Purchasing a pair of boots is an investment. Boots can last years if you take care of them and purchase the right kind.
There are a few things to look into when shopping for boots:
Function - Search for boots made specifically for riding. They offer more protection than a fashion boot. The heel, toe box, and tread of riding boots are designed to help with grip, feel, and movement. Riding boots should be snug and allow the rider to feel the horse from the knee down, without pinching ("My Best Tips").
Discipline - Paddock boots are for schooling only, unless you are a young child showing. Otherwise, showing requires tall boots. There are two types: field and dress. Field boots are used in jumping disciplines. An easy way to identify that the tall boots you're interested in are field boots is to see if they have laces. (Drum)
Cost - Figure out your budget before you go shopping. And don't forget to think about who you're shopping for. Kids outgrow boots fast. At their age, there is no need to invest in a pair of high quality, expensive boots.
Material - either leather, synthetic, or rubber. Leather boots require the most care and are expensive, but will mold to your leg better. It's important to consider your needs. Would you benefit from something insulated or waterproof (Horton)?
Type - related to discipline. Do you need paddock boots or tall boots? Will they be used everyday for schooling or do you need something to show in? Tall boots are usually only worn when showing. Most riders wear paddock boots when riding at home. They are cheaper than tall boots, and easier to get on and off.
Style - The least important, these are the features that matter the most to you. Commonly it's laces versus zippers. Try on both, comfort matters. Zippers make putting on tall boots much easier. Without them, you need boot pulls and a boot jack. However, it's harder to repair a broken zipper than laces ("My Best Tips").
How to Determine Fit: It's important to get a good fit since riding boots should conform to your leg to help with aids. For paddock boots, they fit similarly to everyday shoes. Make sure you are wearing your riding gear when you go try them on. Now, if you're looking at tall boots, I'd recommend getting an associate to help you. They will need to know your calf width, calf height, and foot size. Because tall boots are designed to conform to your leg, the associate will recommend a boot taller than your calf height to account for the drop in height that happens as they soften. (Horton)
Breaking in: This applies more to tall boots, but paddock boots still require breaking in. The process of the boots softening, creasing, and conforming to your leg is called "breaking in". With tall boots, some have described this as "excruciating", but they could have been being a touch dramatic. To break in riding boots, wear them for short periods of time. Conditioning your boots will help speed the process as it softens the leather. Putting your boots on and doing extended heel drops on stairs will also help. Make sure to wear good socks to prevent blisters. For harder breaking in, you can use boot stretch spray (Horton).
Cleaning your boots: Keep your investment in great shape! Keep boots dry and clean as much as possible in a barn. That means wiping them down with a damp sponge after every ride. To avoid scratching, never scrub or use hard brushes on them. Never soak your boots or allow manure to stay on them. You don't want the stitching to rot. Make sure to use leather cleaners made specifically for boots since the leather used on your boots is different than the type used on tack. Lastly, store them properly with boot trees, if necessary, and in a cool, dry place to air out. Once dry, store them in a boot bag (Horton).
Paddock Boots versus Tall Boots:
- Paddock Boots: functional daily shoe, easier to fit, cheaper. Can be worn with half chaps if rider wants calf protection. But, can't be worn in shows (unless you are a young child).
- Tall Boots: Professional looking, supports leg position, improves stability. But, more expensive, harder to break in, harder to find the right fit, and require more maintenance (Horton).
Drum, Michelle. “7 Best Horse Riding Boots.” Farm House Tack, www.farmhousetack.com/blogs/barn-blog/7-best-horse-riding-boots.
Horton, Kim. “Long Horse Riding Boots Buying Guide.” EQUUS, www.equus.co.uk/blogs/buying-guides/long-horse-riding-boots-buying-guide.
“MY BEST TIPS FOR BUYING RIDING BOOTS FOR BEGINNERS.” Equestrian Headquarters, www.equestrianheadquarters.com/best-riding-boots-for-beginners/.