How to Shrink Leather Boots: All You Need to Know

There’s nothing quite as disappointing as discovering that your favorite pair of leather boots have stretched out over time or that you’ve mistakenly bought a pair a size too big. But, before you consider relegating them to the back of your closet or gifting them to a friend, there’s hope: you can often shrink leather boots to achieve a more snug fit. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the steps and precautions to ensure that you achieve the perfect fit without causing any damage.

How to shrink leather boots ?

To shrink leather boots, dampen them evenly with lukewarm water using a spray bottle. Wear them for a while to mold to your foot shape. Allow them to air dry naturally in a well-ventilated area. Once dry, apply leather conditioner to maintain suppleness and prevent cracking. Always test on a small area before full application.

1. PreparationClean boots with a soft brush or cloth to remove dirt and grime.
2. Wetting ProcessUse a spray bottle to mist the boots with lukewarm water until they’re damp, but not soaking wet.
3. Molding the ShapeWear the damp boots and walk around, allowing the leather to conform to your foot shape.
4. Natural DryingPlace the boots in a well-ventilated area, avoiding direct heat sources. Allow them to dry naturally.
5. ConditioningOnce boots are fully dry, apply a leather conditioner to restore moisture and prevent leather from cracking.
Considerations– Test on a small area first.<br> – Avoid over-wetting.<br> – Use conditioner post-shrinking.
Alternative Methods– Use insoles for a snug fit.<br> – Wear thicker socks.<br> – Consult a professional cobbler.
How to Shrink Leather BootsWhat to DoWhat Not to Do
1. Soaking MethodDo: Submerge the leather boots in water for a few minutes to allow the leather to absorb water.Don’t: Avoid using hot water or boiling the boots, as it can damage the leather and weaken the shoe’s structure.
Do: Wear the wet boots for some time until they dry, as the leather will naturally mold to your feet during the drying process.Don’t: Avoid using a hairdryer or direct heat sources to speed up the drying process, as excessive heat can lead to cracking or deformation of the leather.
Do: Apply leather conditioner after the boots dry to prevent the leather from drying out and maintain its quality.Don’t: Don’t use excessive force or bend the boots while they are still wet, as it may cause unwanted creases or damage to the leather.
2. Freezing MethodDo: Fill a plastic bag with water, place it inside the boots, and put them in the freezer. As the water freezes, it expands and can help shrink the boots.Don’t: Avoid using metal objects or ice cubes directly against the leather, as they can scratch or damage the surface.
Do: Allow the water to freeze for a few hours or overnight before removing the boots from the freezer.Don’t: Don’t use extreme force to bend or manipulate the boots while frozen, as it may cause cracking or deformation of the leather.
Do: Once the ice has melted and the boots thaw, wear them with thick socks to help shape them to your feet as they dry.Don’t: Avoid using hot water or heating methods to speed up the thawing process, as it can damage the leather.
3. Professional ResizingDo: Consult a professional cobbler or shoe repair expert for resizing services. They have the expertise and tools to safely adjust the size of your leather boots while maintaining their integrity.Don’t: Don’t attempt to resize the boots yourself if you are unsure or lack experience, as it can lead to irreversible damage.
Do: Discuss your specific needs with the cobbler, as they can provide personalized solutions based on the type of leather and desired fit.
4. Breaking-In MethodDo: Wear your leather boots regularly to break them in naturally over time. The leather will gradually mold to the shape of your feet with consistent wear.
Do: Use shoe stretchers or inserts designed for stretching boots to help ease the process and target specific areas that feel tight.
Do: Apply a small amount of leather conditioner or boot stretching spray to the tight areas to soften the leather and aid in the stretching process.
Do: Use thick socks or multiple pairs of socks to create extra padding while breaking in the boots.
Do: Allow your feet time to adjust and avoid wearing the boots for extended periods if they cause discomfort. Gradually increase the wearing time as the boots become more comfortable.
5. Buying the Right SizeDo: Ensure you buy the right size of boots from the start. Measure your feet accurately and refer to the brand’s sizing chart.
Do: If you’re between sizes, opt for the larger size and use insoles or thick socks to achieve a better fit.
Do: Try different styles and brands, as they may have varying fits even in the same size.
Do: Consider the thickness of socks you plan to wear with the boots when determining the size.
Do: Check the return policy of the retailer to ensure you can exchange or return the boots if they don’t fit well after purchase.
6. Regular Care and MaintenanceDo: Regularly clean and condition your leather boots to maintain their shape and prevent excessive stretching or shrinking due to dirt or dehydration.
Do: Store the boots in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to prevent damage from heat or humidity.
Do: Use shoe trees or boot shapers when not wearing the boots to help maintain their shape.
Do: Follow the manufacturer’s care instructions and recommendations for maintaining the leather’s quality.
Do: Seek professional advice if you encounter significant issues with your boots to prevent further damage.
7. Considerations for Specific Types of Leather BootsDo: Take into account the specific type of leather used in your boots. Some leathers, like full-grain, may have minimal stretching, while others, like suede, can be more responsive to water-based methods.
Do: Research the care and maintenance recommendations for the particular type of leather used in your boots to avoid causing damage during the shrinking process.
Do: Be cautious with water-based methods for suede or exotic leathers, as they may respond differently to moisture and require specialized care.
Do: Consider the potential risks and benefits of shrinking leather boots based on their specific material composition.

