How to Break In Leather Ariat Cowboy Boots Quickly?

Any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon are affiliate links and I earn a commission if you make a purchase. Thanks in advance – I really appreciate it!


I recieved a new pair of Ariat Amos cowboy boots for Christmas. I love the fit of my old cowboy boots, but I need to break in these new ones quickly because they look great and I want to wear them everywhere.

The best way to break in a pair of Ariat cowboy boots is to hold them over a pot of boiling water and allow steam to enter the shaft. Next, put the boots on and walk around. The steam relaxes the leather so you can slide your foot in, and the leather stretches and molds to your feet. 

Cowboy boots often need to be stretched to fit comfortabl y. There are many different methods to break in cowboy boots, and we’ve tried them all. Here are our suggestions on how to stretch your boots, so they fit comfortably.

How to break in leather cowboy boots.

Do you have a pair of cowboy boots that are too tight and pinch your toes? They should be comfortable, but sometimes they can just be too tight to wear. Luckily, there is an easy solution!

Stretching your cowboy boots will give them room to fit more comfortably on your feet. This article describes how stretching works and what you need to stretch your boot out. The methods I suggest for breaking in leather cowboy boots can be applied to any brand, not just Ariats.

Cowboy boots are an essential tool for riding our horses, so we need to ensure they fit correctly and are comfortable.

First Step: Fit Your Boots

Ensure you buy the right size boots for your feet. Don’t purchase a pair of boots based upon the size of your last boots. Companies make boots using different fitting styles and methods, resulting in size are inconsistencies.

My feet fit boots in size 9, 9.5, and 10 based on the brand and style. I was shocked at how inconsistent the sizes were even within the same brand. It’s not difficult to measure your foot when you are at a boot store, so measure your foot.

If your boots fit correctly, they are much easier to break in.

picture of me wearing my ariat cowboy boots,
My new Ariat Amos boots.

If you order your boots online, measure your feet at a local boot store. The sales clerk will provide you with a length and width measurement. Different brands invariably are of different sizes.

When trying on a pair of boots, grasp the pull straps and insert your foot. If you can put on the boots without using the boot pull straps, they are too big.

Your foot should slide down with just a little resistance at the heel. The instep should be snug with no pinching of the toes.

Your heel should move in cowboy boots.

Once you have the boots on your feet, walk around, the heel should lift a 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Also, wiggle your toes. Regardless of boot toe style, you should have room to freely move your toes, so wiggle your toes.

Remember that your boot should fit snug because the leather will loosen during the break in process. If the boot feels loose when purchasing it, it will be too big after it is broken in. The boot must fit 100 percent correctly before you buy them.

Second step: Stretch your Cowboy Boots

You have sized your boot correctly, but you still have some tightness around your foot, so what do you do? To break in your boots, you need to stretch them.

The areas of a boot that require stretching are the instep, shaft, and width.

Apply steam

picture of me holding my ariat boots over a pot of boiling water to make them easier to break in and stretch.

To stretch a boot, hold it upside down over a pot of boiling water and allow the steam to rise into the boot’s shaft. Keep the boot in this position for a least five minutes, allowing the steam to relax the leather.

Wear boots

Remove your boot from the steam and allow it to cool to the touch. The moisture will cause the inside of the boot to remain hot for a period, but not too long, but be careful you don’t burn yourself.

Once it has cooled slightly, pull the boots on your feet and walk with them. Spend enough time in the boots to allow them to loosen and form to your feet.

This could take 30 mins to one hour, the longer, the better. Wearing damp boots, either from steam or stretch spray, allows the leather to mold to your foot.

I wore my boots all day after steaming them, which allowed me to break in my boots relatively quickly, and they were comfortable when I had them on from the first day.

Steam and hand (Alternative)

Try this method if you want a way to break in your boots without walking around in damp boots. Steam your boots, but instead of putting your foot inside your boot, reach your hand inside (after it has cooled).

I remove the boot from the steam, put my fist inside, twist it around, and then return it to the heat. I do this at least three times before I try getting the boots on my feet.

picture of a boot that provides the names for the different parts of cowboy boots.

Place pressure in the area of the boot that is causing the tightness. You can push up on the instep or apply outward pressure on the sides. You can also insert an object that provides leverage to push outwards.

Commercial stretch sprays work well on leather boots.

There are commercial stretch sprays available. These are effective to use when stretching leather. Check the directions on the side of the container before using the product on your boots. Most are safe.

Generally, you spray the inside and outside of your leather boots liberally with the stretch spray and then wear your boots. You can also use your hand or an object to placed inside the boot to stretch the leather. (click here to check Amazon prices on stretch sprays).

Boot stretchers work!

When you cowboy boots are too tight it may be time to break out the boot stretchers! Boot stretchers work by stretching your boots so that they fit comfortably and last longer. This is great for when you want to wear your favorite pair of boots, but can’t because they don’t fit anymore.

Boot stretchers are the perfect solution for those who experience discomfort due to bunions, corns and other pressure points. Boot stretchers can be inserted into a tight boot that may cause such pain in these areas and pinpoint specific areas inside of your boots giving you relief from uncomfortable foot problems.

A board and hammer are helpful to stretch leather boots.

Another method used to stretch leather boots involves the use of stretch spray, board, and hammer. First, spray your boots liberally with the stretch spray (steam works too), next place a board inside the boot and apply pressure to the outside of the boot.

