If you are wearing non-leather shoes, then you can just go out and buy another pair when they get too old. However, when you are wearing leather shoes that have become hard after years of wear, it’s time to take action.
Softening leather shoes is one of the most common maintenance tasks that professional shoe care service providers do. If you want to avoid frequent shoe repairs or replacements, then it is crucial that your leather shoes are soft enough to maintain their shape and prevent breakage. You can soften your leather shoes in several ways – here are some of them.
Table of Contents
- 10 Ways to Soften Leather Shoes
10 Ways to Soften Leather Shoes
1. Slowly Start Wearing Them
If your leather shoes have simply become hard because they’ve been sitting around for a while, this should do the trick for you. Just start wearing them again – albeit without standing long hours in them or walking miles upon miles in them each day. It’s enough to wear them in and out of the house. If you can feel even a little slide with each step in your hard shoes, they’re ready to be softened!
2. Using a Hairdryer
A hairdryer is a device that is used to blow hot air onto wet hair in order to dry it. This method with a hairdryer is quite easy to perform and works fantastically well. Here are the steps:
- Step 1: If the shoes are not waterproof, place them in between two pieces of cardboard, so they don’t get wet from the damp ground. Then, start shaking your shoe vigorously for about 30 seconds so all of the excess water can drain out. You may also want to add some rice or kitty litter inside if there’s still water dripping from it.
- Step 2: Take a shoe stretcher and hold it with one hand. With the other hand, start pressing the stretcher into the shoe in a downward direction in order to snugly fit it into place. You can also use a hairdryer instead of a shoe stretcher. In this step, you might need to repeat step 1 if you still have water in your shoes from step 1.
- Step 3: Put your shoes on and stretch them out by stepping on the footrests. In this step, there’s no need to repeat step 2 or apply any force except maybe some minor upward pressure with your foot, depending on how tight it is inside. Your shoes should pop out easily after being stretched out for a short time.
After this, your shoe should have become very soft. In order to maintain the softness, you need to take the straps out every day or so and put them back in. You should try to avoid squeezing your feet in too tightly because the shoe will be weakened by too much pressure. Also, keep in mind that if you don’t have a shoe stretcher, you can use a hairdryer instead, which will give similar results.
3. Using Shoe Stretchers
Knowing how to soften suede or leather shoes can be helpful in restoring their original shape and size. For this purpose, you should use the correct shoe stretcher. However, before doing so, be sure to read the label on the product carefully. It will help if you know how to use it correctly. Of course, doing all of these steps will depend on how bad your shoes are and what condition they are in. If your shoes need just a little restoration, then just oiling or using a spray is enough to bring them back into shape. If your shoes need a lot of work, then try all of these steps to achieve the desired result that you want from them. Ultimately, as long as you know how to soften suede or leather shoes, you’ll be able to keep your shoe looking stylish and classy as long as possible.
The following method requires you to buy yourself shoe stretchers, which are quite inexpensive and available in any store that sells shoes. After you do this, check to see if your shoes already have the imprint of shoe stretchers and find the shape and size that best fits your shoes. Use these – accommodating them into each end of your shoes and leaving them there for around 24 hours. This will permanently stretch the material enough to make it softer. Afterward, simply use a hairdryer to soften the rest of the shoe.
4. Stretching with a Spoon
The following method draws on the same principle as stretching with shoe stretchers but is 100% free! You’ll need to use an average-sized spoon or something like it – one that’s large enough to fit in the front of your leather shoes. Then, simply stick it in each shoe and leave it there for around 6 hours while you’re asleep. The spoon will stretch out the material just enough to make your shoes softer. Afterward, use a hairdryer to soften them up some more!
Here is another trick that you can apply:
- Step 1: Remove your shoes and place them between two pieces of cardboard in order to keep them dry. Then, take out the spoon and insert it into one of the straps so that the handle is in line with the buckle.
- Step 2: With your other hand, hold onto one end of the strap with pressure while you use your free hand to pull on it to stretch it out. You can also use a hairdryer instead of a spoon if you don’t have a spoon. After this, repeat step 1 until all of the excess water gets sucked out.
- Step 3: Put your shoes back on and pull each strap down to make them snug. Then, repeat steps 1 and 2 in order to remove the excess water on the other side of the shoe.
5. Stuffing the Shoes with Newspaper
Stuffing the shoes with newspaper can be helpful in softening leather shoes. This is because newspaper absorbs moisture and can also serve as a protective barrier over the shoe’s wet surface. If you have to stuff the shoes for a while, use old newspapers that are free of ink, or else black marks will keep appearing on your new leather shoe. Here is the trick:
- Step 1: Remove your shoes and place them between two pieces of cardboard in order to keep them dry. Then, take out the sandpaper and sand down one of the straps with it in order to make it easier to stretch out.
- Step 2: Take some newspaper and stuff it into your shoes using your hands or a sanding stick. You can use gloves or finger cots so that you won’t get any of the sandpaper on your hands. After this, do step 1 again with sandpaper on one strap while using paper sticks on another strap. After this, repeat step 2 until the straps become loose and easy to slide on/off.
- Step 3: Put your shoes back on and pin down any of the newspaper that is sticking out by putting in some shoe stuffing. This will keep the newspaper inside of your shoes while helping keep them dry.
After this, repeat steps 1 and 2 in order to remove the excess water on the other side of the shoe. You can also use a hairdryer instead of sandpaper if you don’t have any sandpaper lying around. Just make sure not to press too hard, or else you might damage the leather itself. After this, repeat step 1 twice more using sandpaper for two straps each time.
