When it comes to riding horses, proper footwear is essential for safety and comfort. Not just any old pair of boots will do.
Fortunately, though, shoppers have a considerable amount of choices. Many different types and styles of riding boots are available on the market today, each designed for a specific purpose and type of rider. That said, whether you're a beginner or an experienced equestrian, it's crucial to know what to look for when purchasing a new pair of boots.
In this article, we'll discuss some of the best horse riding boots available and offer tips on choosing the best pair for you.
What Is a Horse Riding Boot?
A horse riding boot is a type of footwear specifically designed for horseback riding. They are commonly made of leather or other durable materials and have a tough rubber sole and sturdy heel to provide traction and stability when riding.
How a Riding Boot Differs from a Regular Boot
Riding boots differ from regular boots in their design and materials. As mentioned above, some types of riding boots have rubber soles, which ensure a good grip on the stirrups. The added stability helps prevent your foot from slipping to keep you secure in the saddle. A slippery boot can be dangerous since riders can lose balance and fall if their foot slips in the stirrup.
Riding boots feature a pronounced heel for the same reason. An appropriately sized heel keeps the foot from going through the stirrup. This is critical because once a foot slips through the stirrup, it may become stuck at the ankle, meaning the rider could be dragged if they fall off the animal.
Shoes explicitly created for equestrians are also made of more durable materials than boots meant for casual wear, like fashion boots, making them better suited to a barnyard or paddock.
Keep in mind that regular boots are designed for work or walking, not riding. Using the right gear is important in any sport, and horseback riding is no different. Riding boots make equestrians safer and more comfortable in the saddle.
Different Types of Horse Riding Boots
Boots come in many shapes and sizes. And different types of riding boots are meant for different pursuits and riding styles. Some are made for use in the English riding discipline, and some are meant for Western riders.
Below, we discuss some of the most popular boots for riders of all disciplines.
Tall boots, also known as long riding boots, are a type of riding boot that extends up the rider's leg to the knee. They are most often made of leather or synthetic materials and fit snugly, so they stay in place while the rider is in the saddle.
Tall riding boots offer more protection than short riding boots and can block chafing in the stirrup area to enhance comfort. They also keep the rider's legs warmer in cold climates and create a long leg, making for a very classy look.
Dress boots are often worn for show jumping or dressage, as they provide a more elegant appearance than other types of riding boots. They are generally available in black, fit tightly and give a formal impression. You could call them the black-tie dress of horse riding boots.
This expensive style of riding boot is worn most often in the show ring. That said, experienced riders typically wear them; not beginners.
Field boots are another common type of riding boot. They are made of flexible leather and have a relatively loose fit in order to be worn over jeans or other pants. The looser fit also allows for easy ankle movement, so riders can really flex their ankle joints and push their heels down for optimal stability in the saddle.
Field boots offer good protection and durability and are perfect for everyday riding. They are also great for some active competitions, like show jumping.
Western boots are popular in the Western riding discipline. They are traditionally made of leather and have a tall, narrow shaft that extends up to the knee. They often feature a pointy toe, producing a sharper look than the one offered by many English discipline boots, which generally have rounded toes.
Western boots sometimes come in plain leather. Other times, they come decorated with elaborate stitching and different designs. However, the most intricate designs are usually reserved for fashion shoes or boots meant for competition.
Riders who compete or casually ride in the Western discipline and want a good pair of riding boots should seek Western-style boots made for horseback riding. That means they need an appropriate heel height and a riding-focused structure.
For example, the boot shouldn't be the chunky type that's too thick to fit in the stirrup. Those are more suitable for field or farm work. And they shouldn't be flimsy designer boots. It should be a genuine riding boot made as riding gear.
Short boots are typically more casual than long boots but are still made for riding and barn work. This type of boot is often preferred by beginner riders and young children, who can often even wear them in the show ring.
A short paddock boot is a type of riding boot designed for everyday use. They are not as sturdy as some styles, like jumping boots or dressage boots, but they are perfect for everyday wear and are typically more affordable than other riding boots.