Understanding Leather

Before we dive into the process, it’s essential to understand that leather is a natural material. When exposed to water or heat, the fibers in the leather can tighten, leading to shrinkage. However, this process must be done cautiously to avoid over-shrinking or causing irreparable damage.

Step-by-step Guide to Shrinking Leather Boots

  1. Clean Your Boots: Before starting the shrinking process, ensure that your boots are free from dirt and grime. Use a soft brush or cloth and, if necessary, a leather cleaner.
  2. Wet the Leather: Fill a spray bottle with lukewarm water. Lightly mist the leather, ensuring it becomes damp but not soaking wet. The idea is to allow the moisture to penetrate the leather fibers without over-saturating them.
  3. Wear the Boots: To help mold the boots to the shape of your feet, wear them while they’re damp. Walk around for a bit to let the leather conform to your feet.
  4. Let Them Dry Naturally: Remove the boots and let them air dry. It’s crucial to avoid exposing them to direct heat sources like heaters, hairdryers, or direct sunlight, as this can damage the leather. Instead, place them in a well-ventilated area and allow them to dry slowly.
  5. Condition the Leather: After the boots are completely dry, apply a leather conditioner. This step is vital as the water can strip the leather of its natural oils, leading to dryness and cracking. Conditioning will restore moisture and keep the leather supple.

Things to Consider

  • Know When to Stop: It’s possible to repeat the process if the first attempt doesn’t achieve the desired level of shrinkage. However, be cautious and monitor the fit to avoid over-shrinking.
  • Avoid Over-wetting: Too much water can stain or warp leather, so it’s essential to ensure the boots are dampened rather than soaked.
  • Quality Matters: High-quality leather will generally respond better to shrinking attempts than lower-quality options.
  • Test First: If you’re unsure about the process or how your boots will react, test on a small, inconspicuous area first.

Alternatives to Shrinking

If you’re hesitant to wet your leather boots or have tried without success, consider alternative methods to achieve a better fit:

  1. Insoles: Adding an insole can take up extra space, making the boots fit more snugly.
  2. Thicker Socks: Switching to thicker socks can fill in any gaps, especially if the boots are only slightly large.
  3. Visit a Cobbler: Professionals have techniques and tools that can adjust the fit of leather footwear without compromising its shape or quality.


How do you shrink leather boots that are too big?

