These days, the most popular type of riding boot is a long boot although some children will ride in short jodhpur boots until they are older and this is the correct turnout for the show ring.
Long riding boots come in many shapes and sizes. They are usually divided into a one-piece full-length boot which can be either laced or zipped or one without any of this-just a plain, fixed boot. The other option is a short boot combined with a zipped chap or gaiter. Chaps can be suede or leather finish and are often sold with the short boot to make a pair although there is nothing to prevent you from mixing products from different manufacturers. Some of these are very stylish and you wouldn’t know they were not a complete boot until the rider takes them off.
Zipped boots are the most popular of the long riding boots available nowadays, they are just so much easier to put on and quicker, rather than wrestling with boot pulls and the rigid calf and fixed ankle of a traditional boot. Because the leather by necessity tends to be softer, it is also much easier to find the right fit.
A short boot and chap is heaven sent for the rider with a less than normal size and shape. If you opt for a short boot which is separate to the gaiter, then you have all the choice in the world as to the style and design for the leg. With a traditional full boot with neither zip nor laces, it can be hard to find the range of shoe fittings and calf widths to work unless you are a very standard fitting. Splitting the boot and gaiter into two makes life so much easier.
Full-length black boots are still worn as correct dress across all the sporting disciplines and on the hunting field. Some competitive bodies permit a short boot and gaiter combination but you should always check the rule book for turnout requirements.
This stylish shaped boot from Kanada is designed to be the perfect partner both on and off the horse in all winter weather conditions.
They feature a sturdy foot which is comfortable enough to wear all day long on the yard but yet shaped to ride in, supported by an anatomically formed zipped leg with a faux fur lining designed to keep you warm in the coldest of conditions.
This synthetic boot is water resistant and has a completely waterproof sole. Easy to keep clean, they are so warm and cosy, you just won’t want to take them off.
Beautiful soft leather ensures a fabulous fit with these boots from well-known maker Rhinegold.
Stylish shaping with stitching and lace detail on the front makes them an eye-catching choice for competition.
Two pleated and elasticated sections in the calf panel with a zip fitting means not only are they incredibly easy to put on but they do not require any breaking in either so you are good to go as soon as you leave the shop.
The zip is designed to be user-friendly and is wide and flat with a smooth ride. Styled with rider comfort and ease in mind, these boots really look the part.
This is a great starter full-length synthetic boot with such a realistic leather look, you would never know it is not the real thing until you take a look at the price.
With all the waterproofing and easy to clean features of synthetic material, the HKM Ladies Riding boot is thoughtfully shaped to contour the rider’s leg and has elasticated inserts to ensure a simple and comfortable fit.
A spur support completes the look. This is a great boot with traditional styling, smart enough for competition, practical enough for everyday wear and the price tag means you won’t mind wearing them all the time
A practical boot from Rhinegold designed for a range of situations both on and off the horse. The synthetic material is described as P.U which means it has a non-peel feature, a criticism of some other synthetic boots.
Sturdy, smart and durable, the Nebraska has elasticated calf panels for ease of fit and comfort during long periods of wear and a well fitted robust zip. Clever reflective inserts on the heels are ideal for increased visibility if you are riding back in the dark.
Rhinegold has paid great attention to the join of the boot at the ankle to ensure there is no wearing in time and the boot is usable from the outset. Easy to clean, these boots will stay smart and comfortable all day long.
Offering some of the best insulation for your feet and legs in the coldest of weather, these boots are a fantastic option for rough tough conditions. Chunky yet stylish, the waterproof sole and thick inner lining give one of the best levels of insulation amongst any boot.
Fit couldn’t be easier with laces on the foot and Velcro straps on the calf allowing you to adjust the size depending on what you are wearing. A smart leather imitation finish completes the look disguising just how hard working and practical these boots really are. Easy to clean, the Alaska will always look good regardless of the conditions.
Things to Consider When Buying Long Riding Boots
- Think about the wear. Are they for daily use or competition?
- Do you want two pairs, one for best and one for every day bearing in mind you will only want to compete in boots which are worn in and comfortable?
- Do you want different boots for alternate disciplines, a fixed solid boot for cross-country and a softer shaped boot for dressage?
- Which style is easiest for you to take on and off?
- What type of socks are you going to wear? Those thick socks may be fine in winter but the boot may not fit so well during the summer when you wear something thinner. Always take with you the socks you intend to ride in when you go to buy your boots.
- Will you ride in jodhpurs or breeches? Breeches are deliberately much shorter and finish far higher up the leg so they will really affect the fit of a boot around the calf compared to full-length jodhpurs which can also have a thick cuff or turn up around the rider’s ankle.
- Consider the time of year as a thick pair of winter jodhpurs or breeches for a days’ hunting will be vastly different to a thin, lycra pair for hot summer days and will considerably affect the fit of any boot.
- A traditional full length fixed boot will need a period of time to break in. The leather needs to crinkle or ‘break’ at the ankle so these boots won’t necessarily feel comfortable or very easy to ride in for some time after purchase. Factor this into your riding plans.
