How to Shrink Soccer Cleats | AthleticLift (2023)

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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. We’ve outlined everything you need to consider, along with a step by step process for shrinking your boots.


  • Leather vs Synthetic Cleat Material
    • Kangaroo Leather
    • Other Leather
    • Synthetic Material
  • How to Shrink Soccer Cleats
    • 1. Spray Cleats for Protection
    • 2. Allow Spray to Dry Fully
    • 3. Submerge Your Cleats in Warm Water
    • 4. Dry Cleats in Heat
  • Are Soccer Cleats Supposed to Be Tight?
  • Is It Safe to Shrink Soccer Cleats?
  • Alternatives to Shrinking Your Cleats
    • Wear Two Pairs of Socks
    • Use Sports Tape or Moleskin
    • Lace the Front and Back
  • Related Questions
    • Will the Dryer Shrink My Cleats?
    • Can You Shrink Cleats With a Hairdryer?
    • Does Showering in Cleats Break Them In?
  • Conclusion

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.

How to Shrink Soccer Cleats | AthleticLift (1)

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.

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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. We 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.

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How to Shrink Soccer Cleats | AthleticLift (2)

3. Submerge Your Cleats in Warm Water

Fill a bucket with very warm water for soaking your cleats. Notice we 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.

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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.

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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.

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How to Shrink Soccer Cleats | AthleticLift (4)

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.

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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.


How to Shrink Soccer Cleats | AthleticLift? ›

All you have to do is put your boots in a plastic bag, seal it tightly, and place it in the freezer overnight. In the morning, take them out and try them on. The combination of the cold temperatures and the tight fit should help shrink your boots down to size.

Can you put soccer cleats in the dryer? ›

Excessive heat can cause damage to soccer cleats, so it's best to air dry them. Avoid putting them in the dryer, using a hair dryer or drying them in direct sunlight.

Can soccer cleats be a little big? ›

They may choose a half or full size below their normal size. (Note: This can be uncomfortable at first.) For recreational or amateur players, sizing down may not be necessary. Players should select a size that feels comfortable on their feet.

What happens when your cleats are too big? ›

When it comes to shoes, fit is everything. Shoes that are too big can cause a variety of problems, from blisters and foot pain to tripping and falling. On the other hand, shoes that are too small can be equally uncomfortable and can even lead to long-term foot problems.

How tight should you tie your soccer cleats? ›

The laces should be drawn tight from the bottom to the top of the shoes, as before, but the traditional bow-knot at the top should be made at the farthest point to the outside of each foot that the shoe will allow. The laces should then be double-knotted at this point on the shoe.

Should soccer cleats be tight on toes? ›

In most cases, a tighter fit is recommended for soccer cleats, so your standard shoe size may not be the size you end up in with a soccer shoe. Your soccer cleat should fit as close to the end of your foot as possible, without touching your toes. A 1/4 to 1/2 inch gap is ideal.

How do you loosen a pair of cleats? ›

Ice can be just as effective as heat for fixing a tight pair of shoes. Partially fill a sandwich bag with water and place it in the area where the shoe is snug. Put the shoe in the freezer. As the water freezes into ice, it'll expand and help stretch the shoe out.

How do you fix too big boots? ›

A popular solution is to add an extra pair of cushion insoles. There are two basic insoles, insoles with arch cushion and flat insoles without any arch cushion. Flat insoles will tighten the boot evenly. Insoles with arch cushions will make the instep area more snug and can then take slipping out of the heel.

Why are soccer cleats so thin? ›

Most cleats are notorious for their extremely narrow fit, tight toe-box, and inflexible sole. The reasons behind the narrow toe-box is in order to assist in cutting (changing direction on a field); the shoe acts as a snug extension of your foot, which in turn ensures that your toes don't slip, or move around.

Are Nike soccer cleats smaller than Adidas? ›

Generally, Adidas cleats are not as narrow as Nike cleats. If you need a wider boot we recommend something from Adidas like the 11Pro, Nitrocharge or the Copa Mundial. The Nike Mercurial is the most narrow cleat that we carry, but the Tiempo can also work for wider feet.

Does putting cleats in hot water work? ›

Hot Water Trick (break in cleats naturally) If you are trying to break in your cleats quickly, a trick that some professional players use is to soak their cleats in hot/warm water with their feet inside. This softens the material quickly and reforms around their foot shape.

How long to soak cleats in hot water? ›

How to Break in Soccer Cleats & Make Them Comfortable
  1. Choose the Right Size. First thing's first, make sure you choose the right size. ...
  2. Get Your Feet Wet. Lace up, socks and all, and soak your feet in hot water for 20 minutes. ...
  3. Apply Petroleum Jelly. ...
  4. Dry Them Out the Right Way.
Dec 4, 2019

Does hot water ruin cleats? ›

Do not submerge your cleats in water as this can lead to leather cleats cracking once they dry. Also, try to avoid using hot water as it can also damage leather cleats.

Should you tie your cleats tight? ›

Although everyone's needs will be slightly different, one important rule of thumb to keep in mind is that the shoes ought to fit snugly against the feet. However, the laces should not be tied so that the shoe is resting tightly against the foot.

Should there be space in your cleats? ›

A general rule of thumb is to have about a finger's width of space between the end of your toes and the front of the cleat. This will help to prevent your toes from rubbing against the front of the cleat and reduce the risk of blisters.

Are loose cleats bad? ›

A proper fit is important for both comfort and stability. A tight fit can cause discomfort and restrict movement, while a loose fit can cause blisters and slipping.

Do soccer cleats stretch over time? ›

The short answer is, "yes." If you want more stretch, choose a leather cleat. Leather soccer cleats stretch naturally with wear. Make sure they fit tight out of the box, so they don't feel loose later in their lifespan.

