The first question you need to ask yourself is, “what kind of riding boots do I need?” Whilst all riding boots are, by definition, suitable for riding, many riding boots are specifically designed for particular disciplines…
Riding boots for showing largely split into two groups – Show or Dress Boots, and Field Boots. Riding boots sold as Field Boots are distinguishable by the laces at the ankle, which are often ‘faux’ and serve no real purpose, other than aesthetic. Riding boots sold as Show, or in the US ‘Dress’ boots, are altogether plainer – and either style of riding boots may, or may not have spur stops to the back ankle.
Other riding boots on the market are general riding boots, often referred to simply as ‘riding boots’ they make no distinction as to their general purpose and so are often used for hacking, trail riding or general yard work. Other riding boots fall into the category ‘Country Boots’ however; it is always worth checking that a Country Boot is wearable as a riding boot because some have soles that are too chunky to ride in – you may need to at least get wider stirrups to wear them, and should have at least 1cm clear either side of your riding boots’ sole. Most ‘Yard Boots’ can be worn as riding boots provided they have a small heel, which prevents the foot from slipping through the stirrup leading to the rider potentially being dragged following a fall.
Of course, not all riding boots are long (or ‘tall’ to ladies in the US and Canada); Some riders prefer to wear short riding boots with a pair of half-chaps or gaiters which look like a long riding boot, but have more flexibility of fit. And of course, by wearing short riding boots the rider has the choice to wear their riding boots with a lightweight, or mesh, half-chap in the summer, and something thicker or thermal, in the Winter.
Short riding boots on the market include Paddock Boots, which support the ankle and have laces to the front; Jodhpur Boots are the most popular riding boots as they are slip-on with no additional fastenings – and their thin sole allows for a good ‘feel’. Another name for this style of riding boots is ‘Dealer Boots’ which are basically the same riding boot style, with a slightly thicker sole. You may also see Trainers sold as riding boots these days and they have just a small adaptation to make them safe to be sold, and worn as riding boots.
Wellies, or Wellngton Boots to give them their proper name, rarely make for good riding boots. They rarely have any zips or fastenings which means they have to be a loose fit – this makes them unsuitable as riding boots as the foot slips about inside – and if you rotate your foot to ease aching, they will very likely drop off – I have experience of this…and the subsequent 40 minute search for a wall/ boulder/ gate /mound high enough for me to remount after stopping to retrieve them from the B6273 in Yorkshire!
There is a curious misnomer amongst manufacturers of many riding boots, which is that people with larger feet also have larger calves…this is nonsense! Whilst there IS correlation between foot size and leg LENGTH there is nothing to suggest a relationship between foot size and calf WIDTH. This is why Fuller Fillies riding boots come in all three widths for every foot size!
Lastly, I would like to talk briefly about ‘Waterproof’ riding boots; only Wellies are truly waterproof as they are made from molded rubber – and as I said previously, they are not suitable as riding boots! Many riding boots have a waterproof membrane, which is sandwiched between the outer fabric and the lining; if there is no zip the membrane is basically like a plastic bag that will repel all water away from your leg – however this may lead to the outer fabric of your riding boots becoming water logged…and if the outer fabric of your riding boots is leather or suede, whilst your leg will remain dry, the leather will quickly rot if you splash merrily through puddles and streams whilst wearing them!
To be safe, and not risk diminishing the manufacturer’s guarantee on your riding boots, you really need to confine them solely to riding.