How to soften leather shoes

Don't let tight shoes pinch your toes - read on for our top tips on how to soften leather shoes and boots.

Updated 6 September 2019

how to soften leather shoes

Key steps 

  • Wear your shoes little and often at first to break them in.
  • Rock your new shoes around the house, just like mum used to make you do with new school shoes!
  • Heat the leather with a hair dryer and wear them over thick socks until the leather cools.
  • Stuff balls of slightly damp newspaper into your footwear to help stretch and soften the material.

When they're fresh out of the shoe box, leather shoes can be very stiff and difficult to wear. Although the best way to soften up leather shoes is to wear them in gradually, you can speed up the process and minimise discomfort by gently softening the leather with other methods.

Here are our top tips for how to soften hard leather shoes to avoid rubbing or blisters.

 The quickest way to soften leather shoes and boots is to use heat but only apply it for short blasts to avoid warping or damaging the leather. 

How to soften leather shoes or boots: Your guide to ready-to-wear footwear

Want to show off your new leather shoes but afraid of getting blisters? Here are our top tips for how to soften leather bootsand shoes!

  1. Take lots of short outings in your new footwear. The best way to get your leather footwear ready for everyday use it to wear them little and often. Wear them when emptying the bin or on a quick trip to the post office. Plenty of short outings will allow your feet to get used to them. 
  2. Wear thick socks and rock around the house in them. Remember when your mum used to get you to wear new school shoes around the house before school started? This is actually a great way to break in hard leather shoes. Simple wear thick socks (which may be a little uncomfortable but will protect your feet) and take your new leather shoes for a debut around the house.
  3. Try the hairdryer trick! Apply a short blast of heat (around 20 seconds is best) to the tightest, hardest areas of your shoes. Wear a pair of super-thick socks and slip your foot inside. Wear them around the house until the leather is cool to touch.
  4. Stuff boots and shoes with damp newspaper. Screw the pages into balls after applying a little water and pack them into your leather boots or shoes. Leave them for around 24 hours before removing the nespaper and you should find the leather softened. Remember: the newspaper should be damp, not sodden, or you’ll just get the inside of your shoes soaking wet! 

Now you know how to soften hard leather shoes and boots, you can wear them out and about and show off your new comfortable footwear.

For more leather care advice, check out our article on the best leather cleaning methods. Or, if you want to add waterproof protection to your shoes, try our guide to using beeswax for waterproofing.

Originally published 6 September 2019