Getting to know the items in your closet can feel daunting at times. Have you noticed that your leather boots don't fit as well as they used to and don't know what happened? Well, we've done extensive research into whether leather shrinks over time and have the answer here for you. Let's get right into it.
Yes, a pair of leather boots can shrink over time. Especially if you don't wear your shoes often, leather tends to tighten and lose its original shape as time goes on. Furthermore, it's also likely that your leather boots will shrink if you get them wet too often, so many things can cause this.
As we begin, we will cover all things leather boots and discuss how to prevent your footwear from shrinking. Whether you have an older pair of boots you want to squeeze into or need help with newer leather, we're here to help. With that said, let's jump right into this topic!
Why Does Leather Shrink Over Time?
Typically, leather will shrink because of heat, moisture, or dramatic temperature change. As we mentioned, leather boots tend to lose their shape if you don't regularly wear them, so it's safe to say your boots are high maintenance.
Furthermore, it's also common for leather to shrink and harden if you don't condition/care for it. Like any leather material, shoes or not, you need to clean and moisturize it or risk irreparable damage.
Storage can also impact the way your leather boots will fit you the next time you want to wear them, so it might be worth investing in a boot stuffer or something to maintain their original shape.
According to Leather Dictionary, the leather fibers in your shoes will start to become stiff and brittle as they age, so sometimes this isn't preventable.
How Do You Fix Shrinking Leather Boots?
If your boots start to shrink, time is of the essence. To repair shrinking leather footwear, begin by:
- Filling a bucket with warm water.
- Submerge your shoes into the water.
- Let the leather soak for about 60 minutes.
- Soak a pair of socks in lukewarm water.
- Put on the wet socks and leather boots.
- Wear them until they are mostly dry.
It's worth noting that you should try to wear your wet leather boots outside to help them dry faster, as this won't be super comfortable. Of course, you can always try taking your footwear to a repair shop that specializes in leather and getting them resized, although this can be expensive.
Should Leather Boots Be Tight At First?
Yes! It is normal for leather boots to be a bit snug at first. Considering how thick genuine leather is, you can expect slight discomfort until you break in your footwear.
That said, your leather boots should not ever be painful to wear, so if that's the case, you should return them and purchase a size or two bigger. The last thing you want is to have to stretch leather out, which can be time-consuming and sometimes ineffective.
However, leather tends to loosen a bit the more you wear it, so if you think there's hope for your shoes, you can certainly try to break them in the old-fashioned way.
Should You Buy Leather Boots A Size Smaller?
In general, you want to purchase leather boots that are slightly smaller than your regular shoe size. As we said, leather will loosen a bit as you wear it, which also applies to footwear.
Again, you don't want to buy a pair of boots that are painful to wear, so try to find a happy medium. We think a half-size smaller shoe than your normal size is sufficient, so that's something to keep in mind.
On top of that, you can also try to use a shoe extender inside your leather boots, although you'll want to be careful. Although durable, over-stretching leather can cause it to crack, which can be expensive/difficult to fix.
HOUNDSBAY Boot Stretcher
This boot stretcher works for leather, features six steel bunion plugs, won't damage your shoes, and comes in various sizes.
How Do You Know If Boots Fit Right?
One easy way to know if a pair of boots fit you right is to press your finger down on the tip of your shoe to see if there's a bit of space between your big toe and the end of your boots. Ideally, you want to have about a 1/2 inch of room.
You also want to walk around in your boots. If they feel super tight or painful to be in, this means they're too small. Like we said, although it is a good idea to size down for leather, you only want to do this if it's comfortable.
Furthermore, you can try putting your finger between the back of your ankle and boot, and if it fits just perfectly, that means they fit well. Again, too much space isn't good either, so the closer your foot fits into your leather boots, the better.
How Long Does It Take To Break In Leather Boots?
Although this varies for everyone, you will need to wear leather boots a few times to break them in. According to Ever Boots, it can take between 80 and 100 hours to break in leather boots fully, so this can take a while.
However, you don't necessarily need to wear your boots for days on end to break them in, but rather for a couple of hours now and then. Yes, they will be snug, but they shouldn't be painful if they fit correctly.
As we covered above, trying a boot stretcher might also take some pressure off your feet, so there are many ways to do this.
Can You Loosen Brand New Leather Boots?
Yes! Similar to aging shrinking leather, you can also loosen new boots a bit. As we mentioned, using warm water and wearing your shoes until they dry is the best way to accomplish this.
You can do this a few times or until your boots feel comfortable enough to wear, so everyone is different. That said, make sure to let your leather dry before storing it away, as this can cause them to shrink even more.
You'll also want to ensure you condition your footwear after getting it wet to preserve its fibers and quality.
Is It Better For Boots To Be Bigger Or Smaller?
Typically, you want boots to be snug but not uncomfortable. Leather specifically, you should go about a half size down from your regular shoe size to ensure your boots don't stretch and become too loose over time.
According to Work Gearz, a perfect-fitting pair of boots will make your area of the toe ball part feel pressed from the sides. That's something to keep in mind the next time you're trying on leather boots.
You also want to make sure the shoes you purchase have some wiggle room at the tip of your toes, ideally 1/2 an inch. Again, everyone will be unique, so make sure to find boots that make your feet feel good.
Will Leather Boots Stretch Over Time?
As long as you continue to wear them, yes, leather boots should stretch over time. As we said, leather naturally stretches the more it's worn, which can become a problem if your shoes become too loose.
Again, this won't happen overnight, so it's possible to notice stretching after months or years, rather than a few wears. Luckily, you can usually shrink leather by spraying it with water and letting the fibers tighten back into shape, so this isn't permanent.
Furthermore, any stretching your boots have should be minimal, so even old leather won't go up more than half a shoe size.
How Long Do Leather Boots Last?
Depending on the quality of your leather boots, they could last decades to come. Typically, leather boots will stay in good shape for a few years before needing serious TLC, so expect to have yours for a while.
With that said, regular maintenance, like conditioning leather, will help it last longer, so we recommend it. Although it can be time-consuming, giving your boots a good cleaning and moisturizing will make a world of difference.
On top of that, making sure to store leather boots somewhere dry and protected from the elements is also helpful. We recommend a closet or air-tight container, as these places won't usually experience dramatic temperature/moisture changes.
Leather Honey Complete Leather Care Kit
This leather shoe care kit comes with a specialty 8-ounce cleaner and conditioner, restores leather, is gentle, and has a satisfaction guarantee.
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To Wrap It Up
Whether you have multiple pairs of leather boots or just purchased your first, it is essential to know how to maintain them. From what we found, leather will shrink over time in certain conditions.
Typically, leather boots will shrink if they get wet, experience temperature changes, or you don't wear them. The best way to keep your shoes fitting true to size is by putting them on now and then and conditioning them. Furthermore, placing a shoe stuffer or stretcher inside leather boots can be helpful.
Regardless, make sure to find boots that fit you comfortably, and don't be afraid to size down if you want your boots to stay tighter for longer.
Made it to the end? Check out these helpful related leather posts below!
How Often To Condition Leather Boots
Can You Wear Leather Boots In The Rain?