Paddock boots are normally made from a combination of leather and synthetic materials, and they come in a variety of fashions. Paddock boot owners who want adaptability can use these boots with half-chaps. Half-chaps protect the lower leg like a tall boot and offer a similar, slightly more formal look.
If you're looking for a versatile boot for everyday wear and horse riding, then a jodhpur boot may be ideal. Jodhpur boots are similar to paddock boots but are usually made from higher-quality leather with greater durability. They also come in an assortment of fashions, including those that feature laces or zippers.
As the name of this boot suggests, it is made for use with jodhpurs, tight-fitting breeches worn for riding horses.
What to Look For in a Riding Boot
Shopping for new riding boots can prove tricky, even for experienced riders. There are a lot of options and factors to consider.
Most riding boots have a heel between 2.54 cm and 5.08 cm in height. A heel of this height is tall enough to keep the rider's foot from slipping through the stirrup in most cases but short enough so that it doesn't get in the way and cause problems.
If the heel on the boot you're looking at doesn't fall within the ideal height range, you may want to reconsider the purchase. The boot may not meet your needs as a rider, and may even put you in danger.
Riding boots come in many different materials. They can be made with stiff or soft leather, synthetic leather, canvas, rubber or other materials.
Riding boots endure a lot of stressful situations. Before deciding on a specific product, ensure the material it's made with is tough enough to withstand wear and tear and provide protection against the elements. You don't want wet feet or boots that fall apart after only a short time of use, especially if you're buying a high-cost pair.
For example, leather is generally the costliest but most popular material for riding boots. Leather boots also require the most care. On the other hand, synthetic leather and rubber boots need less attention, cost less and are usually waterproof. However, they may not breathe very well, causing discomfort.
Typically the lowest cost option, cotton canvas boots can offer excellent comfort and easy maintenance. But they look casual and wear down fastest of any boot type.
The style of boot you choose typically depends on your riding discipline. English and Western riders wear different types of boots. The boots are developed to meet the needs of those disciplines and the associated riding gear, such as saddle type.
If you're a beginner, it's best to stick with an adaptable style of horse riding boots, like jodphur boots, which can be worn for both English and Western riding. Alternatively, riders who compete in events like jumping may prefer a field boot due to its flexible design, everyday comfort and acceptably formal appearance.
For those who plan to compete in dressage, dress boots are most suitable. These riders may even choose a dress boot with a Spanish cut style, which means the outside of the boot is higher, reaching toward the rider's knee to give the boot some added flair.
Riding boots can be expensive, but buyers should remember that they are an investment. A good pair of boots should last for many years, supplying the rider with protection and comfort while riding.
And while the cost may be relatively high on average, riding boots are available at prices amenable to a wide range of budgets, especially with payment plans and other considerations. With a little searching, most shoppers should be able to find a boot that works well for their riding discipline, even when the budget is tight.
It is best to buy riding boots from a reputable retailer or website to ensure that you get a quality product.
The Best Places to Find Boots
Most riders buy boots online or at a local tack shop. Online shopping usually has an advantage over in-person shopping when it comes to price. Buyers can often find deals online that may not be available in shops. In addition, there is a much wider selection to choose from online.
When shopping for a new pair of boots in person, the significant benefit is the ability to try the boots on. It's best to try several different styles and brands to find the most satisfactory fit. Be sure to ask the salesperson for help choosing the right size and style for your needs, and don't be afraid to take them for a test ride.
The Best Horseback Riding Boots
Below you can see our recommendations.
The Ariat Ascent Tall Boots are made with high-tech synthetic fabric. The Ariat boots feature an inner leg panel made with a high-grip material and a full-length zipper up the back to make putting the boots on and taking them off easy. The manufacturer has also included Pro Performance insoles for all-day comfort.
They're designed to provide breathability, stability and a contoured fit. They also give riders plenty of flexibility and even fold for storage.
These boots are appropriate for the show ring or training and are designed for women.
As far as quality show boots go, these are available at a decent price point and should last a long time.