Leave the board inside the boot and tap along the side seam of the boot with a hammer. The tapping along the seam helps the stretching process. Repeat applying pressure and tapping until you reach the desired amount of stretch.

Using one of the methods above should work to break in your cowboy boots to perfection. But if you are stuck, remember you can always bring your boots to a professional for help.

Most boot stores have someone available to stretch boots and know how to work with leather properly, so seek assistance and don’t give up on your boots.

Third step: Apply leather conditioner

So you have steamed your boots and have them on your feet, now apply a boot or leather conditioner. You can use the conditioner while you wear your boots or after you take them off.

picture of a can of mink oil,

I use mink oil on my boots and have been for years. They protect the leather and are readily available at most feed stores, or you can buy Fiebing’s mink oil on Amazon.

I’ve used a few different brands and haven’t found that anyone is better than the other. I bought my most recent supply of mink oil from Tractor Supply.

The conditioner helps break in cowboy boots, prevent cracking by softening the leather fibers, and it also assists in weatherproofing your footwear. Leather conditioner extends the life of your leather boots.

Breaking in my Ariats.

picture of my old ariat ropers,
My Ariat ropers

I have a pair of Ariat ropers that I’ve owned for over ten years. I replaced them with a new pair of boots, and they went to the shelf. After a couple of years, my replacement boots came apart at the sole, so I decided to wear my Ariats again.

But either they contracted and shrunk because of lack of use, or my feet grew; regardless, I couldn’t get my foot in the boots. So, I began the stretching process. I didn’t have any stretch spray handy and decided to steam the boots and stretch them with my hand.

The steam worked well, and it only took about five minutes for me to stretch them enough to fit. It’s hot holding boots over steam, so what I did was remove it from the heat after a minute or two and put my fist inside.

With my fist, I pushed against the vamp and then returned the boot to the steam. I did this three times and slid my foot in the boots.

picture of me wearing my old ariat ropers after I steamed them.


Why do cowboy boots have slick soles?

Cowboy boot soles are slick, so a horse rider can easily slide his foot in and out of the stirrups of the saddle when mounting and dismounting a horse. If cowboy boots’ soles weren’t slick, the process would be more difficult.
Having slick soles and a smooth(no strings) vamp allows the foot to slip out of the stirrup without impediment. Slick soles come in handy when a horse starts bucking, and you have to make a quick exit from the saddle.

Why are cowboy boots so tall?

The tall shaft of a boot is a safety design for horse riders. It holds the boot in place without the need for laces, protects the rider’s lower legs from rubbing the saddle.
A cowboy boot without laces allows it to slip off the rider’s foot in the event he falls from the saddle, and the boot gets caught in the stirrup. A tall shaft also protects your legs from brush, thorns, and snake bites while off the horse.

What is a “Roper” cowboy boot?

A “Roper” style cowboy boot has a short shaft and heel, resulting in a more comfortable walking boot. It’s popular with rodeo ropers and steer wrestlers. The normal roper has a shaft that extends to the mid-calf with a one-inch heel.
The roper-style cowboy boot became fashionable footwear for the everyday person because of its comfort and look. The Lucchese pictured is my wife’s boot; she wears them when she is casually going out on the town. (click here to check Amazon for prices on Lucchese boots).

Why do cowboy boots have pointed toes?

The pointed toe on cowboy boots is more fashion than function. The prevailing theory is a pointy toe boot is easier to get a foot into the stirrups of a saddle. But there is little evidence that a more pointed toe is useful in sliding a foot in or out of a stirrup.
The stiff leather covering the toe of cowboy boots protects against the inadvertent step of a horse. The pointed toe boot was first worn around the 1940s and made famous by western movies.

Why are cowboy boots decorative?

Decorative cowboy boots started in the “Old West.” They were originally designed for utility. They were fabricated from rough materials such as cowhides and sewn together with single rows of stitching.
Over time cowpunchers began to ask bootmakers to put distinctive designs on their rugged footwear; maybe this was for decoration, but it could have been to identify their boots if needed.
Bootmakers were happy to oblige the cowboys’ requests and started inserting more and more intrinsic designs on boots, including fancy needlework and leatherwork.
This custom eventually led to more exotic materials to fabricate boots such as snakeskin and ostrich. Today you can purchase boots in a wide range of colors, styles, and materials.

Why do cowboy boots have big heels?

When we go on trail rides, some of the participants wear cowboy boots with high heels—seeing these high-heeled boots prompted my grandson to ask why cowboy boots have heels.
Cowboy boots are designed for riding horses, and the features have a practical purpose. The heel allows the rider to maintain control of his body while in the saddle with confidence that his foot will not slip forward through the stirrup’s opening.
Cowboys rode hard and worked hard on ranches; their work required many hours on the back of a horse. Cowboys were subject to losing control of their horses, falling from the saddle.
The heel prevents the rider’s foot from being caught in the stirrup and the rider dragged, which could lead to severe or fatal injuries. In the 1870s, bootmakers in Kansas were the first to introduce the modern-day cowboy boot.
They introduced a higher heeled boot with a reinforced arch. If you’re interested in a riding boot that is also a good hiking boot, click here.

Related articles:

Miles Henry

I love animals! Especially horses, I've been around them most of my life but I am always learning more and enjoy sharing with others. I have bought, sold, and broke racehorse yearlings. I have raised some winning horses and had some that didn't make it as racehorses, so we trained them in other disciplines. Miles Henry

Recent Posts