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There are some classic methods that experts use to stretch out leather boots in a safe and effective way that will keep them wearable for years to come.
The boot stretcher
A classic method of stretching leather boots is using a tool aptly known as the boot stretcher.
“A one-way boot stretcher is suited to expand the width of your boot ... if you need to increase the length as well, then a two-way stretcher would work best,” Randy Brangman, a licensed physical and exercise therapist and shoe expert, told TODAY Style. These boot stretchers be found online and can sometimes run more than $40, but they last for years. They may be a good investment in the long run.
Boot calf stretcher
A variation of the boot stretcher is the boot calf stretcher. These are ideal for taller boots that are tight around the calves. “Functional for both zip-ups and hiking boots, just place this down the sheet and stretch out gently. There are even models made to target the instep should that need adjusting as well,” said Brangman. Once you’ve placed the stretcher in your boot the best thing to do it is leave it there overnight, a total 6-8 hours for the best results as you want to extend the boot gradually and give it time to adjust to the changes.
DIY ways to stretch leather boots
If you don’t have funds or time to wait for specific tools, then there are a few methods available to stretch out a pair of boots at home.
- Leather stretching spray
These are available at your standard shoe or convenience store for about $10. “The key thing to remember when using it though is to spray the inside of the boot, rather than the outside as the components of the spray can lead to discoloration, once you’ve sprayed put the boots on while they’re wet so that they can adjust to the size of your feet,” said Brangman.
- Wear boots while wet
Wearing a pair of wet boots is another way to use this method, it is more cost-effective but the downside is that your feet will be uncomfortable. “Soak your boots in a bucket of water for about five minutes, or until they are completely drenched, then go on to wear them until dry, which should be about half an hour depending on the climate,” said Brangman.
- Spray a water/alcohol blend inside boot
This is a similar method to the last one, but here you are essentially making your own boot spray. “Blending the water and rubbing alcohol at a ratio of 1-to-1, fill up a spray bottle and use for the inside of the boot. Once completely saturated wear the boots until dry, but if you don’t feel like getting your feet wet then you’re welcome to use a boot stretcher. The key is to stretch them until dry, or the leather can shrink and you’ll have to start all over again,” said Brangman.
- The blow dryer method
Here’s one for the super crafty, but be careful not to overdo it because too much heat can be damaging to leather. "Here’s a trick I learned from the shoemakers in La Mancha, Spain, where our shoes are crafted,” Monica Shuken, co-founder of Qüero Shoes, told TODAY. This region is known for their shoemaking, passing this centuries-old tradition from one generation to the next. “You want to soften your new shoes before you first wear them, which will soften the leather so they feel soft, and help the leather take to the shape of your foot much more quickly,” said Shuken.
“Use any hydrating skin lotion and apply it to the inside of your new boots or shoes,” said Shuken. “Then take your blow dryer and heat the inside of the boots for 1-2 minutes. You should then get a good pair of cedar shoe trees and keep them on them overnight. This should give them a slight stretch and make you first wear much more comfortable,” said Shuken. Keep your shoes on shoe trees after every use will keep them in the best possible shape and avoid the creases that form in the front portion between the laces and the toe.
What are the safest ways to stretch boots?
Any method that involves stretching the boot from within, ideally a method that works around the shape of your foot directly, as that will provide the most natural fit. “Should you not wish to wear the shoe and use a system that involves dampening the boot, remember that you have to keep stretching it until the boot is completely dry or you risk shrinkage,” said Brangman.
What's not safe for the boot?
Good leather boots are an investment so try to avoid ruining them in this attempt to stretch them. Some methods are a better idea than others, according to the experts. “Spraying the alcohol/ water mix or leather spray on the exterior of the boot can ruin the product, causing discoloration and speeding up the aging process,” said Brangman. Just any kind of action used on the exterior of the boot won’t be beneficial, focus on methods that look to expand the boot from within.
How much can one stretch boots safely?
The experts agree the limit here is up to one full size. Stretching too much, especially all at once, could damage the integrity of the boot and make it more likely to wear down over time, especially in winter.