6. Stretching with Oil
Stretching the leather shoes by hand can take a lot of your time and effort, but you can save yourself from this tedious task by using shoe-stretching glue or oil. Be warned that shoe-stretching glue can be a bit messy at first, so you should do this step outside so as not to damage your floor. Take a clean rag and pour a liberal amount of oil or shoe-stretching glue onto it for easier application. Rub the oil or glue onto the leather surface of your shoes to soften them. To speed up the process, massage the leather with your hands while wearing rubber gloves for better grip.
Another way to soften suede or leather shoe is by using mink oil, which is basically crude mink oil, on the shoes. However, be sure to use it sparingly so as not to worsen the condition of your leather shoes. This will also ensure that the shoes become evenly soft without ruining them completely. It is recommended that you apply the oil in circular shapes instead of coating it with a heavy layer. Some people even prefer spraying it directly onto their shoe’s surface than rubbing it with a clean rag for better results.
7. Use a Stretching Spray
You can consider using a stretching spray after oiling the shoe’s leather. Preferably, you should look for shoe stretchers that are specifically designed for suede or leather to ensure the full effectiveness of the product. This will prevent your shoes from stretching out of form due to the elasticity of their material. Moreover, this will also help if your shoes are too tight and need to be made slightly larger than the normal size.
Here is the trick that you can follow: put your shoes on and start pressing them down with your hands in order to loosen them up. Take some stretching spray and apply it to the shoes using a finger or a brush. You can use gloves or finger cots so that you won’t get any of the liquid on your hands. Pull back and forth on each strap several times until they become loose and soft. After this, take off your shoes and repeat the steps if necessary.
8. Using Rubbing Alcohol & Vaseline
Ideally, you want to use a 50% solution of rubbing alcohol and water for this project. Obtain some rubbing alcohol and pour some of it into a small dish. Apply a generous amount of Vaseline to your shoes, particularly in the areas that have creases or wrinkles. Dry your shoe for at least 10 minutes before wearing them again.
Rubbing alcohol is easily obtainable in any community. It can be used in many instances, but one of the most popular uses for rubbing alcohol is to remove the sticky residue left behind by stickers. There are several brands of rubbing alcohol on the market, ranging from 99% (the purest form) to 70%. Typically, 70% is more than sufficient for removing most sticky residue.
9. Walking Around in Your Shoes
Walking around in your shoes for half a day might seem like a little more work, but it’s the best way to make them feel fresh and soft. Wearing them again for just half a day two days later will make them softer again. Be patient; you’ll find that over time it becomes easier and easier to keep your leather shoes feeling as good as new. TIP: Using shoe trees in your shoes when you’re not wearing them will help keep the shape and freshness of the shoes.
10. Getting Professional Help
It might be a good idea to consider getting professional help from a shoe resole specialist for softening shoes. In some cases, these specialists can also treat shoes for waterproofing or other treatments. People with the appropriate experience and the proper equipment are able to regularly remove the foot from footwear and can do so without damaging it in any way. The professionals often have surface treatment options available, such as a few different types of polish or waxes that they may use on your shoes, depending on your needs. One possible drawback of going this route is that you may have to pay out of pocket without being reimbursed by your employer since you haven’t owned them regularly anyway.
Another reason why you might want to consider this option is that the professionals will have the equipment needed to rejuvenate the shoe’s surface or create an entirely new surface. A number of different options can be chosen based on your needs, including grain treatment, neutral creams, varnish, and waxes. Make sure you check with them first to find out what methods they use and if there is a certain one that they suggest first so as not to waste money on unnecessary treatments.
How do you soften stiff leather?
The most common way to soften leather shoes is by soaking them in warm water and adding a small amount of dishwashing liquid. Submerge the shoes in the water and let them soak for about 10 minutes. Remove the shoes from the water and wipe down any excess soap with a damp cloth or paper towel.
Slip-on socks, lace-up, then place your feet into a bathtub filled with cold water. This will tighten up the leather again, so wriggle your toes to work out any excess moisture from your socks which can leave marks on lacquered surfaces such as piano tops or dresser tops. The cold water will also solidify the softening agent, so it will coat the whole surface of the shoe rather than soaking into the leather. Not only does this help control shrinking, but it also speeds up drying times. If you are unable to use a sink or bucket for this quick fix, try an old metal trash can, not too big, though.
Rubber can be softened by running it through a hot dryer on low heat with a cotton ball or piece of cloth wrapped around your foot to prevent burns. You can also spray some silicone-based material into rubber to soften it more quickly.
Do you soften leather shoes with a hairdryer?
Use a hairdryer to soften stiff leather shoes. If your shoe sling is simply too tight for your foot to slip into, try rubber or plastic sandals or slippers that allow room for movement. You can also use a sock to soak up moisture at the end of its life span.
What can you soak leather in to soften it?
You can use warm water and dishwashing liquid or baby oil to soften leather shoes and other leather products such as jackets, purses, and belts. Warm water and dishwashing liquid should be used if you don’t have access to baby oil. To avoid shrinkage when wet, don’t expose the shoes to direct sunlight until they are completely dry. When wet, the leather will stay the same size as it was when it got wet, so it could shrink if left out in the sun. To prevent this, use a towel to cover them while they are drying.
Does Vaseline soften leather?
Yes! Vaseline will soften the leather. Use a hairdryer to warm up leather shoes and other leather products such as jackets, purses, and belts.
Can you use baby oil to soften leather?
Yes! You can use baby oil to soften the leather. Use a hairdryer to warm up the leather shoes and other items made from leather, such as jackets, purses, and belts.