cowboy boots on ladder
Western, How-Tos

Cowboy Boot Care

From breaking in boots to general maintenance, cowboy boot care can be a simple process — and even become a ritual. Read on to learn boot best practices like how to maintain leather boots.

After carrying you through the mud, accompanying you on rides and protecting your feet from the scorching dirt, your boots deserve some TLC. Learn all the steps involved in proper leather boot care, from how to break in cowboy boots to the proper ways to condition boots.

How to Care for Cowboy Boots

By breaking in cowboy boots, cleaning them properly and taking care of minor repairs, you can keep your boots in top condition for years to come.

Break them in. Leather cowboy boots, like most Western boots, fit better when they’re broken in but this can take time. Mastering how to break in cowboy boots will make your boots more comfortable since the leather stretches to conform to your foot shape.

Regularly brush off dirt. If you wear your boots often, brush off dirt and mud at least once a week with a brush or cloth.

Deep clean and regularly condition boots. Cleaning cowboy boots with a leather-specific cleaner every three to six months, followed by leather conditioner, will protect the boot and keep the leather soft and supple.

Repair your boots when they need it. This includes simple stitching repairs or resoling when your soles are damaged or worn out.

How to Break in Boots

Learning how to break in leather boots is a bit of an art, and there may be some degree of trial and error as you find out what method works for you and your new boots. Most cowboy boots are made of cow leather, but even exotic materials can be stretched and broken in. The easiest and safest method is to wear them with a thick or second pair of socks around the house or on short outings. Breaking in boots by wearing extra socks forces the leather to stretch from the inside out and emphasizes problem spots in the fit of your cowboy boot.

How to Increase the Lifespan of Your Boots

Knowing how to break in cowboy boots, as well as how to treat leather boots when brushing off dirt, cleaning and conditioning will help you get the most out of your boots. You can increase the lifespan of your boots by checking regularly for dry leather. The easiest way to tell when leather is starting to dry out is by looking for blotchy or faded colors and an uneven surface texture. If your leather cowboy boots have already gotten to this point, it’s not too late to save them by cleaning and applying a high-quality leather conditioner.

How to Clean and Condition Boots

Use a clean cloth or paint brush to dislodge any dirt or debris from your boots. Be sure to brush all of the crevices, such as embroidery, patches and pull straps. Then apply a high-quality leather cleaner to a soft cloth and clean the entire leather surface of your cowboy boots. Once your boots are clean, allow them to dry completely (this usually takes 20 to 30 minutes), then use a leather conditioner. Keeping your boots cleaned and conditioned, especially when new, is critical to getting soft, broken in leather. Check out our step-by-step article on how to clean cowboy boots here.

How to Remove Creases from Cowboy Boots

With enough wear, any natural leather will crease. Creases in cowboy boots usually happen near the toe but can also occur in other spots. To remove creases and smooth the leather, first stuff your boot with paper, T-shirts or socks (or whatever you have on hand) until the leather begins to expand.

Once stuffed, use a blow dryer on low heat and gently warm the leather for a few seconds at a time. Massage the creases out with your hands. If the leather is noticeably hot to the touch, you’ve used too much heat. Once the creases are gone or nearly gone, let your cowboy boots return to room temperature before taking out the stuffing.

man leaning against cattle fence

How to Care for Exotic Leather Boots

Whether your cowboy boots are made of traditional cowhide leather or something more exotic, boot care is very similar. Exotic Boots, like those made from  ostrich, caiman/alligator and pirarucu, may require more frequent care and more diligence when it comes to conditioning, but the process is similar to caring for cow’s leather. Exotic boots can be cleaned, conditioned and stored in the same way as their traditional cousin — just make sure the cleaners and conditioners you’re using have been tested on that particular type of leather.

How to Store Cowboy Boots

A big part of cowboy boot care is storing them correctly. When your cowboy boots aren’t busy in the dirt, they should be kept indoors, away from moisture and in an upright position. To keep the shaft upright and prevent the toes from curling up, use a boot tree. A well-made cedar boot tree will also help dissipate excess moisture left in your boots after a hot, sweaty day. That helps to prevent mold, mildew and funky smells. Please find our in-depth guide on storing your cowboy boots here.

With a little guidance on how to care for leather boots, you can ensure your cowboy boots last a lifetime.