On the Hunt for Riding Boots

1 Feb

In 2011, I bought a pair of brown leather boots in the fall, and I have worn them like crazy ever since. But last Friday after work, I couldn’t unzip my left boot past my ankle. Upon closer inspection, the zipper teeth had gone off track around there, resulting in a sort of zipper gap. This is embarrassing, but I am not kidding that my first thought was, “What am I going to wear tomorrow?!” This is the degree of my boot dependency. Fortunately, my husband was able to Google his way to zipper quasi-repair, and they are wearable. For now.

My shoe guy said that for boots that aren’t real equestrian boots, it makes more sense to replace the boots instead of replacing the zipper, in terms of cost. Bluh. So, the working plan is to find a pair of boots while mine are still serviceable, but if they don’t make it through the cold season, I will need a back-up pair ready to jump into action. Here are my rigid, probably impossible-to-meet criteria:

  • Brown: my boots are dark brown, and I’m wary of anything straying toward camel, caramel, cognac, or just “too red,” as determined by my subjective, ineffable gut reaction.
  • Knee-high: but not over the knee. My current boots have 15-inch shafts.
  • Real leather: I’ve gone cheap in the past, but I went with real leather with my current boots, and I love them so much more. Plus, at the end of the season last year, I got them shined for a whopping $6, and they looked awesome.
  • Full-length zipper: in my experience, this is usually the killer criterion, but I can’t squash my fatted calves (plus jeans or leggings or socks) into anything without a full zipper. This might explain how the zipper in my current pair bit the dust, ahem, even though my ankle area is not particularly girthy.
  • Fairly low heel: I think my maximum heel height is an inch. I want them to function as flats in terms of comfort and long-wearability, even if they aren’t technically flats.
  • Low-profile sole: I don’t want anything too rubbery, thick, or “work boot-y,” to employ a technical term.
  • Price: Right now I’m thinking $200, or maybe $250 maximum.
  • Free shipping and returns: this is not my first riding boot rodeo, people. I will not be able to do this without buying a dozen pairs and sending all of them back.
  • Minor embellishment (optional): I value versatility over uniqueness, but there comes a point when a boot just looks kind of utilitarian. I’d like to avoid that if possible, but I do not want to be jingling my way down the hall at work because of zipper pulls and buckles or whatever else kind of crap gets slapped on boots these days.

Here are the contenders so far (in order of increasing price), but I’m not completely sold on any of them:

  1. Nine West Nightskies ($142.99): These might stray into the “too red” spectrum of browns.
  2. Steve Madden Saviorr ($149.95): I like the ruching, but are all the embellishments too much? I do like it, though.
  3. Enzo Angiolini Soricelli ($157.99): Not totally sure about that silver buckle thing, and is the leather too shiny?
  4. Aldo Gricia ($170): I tried these on at the mall this week, and I liked them more than I expected to. They’re lined with fleece! Would that be too toasty for normal wear?
  5. Corso Como Rena ($189.05): Pretty much what I’m looking for, but the heel looks a smidge high. I’d still probably try it.
  6. Ecco Hobart Buckle ($230): I like the buckle detail here, and you can adjust the calf width. Does anyone have experience with this brand?

And … that’s it. I know that if I spend more money, I’ll get a better product, but seeing $400 Fryes makes me want to vomit, even though this is basically my Platonic boot ideal. Okay, I just clicked back there and gasped sharply at the price yet again. I can grasp intellectually that buying those once makes more sense than buying cheaper, lower-quality boots more often, but gaaah, that price. Is it really worth it? If I get the Really Nice Boots, do I never have to buy boots again? What kind of shelf life can an aggressive boot wearer expect?

In addition to the mall, Zappos, and Shoes.com, I’ve looked online at Nordstrom, Piperlime, and the unfilterable morass that is Amazon. Oh, how I miss Endless! Any recommendations for other shoe sites? Or brands? Or a specific boot style?

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8 Responses to “On the Hunt for Riding Boots”

  1. Sarah February 1, 2013 at 8:25 am #

    Consider the Fryes. They are *the* most comfortable pair of boots you can purchase. If you can wait, you can snag them from Bloomingdales when they have their friends & family sale.

  2. Erica February 1, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    I have a pair of not fryes that are beautiful and comfortable and I’ve had them for years. I got them at a 60% off sale at a little boutique. Shouldn’t boots be going on sale soon?

  3. N February 1, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    Godspeed, RA. Although I do have better luck finding brown boots I love than black (obviously.) There is hope for you yet!

  4. Anna February 2, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    Check DSW! I have these http://tinyurl.com/a5lb9qp and I LOVE them. My criteria was very similar to yours and these fit the bill. The heel isn’t nearly as high as it looks. The price definitely didn’t hurt either. However, I’m not sure if they’re 100% real leather.

    • RA February 4, 2013 at 10:38 am #

      Ooh, nice find! I ordered a bunch of boots in a panicked frenzy when my boots died for real last week, but I will keep these in mind for sure.

  5. Chrissie February 5, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    I am the same way as far as having a rigid criteria for things I love goes (and have just been going through a similar journey on the hunt for a new leather crossbody bag), so I know exactly how you feel. The Frye boots are definitely beautiful, and I would imagine would be worth it in the long run as long as you plan to keep them for years, which it sounds like you would. But I also second the recommendation for checking out DSW. I bought my b.o.c. boots from them, and believe I got free shipping plus cash back from ebates – plus, if you have a store near you, you can return them there with no problems. I currently have these in brown, which I love: http://ow.ly/hr6X4. They may be a bit casual based on your criteria and photos of the boots you’re checking out, but I can attest that they are super comfortable. You could even look into Born boots (which b.o.c. is a less expensive imprint of), as I’ve heard those are great as well. Maybe you could even find a cheaper pair of boots to hold you over while you save your pennies for the Fryes? Best of luck with your search, and I’m looking forward to seeing what you find!

    • Chrissie February 5, 2013 at 10:31 am #

      Oh, one other note: if you have a Nordstrom Rack near you, check them out to see if you can find a pair of Fryes that are marked down. You never know!

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