How To Care for Leather Boots So They Last Forever

Old vintage leather boots with shoe brush

Oleksandr Shevchenko/istockphoto

Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.
Fashion model wearing jeans and brown boots with zipper.

Take Care

When thinking of products that you buy for life, a solid pair of leather boots comes to mind. Leather, being a durable material that can withstand the elements and regular wear and tear, can last for decades with proper care. Investing in a good pair of leather boots not only saves you money in the long run, but it also helps to reduce waste by promoting the longevity of a single item. 

Follow these tips to make sure you're taking the best care of your leather boots so they stay in tip-top shape and help you look stylish for a long, long time. 

Related: 10 Easy DIY Fashion Accessories

Cleaning shoes on wooden background

How To Clean Leather Boots:

Cleaning your leather boots properly is important in maintaining their quality and prolonging their lifespan. Here are some steps to follow for proper leather boot care:

  • Start by removing any dirt or debris on the surface of the boots using a soft-bristled brush made from horsehair or pig bristle. (You can buy one on Amazon for less than $15). 
  • Using a damp microfiber or towel is sufficient for routine cleaning. If you want a deeper clean, mix a small amount of mild soap, such as saddle soap or Lexol leather cleaner, with warm water and use a damp cloth to gently clean the outside of your boots. Be mindful not to use too much water or soap as this can damage the leather.  
  • Once the boots are cleaned, use another damp cloth to remove any soap residue and then allow the boots to air dry completely; avoid exposing them to direct heat or sunlight as this can cause the leather to crack or fade.
  • Occasionally, you may want to apply a leather conditioner to help keep the leather soft and supple. This step will help prevent cracking and over-drying, and should be repeated as needed over time. 
  • Finally, use a soft cloth or horsehair brush to buff the leather. Regular cleaning will help keep your leather boots looking their best for years or even decades. 

Related: 10 Trendy Boots and Fall Shoes for Less

Cowgirl with Red Boots in the Road
Christopher Ames/istockphoto

How To Stretch Leather Boots:

If your leather boots feel tight when they're new, they can become more comfortable with proper stretching. By following these steps, you can stretch your leather boots in a safe and efficient way: 

  • Wear thick socks and insert a pair of shoe trees or stuff the boots with newspaper to help maintain their shape.
  • Use a shoe-stretching spray or a small amount of isopropyl alcohol to lightly spray the leather while using a shoe stretcher tool to stretch out the inside. 
  • Repeat the process as needed until you achieve the desired level of suppleness and comfort; being sure to be gentle throughout the process. 
  • Once your leather boots are stretched and fit comfortably, apply a thin layer of leather conditioner so they stay shiny and protected. 
  • Alternatively, you can bring leather boots that need stretching to a shoe cobbler to have it professionally done — this is recommended if you have special conditions such as a bunion that would require a small spot on the vamp of the shoe to ensure a comfortable fit. 

Note: It's important to be cautious when stretching leather boots as overstretching can cause damage to the leather and permanently affect the fit of your boots. It's always a good idea to test a small, inconspicuous area first to see how the leather reacts to stretching. 

Woman wearing brown leather boot and walking in fallen leaves.
Zbynek Pospisil/istockphoto

How To Break In New Leather Boots:

Breaking in new leather boots can be a bit of a process, but it's worth doing it right the first time around to ensure comfort and durability. Remember, every pair of leather boots is different, and the process of breaking them in can vary. 

  • Start by wearing your new boots around the house for short periods of time. This will allow your feet to adjust to the fit and help gently stretch out the leather. 
  • Before wearing your boots outside, consider using a leather conditioner to soften the leather and make it more pliable. 
  • Once you feel comfortable wearing your boots around the house, start taking short walks in them. Gradually increase the distance you walk in the boots each day.
  • Wearing thick socks while breaking in your boots can help provide extra cushioning for your feet to prevent blisters.
  • Pay attention to any areas of the boots that are particularly tight or uncomfortable; gently bend and flex the boots in these areas to help loosen them up.

Keep in mind: Breaking in new leather boots can take some time, so be patient and allow your boots to gradually mold to your feet.

Man disinfecting his shoes.Preventive measures against Covid-19 infection. A man cleans his shoes.
Aliaksandr Litviniuk/istockphoto

How To Soften Leather Boots:

Softening leather boots can make them more comfortable to wear. Here are some steps you can follow:

  • Start by cleaning the boots to remove any dirt, grime, or other debris that may be stuck on the surface. 
  • Use a leather conditioner — such as Bickmore Bick4 — to help soften the leather. Make sure to follow the instructions on the product label and apply the conditioner evenly all around. 
  • Depending on the leather and the boots, it may take multiple applications of conditioner to achieve the desired level of softness. 
Close Up of Mans Hands Cleaning Luxury Calf Leather Brogues with Special Cloth. Horizontal image Orientation

Other Tips To Help Your Leather Boots Last Longer:

Now that you know how to properly clean, stretch, break in, and soften your leather boots, here are some additional tips to help keep them in the best shape possible: 

  • Keep your leather boots clean and conditioned. Clean your boots regularly using a damp cloth and mild soap, and then apply leather conditioner to keep the leather soft and supple.
  • Protect against water damage. Water can be damaging to leather if your boots are constantly exposed to the elements, so be sure to apply a waterproof spray or repellent before wearing your boots in wet or rainy conditions.
  • Store them properly. Store your boots in a cool, dry place and avoid exposing them to direct sunlight or heat sources; excessive heat can dry leather out and lead to cracking and shrinking.
  • Stuff them with paper. When you're not wearing your boots, stuff them with crumpled newspapers or paper towels to help maintain their shape.
  • Rotate your boots. Alternate between several pairs of boots so that each pair has time to dry between wears; this will help with the longevity of your boots and prevent premature wear to the leather. 
  • Avoid excessive bending. Leather can crack or crease if it's bent repeatedly in the same place, so be careful when putting on or taking off your boots. It may also be worth using a shoe horn to prevent damage to the heel. 
  • Take care of scuffs and scratches. While it's inevitable that your boots will sometimes get scratched up while being used, these can be fixed with a leather repair kit or cream polish. You can also use a wax polish to add an extra layer of protection. 
  • Use a cedar shoe tree. A cedar shoe tree can help absorb moisture and keep the shape of your boots, as well as eliminate odors.
  • Re-sole as needed. If the soles of your boots start to wear down, consider having them re-soled by a professional to extend their lifespan.
  • Invest in quality. High-quality leather boots may cost more upfront, but they will last longer and look better over time compared to cheaper, poorly made boots.