Do Work Boots Shrink? (The Truth About It)

Do you need to shrink your work boots? Well, the internet is full of advice on how to shrink your work boots. From soaking your leather work boots in water to soaking your soaks in vinegar and walking around until they’re dry and everything in between …

…there’s no shortage of crazy and weird things people do to shrink work boots.

Yes, you can shrink work boots. I’ve used my own Timberland leather work boots to test these tips for you (so you know at least I know what I’m talking about). Two of the methods I’ve used to help shrink my boots worked, but not the third one.

The first and most obvious advice I can give you is to send the boots back if they’re not your size (even though you’re obsessed with how good they look). You’ll thank me later!

two pair of work boots one next to the other showing how they have shrinked

Do work boots shrink naturally over time?

No. Work boots do not shrink over time. Not in my experience. What actually happens is totally the opposite!

Work boots, leather, or other material, tend to become loose as you wear them as the material they’re made of becomes softer and softer with time.

Some people might say that not wearing your leather work boots for some time can shrink down a little bit due to the fact that the moisture from the leather starts to evaporate.

I left a pair or two of work boots in the cupboard for months (since I have a few pairs for my day job) and it’s true that they felt a little bit different after not wearing them for a few months.

They seem to be tighter!

But as soon as I put them back on and wore them for a day or two, they went back to their original shape. So I think it’s more about the boot losing its shape rather than the boot shrinking.

Do leather work boots shrink?

Yes, leather work boots can shrink. The problem is that the methods used in this article (and other places on the internet) are not very friendly towards leather.

For example, you’ll read below that you can use water to shrink leather boots. Or another way to shrink leather work boots is to apply a lot of heat after you’ve sprayed the leather of your boots with hot water.

Neither excessive heat nor excessive water is very good friends with leather. So you can easily damage your work boots.

Can cowboy work boots shrink?

Some say yes, some say no. It depends on who you’re asking and what the advice is when it comes to what method you’ll use to shrink your cowboy boots.

The most common thing you’ll hear when it comes to shrinking your cowboy boots is to soak them in water.

So basically, you fill up a tub with water, submerge your cowboy boots in there and leave them under the water for a couple of hours.

Then you have to wear your wet cowboy boots around until they get dry.

Is this the best way to shrink cowboy work boots? No, it probably isn’t, but that’s one of the things you can do if you’re willing to take a risk and potentially damage your cowboy boots’ leather.

Here are some additional great tips and POV from Jeremiah’s YouTube channel:

Does water shrink work boots?

Not necessarily. Can you imagine your work boots shrinking every time you work in the rain or wet conditions? 

So, no. Water by itself does not shrink work boots! But you can try the trick I’ve mentioned above with the cowboy boots.

One thing you must keep in mind though is that water CAN damage your leather work boots if you’re not careful. I did soak my leather work boots in water the other day to try this trick.

my leather work boots soaked in water trying to shrink them

It hasn’t ruined my boots. After the leather naturally got dry, I just applied some mink oil and they were ready to wear again for my work on a construction site.

Water DOES help the leather to become more flexible and it seems to adapt to whatever you wrap it around (within reason though).

So don’t expect to soak your leather work boots in water and have them shrunk by 4 sizes. They will fill a bit tighter but that’s pretty much it!

How do you shrink boots that are too big?

As I said at the beginning if you’ve bought the wrong size or the boots don’t fit as they suppose to, just send them back and get another one to avoid foot pain and discomfort.

But if you want to go ahead with shrinking your boots, here are some tips:

  • 1. Spray the boots with hot water and then dry them off with a hairdryer.
shrinking my work boots using a spray bottle with rubbing alcohol and a hairdryer
  • 2. Get some socks completely soaked in vinegar, place them inside your work boots and leave them in there for a full day. (the downside is that your boots will stink at vinegar for some time).
  • 3. Soak your work boots in a bucket or tub of water for about an hour or so. Make sure the water covers the boots at all times. After that wear them until the boots get dry. This method here is used for both shrinking and stretching out work boots.
  • 4. Additionally, you can simply wear thicker socks and/or add one,two or three insoles into the boot.

Which ones worked for me?

  • Number one did worked.
  • Number two not really.
  • Number three also worked but not very pleasent.
  • Number four I haven’t tried to put lots of inserts but I did use thick socks (not a good idea in summer though).

What happens if you wear boots too big?

Wearing the wrong work boots size is the worst thing ever. If your work boots are too big they’ll be ultra uncomfortable and that will create a lot of unnecessary stress for you and your feet.

Having work boots that don’t fit you properly will create one or more of the following:

  1. Blisters
  2. Pain in your feet
  3. Pain in your back
  4. Calf pain
  5. Discomfort
  6. Excessive tiredness
  7. The toe cap will rub your foot since the boot it’s bending in the wrong place

How should work boots fit?

We have a more in-depth article about how work boots should fit here, but to give you a quick answer, you have to make sure that your work boots are not too big or too tight.

It depends on what kind of job you’re doing and also, in my opinion, it depends on what type of weather conditions you have in the area that you’re living in as well.

For example, if you work in an area where it’s cold most of the time, you should buy a work boot that’s a bit bigger than what you’re wearing usually. That’s because I personally like to have a bit of space inside the toe box if I need to wear an extra pair of sox.

If it’s nice and sunny most of the time, I like to wear a pair of boots that’s the size I usually wear.

I don’t think there’s a cookie-cutter solution for this since we are all different and we have a different point of view when it comes to how a pair of work boots should fit.

Generally, if the boot doesn’t feel comfortable from day one it’s a sign that you need to choose either a different size or a different work boot.

So, do work boots shrink? The takeaway

Yes, the truth is that work boots do shrink a little bit. Especially if they’re made out of leather. The leather on the work boots can shrink by doing a few different tricks as we’ve mentioned above …

…but it might be costly. Water and leather are not the best of friends which means that if you use water to shrink your work boots, the water might damage the leather.

So either be careful when you’re trying to shrink your work boots or better advice is to send them back and get another size or another work boot brand or model that fits you perfectly from day one.

Personally, I even washed my work boots in the watching machine so it’s clear I’m not worried that water can damage my work boots but that might be something you’d like to consider.


Team Members Working On This Page

Jessica Flynn
Jessica Flynn – Writer And Researcher

Love technology, going to the beach, take care of my body, and writing (amongst other things). You’ll see my face around here a little bit since I’m responsible for part of the research and writing of some of the articles you’re reading on BestForMyFeet.com. I hope you’ll find our content helpful and enjoyable! See you around, thanks for reading!

Adrian – Editor / Webmaster

Construction Professional, driver, crane operator, cleaner, head chef … these are just some of the jobs I did in the past. Working in all these different environments taught me that having good footwear to protect your feet from different dangers at work IS PARAMOUNT for any worker! On this website, I aim to share all my knowledge and personal experience in dealing with different footwear and foot care issues, and hopefully, you can get something out of it. Enjoy!


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Do Work Boots Stretch Out? (Answered + A Few Helpful Stretching Tips)