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How To Soften Hard Leather Shoes

How To Soften Hard Leather Shoes

Buying new leather shoes can be an impressive move due to their exquisite look and the excellent experience they deliver. But on the flip side, new hard leather shoes can be very painful, causing blisters, corns, and other foot-related problems- not to mention that they remain as such until you break them in.

Luckily, there are various techniques to mellow the leather and make the shoes more favorable for your feet. So if you’re looking for ways to get around hard shoes, you don’t have to stress. We’ve all been there, and actual hucks are well at your disposal.

Leather shoes are generally hard to break in, but there are true-and-tried ways you can count on to make them more comfortable. Read on to see how you can relax stiff cowhide without spoiling the leather.

Prepare Your Shoes for Softening

First off, you need to make sure the shoes are clean and ready to be exposed to whatever softening method you want to use. Start by properly cleaning the shoe you want to treat. A clean cloth and some water can help you do this, but tougher cleaners are also available to enhance the process. After removing the dirt and stains, let the shoe sit for around 24 hours at room temperature. Once you’re satisfied that the shoe is clean and ready, then hop over to the following methods.

Also Read: What Are the Effects Of Wearing Shoes That Are Too Big?

Start Wearing Them

One of the effective ways to smoothen leather shoes is by wearing them. If you continuously wear them, they will eventually become softer and hence more comfortable on your feet.

However, keep in mind that wearing new hard shoes can seriously hurt your feet. To manage the risk of developing blisters, you can ideally start by wearing the shoes half a day or so. Be sure to swap them for a more agreeable pair of shoes like sneakers for that matter.

Change the shoes whenever your feet tend to hurt, regardless of how long you have worn them. Wear them again after a couple of days. Keep wearing them for about half a day, each other day. This will give your shoes enough time to properly break-in. As the shoes get softer, try to have them on for an entire day.

Shoe Stretchers

In case you’re wondering about how to soften your leather shoes without using any heat, shoe stretchers might be the best option for you. Shoe stretchers are easy to use, and they don’t require much effort. This can be done with a metal or a wooden shoe stretcher-either way you will achieve great results.

Moreover, some stretchers are designed with special shoe stretching sprays that can improve the process of making the shoes more comfortable. Slip the stretchers in the troubling shoes and let them sit, based on the package directions. Your shoes loosen up and relax after this technique.


Heat is another great way to help soften leather shoes. To use this method, start by wearing multiple pairs of socks and put on the shoes. Turn on the hairdryer and direct the heat to the hardened and tight spots for a couple of minutes.

Keep moving and flexing your feet while using the hairdryer. After heating, allow your shoes to cool while still on your feet. Hopefully, this will soften your shoes and make them more comfortable for all-day wearing.

Rubbing Alcohol & Vaseline

Buy some rubbing alcohol from the nearby drug store or supermarket. Be sure not to use regular alcohol on leather shoes. Dunk a cotton ball in the rubbing alcohol and spread it throughout the shoes.

For best results, remove the laces and apply the alcohol to the fabric around them. Leave the shoes to dry for about thirty minutes. Then apply Vaseline on the same spots. You may use a small brush or toothbrush to do this.

Leave the shoes overnight and then wipe them with a dry cloth. You might want to repeat the process if the shoes are not soft enough after one application.

Stretching With Oil

Oil is yet another great help when dealing with hard leather shoes. However, this particular method is ideal after cleaning your shoes. As such, use a damp cloth and gently wipe away any dirt attached to the surface of the shoes. Wipe the shoes again with a dry rag to make sure they are completely dry and ready to get oiled.

Read the label carefully and make sure you don’t use oils that contain pine tar, castor oil, or other toxic chemicals. Such compounds can decompose or damage the leather. 

There are many oils that are considered useful for softening leather shoes and reducing stiffness. You can use mink oil, saddle soap, coconut oil, and foot oil. Using a clean cloth, wrap it around two fingers, and then dunk it in the oil.

Then rub the tight spots using small circular motions. The oil will soften and nourish the shoes, making them less stiff for an extended period.

Stuff the Shoes with Newspaper

Most people tend to think about how to soften leather shoes just after purchase. Sometimes the easiest and the most accessible methods are the best.

On that note, you might want to give the newspaper method a try. Grab an old newspaper and fold it. Just make sure you have enough of it to fill the entire shoe.

Slightly wet the newspaper and make sure not to make it fully soaked; otherwise, they might damage the insoles. Stuff the hard shoes and let them air dry completely. Then detach the material before wearing the shoes.

Bottom Line

Take your time throughout the process. New leather shoes can be hard enough and might take a while to break them in properly. They typically require a long break-in period to become as soft as you would like them to be.

More attenuated fabrics like calfskin will take a relatively shorter period to soften. On the other hand, if the shoes are designed with lots of stitches and needlework, they might take longer to break-in. In addition to the techniques mentioned above, you can increase your odds by wearing a pair of socks when walking around- though this is pretty obvious with hard leather shoes.