Confident Cowboy Boot Shopping

Understanding boot fit, style preferences and purpose will help you select a new favorite pair.


Line of Cowboy Boots in a Store

Cowboy boots are essential for western riders. Fresh boot companies offer innovative designs; existing brands are standing by their traditional way of boot making or are evolving to perfect their current kicks.

It’s easy to quickly become overwhelmed by choices when browsing for a new pair of cowboy boots. If you want to simplify the shopping process, you’ll need to educate yourself on sizing, styles and purpose for different boots.

A Perfect Fit

Fit is first and foremost when selecting the right boot. If a pair of boots are uncomfortable, chances are you’re wearing the wrong size. Jaylin Ramer owns Planet Cowboy, her own boot line and boutique boot store in Nashville, Tenn. She carries a variety of high-end brands and educates her customers on boot fit before diving into appearances. Ramer says to start with the basics and look at your current sneaker size.

“I always recommend going with a larger size. I think a lot of people wear their shoes and boots too tight. You want plenty of room by the toe and want to be able to wiggle your toes,” Ramer says. “If the boot feels a little snug at the instep (the top of the boot covering your foot), it means you have a high instep. That will stretch over time. But if you’re feeling tight at the heel and your heel is not coming up [when you walk], you usually need to go up a size. For me, what’s paramount is comfort.”

Cowboy Boot Styles

Which boot style is right for you? There are two main factors that create the shape of a boot: height and toe shape. The height of a boot is called the shaft and is measured from the bottom of your foot to the top of the boot (not including the heel). The three basic toe shapes are round, square and snip.

From there, individual boot brands will offer different variations of these. The heel of a boot can also alter the overall shape, but this remains the most consistent from brand to brand.

Shane Holman is the Director of Global Western Trends at Ariat International and an accomplished barrel racer. She spends a lot of time in cowboy boots. Holman encourages shoppers to look at the shape of a boot’s toe and decide what catches their eye.

“The first thing to decide is your toe shape. This depends on the occasion, your outfit and personal style.”

A narrower toe shape—such as a round, almond or snip toe—is always fun for a date night or a country concert, says Holman.

Options for color combinations, prints, inlays, stitch patterns, designs and embellishments— such as Swarovski crystals or metal studs—are endless. How you wear a boot can impact the statement it makes.

If you allow your jeans to cover the shaft of a boot, the look is less dramatic. On the other hand, tucking your jeans into the boot or wearing a dress calls immediate attention to the boots.

Shortie or ankle style boots are fashion-forward. They should remain comfortable but often have a higher heel since they are not designed with riding in mind.

Ramer says selecting the appearance of a boot should be based on the occasion and appeal.

“If you love bright colors, go for it. Sometimes people just want a red boot. Tan, brown or black are great basic boot colors for everyday wear.”

The Right Boots for the Job

Both Ramer and Holman note that square toes are always a popular option for riding. If you’re searching for a boot that can be dual purpose for riding and going out, a narrower square toe or round toe is ideal, Holman suggests.

“You can choose a narrow or wide square toe, depending on comfort and style,” she says.

It’s important to consider what kind of elements you will be exposing your boots to when deciding on a color and material, explains Ramer. When picking out a boot that will be solely be worn for fashion detailed embellishments, light-colored stitching and leather is fine. However, a true barn boot is best in a darker hue.

“Some of these fashion boots, like the white, are going to get dirty pretty quickly,” Ramer notes. “An oiled boot is great for riding and enduring grime.”

Selecting the right boot is all about fit. From there, it becomes personal. While there are traditional shapes and colors embraced for function, don’t be afraid to wear whatever you fancy.

RAQUEL LYNN is a blogger and urban equestrian based in Southern California.

This article about how to buy cowboy boots appeared in the April 2021 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

Boot Styles

Tall and Brown Cowboy Boots
Snip toes and fashion-forward colors and materials are perfect for date night or line dancing. Planet Cowboy The Beave; $295.00









Tall and Green Cowboy Boots
Boots with a tall shaft look great with skinny jeans or dresses. Ariat Casanova Western Boot; $259.95









Square-toe boots are great for riding and all-around wear. Durango Arena Pro Women’s Dark Bay Western Boot; $186.00









Shortie boots are purely for fashion wear and are very on-trend right now. Liberty Boot Co. 42 Muertos Pink and Orange Cuties; $1,295.00



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