How to Shrink Leather Boots: Effective Methods and Tips

how to shrink leather boots

Quick Answer


To shrink leather boots that are too big, you can use methods like soaking them in water, using a hairdryer, or applying alcohol. Professional help from a cobbler is also an option.


Did you know that you can actually shrink leather boots that are a bit too big? Leather is a natural material that can respond to moisture and heat, which means you can make slight size adjustments to your boots. However, it’s important to proceed with caution to avoid damaging them. Check out these effective methods for shrinking leather boots:


Understanding the Limitations

Before we delve into methods, it’s important to understand that leather boots can only shrink a limited amount, typically half a size at most. If your boots are significantly too big, it’s best to consider exchanging them for a better fit or visiting a cobbler for professional alterations.


The Water Method: A Gentle Approach

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The water method is a popular and relatively safe way to shrink leather boots slightly. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Lukewarm water: Avoid using hot water, as it can damage the leather.
  • Towels: Plenty of clean, absorbent towels are essential.
  • Leather conditioner: To replenish moisture lost during the drying process.



  1. Prep the boots: Remove any laces or inserts.
  2. Dampen the leather: Using a clean cloth, dampen the exterior of the boots with lukewarm water, focusing on areas that feel too loose. Avoid soaking the boots completely.
  3. Stuff the boots: Stuff the damp boots with clean towels or newspaper to help them retain their shape as they dry.
  4. Air dry: Place the stuffed boots in a well-ventilated area away from direct heat sources like sunlight or radiators. Allow them to dry completely, which can take 24-48 hours.
  5. Condition the leather: Once dry, apply a leather conditioner to replenish moisture and maintain the leather’s suppleness.


  • Use a hairdryer on a cool setting to speed up the drying process, but avoid holding it too close to the leather.
  • Check the fit periodically as the boots dry. Stop the process once they reach the desired snugness.


The Alcohol Method: A More Potent Approach (Use with Caution)

The alcohol method is a quicker but riskier approach compared to the water method. Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) can be more effective at shrinking leather, but it also carries a higher risk of drying out the leather and making it crack.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Rubbing alcohol (70% isopropyl alcohol)
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Clean cloths
  • Leather conditioner


  1. Mix the solution: Combine equal parts rubbing alcohol and water in a spray bottle.
  2. Test the solution: On an inconspicuous area of the boot (like the inner tongue), test a small amount of the solution to check for discoloration. If any occurs, discontinue use.
  3. Lightly spray the boots: If the test area looks fine, lightly mist the exterior of the boots with the solution, focusing on areas you want to shrink.
  4. Stuff and dry: Stuff the boots with clean towels or newspaper and allow them to air dry completely in a well-ventilated area.
  5. Condition the leather: Once dry, thoroughly condition the leather to replenish moisture and prevent cracking.


  • Use this method with extreme caution, especially on delicate leathers.
  • Avoid over-applying the solution, as it can dry out the leather excessively.
  • Patch testing is crucial to avoid ruining your boots.


Heat Molding (for Boot Shafts Only): A Targeted Approach

Heat molding can be a suitable option for shrinking the shaft of your boots, particularly around the calves. However, this method requires more specialized tools and carries a higher risk of damaging the leather if not done correctly.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A hairdryer set to a low heat setting
  • Leather conditioner


  1. Prep the boots: Remove the laces and any inserts.
  2. Apply heat: Using a hairdryer on a low heat setting, carefully blow hot air onto the areas of the shaft you want to shrink. Hold the dryer at least 6 inches away from the leather to avoid scorching.
  3. Mold with your hands: While applying heat, gently mold the softened leather with your hands to achieve the desired fit. Be careful not to over-stretch the leather.
  4. Let cool: Once you’ve achieved the desired shape, allow the leather to cool completely at room temperature.
  5. Condition the leather: Apply a generous amount of leather conditioner to replenish moisture lost during the heating process.


  • This method is not suitable for all leather types. Avoid using it on delicate leathers or boots with embellishments that could melt with heat.
  • Be very cautious with the heat setting. Excessive heat can damage or shrink the leather permanently.
  • It’s recommended to practice on a small, inconspicuous area of the boot before applying heat to a larger area.

Seeking Professional Help: The Cobbler’s Touch

If you’re unsure about attempting these methods yourself, or if your boots are a valuable investment, consider seeking help from a professional cobbler. Cobblers possess the expertise and tools to safely shrink your boots using techniques like steaming or stretching specific areas. They can also offer additional services like adding inserts or replacing insoles to improve the fit.


Important Considerations Before Shrinking Your Boots

  • Identify the problem area: Is the entire boot too big, or just the ankle or calf area? This will help you choose the most suitable shrinking method.
  • Boot material: These methods are generally safe for genuine leather boots. However, they may not be suitable for synthetic leather or suede boots. Always check the care instructions for your specific boots.
  • Start slow and assess: Don’t attempt to shrink your boots drastically in one go. Apply any shrinking methods gradually and assess the fit after each step. You can always stop the process once you achieve the desired snugness.


Conclusion: Shrinking Leather Boots – A Balancing Act

While shrinking leather boots slightly is possible, it’s crucial to approach the process cautiously to avoid damaging them. Choose the method that best suits your comfort level and the material of your boots. Remember, professional help from a cobbler is always an option, especially for valuable or delicate leather boots. With a bit of care and the right technique, you can achieve a perfect fit and enjoy your leather boots for years to come.

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