How to Shrink Soccer Cleats

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It’s really difficult to pick up a pair of cleats that fit perfectly, and yet it is so vital in the game of soccer to have boots that fit snuggly. If the cleats are a close fit, you might be wondering how you can shrink your soccer cleats to get the right fit. I’ve outlined everything you need to consider, along with a step by step process for shrinking your boots. 

Leather vs Synthetic Cleat Material

Cleats are an essential piece of soccer equipment, perhaps the most important element you can purchase to help your game.

Soccer cleats made from leather are more expensive and, generally speaking, high in quality. The go-to option is kangaroo leather, although there has been some controversy about its use over the years. Either way, there isn’t much debate that kangaroo leather is the preferred option.

Kangaroo Leather

The reason this specific type of leather is the best comes down to its makeup. The fibers in this leather are very uniform and typically lie in one, singular direction. Compare this to cow leather, which is more standard, where the fibers can criss-cross all over the place.

The benefits of fibers like this are that kangaroo leather retains these things across the rigors put on a soccer cleat:

  • properties
  • form
  • shape

The shoe will remain strong and yet flexible to your foot. This style of leather is also lighter weight than any other.

Soccer player tying his shoelaces

Other Leather

Leather is still the preferred option to synthetic, mainly because of how flexible and malleable it is to your foot. Leather will do a much better job form-fitting to your foot, allowing the boot to shape itself over time to your individual foot.

This is important in soccer, as you predominantly use your feet for your “touch”. The more your soccer boot fits to your foot, the better your touch will be. You’ll be able to make more accurate passes and even shoot the ball a bit better.

Whether you opt for kangaroo or cow leather, both options are a lot easier to shrink than synthetics.

Synthetic Material

While leather is the preferred option for most soccer players, synthetic material also has a lot going for it. First and foremost, it’s affordable, by a wide margin. If you want a high quality but affordable soccer cleat, synthetic might be the best option for you.

It is also much better in wet conditions, which are not uncommon on a soccer field. When you’re playing outdoor soccer, you play through the elements, such as rain and even snow. Even a cool morning on the pitch will bring with it a heavy coat of dew. Leather absorbs water while synthetic wicks the moisture away.

Synthetics can be heavier, which is not preferred for a cleat. By and large, due to their material makeup, synthetic cleats are a lot harder to shrink as well. 

How to Shrink Soccer Cleats

Shrinking your soccer cleats isn’t very difficult. This process works best for leather soccer cleats, but you can follow the same steps for synthetic. I also share a few additional methods at the bottom, if this doesn’t work to your liking.

1. Spray Cleats for Protection

Before you start to shrink your cleats, you’ll want to protect the leather or synthetic material. Make sure to use something designed specifically for the material you’re working with. Synthetic sprays don’t work on leather, for example.

While spraying might not be necessary, it can help preserve the leather from some of the long term damages of the water used for shrinking. Make sure to let the spray set in, overnight if possible.

2. Allow Spray to Dry Fully

Make sure to let the spray set in, overnight if possible. You really want this to penetrate into the leather, and there is no need to rush it, especially if you have an expensive pair of cleats.

Synthetic cleats probably won’t benefit as much for letting the spray set in overnight, but it doesn’t hurt.

Person holding a pair of soccer cleats

3. Submerge Your Cleats in Warm Water

Fill a bucket with very warm water for soaking your cleats. Notice I didn’t say boiling water – that could damage your leather or synthetic. However, the water needs to be hot to the touch.

Dip your cleats fully into the water and leave in for roughly 5 minutes. You might need to add some weights inside the boot so that it sinks to the bottom and is fully submerged.

Bonus: soak your cleats with your feet in them! Yes, this will help the boot shrink around your foot as it shrinks.

If you are trying to break in your soccer cleats for wider feet, this extra method is especially relevant.

4. Dry Cleats in Heat

Towel dry your cleats and set them out to dry in the sun. It’s best to set them outside to dry in sunlight, because this slow drying method allows the material to slowly come back to temperature. Make sure the cleats are fully dry before using them.

If you have to, you can throw the soccer cleats into the dryer. Make sure to use the lowest dry temperature. It shouldn’t damage the cleat; it just isn’t the best drying method.

At this point, your cleats should have shrunk ½ – 1 size smaller. If your cleats are leather, they will probably loosen up a bit over the next few wears, and continue to form fit to your foot.

This can be a great method for players of all ages, but especially effective for working with youth soccer cleats. Because kid’s feet grow so quickly, you might need to buy cleats that are a little too big. This method will allow them to fit them better today, but still loosen up over time.

