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How to Break In Leather Ariat Cowboy Boots Quickly?

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I received 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 comfortably. 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 essential for riding our horses, so we need to ensure they fit correctly and comfortably.

First Step: Fit Your Boots

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

My feet fit boots in sizes 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.

Popular Ariat Boots on Amazon

Prices vary based on boot sizes.

Measure your feet at a local boot store if you order your boots online. 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. They are too big if you can put on the boots without using the boot pull straps.

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 move your toes freely, so wiggle your toes.

Remember that your boot should fit snugly 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.

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

Apply steam

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.

You could also use a garment steamer, as shown below…

Hilife Steamer for Clothes Steamer, Handheld Garment Steamer Clothing Iron 240ml Big Capacity Upgraded Version

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 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 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 on 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 stretch spray and then wear your boots. You can also use your hand or an object placed inside the boot to stretch the leather.

Boot stretchers work!

When your 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. You can insert boot stretchers into a tight boot that causes pain in these areas and pinpoint specific spots to stretch and give you relief from uncomfortable foot problems.

KCHEX Boot Stretcher Mens Shoe Wooden Shaper Adjustable Fit Cowboy Boots Western

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. Here are a few more popular brands on Amazon.

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

picture of my old ariat ropers,
My Ariat ropers

Breaking in my Ariats.

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 into the boots.

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

Why do cowboy boots have big heels?

Everyone on our big trail rides wears cowboy boots, some with low heels and others with big two-inch heels. My always curious grandson loves his boots but wanted to know why all cowboy boots have heels and if there is a reason for having big ones.

Cowboy boots are designed for riding horses, and their heel has a practical purpose. The heel allows the rider to maintain control of his body while in the saddle and prevents a foot from slipping slip forward through the stirrup’s opening.

In the 1870s, bootmakers in Kansas introduced the modern-day cowboy boot with a higher heel and a reinforced arch. Cowboys rode hard and worked hard on ranches; their work required many hours in the saddle, and this footwear was designed for the hazards they faced.

Cowboys often lost control of their horses and would fall from the saddle. A prominent heel helps prevent the rider’s foot from getting caught in the stirrup and dragged, leading to severe or even fatal injuries.

More recently, bootmakers began designing multipurpose boots for people that enjoy hiking and horseback riding, like the Ariat Terrains. They have a nice heel for riding but a short shaft that is comfortable for hiking long distances too.

Why are cowboy boots decorative?

The evolution of decorative cowboy boots started in the Old West, with cowboys originally wearing rough materials like 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 for decoration or identification purposes. Bootmakers were happy to oblige the cowboys’ requests.

They started inserting more and more intrinsic designs on boots, including fancy needlework and leatherwork that would eventually lead to exotic materials for fabricating boots, such as snakeskin and ostrich. Today you can purchase boots in a wide range of colors, styles, and materials.

Below is a YouTube video with tips on breaking-in cowboy boots.


Why do cowboy boots have slick soles?

The smooth soles and lack of strings on cowboy boots allow riders to easily slip their feet in and out of stirrups. They are especially helpful when trying to escape quickly while on a bucking horse.

Why are cowboy boots so tall?

A tall shaft on boots is a safety feature for horse riders. It holds the boot in place without needing laces and protects the rider’s lower legs from thorny brush and rubbing against the saddles.

Why do cowboy boots have pointed toes?

In the 1940s, western movies popularized pointed-toe boots. There is little evidence that this unique design helps one get their foot into or out of a stirrup any easier than other types; it seems like fashion over-function for sure. However, the stiff leather covering protects your toes if a horse accidentally steps on your foot.