How to Shrink Leather Boots Without Going to A Cobbler

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William Barton Avatar by  William Barton | Last Updated:  Oct 28, 2020
How to Shrink Leather Boots Cartoon of Hairdryer Drying Rubber Boots

Boots too big? Are they suddenly a size larger than when you tried them on in the store? 

Many people pick up boots for work, or get a fresh pair as a gift, only to find what initially felt snug just isn’t cutting it. 

No worries—if your footwear is too big, we’ll show you how to shrink leather boots five different ways. 

Most of these methods will change your boot permanently, and in some cases, you may not like the change. Check the return policy on your boots before trying any of these methods. Some stores offer exchanges or store credit, even if you’ve worn your boots outside a few times.

It’s always better to get the right fit first before moving forward with anything that will permanently alter the boot. 

If you’re not sure whether you’ve got the right size, be sure to read our comprehensive guide on how boots should fit first. 

Method 1: Soak Your Boots in Water

What You’ll Need

You’ll need a bucket, a pair of socks, and some patience. 

Step 1

This is an old trick they still use in the Army to break in ill-fitting boots. Fill the bucket with water and put your boots inside, fully submerging them. Let your boots sit in the water for ten to twenty minutes. 

Step 2

Put a pair of cotton socks on your feet. Remove your boots from the water and put them on. 

Step 3

Wear your wet boots until they’re dry or at least six to eight hours. The biggest risk you run with this method is that the leather might wrinkle and crease in some unappealing ways. 

Step 4

After they’ve dried, treat your boots with an oil-rich leather conditioner to restore it.

Method 2: Wet Your Boots and Use a Hair Dryer

What You’ll Need

You’ll need an electric blow dryer and a shoe tree.

Step 1

Soak your boots in either a bucket or sink. Once they’re completely wet, put them on your feet or you can insert a shoe tree.

Step 2

Turn your electric hair blow dryer on low heat and begin to dry your boots. Make sure you keep the temperature on low, as the leather may warp, sag, or crack if you allow the dryer to run at its normal heated temperature. 

Step 3

Keep the dryer about six inches away from the leather. Any closer and you risk of damaging the leather permanently. Do this until your boots are mostly dry and leave them on (or leave the shoe tree in) so they keep their shape. 

Step 4

Treat your leather shoes with an oil-rich conditioner after they’ve dried. This restores the leather and will help prevent any cracking.

Method 3: Sew in an Elastic Band

What You’ll Need

You’ll need a thick sewing needle, and an elastic strip. If you’ve got thick boots, you won’t be able to sew through the leather. In that case, you’ll need a heel grip. 

Step 1

Take your elastic strip and place it in the optimal position on your heel. 

Step 2

Use a thick-gauge sewing needle and thread to sew around the edges of the elastic strip and through the heel of the boot. This will only be possible if your boot has thin leather. Otherwise, purchase a heel grip and use the adhesive side to attach it inside your boot. 

Method 4: Wear Thick Socks and Use an Insole

What You’ll Need

A thick pair of wool socks, or in cooler months you can also wear two pairs of socks over each other. If that doesn’t solve the fit difference, add an insole into your boots. 

Step 1

Put on a thick pair of socks and try your boots on. Does that fix the issue? If not, put another pair of socks on. Two pairs will make your feet hot, so this is only recommended if it’s a colder month.

Step 2

If thick socks don’t fix the issue, try adding an insole into your boot. This will help press your foot closer to the instep, which may remove a significant amount of heel-slip. 

Step 3

If there’s too much room at the front of the boot for your toes, try stuffing the toe cap with crumpled tissue paper. 

Method 5: Spray on a Mixture of Alcohol and Water

What You’ll Need

You’ll need isopropyl alcohol (which you can get from the pharmacy), water, and a spray bottle. After you spray your boots down, the alcohol will help evaporate the water quicker, thus drying your shoe faster. 

This method should only be used as a last resort. The alcohol can wreak havoc on leather and if the mixture is incorrect, you risk removing dyes and ruining your boots. 

Step 1

In your spray bottle, add a 25% alcohol to 75% water ratio and mix it up.

Step 2

Spray the leather upper until it’s wet. Wear your boots or add in a shoe tree to help them keep shape. 

Step 3

Wait until the boots have dried. Let them sit out for a day, until fully dry, and use an oil-rich conditioner to restore the leather. 

Method 6: Have them Resized at a Shoe Repair Shop

What You’ll Need

You’ll need to find a good shoe repair shop near you and you’ll need at least $100. 

Shoe repair shops can resize your boot, but it’s a costly and time-intensive process. Because it’s so expensive, consider the original cost of the boot. If you can buy another pair for $150, it’s a better idea to just get a brand new set. 

Shrink it Down

Life’s too short to wear boots that are too big. Try one of the tactics on this list and shrink them down to size. 

Some folks out there recommend putting your boots in the microwave—don’t do that. You’ll ruin your boots and you might even ruin your microwave. It’s the worst two-for-one deal you can get. 

And if you try any of the methods that involve soaking your boots with water, be sure to follow up with some tender loving care in the form of a leather conditioner. It doesn’t matter how well your boots fit if the leather is cracked and splitting apart.

So what do you think? Are you ready to shrink your boots down a size?

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