Why do footballers cut their laces? ›

Players generally cut holes in their socks in order to reduce pressure on the calf muscles, which are often restricted by the form-fitting, snug nature of the garment.

Should soccer cleats be tight at first? ›

They should be tight but at the same time, you should be able to flex with your foot. Usually, brand new cleats tend to feel too tight, but once you break in cleats, that tightness goes away. If it persists, consider getting a bigger size.

Why do my feet hurt so bad in cleats? ›

The use of lightweight, flexible cleats on the athletic field has led to various soft tissue injuries. Athletes have gotten bigger, faster and stronger and the use of these shoes has caused them to suffer from foot pain that might not have occurred if the shoe had sufficient arch support.

Should I be able to wiggle my toes in cleats? ›

Your toes need wiggle room so that you don't get blisters, calluses or damaged toenails. You should be able to wiggle your toes comfortably in the toe box and if you aren't sure how much room is enough, use the “rule of thumb” when purchasing new shoes.

How do you fix tight shoes? ›

7 ways to stretch out your shoes
  1. Wear them in the evening. If your shoes are just a little uncomfortable, try wearing them around the house. ...
  2. Thick socks and a blow dryer. ...
  3. Frozen zip-close bag. ...
  4. The peeled potato trick. ...
  5. Adjustable shoe trees. ...
  6. Shoe stretch sprays and liquids. ...
  7. Find a shoe repair professional.
Apr 9, 2019

Is it OK to wear one size bigger shoes? ›

The only time that you could wear a shoe in a bigger size is when purchasing a sneaker but you should only go up about half a size. The reason for this is that our feet tend to swell because fluid accumulates due to gravity with prolonged standing and weight baring activities.

Is it OK if my boots are a little too big? ›

Is it OK to wear boots a size too big? It's OK to size up if you secure your foot in place with insoles or heel shields. It's not OK if your feet are sliding around in the boot, your heels are slipping, and the flex points are misaligned. This causes blisters, inflammation, and plantar fasciitis.

Is it possible to resize boots? ›

No. You cannot make the boot or a shoe smaller or resize them to fit your feet. Nor can you send them anywhere where they can resize them for you. Shoes are not like garments which can be altered to fit your size.

Why do soccer players put their cleats in water? ›

Many pros use the "shower technique" or "hot water trick" as a means of breaking in their new pair of cleats. The thought here is that wearing them in hot water lets the leather loosen and expand, giving the stretch for a perfect fit.

Why do soccer cleats have no cushion? ›

With soccer cleats, for instance: most higher level players buy cleats that are a little snug, maybe a size small, with a flexible upper material which can stretch around the foot. It provides less cushion and dead space so the foot has more impact power when striking a soccer ball.

Are soccer cleats supposed to be flexible? ›

The first being the stud layout, football cleats have a stud/spike at the toe while soccer cleats don't. The second main difference between soccer cleats and football cleats is the overall design/build. Soccer cleats are designed to be lightweight, flexible, and durable to constant impact with the ball and grass/turf.

Which is better Nike or adidas? ›

1. Is Adidas better than Nike? Yes, financially Nike shoes are known to be much larger than Adidas shoes, but the latter's performance has been better over recent years.

Which cleats are better Nike or adidas? ›

Their shoes may be heavier than Nike's, but overall, you'll have more control of your acceleration. In the end, it all depends on how you play the game. If you play fast, light, and loose, Nike is the better choice. If you play on the aggressive side and control is more your thing, adidas is the superior option.

Do laceless boots stretch? ›

Cons of laceless boots

We use the term 'almost' due to the fact that the stretchy tech on the uppers will accommodate and adapt to a certain extent. If you have wide feet, it's probably a no-go. As with all innovative tech, you're going to end up paying slightly more to get hold of it.

How do I know if my boot is too big? ›

One way to tell is by placing your finger between the back of your ankle and the back of the boot. One finger should fit easily in the space, but if you can fit two, the boots are probably too loose. If your toes feel jammed with a finger behind your ankle, they're most likely too tight.

Should you be able to wiggle your toes in soccer cleats? ›

You should be able to wiggle your toes inside the shoe, but there shouldn't be any extra room in the toe box. If your toes are scrunched up or there is pressure on your foot, the cleats are too tight. Different types of soccer cleats have different fits.

Do soccer cleats get bigger? ›

Leather soccer cleats stretch naturally with wear. Make sure they fit tight out of the box, so they don't feel loose later in their lifespan.

How long should a pair of soccer cleats last? ›

You can likely get anywhere from 5 to 10 months out of cleats you play regularly in, if the season scale wasn't a good barometer for you. Additionally, how often you play and where you play will make an impact…

Is it better for boots to be tighter or looser? ›

Boots should not be too loose or too tight on your foot. The best fit should be snug (but not tight) around the whole of your foot, with enough room to move your toes and a maximum of a quarter to a half-inch of slippage at the heel.

Should my toes touch the end of my shoes? ›

Generally speaking, there should be about one finger's width of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Another way to check this is to slip a finger between the heel of your foot and the heel of your shoe. There should be just enough space for your finger to fit nice and snugly.

How do you break in cleats overnight? ›

It's important to wear socks when you're breaking in the cleats. This not only provides cushioning to the feet, but it also mimics what you'll wear when playing. If your cleats are too tight, wear an extra pair of socks underneath to help stretch them out. Compression socks are an excellent choice for your base layer.

How do I make my new cleats comfortable? ›

During work or when catching up on Netflix at home, pull on a comfortable pair of socks, and lace up in your new boots. Leave them on for at least 30 minutes for the boot to break in by moulding around feet, although for best effects, do try to walk around in them every few minutes to have the upper ease up.


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