Made with a combination of extra-soft and full-grain leather, these Orion Long Boots have an attractive design and a flexible feel. Their ultra contoured fit, partially due to a stretchy rear elastic band and a lace-up front, increases comfort and allows riders to achieve good contact with the horse.
These easy-to-maintain boots work well for competition, especially jumping.
With a relatively high price point, advanced riders will most likely prefer these boots over beginners, who may want a more budget-friendly option.
The Cavallo Linus Slim Jumping Boots have a stylish look and a relatively tight fit, moulding around the rider's foot, ankle and leg. They have a soft calf outer and grip leather panel inside. Wearers also enjoy breathability with a cow leather inner that encourages airflow.
Padded heel protection and removable, anatomic insoles enhance comfort and prevent aching feet, while a back zip makes getting the boots on and off easier.
These unisex boots come at the highest price point of any on this list, but they're made with quality materials and include high-end features for serious equestrians.
The Baxter Appaloosa Boots are adult boots specifically meant for men. Made with full-grain leather and a durable rubber sole, they are a long-lasting and attractive boot with a rich brown colour.
These short jodhpur boots are practical for riding and stable wear and effortlessly pull on and off.
They are also available at a great price point, which is suitable for just about any budget.
Boot Options Exist for Riders of All Types
While the above horseback riding boots are some of our favourite options, many other brands and styles of boots are available, all with varying features and designs.
For example, ropers are a popular boot for Western riders. And muck boots and country boots are often ideal for colder weather and work around the barnyard or corral.
Getting the Right Fit
When choosing a pair of riding boots, it is vital to get the right fit. Boots that are too tight will be uncomfortable, and too loose boots may slip off or get in the way while the rider is in the saddle.
Measure the calf circumference at the widest point to get a good fit with tall riding boots. This will help you choose a pair of boots that is the right size for your legs. Most boot manufacturers also ask you to measure your height and know your normal shoe size to get the best fit for dress or field boots.
When you have all the necessary information, you can use the manufacturer's chart to order the precise size for you.
This sizing for short boots is typically much simpler. You usually only need to know your regular shoe size when buying short boots.
Once you receive the new boots, put them on and walk around. Make sure the boots fit comfortably. They should be snug but not too tight and should not pinch or rub in any areas. It's also essential to take a test ride in the boots to make sure they work well for their intended purpose.
How to Care for a Riding Boot
Riding boots can last for many years if adequately cared for, and care techniques vary based on boot materials. Keep in mind that the care involved is an important consideration when choosing the best horse riding boots for you.
To keep your riding boots in good condition, be sure to clean and polish them regularly, giving them special attention after each ride. Use a horsehair brush, sponge or cloth to remove any dirt or dust, and then apply an oil-free leather cleaner made specifically for cleaning riding boots. Remove the cleaner gently with water.
If the leather is drying out, you may also need to use a leather boot conditioner. An occasional polish may also help protect the boots from moisture and dirt while making them look shiny and new.
Synthetic leather and other materials need to stay clean and dry whenever possible, just like leather boots. If your synthetic riding boots get muddy or dirty, wipe the debris off by hand with warm water and a soft brush, cloth or sponge.
Make sure the boots are thoroughly dried after any cleaning and before wearing.
Rubber boots are generally easy to care for since they aren't susceptible to water damage. Simply remove any dirt or mud from the boots after using them on a ride or outdoors with a clean cloth and some water.
Nonetheless, rubber can dry out over time, like leather. So in addition to regular cleaning, you may need to use a rubber conditioner to keep your boots in good shape in a dry climate or sunny areas.
You should always follow the manufacturer's advice when cleaning and maintaining your horse riding boots, whether you've purchased high-end dress boots, rough-and-ready field boots or short paddock boots for use in the barn.
The Search for the Best Boots
Finding perfect riding shoes that check all the right boxes can seem like a daunting task. There are many types of boots to choose from, and they all have different features that make them best suited for particular purposes or styles of riding. However, with some research and consideration, most riders can find a great pair of boots that suits their needs.
To make the search more palatable, remember that appropriate horseriding shoes are an excellent investment for many riders. They are crucial for safety, promote comfort, and can even aid in better performance in competitions.