- Budget. You might want a cheaper boot for daily wear but they probably won’t last as long. However, if you opt for a split boot and gaiter arrangement then you don’t always have to replace the entire thing making it much more economical.
Benefits of Long Riding Boots vs Short Boots
Whether a long boot or a short boot is best is unique to each individual rider and depends entirely on their circumstances and the type of riding they do.
The general principle seems to be that the more riding you do and of different types, the more pairs of boots you are likely to have. The best boot is whatever works for you and your riding life.
Types of Long Riding Boots
Long riding boots may be broadly divided into three types:-
- Zipped boots, the most popular type of boot currently. The zip is usually cleverly concealed with a small leather flap and this helps to protect it from fraying and damage. Zips do fail however and although they can be replaced, this always seems to be at the most inconvenient moment.
- Laced boots. The laces are either decorative so the laces are described as ‘dress’ or they are functional and actually used to secure the boot. Easy and quicker to replace than a broken zip, they are still second in popularity to a full length zipped boot.
- Traditional leather boots which you pull on with a pair of boot pulls.
Boots are most commonly black in colour although a full-length brown boot is popular in polo circles and sometimes in the show ring. Some boots may feature patent leather inserts or tops and some black boots have a brown leather band at the top.
Riding Boot Materials
Traditionally, long riding boots and short boots were always made of leather but nowadays, there are modern alternatives to this.
Synthetic materials are appearing more commonly as a choice for boot makers. They can give the appearance of leather at a fraction of the cost and some people opt not to wear leather on ethical grounds. Some boots look more matt than others, an earlier criticism of synthetic boots but they are now being produced with a shiny almost patent leather finish and are very hard to distinguish from the real thing. Synthetic boots are usually cheaper, often significantly so, compared to leather alternatives.
There is a range of synthetic, insulated boots which double up as a long yard boot and a riding boot. They are quite chunky to ride in and so you will need to check the size of your stirrup iron as many riders find they need a broader iron when wearing these boots. Whilst they are acceptable for daily wear and competition, they don’t look as nice as a more traditional fitted leather style and some disciplines exclude them. Some of these makes also feature a ridged sole for grip in wet or icy conditions on the yard. This is really not safe to ride in as the sole of any riding boot should be smooth to facilitate a quick exit of the foot from the stirrup in the event of a fall.
Types of Fit
The first decision to make is what type of boot would you ideally like to have. The most limited choice in terms of sizing will be a traditional, fixed boot so if you opt for a zipped or laced boot or short boot and gaiters, then there are usually a variety of options when it comes to fit and design.
Most long boots are sold by foot size and with no calf option but there will be a width fitting listed which roughly correlates with an average relative to the foot size. So if your legs are normal length and width for your foot size then a standard off the peg boot should fit you.
If there are different calf sizes available, these are commonly banded into slim, medium, wide and extra wide fittings supported by a range of different measurements.
If your legs are unusually wide or skinny then look at calf sizes carefully. Equally, you may be very short or tall although a child’s boot can solve the problem of the former. Your legs may not be proportional to your height – most boot makers work on averages so a boot that fits your foot and calf may still be either too long or too short in the leg. Boots which are too long will rub and chafe the back of your knee when you ride whereas boots which are too short look awful and can catch on the bottom of the saddle flap.
The fit is everything. A pair of boots that look the part but are not comfortable will be a chore to wear and could affect your riding. Most riders find a make that suits their legs and then stick with that manufacturer.
How to Measure Long Riding Boots for the Best Fit
The three key measurements for fitting long boots are your shoe size, calf width and the length of your leg between your foot and the back of the knee.
For the most accurate and useful results, it is best to sit in a chair and ask someone else to take the measurements for you. Sit straight in the chair with your knees at an angle of 90 degrees to your feet which should be flat on the floor.
Wear your jodhpurs or breeches and appropriate socks, the socks you would wear when you ride. Some people prefer long socks as it can make it smoother to put the boot on so wear what you intend to wear when you ride.
The calf should be measured with a soft tape at the widest point on your leg. Measure both calves as, like feet, they can vary. If you want a zipped boot, aim for a width that is just very slightly in excess of your calf size. Too snug a fit will put too much strain on the zip.
For the height of the boot and with your feet flat on the floor, measure from the floor to the back of your knee. As a rule of thumb, it is usual to add around one inch to the height measurement to allow for the bend in the boot at the rider’s ankle. Soft leather boots will drop more than a stiffer boot.
A ‘Spanish top’ is a curved and elongated cut to the outside of the boot. This style is popular with dressage riders but does not affect the height measurement as this extra portion is on the outside of the boot only.
The foot size should be your normal shoe size unless the boot is particularly shaped and narrow or you intend to wear much thicker socks.
Boots should fit snugly and feel slightly difficult to put on until the leather has stretched. Armed with your measurements, it is best to try on a range of different makes to find the one that fits best rather than choosing one manufacturer and trying to get a boot to fit from within their range.
The variation in quality of long riding boots depends totally on the source of the leather and how it has been prepared.
Always look carefully at the origin of the leather even if you are buying from a reputable UK brand. The best leather is English leather and if it doesn’t specifically state, ‘English leather’ then it probably isn’t. Avoid foreign imports. These boots are almost invariably made from cheaper poorer hides and because the leather is stained black, it is impossible to tell the quality as with black saddlery. Always buy English leather.
