Why and How to Distress Leather Boots

Why and How to Distress Leather Boots

Are you looking for a safe way to distress your leather boots? There are a lot of methods online, but how safe are they? In the following, we will take a look at several safe and proven methods that will give your boots that distressed look.

  • Fashion
  • Comfort

Distressed boots have become very fashionable, and you look better in worn out boots than new ones. But style aside, distressed leather boots are more comfortable and easier to wear.

Materials You Will Need

  • Rubber bands
  • Hammer
  • Baseball bat
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Black shoe polish
  • Shoe wax
  • Wire brush
  • Sandpaper
  • Old newspapers
  • Old socks

Step by Step Guide

  1. Stuff the boots with old newspapers or socks. The boots have to be completely filled.
  2. Put the boots on a hard, even surface.
  3. Put an old sock over a baseball bat. Swing the bat on the boots. Hit the boots a couple of times. Make sure there isn’t anyone or any object nearby when you make that swing.
  4. Use the rubber bands to fasten a rag on a hammer. Hammer the sides, toecaps and heels a few times. Together with the baseball bat, it’s going to soften the leather a lot.
  5. Pour rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. Most would go for a mixture of 5 tablespoons of alcohol. Once in the bottle fill it halfway up with water. Spray the boots to soften up the leather.
  6. Wait for the alcohol to dry before sanding. Use fine grit sandpaper. Sand the seams, toecaps and heels lightly. If you want boots with light distress, you’re done. If you want a more distressed look, proceed to the next step.
  7. Spray more alcohol.
  8. Use a wire brush to rub the seams, toecaps and heels again.
  9. Apply black polish on the boots with a clean rag. Wipe in a circular motion and that all areas are polished. If you want those boots to have a darker finish, apply more polish.
  10. If you put too much polish, spray the boots with water to lighten the color.
  11. Once you’re happy with the look, apply shoe protector wax.
  12. Do not polish distressed leather after using this method. It will damage the surface or cause further darkening.

Tips and Warnings

  • You can use the method above for leather belts, wallets and jackets too.
  • Add more alcohol into the mix if the leather is tough. If the leather is sensitive, you may limit the alcohol to four tablespoons.
  • As long as those boots are made of durable leather, you can wring, squeeze and pound the boots. Don’t do anything that will leave stains or rip the boots apart, but beating up the boots is okay.
  • Rubbing alcohol will remove some of the pigment off colored leather. Polishing will make up for this, and if you want a faded distressed look, this will actually be in your favor.
  • When sanding, cover the entire surface. We mentioned not to sand too roughly, but if you really want an old beat up look, you can be rough with it.
  • Only use shoe polish that’s the same color as your leather boots. Switch to a darker color if you want the boots to look darker. For instance, use black polish if you want those brown leather boots to be darker.
  • Always have extra towels or lint free cloths. Once you’ve got the distressed look and want to polish, have those towels handy so you don’t spill any polish. Use a brush for buffing and to remove excess polish.
  • Leather boots need protection waterproofing to prevent damage and stains. Yu can put water and stain protection on new leather boots, and you may also apply it after each conditioning. These protectants need a few minutes to dry. Once dry, apply another layer of coating.
  • Be careful when swinging with the hammer or bat.

Distressed Leather Boots Care and Maintenance

Care and maintenance will not be that much different from the usual methods used for regular leather footwear. In addition however, you should look into the following.

  • Brush daily: brush those boots after use. This is the best way to prevent dirt buildup. Dirt, sand, dust and debris of all kinds can penetrate the seams and crevices, causing damage.
  • Follow the instructions: distressing the boots doesn’t change how it’s cared for. If the boots came with instructions to use a specific polish, do that. If the polish works only with specific leather, don’t use it with another.
  • Distressed leather needs as much conditioning as other boots. More maintenance is needed if they’re used in the hot, dusty sites.
  • Leather boots need proper storage. Keep them in the original box if it hasn’t been damaged. The box itself should be in a cool dry place. You don’t want the place too hot as that’s bad for leather, but too cold isn’t good either.

​Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Are the methods above really safe?

AnswerYes. Leather boots are very durable and can take a lot of punishment.

Question: Is it true that running a car over boots gives it a distressed look?

Answer​: There are some people who claim this method works, but it’s better to try other methods first. They will give the same results without the risk this technique entails.

Question: Is distressed leather harder to maintain?

Answer: Cleanup and maintenance is similar to other leather footwear.

Question: Does distressing leather boots shorten their lifespan?

AnswerAs long as you oil and condition the boots on a regular basis, it won’t have a negative effect.

Question: Does distressing help to break in boots?

Answer: Yes. It is one of the reasons why people like to distress leather boots in the first place.  


More and more people are now opting for the distressed look on their shoes and boots. Unfortunately not all methods of distressing leather works, so you need to be careful as you proceed. With the information here you can proceed with confidence.