Cowboy boots never go out of style and can be highly functional, depending on the type you choose. However, many people struggle with ill-fitting western boots. If you’re annoyed by your overly-snug Ariats or limping in your Double Hs, you’re in the right place.
Fortunately, there are several ways to avoid irritated, blistered hooves. This article explores how to break in cowboy boots so you can comfortably ride a horse, work, or simply walk around with style.
How to Break in Cowboy Boots: 6 Easy Methods
Most cowboy boots are made of cowhide leather, with exotic boots usually being made from alligator or snake skin. Regardless of the leather's origin, such organic materials can all stretch to a degree. This means you’ll probably be able to free up some space in whichever leather bot you own.
Below, we share six methods for breaking in cowboy boots. But before trying them out, it’s a good idea to read the instructions to avoid damaging them.
Steam the Inside of Your Boots
Steaming your boots is an affordable way to achieve a custom fit. However, this method may damage the leather, so try it at your own risk.
With a steamer or a kettle of boiling water, direct the steam to the inside of the cowboy boot toward the area you want to stretch for about 20 seconds. Next, direct the steamer away from your boots and press the area with your fingers. If it’s still firm, steam it for another 15 seconds.
Once soft, flexible, and warm but not completely saturated, put on your boots and walk around in them, ideally until they dry. This way, they will conform to the features of your feet. However, if they feel too uncomfortable, remove them once the leather has cooled and leave them to dry naturally.
Once dry, condition them with a conditioning product suitable for the type of leather of your cowboy boots.
While you can achieve a custom fit with this method, you may sacrifice the leather's integrity and the vibrancy of the dye treatment. This depends on the type and quality of leather, the type of dye treatment, and how saturated the boots get.
Submerge Your Boots in Water
Submerging your boots in water may sound too drastic, but it’s effective. Water naturally loosens fibers, giving your boot material the flexibility to conform to the features of your feet. However, similar to steaming boots, this method can damage the leather, so do it with caution.
To perform this method, fill a bathtub with lukewarm water and submerge as much of the boots, without having water enter the insides. Press down on the insoles with your hands to prevent your boots from floating.
Once the insole gets slightly wet, pull your cowboy boots out. Next, put on some socks and then put on your boots. To avoid walking in wet footwear, wear a plastic bag over the socks.
Walk around in your wet cowboy boots until completely or close to dry, preferably during the warmer seasons. Once dry, condition them with a conditioning product appropriate for the leather to prevent cracking.
Wear Your Cowboy Boots with Two Pairs of Socks
This method is great when you need only a slight increase in the height and width of your boots’ toe boxes. The pressure from your double-socked feet applies pressure to the leather to stretch it and free up space for your feet.
However, this method can be painful, so we recommend not wearing more than two socks per foot. Otherwise, you could get blisters.
Freeze a Bag of Water Within Your Western Boots
The water expands when it freezes into ice. This non-intrusive method is ideal for small stretches and relieving an irritating callus or corn. While it takes time, this method is safer than soaking your brand-new boots in water.
To perform this method, fill a gallon-sized sealable bag with water and seal it with as little air as possible. ½ to ¾ full will likely be sufficient. Then, put the water bag into the toe box as close to the toe as possible. You can also stuff some socks behind the waterbag to keep it in place.
Once you’ve done that, leave the boots in your freezer for at least eight hours. The water will expand once turned into ice, stretching your cowboy boots. Before removing the ice bag, leave it to melt a bit to prevent damaging your footwear.
Use Commercial Stretch Sprays
Commercial stretch sprays are effective when stretching leather, with most being safe to use. Typically, you will liberally spray the inside and outside of your cowboy boots and wear them for a while. But before trying this method, make sure to read the product instructions.
Use a Cowboy Boot Stretcher
This is the most convenient method of this list without sacrificing effectiveness. Unlike other methods, the cowboy boot stretcher allows you to passively expand your boots. The stretcher does the work for you, contrary to walking around in wet boots for hours.
