Buy at
Cowboy Boots at El Paso S...
Buy From

Thinking of a Pair of Cowboy Boots for Your Wrangler?
Make Sure They Fit!

Cowboy boots, together with the hat are the most identifiable part of the cowboy's or cowgirl's dress.

cowboy hat and boot

Like the remainder of the dress, the design of cowboy boots is functional.

Cowboys in the Southwest saw the boots used by Mexican vaqueros, whose riding attire had been inherited from the Spanish Conquistadors.

The narrow, pointed toe and the smooth leather sole allows the boot to slip quickly into the stirrup while the high heel prevents the cowboy's foot from sliding through. The extremely pointed toe is a 20th-century adaptation and is more of a statement of "style" than of practicality. A cowboy once remarked that the "very pointy" boots were excellent for stepping on a spider trapped in a corner but not good for much else.

For most riders either a slightly pointed boot or one with a rounded toe is fine but a slightly ponted does does make placing the foot in the stirrup easier.

The upper leather protects the leg from brush and thorns. Not having laces and not fitting tightly is intentional - a safety feature. In the event of a fall from the saddle, the foot is likely to slide out of the boot should the boot become caught in the stirrup.

Note: Boots fit tightly, and are not made for walking long distances.

But you can walk, and even dance, in a pair that are well broken in and of good fit.

No matter how comfortable they are, cowboy boots were not made for running, nor should they be worn while replacing shingles on a wet roof.

The first cowboy boot could be considered to have been produced in Texas by Joe Justin. The Justin became famous as a boot as the Stetson did as a hat. The Justin company is in operation today as is an offshoot, Nocona.

Just as cowboys originally wore whatever clothing, hats or boots that were available, it was during the cattle drives after the Civil War that the requirements for a good riding book began to take form. With the British Wellington, the boots worn by the vaqueros, and the U.S. Cavalry footwear as models, the American cowboy began to craft a boot meeting their own special needs.

The large mule-ear bootstraps aided in pulling them on. Both the shank and the heels got higher. Today heel height is typically from one to two inches. Toes were square edged or rounded.

Wrinkles on the vamp (the part that goes over the top of the foot) made the boot more flexible and comfortable. As boots were used not only in work but for dress, ornamentation became more and more fancy. As is the case with other elements of attire, like the cowboy belt buckle.

The movie industry influenced boot fashion (watch a Tom Mix or Gene Autry movie to get an idea).

There are good brand names available.. Companies like Justin and Nocona have been around a long time and provide a wide selection of boots in both lower and high proce ranges. Tony Lama and Dan Post are well known and respected bootmakers. Lucchese, not always as well known, provides excellent boots in the higher price range.

Of course if you are very fortunate, you may have a bootmaker in the neighborhood. Like the custom saddlemaker, the custom bootmaker's wares may come at a higher price, but a well cared for boot of highest quality can provide a lifetime of service.

A word of caution might be in order here. If you're buying "off the rack" check to see whether the sole and heel are of a single piece of material. You might want to avoid such a boot; our boot and saddle repair guy refers to the unified sole and heel boots as "disposables". Once the heel is worn down it can't be replaced. This might be OK for riding only but if you're going to be wearing them while working where the heel is more apt to get worn down it's probably best to avoid unified heel and sole boots.

Boot Sizes and Foot Measurement

If a pair of riding or cowboy boots is on your horse lover's gift list purchasing them from your local retailer gives you the greatest assurance of getting a proper fit (assuming of course they have the brand and/or style you're looking for). You're likely be here though because you don't have a retailer nearby or a wide enough selection to choose from or ordering over the internet is simply your best option.

Of course you'll want a pair that look sharp and/or are rugged enough for the task at hand - preferably both. Of equal importance, as is the case with hats and saddles, you want a good fit.

So, you have some options-

If you elect the 3rd or 4th option, measure the feet around mid-day. If you measure your feet first thing in the morning, the boots you buy will be too small; boots will stretch a bit (in width, not length), but not that much nor that quickly.

The most accurate way to measure the foot is using one of the measuring tools found in shoe stores which automatically provide the size information. If you don't have one of these around the house (who does?), just place the foot snugly between two blocks or bricks, and then measure the distance between the blocks (for both length and width). You don't get the size but like with the hat, it's the accurate foot measurement that's important here. (Hope you don't mind us repeating that).

Feet often differ in size, up to a half size difference. Order the larger size. If the difference is more than a half size you may need to purchase custom-made boots.

And, like cowboy hats, if you seem to be in-between sizes, go for the higher size. If cowboy boots are a little large you can do something about it ( like heavier socks), but if they are a tad too small, too bad.

Brands and Price Range

The "mass market" boots Justin, Nocona, and Tony Lama are generally of good construction as well as attractive. Unless you find a pair on sale, expect to pay $75 to $100 for a nicer pair. These brands are sometimes referred to as the cheaper brands but they are good brands. Justin and Nocona have been around a long time and Tony Lama has been with is for 40 years or more. They all have fine bootmaking down to a science. The Roper, by Justin, originally fashioned for rodeo use, continues to be the most popular "working" cowboy boot.

I'll make no specific recommendation except to say that I've been satisfied with the Justin Ropers and Nocoma mid-priced boots I've owned. One pair of my Nocoma's are approaching 20 years old and while they look it they're still servicable and very comfortable.

You can spend $200 or more for the above brands, particularly if you elect the exotic materials such as ostrich, alligator, or crocodile.

Dan Post and Lucchese boots are a step up in price, $200 and up although you may find a few styles closer to $100. If $500 to $1000 and up are within your budget, there are the custom boots.

A custom boot maker will almost always insist on having accurate foot measurements on hand before even considering starting construction of a boot. Also, with the custom boot maker, like the custom saddle maker, you may find yourself on a waiting list - but its probably worth it.

If you are considering a pair of custom made cowboy boots, three bootmakers who have established pretty fair reputations over the years are:

Visiting their web-sites will give you a good perspective as to what's involved in ordering custom-made cowboy boots on-line, and probably give you a warmer feeling that it can be done successfully.

However, if what you are looking for falls more in line with good old Dan Post, Tony Lama, Nocona or Justin, then we recommend you browse through SHEPLERS-The World's Largest Online Western Store They have a wide range of styles and sizes , and their customer service will be happy to help you should the need arise.

An Alternative for a Gift Idea

Art of the Boot Book
The Cowboy Boot

Boots take on a certain personality as they age and are often the most well-worn and personalized item a cowboy owns. If your horse lover is like me, he or she may have several pair of boots, one pair of which is definitely the most worn and tattered (and loved) and worn 95% of the time.

If this is the case, one of these books about boots might be as warmly received as another pair of boots. If you feel this might be the case, clicking on any of the titles will take you to the approprate page at Powells where you'll find more information.

The Art of the Boot by Tyler Beard is a guide to the artisans and manufacturers of America's classic footwear.

In David Stoecklein's The Cowboy Boot the photographs tell a different story for each pair. The text traces the evolution of the cowboy boot from its early influences to present-day fashion trends.

If you don't find an idea for a great horse lover's gift here there's always a Good Horse Book, an item of fine Equine Jewelry, or for something a little out of the ordinary see our Cool Ideas for Horse Lover Gifts page
- or pay a visit to our Gift Shop.

Back to Your Guide to Gifts for Horse Lovers Home Page