Long Horse Riding Boots Buying Guide

Long Riding Boot Buying Guide

Most athletes and workers wear proper footwear for their job. It’s just as important to wear proper footwear when working around and riding horses. Good boots or shoes help protect your feet if they get stepped on and help prevent your foot from sliding through the stirrup should you fall off your horse when riding.

At EQUUS we have riding boots to suit everyone, including Women's, Men's and Children's, with top brands including Ariat, Mountain Horse, Busse and more!

How this guide is structured

This buying guide tells you everything you need to know about buying a pair of long riding boots including how to find the right ones for you, getting the right fit along with how to look after them, and more.

Be sure to bookmark this page - we'll update it from time-to-time so it's always got the latest information you need to make the right choice for you and your horse.

How to use this guide

You can either read it from top to bottom or click on the links below to go straight to the section you want. At the end of each section is a handy link that'll bring you back to the top. Know what you're looking for? Shop our full range of long riding boots here. And remember, it's free UK delivery on all orders at EQUUS, regardless of how much you spend!

If there's something you'd like us to add to the guide, get in touch and let us know. That way we can give you the information you need to get the most out of your riding.

Now, on to the guide!

What Not to Wear When Riding Find out what footwear you should be wearing to ride and why.
What do I Need to Consider When Buying Long Riding Boots? Find out what you need to think about before buying.
How Long Do They Last? Find out how long they last and how to make them last longer.
The Right Riding Boots for you Find out how to find the right boots for you.
How Do I Fit My Long Riding Boots? Learn how to get the right fit.
Breaking in your Long Riding Boots Find out the best ways to break in your boots.
Caring for your Boots Find out how to look after your boots.
When not to Wear Find out when not to wear your boots.
Pros and Cons Pros and Cons of Long Riding Boots
FAQ's Frequently asked questions about long riding boots
Closing Thoughts A summary of this guide

What not to wear when riding

Boots with thick or heavy treads, like hiking or climbing boots are unsuitable for riding, although they may be suitable for doing yard and field jobs. These boots tend to be wide, with a big boxy toe, which means they may get caught on the sides of the stirrup. They also have a lot of grip, which is good while you're hiking but will make it harder to slide your foot in and out of the stirrup.

Equally flip-flops, high heels, sandals, clogs, garden shoes like Crocs, and canvas running shoes have no place at the yard or in the saddle.

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What do I need to consider when buying long riding boots?

If putting your foot in the stirrup feels exciting and nerve wracking in equal parts, that’s a good indicator that what you wear matters to you. So, don’t let bad boots ruin your ride!

Safety: Riding boots must be closed-toed.  Whatever style you choose, the riding boot must have a small tread and a heel that is about 1 inch (2.5cm) to 1 ½ inch high. This will help prevent your boot from accidentally sliding through the stirrups and getting caught. Safety first!

Discipline: Your boots should match the type of riding you’ll be doing as each discipline will put unique demands on your footwear.

Material: Boots come in a variety of materials from leather to rubber. It goes without saying that leather boots tend to be much more expensive and require more care. If you opt for leather, the better quality the leather and better the construction, the more comfortable and the more expensive the boot will be. At Equus we have boots in a range of materials including Leather, Suede and Synthetic materials.

If you hunt or suffer from the cold, for example, you need something waterproof and possibly insulated.  The main problem with rubber riding boots is that they heat up, hold the moisture and can be really hard to get off, holding like a suction cup to your legs! They’re great though when the weather is wet or if you’re trying out horse riding to see if you like it.

Cost: Remember a good pair of boots is an investment, and with good care, should outlast the cheaper version by many, many years. Having said that horse riding can be an expensive hobby, so strike a balance between buying cheap boots that’ll break down in a year vs. spending your entire savings on a single pair of boots. There’s a happy middle ground somewhere, take your time to try to find it.

Style: This is last on the list for a reason. Style should never be your primary buying factor, but that doesn’t mean you have to have riding boots you loathe either. Find a style that make you feel good when you’ve got them on as this, believe it or not, will encourage you to ride better.

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How long do riding boots last?

One of the questions that riders have before making a purchase is how long a pair of new boots will last. A fair question. The theory that the more you pay for a boot, the longer they will last is not entirely true on its own. Price is only part of it when it comes to the life of a boot. The right boot needs to be matched to the right purpose. Anyone who has tried to loosen a Phillips screw with a knife knows that the wrong tool can make an easy job a tough one and ruin a perfectly good knife in the process. You need to match the right tool, i.e. the right boots, to the job, i.e. to the type of riding you’re going to be mainly doing. Horse riding boots are just like tools!

