You don’t need to live in leather shoes to want to be comfortable when you do wear them. From women wearing leather heels for work to businessmen in leather dress shoes, there is no question that the “breaking in” period can be less than pleasant. Instead of using your own two feet to soften leather shoes, there are some tips and tricks on how to soften leather shoes that you can employ.
Let’s explore the best and easiest tricks for softening leather shoes.
How to Make Leather Shoes Softer
1) Stretch Them Out
A great way to make leather shoes soft is to stretch them out. You can get a professional to do this or you can do it manually at home using a shoe stretcher. We suggest using wooden shoe stretchers so they are less likely to leave any indentations in the leather.
It doesn’t take a lot of effort to soften your leather shoes with a shoe stretcher and they aren’t very expensive either. Some of them even come in a package with a softening spray that will speed up the process and make it more effective.
If you don’t have a shoe stretcher and you’re in a pinch, you can use wooden spoons to stretch out your leather shoes. Grab a spoon that’s small enough to fit into your leather shoes to help soften the problem areas. You can first identify the more restrictive parts of the shoe by wearing them and walking around for a few minutes.
Once identified, use the spoon to start pushing the areas from the inside out. Be careful not to use too much pressure and make sure to do it gradually.
2) Stuff Them
Another great method for how to soften hard leather shoes is to stuff them. You may have heard that stuffing your leather handbags will help to keep their shape and that overstuffing them will stretch them out. The same concept can be applied to softening leather. Since our purpose is to stretch out your shoes and soften them up, you should overstuff them.
Newspaper is a good shoe stuffer. Crumple the newspaper and place enough inside the shoe to fill it up. You can also opt to wet the newspaper slightly, which could work better. Make sure not to soak the newspaper all the way through, because leather shoes do not do well with water.
You should leave the wet balled-up newspaper in your leather shoes for as long as it takes to dry. Once you remove them, you should find that your leather shoes have softened.
3) Wear Them for Short Periods
You can go with the good old-fashioned way of softening the shoes by wearing them; however, do so gradually and for short periods. Try wearing them around the house for just an hour at first. Wear thicker socks to help expand the interior and to protect your feet from blisters. Wearing your shoes is the easiest answer to how to soften stiff leather shoes.
It will help to break in the leather without sacrificing comfort. If there are stubborn areas that just won’t expand, you can try to apply some heat on the problem spot to facilitate the process.
Take a hairdryer on a low heat setting and place it on the part of your shoe that needs softening for around 20 seconds. Put them back on with thick socks on your feet and walk around in them until they cool off.
You should extend the time you wear your leather shoes around the house gradually until they get to a point where you can comfortably wear them with thin socks. We suggest adding an extra 10 minutes each time.
4) Using Oil or Vaseline + Alcohol
You can also use various substances to help soften the leather, and most people already have these things laying around the house.
Using oil, such as coconut oil, can really help soften the leather shoes. If you are also looking at how to soften the back of new shoes, this is a method that can work for that purpose as well.
Start by prepping your shoes for the oil. We suggest leaving them out in the sunlight for a good 10 minutes. Bring your shoes in and apply a thin layer of oil using your fingers to spread it over the surface. Absorbing the oil will help to soften your shoes, but keep in mind that it could also lead to the darkening of the leather.
If you want to avoid darkening or uneven spots, we suggest using this method on dark leather.
The next method is to use Vaseline and rubbing alcohol. For the best results using this method, you should identify the problem areas instead of softening the entire shoe. You can also apply the alcohol to the whole surface; however, as it evaporates very quickly, you need to work fast.
After you have covered the surface of the shoe with rubbing alcohol, go over it once again with the petroleum jelly and rub it in gently until it’s all absorbed. You should notice that the leather has softened quite a bit after you start wearing your shoes again.
What’s great about the petroleum jelly option is it won’t leave dark spots or lead to darkening, unlike the coconut oil option.
5) Professional Help and Leather Softeners
You can also offload leather shoe softening to the professionals. That way, you can avoid uneven spots and make sure you get the results you want. It won’t cost too much, but you may need to go back more than once just in case the leather isn’t soft enough or not all problem spots have been addressed.
There are also lots of commercial leather softeners on the market that do the job well. These products are specially made for leathers, which means there will be no damaging or unwanted darkening.
It’s important to occasionally condition leather and store your leather items and shoes in dark and cool places out of the sunlight. Do not keep your shoes sealed in plastic bags as proper airflow is important for long-term maintenance.
Softening your leather shoes is only the first step to keeping them comfortable; the longer you wear them, the more the material will conform to your feet. Remember to take good care of your shoes as well by conditioning them, especially after you treat them with commercial products. Storing them out of the sunlight will also prevent the leather from stiffening up and cracking over time.