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Can Cobblers Make Boots Smaller? +4 Tricks You Can Use

Key Takeaways

If you’ve bought a new pair of shoes or boots that are too big and find that you can’t return them, your only real option is to use addons such as heel grips or insoles. A cobbler can’t make most types of shoes smaller. Heel grips, gel pads, thick insoles, and toe inserts are the most viable options. A cobbler is restricted by the sole and materials used for your footwear.

Here at BootSpy, we’ve always advised our readers to try their new boots on at home for a while before taking them out for a spin. 

If you’ve worn your new boots outside, you may be unable to return them. What happens then if you find they’re too big

Can a cobbler reduce the size of your boots to make them the perfect fit? The answer is no, but there are still a few tricks you can pull to make your boots fit a bit better. Let’s go over what I’ve discovered so that you know your options when trying to get a more snug fit for your boots.

Can Cobblers Make Shoes Smaller?

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A cobbler can often be a miracle worker when it comes to fixing your beloved old boots or revitalizing something you felt sure was too damaged or old to be of any use.

Giving up on a favorite pair of boots, or finding that those new boots just need a little tweak here and there, a trip to a cobbler can add years to your boots lifespan.

What they can’t do is make your feet smaller or drastically reduce the size of your boots. There are rare times, though, when a cobbler can physically reduce the size of your boot by up to a full size.

A skilled cobbler can make alterations to your boots so that they’ll be a better fit, either through a complete overhaul of the boots, or by increasing or reducing the internal space available.

You’ll need to take your oversized footwear to a cobbler before they can assess whether it’s possible to reduce them in size. The cobbler also needs to find out where they’re too big, in the toe box or heel area, perhaps. 

The cobbler needs to see the materials used to construct your boots, as well as find out how much you need them reducing before gauging whether the reduction in size is possible.

It may be that the cobbler decides it is possible, but then tells you how much it’s going to cost. The cost of alteration can be more than the value of the boots; sometimes you just have to buy the right size and accept defeat. 

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If the boots can be reduced in size, the cobbler would have to replace the original, larger sole with a new, smaller sole, which can be a costly procedure. 

The upper of the boot is then reattached, but slightly more of the material is attached to the sole to make the footwear smaller. This method is extreme, and the chances of a cobbler actually giving it a try are almost non-existent. But it is possible. 

Realistically though, we’re going to have to find another way of making your foot fit into a hole that’s a size or two too large for it. 

A cobbler will have several options to reduce the internal space of your boots, which is often a lot cheaper than trying to make the entire boot smaller. Bringing the toe cap or heel further in, or even using cushioned soles to raise the sole, will often be a better way to make boots fit.

Wearing Thicker Socks

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Assuming that your boots can’t be made physically smaller, the first option you should try is wearing thicker socks. Wearing thicker socks will reduce the free space inside your boot slightly, and could make your boots fit more snugly. 

If that’s the case, you may not need to go to more extreme lengths, plus your feet will feel warmer in your boots.

If the whole boot is a little too large, and you’ve got room at the toe, heel, and at the sides, a pair of thick socks such as the Camel City Mill Heavy Wool Boot Sock could be perfect. These are thicker than your regular socks, which could fill enough of the boot to make them comfortable to wear.

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Wearing thicker socks comes at the problem from another angle; if we can’t make the boot smaller, we’ve got to make the foot bigger. It will reach the point of negative return; you can’t realistically wear five pairs of socks to make your boots fit. 

Another plus to trying socks first is that you can identify what part of the boot still needs working on. 

Cushioned Insoles For Boots

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If you find that the toe and heel are a proper fit, it may be that the sides of your feet have too much space. If there’s a large gap between the top of your foot and the vamp of the boot, insoles could be the answer to your problems. 

An extra cushioned insole will reduce the amount of free space inside the boot, raising your foot slightly. 

A thick insole will make your feet feel closer to the upper of the boot while also adding to the overall comfort. Insoles are relatively inexpensive, and it’s worth trying out, especially if you feel like the heel and toe cap are at a reasonable distance from your foot. 