Moreover, they act fast - you can achieve a half-size increase in as little as six hours. This way, you also save time as you won’t have to wait for days for your cowboy boots to completely dry.
The only drawback to this method is that you’ll have to buy a boot stretcher, but it pays off if you have more than one pair of western boots.
To expand your boots using this method, apply shoe stretch spray to the inside of your boots to relax the material for stretching, or apply it with a cloth saturated with the spray. If needed, place the plugs into the plug spots before stretching.
Insert the toe block into the toe box of your boot, ensuring to wedge it in far enough, so the toe block touches the end of the toe box. Next, turn the widening handle clockwise to stretch the toe box and, once sung, turn it two to three more times for the right stretch.
Once your chosen width is set, leave the boot extender in the boot for around 6 hours or more. Once done, turn the widening handle counterclockwise to fully retract the block and pull it out gently to remove it from the boot.
Top 3 Cowboy Boots
Now that you know how to break in cowboy boots, you may be wondering which western boots are the best. While there are numerous quality cowboy boots on the market, the following three models are our top picks, so feel free to check them out.
Durango Men's Rebel Pro 12"
This boot is made of full-grain leather with leather underlay in the pull straps. It has a saddle vamp and a soft mesh lining. It also features the Durango X-Pand System - a hidden gore expansion for easy on and off and universal fit.
Exceptionally comfortable, this model has a seven-layer comfort system, with the first being a memory foam footbed for all-day support and comfort. The second layer is an EVA cushion that contours and conforms to your foot. Then, we have the third layer, which is a ¾ Goodyear welt construction and a leather welt with double row cotton stitch, and a two-layer innersole with a flexible bottom and stabilizing rigid heel tuck, which makes the fourth layer.
The fifth layer is all about durability, containing two fiberglass shanks for midfoot support and medial and lateral torsion stability. Next come the sixth layer - the ABS heel base for reduced weight and the seventh layer which is the slip-, oil-, and abrasion-resistant rubber outsole for supreme traction.
If you’re looking for ultimate performance, these boots are for you.
Durango Women's Distressed Dream Catcher 12"
This women’s western boot is made of full-grain leather, soft mesh lining, and a foam layer and lining cushion insole for exceptional comfort. It also features a tempered steel shank for stability, a double-row stitch around the narrow square toe, and a rubber outsole with a vintage finish. The heel is 2” high, making it perfect for everyday use.
Timberland Pro Men's True Grit Work Boots
Timberland western boot provides ultimate comfort thanks to anti-fatigue technology and polyurethane footbed for shock absorption and energy return. Moreover, it’s made of premium full-grain leather with Ever-Guard leather and a waterproof membrane for ultimate performance in wet conditions.
Meanwhile, the slip-resistant lug outsoles keep you stable, and composite toes keep you protected from impact and compression. These breathable, durable boots are all you need to give your best at work.
How to Take Care of Western Boots
After learning how to break in cowboy boots, it’s time to discover how to take proper care of them. These boots are primarily made of leather, and leather needs maintenance to remain good-looking and functional. That said, here are several tips on how to take care of your western boots:
Get rid of surface-level dirt using a microfiber cloth or a brush.
- Apply a damp rag to stains.
- To keep your boots shining, use a leather conditioner and polisher.
- To help preserve their shape, stuff them with a foot shaper or newspaper.
Enjoy Your Cowboy Boots
Learning how to break in cowboy boots isn’t hard. We shared with you six simple methods to help stretch your western boot, but it’s up to you to choose which one you’ll use. Note that if you decide to soak boots in water or steam them, they may become damaged. Still, it all depends on the type of leather and its quality.
To stay on the safe side, we recommend non-intrusive methods like using a boot stretcher or bag of water. Whichever method you end up using, don’t forget to take proper care of your cowboy boots to keep them serving you for years to come.
But no boot will keep your feet happy unless of high quality. If you’re wondering where to buy quality cowboy boots, you’re in the right place. In our collection of western boots, you can various models for anyone's taste, and rest assured you’ll be getting your money’s worth.