To shrink leather boots that are too big, you can try the following methods:

  1. Using Hot Water: Soak a pair of thick socks in hot water, wring them out, and wear them with your leather boots. As the leather dries, it may contract, leading to a slight shrinkage.
  2. Using a Hairdryer: Put on the thickest socks you have and wear the boots. Apply heat with a hairdryer on medium heat setting to the tight spots. Flex your feet and move around to help the leather mold to your feet.
  3. Using Leather Conditioner: Soak the boots in water, then apply leather conditioner to soften the leather. Wear the wet boots with thick socks and walk around to stretch them to the desired shape. Allow them to air dry.
  4. Professional Adjustment: Take your boots to a professional cobbler or shoe repair shop. They can assess the best way to make the boots fit better.

Remember that these methods may not lead to significant shrinkage, and there’s a risk of damaging the leather if not done carefully.

How do you shrink leather without ruining it?

Shrinking leather without ruining it can be tricky, and there’s no foolproof method. The safest approach is to take the boots to a professional cobbler or shoe repair shop. They have the expertise and tools to make adjustments without damaging the leather.

If you want to attempt it yourself, go for gradual and gentle methods, such as wearing thick socks and applying heat with a hairdryer on low or medium settings. Always be cautious and monitor the leather closely to avoid overheating, which can cause damage.

Can leather boots shrink in heat?

Yes, leather boots can shrink slightly in heat. When exposed to heat, the leather fibers contract, which can lead to a minor reduction in size. However, the shrinkage might not be significant, and it largely depends on the leather’s quality and thickness.

Can you shrink leather shoes that are too wide?

Yes, it is possible to shrink leather shoes that are too wide. The methods mentioned earlier, such as wearing thick socks and applying heat, can help the leather mold to your feet better and result in a tighter fit.

What is the fastest way to shrink leather?

The fastest way to shrink leather is by using hot water or a hairdryer. However, it’s crucial to exercise caution and avoid using excessive heat, as it can damage the leather. Going to a professional cobbler might be a safer and more reliable option.

Can leather boots be made smaller?

Yes, leather boots can be made smaller by using various methods such as wearing thick socks, applying heat, or having them professionally adjusted by a cobbler. However, the extent to which they can be made smaller may be limited, and it’s best to consult with a professional for significant adjustments.

At what temperature does leather shrink?

Leather fibers start to shrink and contract at temperatures above 100°F (38°C). However, the ideal temperature for shrinking leather without damaging it is below 140°F (60°C). It’s crucial to avoid using direct heat sources like ovens, as they can lead to uneven shrinkage and potential damage.

Does freezing leather shrink it?

Freezing leather is not a reliable method for shrinking it. While cold temperatures can cause leather fibers to contract slightly, the effect is minimal, and it may not result in a noticeable change in size.

Do leather shoes shrink when wet?

Yes, leather shoes can shrink when wet, but the extent of shrinkage may vary. When wet, leather fibers can tighten, and the shoes may feel tighter until they dry. However, the effect is usually temporary, and the shoes may stretch back to their original size as they dry.

Does cold water shrink leather?

Cold water alone is unlikely to cause significant shrinkage in leather. It may slightly contract the leather fibers, but the effect is minimal and often temporary.

Does leather shrink permanently?

Leather can shrink temporarily if exposed to certain conditions like heat or water, but it generally has some elasticity and will stretch back to some extent when the conditions change. For permanent changes in size, it’s better to consult a professional cobbler.

Can you soak leather boots in hot water?

Soaking leather boots in hot water can be risky as it may damage the leather if not done properly. If you choose this method, use warm water rather than hot water, and avoid soaking them for an extended period.

How can I reduce the size of my leather shoes?

To reduce the size of leather shoes, you can try wearing thick socks, using a hairdryer on low heat, or having them professionally adjusted by a cobbler. Be cautious when applying heat to avoid damage.

How do you make leather shoes smaller one size?

