Aug 31st 2022

How to Loosen & Stretch Cowboy Boots

How to Break in a New Pair of Cowboy Boots

When you see a pair of cowboy boots you love, you just gotta grab them—but, unfortunately, not all cowboy boots are comfortable enough to wear right out of the box. As rugged and rigid as they are, sometimes it takes a bit of work to make them feel like they were destined for your feet. Follow our tips to break in your new cowboy or cowgirl boots and you’ll feel better the next time you pull on a pair for work, chores, or going out.

Should Cowboy Boots Be Tight at First?

A good pair of cowboy boots should fit snugly and slightly tight at first. You want them to hug your feet but not strangle them. When you first try on a pair of cowgirl or cowboy boots, pay attention to how they feel along the sides of your feet. Ill-fitting boots can squeeze and pinch your toes and the sides of your feet, and tthough some boots will stretch over time with regular wear, it’s not a guarantee. Consider going up a half a size, or look for a wide fit that will accommodate foot expansion and swelling, especially if you spend long hours standing or walking.

The type of heel, toe, or arch can make a difference in comfort, too. Consider these tips for a good fit:

  • If you walk a lot, choose a pair of cowboy boots with a low roper heel designed to support long hours on your feet.
  • A small toe box, such as a snip toe, can rub against your feet and lead to blisters. Opt for a round or square toe for more room in the front of the boot.
  • Arch support is essential if you're walking, working, or standing for long periods of time. Pick boots that match your arch or use boot insoles for added support if you have low arches.

Some boots are designed wide feet, others are made for narrow feet, and finding the right size—usually somewhere in the middle—takes time. Before you choose new boots, explore our cowboy boot sizing guide to ensure you get a pair that fits you in the right places and supports your feet.

Can You Stretch Cowboy Boots?

Once you find a pair of boots that feel good, it’s time to start the breaking-in process. If your cowboy boots are made in animal leather—think cowhide, alligator, ostrich, or snake—they can often be stretched for comfort. Even faux leather boots will loosen up with a little bit of work. Follow these tips for quick breaking and stretching to make your new cowboy or cowgirl boots fit better.

  • Double-up on socks. Slip on a pair of extra thick socks, or two pairs of regular socks, and wear your boots for a few hours each day to run errands or clean up around the house. This extra padding will stretch out the leather gently. The more you wear your boots this way, the quicker they will stretch—but it may take a week or more.
    Pro tip: Make several trips up and down stairs to break them in faster. The uppers get more flex time and the soles benefit from the extra bend.
  • Use a boot stretcher. A boot stretcher consists of two wood pieces connected together by a mechanism that adjusts to separate them while inside the boot. The further apart you move the wood pieces, the more you’ll stretch the leather. Place a stretcher inside the foot of each boot, expand slightly, and leave for several hours or overnight. A boot stretcher works fairly quickly, usually within a few sessions.
  • Condition and moisturize. Conditioning your cowboy boots softens the leather so it can stretch and conform to your foot during wear. Simply massage in a dab of good boot cream, let dry, then wear the boots for a few hours. This method is best when boots are mostly broken in but need a final push for comfort.
  • Steam them. Use a handheld steamer or boiling kettle to direct steam into the interior of the boot. Steam for about 20 seconds, then check to feel if the leather is soft. If not, steam for about 15 seconds more. Wait for the boots to cool down until they’re comfortable to wear, then put them on and walk for a few hours. The steam-softened leather will conform to your feet as the boots dry and re-harden.
    Pro tip: Do not oversteam as this can make the boot interior too wet to wear.

How to Break In Cowboy Boots Even Quicker

Combine all of the methods above to stretch out your cowboy boots even faster, but avoid wearing them every single day until they are fully broken in, which can result in painful blisters.

If you need your cowboy boots to loosen up overnight, the fastest way to stretch them out is to put them on ice. Follow these easy steps to freeze your way to better-fitting boots:

  1. Fill two gallon-sized zipper-seal plastic bags with water, pressing gently to remove as much air as possible before you close them.
  2. Carefully push one water bag into each boot, as deep into the toes as you can, taking care not to burst the bags.
  3. Fill up the rest of each boot with paper towels, rolled-up washcloths, or newspaper to secure the bags.
  4. Place the boots in the freezer and leave them overnight. As the water freezes, it will slowly expand and stretch out the boots without harming the leather.
  5. Repeat, if necessary, until the boots reach the desired fit.

Even after they’re broken in and ready to wear, learn how to make your cowboy boots even more comfortable for long, busy days on your feet. For more Western wear tips and inspiration, explore our blog.