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How To Distress Your Boots The Free People Way

I’m the type of girl who will wear boots all year round. They are such a staple in my wardrobe that it’s hard to not always have a solid pair on deck, and when I find a pair I really like, I make sure to get every little bit of wear out of them. But I must say, the brand new ‘out of the box’ stage of a pair of boots might be my least favorite. There’s something about the worn in look that make boots look special and loved. Over time, they mold to your feet and and pick up the dust and memories from your adventures. When you look down and see the scuff marks, it’s almost like scars that can remind you of certain experiences. Sometimes it takes a while (or a good few days out in the wild) for a pair of boots to look like this. If you want to jump start the process, here are a few easy ways to help distress your boots!

boots in a row

Processed with VSCOcam with k2 preset

You can use one or more of the following methods:





A pair of leather or suede boots are best for distressing, like the Krist Ankle Boot you see above!


For the first method, I used a rock with some rough edges.

rock on boot

Find a sharp edge on the rock and start buffing it into the boot. I liked the marks it left when I struck the rock in a downward, diagonal motion on the toe and heel end.

hammer on boots

Next, it’s time to hammer. Gently hammer the toe tips and heel ends, but be careful to not strike too hard! You don’t want to use too much force or the sole might break!

boot on step

I also liked the scuffs the hammer made when I hammered the top part of the boot against the edge of a step. Gently hammer around the top part of the boot to distribute the marks evenly.

car and boot

Finally, the last step is to run over your boot (seriously, this works!) But it’s important to only run over the top part – the weight of the car might be too heavy for the sole and we definitely don’t want to risk breaking it! It’s good to find a textured surface to do this on–the pebble driveway you see above was great since the pebbles left a nice texture on the leather. Place the boot down and line up the tire so it goes directly over the soft part of the boot. It’s good to have a buddy drive the car so you can make sure it’s only running over the necessary parts. Go back and forth over the boot a few times with the tire, then flip it over and repeat on the other side. This may sound silly, but it really works!

before and after boots

You can use all, one one of the above methods, but these are some of the ways we like to distress our boots here at Free People. If you’d like, you can apply some shoe wax to your boots to seal in the look once you are finished distressing.

distressed boots

The distressing process is really based on the owner’s preference, so feel free to go as hard or as soft as you like on your boots – and have fun!

distressed boots

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Emma -June 24, 2014, 7:20AM

Ooo!! I love me some beautiful boots! this would be a great idea for when you buy some boots of a vintage site, providing they aren’t already distressed!. – check out my site full of quotes, yoga, health and photography posts!

Kate -June 24, 2014, 9:36AM

Yes, yes, YES! I LOVE when y’all do DIY posts on distressing clothing/shoes. Can’t wait to get a’pummeling :)
Thoughts on sandpapering the toes? Fine grain, medium? Always dig that faded toe look FP does oh-so-charmingly. – xx

Beatriz -June 24, 2014, 10:56AM

Spend $325 on a pair of boots, the run over them with a car…

Julie -June 24, 2014, 11:17AM

I’ve never distressed my shoes on my own – I find they get beat up quite quickly naturally! I use my cowboy boots not only for riding but for everyday wear and it only took about 2 weeks before they were perfectly worn in and distressed.

Dev -June 24, 2014, 11:33AM

This is ridiculous.

Brooke -June 24, 2014, 1:09PM

cool idea! May try this with a cheap pair of thrift store boots!

erika -June 24, 2014, 6:11PM

They look kind of bad afterwards. Most are nicely naturally distressed enough

Jen -June 24, 2014, 9:25PM

LMAO! This is so dumb ! They looked better before!

lauren -June 25, 2014, 7:27AM

The boots used in this are so cute! I’d feel bad running my new boots over with a car, but scuffing with a rock i can see doing :)

Lauren |

Vanessa -June 25, 2014, 10:46AM

I have to agree with some of the above comments and Brooke’s comment. This may be good for a thrift pair of shoes but I don’t think many people have the money to throw away on $300 boots only to do this to them…

Gen -July 17, 2014, 1:07PM

Or you could find some distressed ones for less money at a thrift shop :)

Joyce Coolidge -August 13, 2014, 5:09PM

If your boots are uncomfortable, it’s because they don’t fit your feet. The methods used in the DYI, and ruing the support of the boots. Part of the reason we like distressed boots, is because each mark is a reminder of some activity. We like stuff with a history. If you like that distressed look, put your boots on (and your big girl panties) and live your life with them on. Don’t fake it.

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