Making leather shoes smaller by a whole size is challenging and may not be possible without risking damage to the shoes. Trying to achieve such a significant reduction in size might cause the leather to become misshapen or overly stressed. It’s best to consult a professional cobbler for guidance.

Can you shrink shoes down a size?

Shrinking shoes down a whole size is difficult and may not be feasible without potentially ruining the shoes. Making minor adjustments is possible, but for significant changes, consult a professional cobbler.

Will a dryer shrink leather?

Using a dryer to shrink leather is not recommended. High heat from a dryer can cause the leather to become brittle, crack, or lose its natural oils, leading to irreparable damage.

How much does leather shrink when boiled?

Boiling leather is not recommended, as the extreme heat and moisture can cause severe damage and lead to significant shrinkage, making the leather unusable.

What if your boots are a little too big?

If your boots are only slightly too big, wearing thicker socks or using padded insoles can help improve the fit. Additionally, using heel grips or tongue pads can prevent your feet from sliding around inside the boots.

Is it better to buy leather boots bigger or smaller?

When buying leather boots, it’s generally better to buy them slightly bigger than too small. Leather has some natural stretch, and it’s easier to make slightly larger boots fit more snugly with insoles or thicker socks than to stretch boots that are too small.

How do you know if leather boots are too big?

You can tell if leather boots are too big if:

  1. Your feet slide around inside the boots, causing discomfort.
  2. There’s a noticeable gap between your heel and the back of the boot.
  3. You feel a lot of extra space around your toes or sides of the feet.

Boots that are too big may cause blisters and discomfort while walking.

Can heat damage leather?

Yes, heat can damage leather. High temperatures can dry out the leather, causing it to become brittle and prone to cracking. Direct heat sources like hot water, hairdryers, or ovens should be avoided when dealing with leather.

Does leather get tight in heat?

Leather can become tighter in heat due to the contraction of its fibers. However, this effect is usually minor and temporary. The leather will typically relax back to its original size as it cools down.

Can I put boots in the freezer?

While freezing leather boots is not harmful, it won’t significantly shrink them or change their size. If you need to shrink your boots, consider other methods like wearing thick socks and applying heat cautiously.

Does freezing ruin leather?

Freezing leather itself won’t ruin it, but it won’t cause significant shrinkage or make it permanently smaller. Leather is generally durable and can handle being frozen without damage.

Does cold destroy leather?

Cold temperatures alone won’t destroy leather. However, extreme cold, coupled with moisture, can potentially damage leather, leading to cracking or weakening of the fibers.

Will soaking leather in water ruin it?

Soaking leather in water can cause damage if not done carefully. If soaked for an extended period or in hot water, the leather can lose its natural oils and become stiff or misshapen. It’s best to avoid soaking leather unless necessary for specific treatments, and always follow professional guidance.

Is it bad to soak leather shoes in water?

Soaking leather shoes in water should be avoided if possible. Leather is a natural material and can be adversely affected by excessive moisture, leading to changes in shape, texture, and color.

Will a drop of water ruin leather?

A single drop of water is unlikely to ruin leather. Leather is somewhat water-resistant, and small amounts of water are generally not harmful. However, if leather gets wet, it’s essential to let it dry naturally and avoid using heat sources like hairdryers, which can damage the material.

What does hot water do to leather?

Hot water can soften leather temporarily, making it more malleable and allowing you to shape it. However, using hot water can also strip leather of its natural oils and lead to shrinkage or damage if not done carefully.

Can you steam leather to shrink?

Steaming leather to shrink it is not recommended. The combination of heat and moisture can lead to uneven shrinkage and potential damage to the leather.

In Conclusion

While leather boots can often be shrunk for a more snug fit, it’s essential to approach the process with caution and knowledge. Ensuring the leather is treated gently and conditioned afterward can help maintain its integrity and appearance. Remember, with leather, patience and care are key. Whether you choose to shrink them yourself or seek professional assistance, with the right approach, you can enjoy a perfectly fitting pair of boots for years to come.