If one of those areas still feels too loose, you can combine cushioned insoles with something else to further close the gap.

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A superb insole can be found at Tread Labs, and you can see from the different styles on offer that these guys take their footwear comfort very seriously. 

Tread Labs have insoles to cover every eventuality, from the Ramble Insole, which is perfect for hiking or standing all day, to the extra firm Pace Insole, which helps with arch support.

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Tread Labs Ramble Insoles

The Ramble is my favorite insole that I've tried from Tread Labs. It offers plenty of cushion for the ball of my foot, and the extra flex in the mid-foot boosts the stability of my boot without affecting my arch too much.

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Using Heel Grips to Improve a Boots Fit

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You might think that heel grips, or heel pads, as they’re also called, are only used to stop shoes rubbing against your heel. While that’s a part of it, a heel grip such as the HarChen Heel Grips can also pad out the heel of your boot to reduce its size slightly. 

HarChen Heel Grips

Non-slip heel anti-slip pads provide more cushioning to prevent shoes from rubbing your heels and reduce heel pain caused by blisters or calluses.

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Not only does this stop your heel from slipping out, but it also makes the boot feel much more comfortable to wear. Oversized boots will feel loose, and often rub at key areas of your feet, such as the heel area. 

By adding heel grips, and you can add more than one grip to a boot (the HarChen grips come in varying thicknesses) you can push your foot forwards into a more comfortable position.

If you’ve ever worn oversized shoes, you’ll know that you unconsciously start gripping more with your toes. After a while, this is painful and, over time, can be pretty serious, so ensuring that your boots don’t slip off is not only good for your boots, it’s great for your foot health. 

You can also cut down the HarChen grips to whatever size you need, making them incredibly versatile.

Toe Pads to Reduce Toe Box Space

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We’re running out of areas inside your boot to make smaller, short of wrapping your feet in a newspaper! The next option you have to reduce the size of your boots is to use a toe pad, also known as a shoe filler. A toe pad is fitted inside the toe box of your boots to reduce the space available inside.

You have the choice of using the pads alongside heel grips, but you may find that a toe pad such as the Shoolex Big Shoe Filler will work perfectly well on its own. It depends on the size of your feet and how big your boots are, but with trial and error, you should be able to use one, or several, of the options I’ve provided. 

Shoolex Big Shoe Filler

Sometimes a man gets his boots too big. Throw these puppies in and fill up that extra toe space.

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While it’s not technically impossible to get a cobbler to make boots smaller, it’s so complicated that it may as well be. 

The cost alone could be prohibitive, but even if it’s not, there are easier and potentially more effective ways of making boots fit.

I’ve used all of the options above at one point or another, and it’s a huge bonus that you can mix and match them to maximize the effect.

I recommend using products that reduce the internal size of your boots or shoes to make them fit. The Shoolex Big Shoe Filler, used alongside the HarChen Heel Grips, should reduce the front and back of your boots sufficiently to make them a little more snug. 


Can a cobbler make leather boots smaller?

Leather can weather, crack, and tear, but it’s unlikely to shrink enough to make your boots smaller.

A cobbler can make alterations to a leather boot and occasionally make it a size smaller, but the work involved is prohibitive. You should look at reducing the internal dimension of the boot rather than the outside.

Should your toes touch the end of your boots?

Your toes should be able to move freely at the end of your boots and not feel restricted in any way. If you find your toes cramped, you risk permanent damage, so always ensure you have some space.

There is such a thing as too much space, though, and if you find that you have more space than is comfortable, you can use toe pads to fill out the toe box of your boots.

What happens to your feet if your boots are too big?

If your boots are too big for your feet, you’ll quickly notice that they begin to rub against your feet, especially the ankles.

Your gait can also be affected as you try to compensate for the boots being too loose, which can lead to serious foot injuries. The arch support for your feet is vital, and if your foot isn’t at the right spot, you could end up with flat feet, swelling, or plantar fasciitis.

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