Best Long Riding Boots for Dressage
Most dressage riders prefer a softer shaped boot usually with a sculpted or contoured top known as a Spanish Top. Dressage saddles are designed with long girth straps and short Lonsdale girths with the buckles sitting much lower on the horse’s side. This is to promote the connection of the rider’s leg and the application of the aids. A softer leather boot helps the rider feel the sides of the horse in the way a stiff, more rigid boot would not.
Best Long Riding Boots for Hunting
The most popular type of field boot is a traditional full length stiff black hunting boot.
Hunting is a winter occupation so there is plenty of room for a thick pair of socks and even a pair of tights under the jodhpurs or breeches, an old trick to say warm on a bitterly cold day.
Hunting can be an unpredictable pursuit. A solid leather boot will protect your leg from scrapes on trees or gate posts and knocks and bangs in the event of a glancing blow from another horse or a fall.
Boots should be black although brown may be worn for autumn hunting as the correct attire is a tweed jacket or ratcatcher before the opening meet. Post opening meet in November, solid coloured jackets of navy or black are de rigueur with a smart pair of plain black boots. Black boots with the brown top are only appropriate attire for hunt staff.
Long Riding Boots FAQ
How should long riding boots fit?
Start with the foot. This may be your usual shoe size but some boots are quite narrow and tapered in style so you might want a wider fitting. The ankle should be snug and will feel quite tight in a stiff leather full boot until it breaks.
The calf fitting needs to be wide enough to accommodate the calf muscle and your leg should feel ‘gripped’ all the way up. If the boot is zipped, don’t make the mistake of having a fitting which is just too narrow and never ‘gives’ a little as you wear it. This will put a huge strain on the zip and it will fail quite quickly. New boots should feel stiff and slightly uncomfortable otherwise they are too big. The leather will ease and stretch in time.
How do you break in new long riding boots?
Don’t expect to ride in your new boots immediately unless they have elasticated inserts. Walk around in them for short periods of time. Be careful in the house as the underside of the sole will be intentionally very smooth so you could inadvertently slide on carpet. Walking up and down stairs helps to increase the movement of your joints and will help. Wear the boots for short periods of time. If you have a saddle horse, pop a saddle on and sit on it with your feet in the stirrups. Don’t forget to give them a good treatment with some leather balm or balsam. Old wives tales abound. Some suggest putting them in plastic bags and burying them up to their tops in a warm muck heap to make them malleable, others say wear them in a warm bath!
How do you stretch new boots?
You can buy a stretching spray. Stuff the boots with newspaper until they are taut and then spray liberally on the outside of the boot. Some saddlers and leatherworkers have a machine which can stretch the leather but they will need to measure your calves so they know how much more room you need.
How much do long riding boots drop?
On average, about an inch but it depends on the style of the boot and the type of leather so it could be a little more. For this reason, you should factor in an additional amount when you take measurements for the length of the boots.
What is that little ledge that sticks out on the back of some leather boots?
This is a spur support, it doesn’t feature on all boots but it helps to sit the spur in the right place for riders that wear them.
How long do long riding boots last?
Good quality boots that are well looked after, will last forever. Regular care such as cleaning, oiling and using boot trees will all promote the integrity of the boot and its longevity. Soles can be replaced and stitching renewed by a saddler or boot maker.
How do you clean long riding boots?
Wash thoroughly with saddle soap as you would do with your tack. This is an opportunity to check the boots over and examine any wear and the stitching so you can effect timely repairs. Every so often, treat the boots with a leather food or conditioning balm. Soft, supple leather will be less likely to crack and split and this will ensure a comfortable fit too.
Top Tips for Long Horse Riding Boots
- If you opt for a zipped pair then the zip will always fail at the worst possible moment. Keep another pair to hand especially in the lorry if you are out competing. In a real emergency, you can use bands of black gorilla tape wrapped around the boot to keep it in place. Even close up you can barely see it although you will need to be surgically removed from your boots once you dismount!
- The best boot trees are wooden ones, they are notoriously hard to find and very expensive when on sale. Hunt around in old junk shops, there is always a second-hand pair of hunt boots kicking around with the trees still in them. Buy them and use the trees for your own boots.
- If your boots get saturated after a day in the rain then screw up sheets of newspaper and stuff them inside the boot and well down into the foot. This will help absorb the moisture and speed up the drying out process. As with all leather, let it dry out naturally and at normal room temperature, do not overheat or place on or near heaters as you will damage the leather. Leather is designed to get wet. Clean the boots and feed the leather when they are dry.
Our Top Pick for the Best Long Horse Riding Boots
Our top pick has to be the Rhinegold Nebraska Synthetic Long Boot just for its sheer versatility and stylish good looks, this is truly a multi-functional boot which fits easily and doesn’t require any wearing in.
It is hard to choose just one pair of long boots not least because there are so many variations available across both leather and synthetic and, long boots do have to potentially fulfil so many different functions. The simple answer is to have more than one pair, a boot for each discipline and every season!