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The Right Horse Riding Boots for you

Long riding boots is a category that contains two main styles: field boots and dress boots:

Field boots, so called because they were traditionally worn by Army officers ranked "field grade", include laces on the front of the foot. They are designed to drop, soften and crease around the ankle to allow for the correct leg position while riding. The amount of drop depends on the softness of the leather and on the boot cut. This boot is more comfortable for riding with a highly flexed ankle with shorter stirrups for work over fences. Consequently, these are typically used for hunting, show jumping and cross country.

These stunning Laval Boots from Busse are a great choice, especially if buying boots online, they feature continuous polo lacing to adjust to the desired calf fit and are lined with a leather tongue for comfort. The Laval boot is available in a range of sizes with options for different heights and widths with a full size guide available to help you get the perfect fit. It comes in a choice of three beautiful colours, Brown, Black or Navy Blue!

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A favourite with many equestrians, is the Ariat Heritage Contour II Field Boots. Arguably the market leader in equestrian footwear, all Ariat boots make you look and feel like a pro in any of their footwear and this boot is no exception. The black is undoubtedly pure elegance in a very traditional style. 

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If, however, you're looking for a brown horse riding boot or a modern interpretation of a field boot, Mountain Horse took the market by storm with their field boot. The Mountain Horse Sovereign High Rider Boot on the left below rejuvenated in the Mountain Horse brand, so much so that the boot won the Horse and Rider Best in Test 2019 competition. The latest addition to the range, the Mountain Horse Sovereign Lux Riding Boot on the right below, demonstrates that they haven't lost their touch.

Mountain Horse Sovereign High Rider   Mountain Horse Sovereign Lux Riding Boots 

Dress boots, on the other hand, do not have laces and are commonly used by dressage riders. Often, they’re made of stiffer leather than field boots and are not designed to drop much or soften at the ankle. They should, however, stand high enough at the knee to create the illusion of an elegant, elongated leg in the saddle.

Riding boots can come in different materials including suede, leather, rubber or synthetic material. Synthetic boots are easier to care for and can just be wiped clean whereas leather boots need more care. Each boots offer a different look and style, take a look at our range here.

It is important to consider what you want from your boots, do you want some that will keep your feet warm throughout the winter, or some that will prevent your feet from getting wet? Take a look at our selection of thermal and waterproof boots. 

If you are looking for a waterproof riding boot the Ariat Bromont Pro Tall H2O Insulated Riding Boots are a great choice. They are made with a durable, waterproof, full-grain leather with a suede inner leg panel and a waterproof membrane construction. Perfect to keep your feet warm and dry. 

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The Mark Todd Fleece Lined Tall Winter Riding Boots will keep your feet nice and warm all winter. They are made from hard-wearing fleece lined Nubuck leather and have elasticated panels alongside a full length zip at the back for extra comfort and flexibility. Great if you are looking for a boot for the winter. 

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Do you want your boots for riding and competitions, or are you looking for something that you can wear round the yard too? It's important to get the right boots to ensure they don't get damaged. For example, your long leather riding boots are not really suitable for mucking out in, mud, manure and water can rot the stitching and dry out the leather. Take a look at our range of multipurpose riding boots that can be used round the yard or in the saddle. This includes the Ariat Coniston or the Busse Trodheim.

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How do I fit my long riding boots?

Before buying a pair of riding boots you need to know your measurements, here's how:

Before you begin, get a cloth tape measure, a pen and piece of paper so that you can write the measurements down.

Then follow these simple steps to measure:

1. Sit in a dining room chair with your feet flat on the floor and knees at a 90 degree angle.

2. For the boot width measurement, ask your helper to measure your calf around its widest point.

3. For the boot height measurement, ask your helper to measure from the floor to the back of your knee

4. Compare your calf width and height measurements to the brand’s riding boot size guide.

 

Note: Shoe size in long boots works in exactly the same way as shoe sizes.

How do I ensure that I get the right fit?

When you do the comparison with your measurements and the size guide, it’s highly probable that you won’t find an exact match. If there’s not a boot available with your exact foot size, calf and height measurement, you’ll need to consider the following options:

Go up to the next foot size: You may need to go up a foot size if the width or height is not available in your foot size. If this is just half a size, it may be bearable but a whole size might mean that your foot moves about in the footbed. The extra space in the foot can be taken up with an extra foot bed, gel sole or air cushion.

Go up to the next calf width: The calf of the boot needs to be tight enough so that it doesn’t drop too much too quickly. If you’re going for a boot with a zip, look for a width that’s as close to or a tiny bit over your calf width to avoid an undue stress on the zip.