Are Soccer Cleats Supposed to Be Tight?

What You Should FeelWhat You Shouldn’t Feel
Enough room for your toes to wiggleTightness all around your feet
Comfort on your anklesA slight discomfort on your ankles
No pain on the instep of your feetAches on your instep

If you’ve got a pair of soccer boots that are a bit too large, shrinking them a bit is a great way to achieve a good fit. Most players want cleats that fit snug on their foot, with little to no movement in the cleat. So, in essence, you want your cleats to be tight, but not constrictive or painful.

While this can make it a bit challenging to put on your soccer socks and squeeze your foot in, it makes for better performance on the field.

Soccer requires players to sprint up and down the pitch frequently, and you want a boot that fits well so you don’t develop blisters and sores. Additionally, you’ll be making a lot of side-to-side cuts, which is a lot more difficult in loose cleats.

Soccer player stepping on ball

Cleats that fit snug also allow you to “feel” the ball a lot better. You can put touch and weight on your passes, and curl and bend your free kicks. The improvements your cleats offer in these kicks is marginal, but it is noticeable.

You don’t want your cleats to be too tight – just snug. There is a fine line between snug and tight. Tight cleats are somewhat painful and can cut off circulation. Snug cleats are form-fitting and mold to your foot. Make sure you don’t go too far and get cleats that cause any long term discomfort. 

Is It Safe to Shrink Soccer Cleats?

Using the water and drying method is completely safe for shrinking leather cleats. Spraying leather protection on beforehand, and allowing for a slow dry will help preserve your cleats for longer.

It’s best not to repeat this too many times over the life of the soccer boot. But, there shouldn’t be any damage to your boot by following this method.

It’s a little harder to say with synthetic soccer boots. Because the synthetic can be made with so many different types of material, each reacts to this soaking method differently.

By and large you should be fine, as the vast majority of synthetics respond well to water.

Alternatives to Shrinking Your Cleats

If you don’t want to soak your cleats to shrink them, there are a few other techniques you can try to get your foot to fit better. 

Wear Two Pairs of Socks

A lot of soccer players will just opt to wear several pairs of soccer socks, instead of trying to shrink the cleat. It’s no secret that socks are a lot cheaper than a nice pair of boots, so this might make the most sense for you.

If you opt for this method, you might want to choose an athletic type soccer for the underlayer, and then a standard soccer sock for the outerlayer.

Man holding his black soccer cleat

Use Sports Tape or Moleskin

Sometimes, if you have some give in your soccer cleats, you can try putting sports tape or moleskin on your feet in the areas that are loose. This can add some extra cushioning and padding where the gaps exist.

This method is best for brand new cleats while you’re still trying to break them in. As time goes on and you wear them longer, the cleats should mold to your foot, filling out those gaps.

It can be a lot harder to get a good feel for the soccer ball with this method, especially on certain parts of your foot.

Besides, you probably don’t want to be taping different parts of your foot each and every time you lace up your cleats. This works well in the beginning but not as a long term solution.

Lace the Front and Back

One technique that can help soccer cleats tight up a bit involves tying your laces around the front and back of the boot.

Grab an extra set of laces, and loop the laces around the front and back of your soccer cleat. You want the laces to make a circle around the entire boot. They shouldn’t be tight to the point where the cleat bends up or down, but snug enough to squeeze the material in a bit.

Let the cleats sit like this for 2-4 days. When you’re done, the cleats should fit a bit tighter, and you didn’t have to go through the shrinking process of soaking them. 

Related Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about shrinking soccer cleats.

Will the Dryer Shrink My Cleats?

Yes, however, it is not recommended. The dryer can damage the structure of your cleats, weakening the leather and breaking their design. Therefore, although it is possible to shrink your cleats on a dryer, this could potentially damage them.

Can You Shrink Cleats With a Hairdryer?

Yes, you can shrink your cleats with a hairdryer. This can be accomplished by spraying a bit of water on your cleats and drying them with your hairdryer. However, you need to be careful with the heat, as it could damage your cleats. Remember to set your hairdryer to medium.

Does Showering in Cleats Break Them In?

Yes. Since leather gets moldable when it is wet, if you shower with your cleats on, this will help them break in. Therefore, this will help you feel more comfortable when wearing them on a daily basis.


When it comes to shrinking your cleats or breaking them in, you need to be careful; the process can damage your shoes. However, if you do it with enough caution, you will be able to feel better while wearing them.

Tim Frechette is an avid athlete, having played sports like soccer and basketball his entire life. He brings a wealth of athletic knowledge to his writing.