Question of the Week – Breaking in new riding boots


Field boot
Q: I recently purchased a new pair of field boots. I’ve been wearing them around the house and at the barn to break them in, but they still feel really stiff, and I have some shows coming up. Is there anything I can do to break them in faster? Also, they have a zipper up the back of the calf, and a friend told me they won’t drop in height as much as non-zippered boots do. Is that true?

A: Congratulations on your new boots! Though I’m sure they add some elegant flair to your turnout, I know firsthand how they can be a source of anxiety, frustration and outright pain until they’re sufficiently broken in.

One concern you have is the zippers and how they may affect the height of your boots. Field boots without zippers typically drop as much as two inches once they’re broken in. When zippers are added, they act somewhat like a stay or support to the boot leather. Fortunately, the zippers used in today’s show quality boots are more pliable than those from years past. Depending on your personal conformation and the original fit of your boots, your zippered boots should still drop about an inch.

Though you’re seeking tips on hastening the breaking in process, there aren’t many shortcuts. I suggest you avoid ideas like wearing your boots in the shower or soaking them with the hose. Both of these schemes claim to make the boots soften up and conform to your leg as they dry. You can, however, use a leather conditioner specifically made for riding boots. Read the label carefully and consult with a major tack store or the boot manufacturer if you’re unsure about the product. But applying some boot conditioner, and then wearing the boots for brief periods twice a day, will gradually break in the leather. Once your boots become bearable, apply some more conditioner and then go ahead and wear them to ride. Putting your boots to work will help them form to your leg, and you certainly need to get used to the feel of new boots before you wear them in a show. Just keep in mind that breaking in a new pair of boots is a rite of passage for every English rider. We’ve all been in your boots.

— Cindy Hale

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  1. The lady at the boot store told me to wet the boots with a mixture of rubbing alchol ands water, then take a golf ball, or back of the spoon, and push gentle outward where it needs to be fixed.

  2. Wow! I am having the same exact problem…I just started to ride in my boots and I have two big blisters on the backs of my heels (lol) but the leather tall boots with zippers do eventually form to your calf and foot and they have dropped about a half an inch already! Yay!

  3. A tip for tall boots that might be helpful is you can use heel riesers until they drop some. Also they make gel bands to help protect from rubing that causes blisters. I used both for my tall boots and they worked wonders. You can find them at your local tack stores usually.


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