Go up to the next height: Boot height is a matter of personal preference. Some riders prefer a very long boot, while others prefer a shorter boot. It’s usual to add 1 ½ to 2 inches to your height measurement for field boots. For a moderately stiff dressage boot, you’ll want to add 1 ¼  to 1 ½ inches.

The front of the boot should rise to the middle of your kneecap. If you cannot see the kneecap at all, the boots are too long. Initially the boots will be uncomfortable behind your knee and will crease slightly at the top as you bend it. This will be most noticeable and uncomfortable for your first few rides.

What else do I need to think about to increase my chances of getting the right size and fit?

There are some basic principles that, if followed, will mean that you've more chance of getting the right fit first time, thus saving you hassle and time so you can get on with your riding.

Get a friend to help: ask a friend to measure you rather than trying to be a contortionist yourself, you’ll get a more accurate measurement.

Never guess: Have you said this: Yeah, my legs are pretty normal. I must be a regular width and height” or “My calves aren’t that fat, so I’m definitely not a wide fit”

Every brand differs: A lot of people don't realise it, but each brand of boot has a slightly different size guide. Check the sizer guide of each brand of boot that you look at. If you’re buying online, make sure you get the UK sizes and measurements.

Wear your riding gear: If you measure the width of your calf wearing jeans and thick socks or bare legs, you won’t get the correct measurement if you’re going to be riding in breeches and riding socks.

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Breaking in your long riding boots

Breaking in long riding boots can be a pain—literally. The backs of the knees and ankles are especially susceptible to blisters until the leather “drops” and softens.

Keep in mind that not all boots need to be broken in. Dressage boots, for example, are not supposed to soften at all. If they break in at all, it will be minimally at the ankle. Field boots, however, are quite different and can be expected to drop noticeably.

Patience is required as it can take some time. However, there are a few things you can do to help speed the process along. These include:

Wear them for short periods: Put your long riding boots on just for short amounts of time at first. Wear them around the house or even for a walk. Depending on how stiff your tall boots are, you’ll be able to wear them for longer and longer amounts of time. If you feel the boots rubbing or blistering your skin, take them off to give your legs and feet time to recover. You don’t have to break your long riding boots in in one single marathon session. If you take the time to break them in gradually, you’ll be more comfortable – and able to walk the next day. A fair amount of time may be required to break them in, so plan accordingly.

Heal lifts: Insert heel lifts into the soles of your boots as this can give you the temporary added height that you need to minimise the amount that the boot digs into the back of your leg as you break it in. It’s generally recommended to buy boots that are taller than you need them to be. While this accounts for the fact that most long boots drop as they break in, it can also make initially wearing them very uncomfortable.

Mimic the feel of riding: Stand on the edge of the stairs, facing up, and drop your heels over the edge of a stair tread. This will mimic the heels-down feel of riding and begin breaking in the boots at the ankle.

Leather conditioner: Liberally apply leather conditioner to your boots to the ankle area where the boot needs to drop. You can also apply it to the top of the boot where it sits behind your knee but be careful as the conditioner will stain your breeches if you apply too much. Repeat this process as you break your long boots in. The trick to breaking in long boots is to get the boots to soften up enough to mould to your legs.

Socks: Wear good quality socks when you start breaking in your boots that offer you plenty of protection otherwise you’ll get rubs and blisters.

Oil your tack: Keep your saddle and girth well oiled, if they’re leather. Once you ride in your boots, the motion of your leg will work the oil from your tack into the parts of the boot that come in contact with it, suppling them as you ride.

Boot Stretch: Apply a boot stretch spray to the ankles of your boots

Professionally stretched: Consider having your boots professionally stretched if you still can’t feel your toes after trying all these tips!

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Caring for your boots

How well you look after your boots will determine how long they will last, i.e. if you look after them properly, they will last longer. Here are some tips that will help

Leather cleaners and conditioners: Use oil-free leather cleaners or conditioners that are made specifically for boots. Horse riding boots are made out of "polished" or "finished" leather, which is different from the type of leather used to make saddles, bridles and work boots. Many regular leather-care products, such as saddle soap, are too harsh for boot leather. Some contain oils, which can cause stretching and leave a residue that permanently dulls the finish. Use a cleaner that is designed specifically for boots, rather than using a tack cleaner.

Keep your boots as clean and dry as possible: This is obviously no simple task, given the naturally dirty conditions of where you’ll be wearing them! As soon as possible after every ride, wipe the dirt and sweat off your boots with a damp cloth or sponge. To avoid scratching the fine surface, always use soft sponges, cloths and brushes (horsehair bristles are the  best) in gentle motions on your boots. Never scrub! Use as little soap as possible to clean your boots. If plain water doesn't lift off all the dirt and sweat, use a soft, damp cloth or sponge to apply boot-leather. Lather well and then rinse thoroughly, using just enough water to remove the soap and dirt, but not so much that you soak the boots. 

