keeping the leather soft and supple.
3. Steam Your Cowboy Boots
Steaming the inside of your boots to soften and break in the leather is a method that is specific to stretching out cowboy boots. And you can do it at home.
However it can be a messy process and you can risk burning yourself with hot steam or water, so please proceed with caution! I would recommend wearing a pair of rubber gloves used for dishwashing.
How to Stretch Cowboy Boots with Steam
- 1. Using a garment steamer, or a kettle, direct steam to the inside of the boot area you’re looking to stretch. Leave it for about 20 seconds.
- 2. Place the steamer away from the area and press the area with your finger. It should be soft and pliable, otherwise, steam for another 15 seconds. You don't want the leather to be completely saturated with steam as it may damage the boot.
- 3. Once soft, but waiting for them to be no longer hot, put your foot in the boot and walk arounduntil they're dry. Don't take them off before then, or your feet may not get a chance to stretch out the boots completely.
4. Break in Cowboy Boots with Boot Stretching Spray
Similarly to using leather conditioner, a boot stretching spray will hydrate the leather to make stretching easier. This, whether you plan on breaking then in with socks, or a boot stretcher.
Shoe stretching spray is an excellent option for all kinds of materials – not only leather. And unlike leather conditioners or oils, shoe or boot spray is easy to apply and use.
How to Break in Cowboy Boots with Stretching Spray
- Clean off your cowboy boots with a dry or slightly damp cloth to remove any dust or dirt.
- Spray the product onto the area of the cowboy boots you’re looking to stretch, weather than be the foot, toes, instep or shaft.
- Before the spray dries off, wear your boots around or use a boot stretcher overnight to stretch them out.
Don’t have any boot or shoe stretching spray handy? Rubbing alcohol applied with a spray bottle or dabbed on with cotton pads can work just as well. You can follow the same steps as mentioned above.
5. Try a Boot Stretcher
As outlined in my post about how to stretch leather fashion boots, using a shoe stretcher is also works wonders on cowboy boots in various places, including the instep, shaft and toe area.
I would recommend premium or heavy duty professional western boot stretchers for cowboy boots or any similar tough leather boots. This method is convenient, effective and safe if you use the stretcher as instructed on the box.
How to Stretch Cowboy Boots with a Boot Stretcher:
- Add any plugs into the stretcher as required (and where you need an extra stretch).
- Spray shoe stretching liquid into the inside of the cowboy boots to soften the material and prep it for stretching. If you’ve sprayed too much and it’s dripping, dry some off with a cloth.
- Place the toe block of the stretcher right into the boots until it touches the end of the toe box, until it can’t go any further.
- To stretch the width of the boot, turn the handle until the toe block expands to the width of the boot.
- Turn the dial 1 or 2 times for the desired stretch. I would start small and repeat if necessary. Leave in overnight or at least 6 hours.
- Turn the handle counterclockwise to loosen the toe block and remove it from the cowboy boots.
- Try your boots on. Repeat the process, turning the dial clockwise one time more than you did in step 5.
6. Dunk Cowboy Boots in Water to Break them in
This is one of the more drastic methods in stretching cowboy boots, but it is tried and true and many swear by it to achieve a custom fit. And to make you feel less stressed, I’m talking about wetting the outside of the boots in water, not submerging them completely!
Water naturally loosens up the leather fibers, which gives it more flexibility to stretch. However, this method doesn't come without any major downsides.
These include the leather drying out or fading. Not to mention that it's a lengthy process because it will take a long time for the cowboy boots to dry.
How to Stretch Cowboy Boots in Water:
- 1. Fill a tub, bathtub or bucket with lukewarm water.
- 2. Immerse your boots foot first into the water without getting water into the interior of the boots. Use your hands to weight down the boots to prevent them from floating back up.
- 3. Once you feel the insole getting slightly wet, take out the boots
- 4. Put on some socks and start walking around to loosen and break in the leather. Heads up: your socks will get wet, but to prevent this, you can put a plastic bag over the socks before putting your cowboy boots on.
- 5. Walk around in the wet boots until they are dry or almost dry. You'll want to wait until the boot is completely dry or very close to it, for a better custom fit.
- 6. Since water dries out leather, make sure to add some leather conditioner or oil to the boots to prevent cracking as it will hydrate the material.
Tried this cowboy boot stretching hack but are left with squeaky boots? It likely means you didn't fully dry the boots. Try out my tips on my post about how to stop shoes from squeaking. Hopefully they help!
7. Get a Cobbler to Break in Your Cowboy Boots
Most of these DIY methods take more or less time and effort and may get your various results. Possibly some undesirable ones! If you want to stay on the safe side and/or you don't have time to spare, take them to a shoe professional: a cobbler.
This is the safest way to stretch boots because cobblers are shoe-altering professionals. They can make shoes bigger and make shoes smaller, and repair all kinds of shoe and boot injuries.
Cobblers are shoe stretching professionals and will ensure that your too-tight cowboy boots are safely stretched and the leather is kept subtle and strong.
Just be prepared to wait longer for your custom-fitting boots – anywhere from a day to one full week. But what's a week when you will get to enjoy perfectly fitted cowboy boots?
Final Words on How to Stretch Cowboy Boots
Of course, the ideal situation is always to purchase a pair of perfectly fitting cowboy boots! But unless you’re getting a pair of cowgirl boots custom fit to your feet, you’ll likely need to break in the cowboy boots to some degree.
I hope this cowboy boot stretching guide spares you the pain of ill-fitting boots and dealing with any pesky returns. Now you can shop online knowing that you know how to stretch cowboy boots!
It’s important to find the right cowboy boots for you – the right size and shape. Like feet, all cowboy boots are made differently, so try on various styles, brands, and sizes to find the best one suited for you. You can avoid any post-purchase boot tampering – and possible regrets!
Disclaimer: The methods listed on this post about how to stretch boots should be used with caution. ShoeTease and its partners are not liable for any damages to persons or property arising from any of the advice given in this post. Follow advice at your own risk. There are different types of leather and some do not respond well to these stretching methods. When in doubt, check with your local shoe repair shop – aka cobbler – before attempting to stretch or alter your tough of cowboy boots in any way. Please also note that attempting any methods of how to break in cowboy boots listed above may void your boots' warranty and ability to return them.
Cristina is the chief editor, fashion & shoe expert here at ShoeTease. As a seasoned stylist and women's fashion & shoe designer, she boasts over 20 years of experience in the fashion industry. She loves crafting effortless outfits for ladies both online and off and believes that styling advice should be accessible to everyone. Whether you're a styling pro or just starting out, Cristina's here to guide you on your fashion journey! Learn more.