No more pinching shoes: How to make your new leather shoes wonderfully soft

Lederschuhe in zwei unterschiedlichen Größen aus hellbraunem Leder auf einer Wiese

Leather shoes enhance any outfit and are wonderfully comfortable to wear. When they are new, however, the material can always be a bit stiff and uncomfortable. The reason for this is the fiber structure of the leather, which gives the natural material great strength. Experts use various methods to make the fiber structure more flexible and to stretch it. In the following guide, you will find out why new leather shoes can pinch and get helpful tips on how to soften leather so that it adapts perfectly to the shape of your feet.

Why are new leather shoes stiff and hard at first?

New leather shoes are often hard because they are made from natural animal skins that are processed in a complex process. However, these are by no means all the reasons why new leather shoes are stiff and hard at first and can cause the odd blister on their owner's feet.

  • Leather Tanning: The material goes through a tanning process that transforms it from rawhide into durable leather. During this process, chemicals such as tanning agents are used to stabilize the collagen in the leather . This gives the leather its durability, but also causes it to become stiff.
  • Drying: After tanning, the material is dried. This process can further harden and stiffen the leather as it retains its shape while drying.
  • Storage: New shoes are often stored for a long time before they are sold. During storage, the leather can dry out and become stiff.
  • Protection during transport : To protect shoes during transport, they are often provided with stiffeners or inserts made of cardboard or plastic. This measure helps shoes to retain their shape. The side effect: the leather becomes stiffer.
  • Manufacturing process: The process of shoe manufacturing itself, including sewing pieces together and gluing soles, can contribute to the shoes being temporarily stiff.

Although new leather shoes may be uncomfortable at first, there is no need to worry. Over time and with regular wear, they will mold to the shape of your feet and become softer. If you want immediate results, you can also use the following methods to soften the leather.

Softening leather: 5 tips for comfortable footwear

Everyone knows the problem: you've discovered beautiful shoes while shopping, tried them on and in the store you feel like they fit like a glove. However, when you wear them for a longer period of time for the first time, your new shoes start to pinch, especially around the heel , which of course has a huge impact on their comfort. However, this problem is completely normal and can be solved with the right methods . With the following tips and home remedies, you can gently break in your new leather shoes and give them the comfort you want.

1. Wear and break in

Wearing leather shoes is the easiest way to soften them in the heel. Start by wearing the shoes for a short period of time to break them in . Gradually, they will adapt to the shape of your foot and become more comfortable. This measure is effective but requires some patience.

Green leather shoes, three arrows on a road indicating different directions

Image source: Pixabay

2. Use shoe trees

Wooden shoe trees are extremely helpful in maintaining the shape of your leather shoes while softening the heel. They help stretch the leather and minimize the risk of creasing.

3. Humidity method

Another tried and tested home remedy for softening the heel of leather shoes is using damp cloths . Place these in the heel area and leave them there overnight. The moisture helps the leather to stretch and become softer. In order not to affect the elasticity of the material, this measure requires subsequent care in the form of a nourishing leather emulsion.

4. Use shoe trees

Shoe trees are specially designed tools to stretch leather shoes . To create more space and softness, you can insert them into the heel of your shoes, provoking a slight stretch. However, follow the manufacturer's instructions! This will ensure that the shoes are not overstretched.

5. Use leather care products

High-quality leather care products such as balm or wax help to soften the leather on the heel. Apply the product to the affected area and work it in carefully. You will see: They moisturize and make the leather more supple .

Can shoes be softened?

It's true: leather can really be made softer and more supple by gently tapping it . All you need is a soft cloth, the leather cleaner and leather care balm from Emma Grün , a wooden or rubber hammer and of course a little sensitivity for the implementation. Here's how to do it:

  • Make sure that your leather shoes are clean and dry. If they are dirty, you should first remove any dirt with a soft cloth and, if necessary, a mild cleaner . In order not to damage the natural material, you should avoid aggressive products. Instead, we recommend using a natural product such as the leather cleaner from Emma Grün , which gently cleans the natural material using household remedies and provides long-lasting care.
  • To keep the natural material supple and prevent cracks from forming , it is advisable to treat your leather shoes with a nourishing leather care product before polishing. We recommend using a sustainable product such as the leather care balm from Emma Grün. This ensures that the care product penetrates deep into the material and does not just settle on the surface, as is often the case with conventional products.
  • Place your leather shoes on a flat and stable surface so that you can work on them easily.

Black leather shoe, shoemaker

Image source: Pixabay

  • Now use the wooden or rubber mallet and work on your shoes by gently tapping the material. Be careful not to hit too hard as this can damage the fiber network of the leather . The goal is to stretch and soften the leather, not to tear it. Focus especially on the stiffer areas or the areas that bother you the most.
  • Repeat this process until the desired level of softness is achieved. This may take some time and requires some patience.

Important: The tapping method should always be used gently. If you are too aggressive, the leather will be irreparably damaged. If you are unsure about how to do this, we recommend that you consult a professional shoemaker.

What is meant by the term “walking”?

During the so-called “fulling”, various measures are used to make the leather softer, more supple and more durable. Experts use this process mainly in the production of leather shoes and leather goods. The following positive effects are achieved through this method:

  • Density: The process densifies the fibers of the leather, which helps make it more resistant to wear and tear.
  • Stability: Fulling can also help to keep the leather from losing its shape and making it less likely to deform.
  • Better moldable: Softer leather is easier to work with and also easier to mold. This fact is particularly noticeable in the manufacture of shoes and leather goods.

It is important to note that the fulling process not only softens the leather, but also improves its quality and durability . In order to carry out fulling efficiently and achieve a satisfactory result, various techniques are used in the modern leather industry, which involve the controlled use of water, steam and pressure. However, the implementation requires special machinery and experience in leather production and should therefore always be left to an expert .


If you find yourself with stiff leather shoes or other leather goods, there is no need to worry. The natural material requires some time and care to reach its full softness and comfort.

You can use various methods to soften leather, whether it is by wearing the shoes, using shoe trees, rubbing them with leather care products or applying moisture.

Remember that each piece of leather is unique and may require different care. With patience and proper care, your leather shoes and accessories will become more comfortable and enjoyable to wear over time.

FAQ: Questions & Answers

Why are new leather shoes so hard?

New leather shoes are often hard because they are made from natural animal hides, which are made durable during the tanning process using various substances.

How can I soften new leather shoes?

There are several ways to soften new leather shoes. You can break them in, apply leather care products, use damp cloths or use a shoe tree.

How long does it take for new leather shoes to become comfortable?

The time required for new leather shoes to become comfortable can vary. It depends on the type of leather, how you wear them and how you care for them. However, it usually takes a few hours of wear to a few weeks for the natural material to adapt to your feet.

Can I soften all types of leather in the same way?

Different types of leather may have different care requirements. It is important to follow the manufacturer's care instructions and ensure that the methods used to soften the leather are suitable for the specific type.

Are there any risks of damaging the leather if I soften it?

Yes, there is a risk of damaging the leather if the methods are used incorrectly. It is important to be careful and diligent to avoid cracking or discoloration. For expensive or delicate leather goods, it is advisable to seek professional help.


1. Stiftung Warentest – Caring for leather shoes

2. Brigitte – How to make leather shoes softer

3. Schuhhaus Werdich – making leather shoes softer

4. – Tips for leather shoe care

5. Colourlock – Tight shoes