To soften any dry areas, apply a thin layer of boot leather conditioner while the leather is still wet. To get a good shine, buff your riding boots with a clean, soft rag after the polish has soaked in. 

Occasional polishing is good for preserving the finish, but don't overdo it. Excessive polishing leads to a build-up over time on the leather.

Store your boots properly: When you take your boots off, put boot trees in them to maintain their shape. Once your boots have “aired” store them in a well-ventilated room, away from direct sunlight or other sources of heat or moisture. When they’re completely aired, put them in a boot bag.

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When not to wear

Mud, manure and water can rot the stitching and dry out the leather. So, don’t use your lovely long riding boots to turn out or muck out in. Make sure to change into something that is fit for this purpose. If you are looking for a boot that is suitable for both then take a look at our range of multipurpose  long riding boots. 

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Pros and Cons of Long Riding boots

Pros

  • Professional look in most disciplines.
  • No additional accessories (like half chaps or gaiters) required.
  • Long boots support your leg position.
  • Improve your stability while riding.

Cons

  • Generally, more expensive than short boots.
  • Can be uncomfortable before they are broken in.
  • Harder to find the right fit.
  • Require more maintenance.

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Frequantly Asked Questions

Q1. Can I wear trainers when horse riding?

Trainers are not ideal when horse riding as they do not provide a lot of support and protection, they also do not have the recommended heal that riding boots should have to prevent for foot from falling through the stirrup. They also have laces which can get caught onto your tack.

Q2. Can I ride in country boots?

Some country boots are suitable for riding however some are not. Country boots that are not suitable may not have a small heal or have a chunky sole with too much grip which could prevent your foot from coming out of the stirrup if you were to fall off, which could cause you to be dragged by the horse.

Q3. How do I stop my new boots hurting the backs of my knees?

Long boots will drop between ½ inch to 1 ½ inches in length, this may mean that they are slightly long to begin with and can be sore when breaking them in. The more you wear the boots the quicker they will break in, to help you could wear long socks the come up over the boot or you can buy heel raisers which lift up your heel and prevent the boots from digging into the backs of your knees.

Q4. What does it mean if my boots are under warranty?

Warranty is a promise given by the manufacturer or retailer to cover various defects and repairs over an allotted amount of time. This, however, is not a guarantee against normal wear and tear. Nor does it apply to a product that has been damaged by misuse, accident, modification or unauthorised repair.

Q5. What do I do if my zip or laces brake?

If your zip or laces brake you may want to check if they are covered by warranty, you can do this by looking on the manufacturers website or by contacting them. You can buy replacement laces and lace them yourself or send them to a cobbler who will be able to replace them and do any necessary repairs such as a zip replacement.

Q6. Why do my riding boots need to be long?

Long riding boots protect your legs from being pinched by the stirrup leathers, it is possible to ride in short boots but it will be much more comfortable if they are used with half chaps or gaiters to protect your legs.

Q7. Are wellies suitable for horse riding?

Wellies are not ideal for horse riding as they often have a chunky sole that could cause your foot to get stuck. They also do not provide a lot of support.

Q8. Do riding boots stretch?

Leather riding boots can be stretched slightly in order to get the perfect fit. But stretching them too much especially all at once could damage the integrity of the boot and make them more likely to wear down over time. There are a few ways to stretch your boots, but the best and safest way is to send them to a professional.

Q9. How do I clean my long riding boots?

Regularly give your boots a thorough cleaning and conditioning to keep them looking good and to help them last longer. Start by removing dirt, manure and sweat off with a damp sponge, apply a boot cleaner and then conditioner, be careful not to use too much on your boots.

Q10. Are my long riding boots waterproof?

Some riding boots are waterproof, make sure to check the manufacturer’s description, however getting leather too wet can damage the leather and cause your boots not to last as long.

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Closing Thoughts

Any boot that is safe is ok to ride in, your boot must be closed toed, have a small tread and a heal that is around 1 inch tall to prevent your foot from slipping through the stirrup. However a pair of horse riding boots will be more comfortable and help your performance. Riding boots can be expensive so it can be tempting to buy the cheapest option but you need to make sure that you find the right ones for you. Once you have found your perfect pair, if you look after them correctly, you will get years of use.

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Author

Kim Horton

Co-Founder of EQUUS and a keen equestrian, when Kim's not at her desk she's with her horse, Waldo.

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