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Cowboy Boots Buyers Guide: 6 Tips to Find Great Western Boots

This is the Ultimate Cowboy Boots Buyers Guide for finding the most amazing pair of fine leather western boots in 2018.

And let me be crystal clear on this and say this is not just some lame blog post. 

This is the most in depth guide covering every single aspect of all things cowboy boots!

So if you are trying to learn all about leather cowboy boots, how to choose the perfect boots for you, where you can find them and what to look for so you don't get ripped off this page is all you need!

Lets dive right in:

Cowboy boots have long been part of our culture and are etched in our collective minds as footwear that are mostly used by people who live in the southwest. 

While this is true, it is also a fact that western boots and western fashion have become much more mainstream and "hip" in this day and age.

Today western boots for men and women come in so many styles, materials and fits that it is a difficult choice to make when looking to buy a new pair.


The first thing you should be aware of while searching for the best western boots is the way they are constructed and the different components that each boot has.

This knowledge will provide some great insight when you are comparing the different boots you look at so do your research well!

Below is a great description of the many parts of a traditional cowboy boot as well as a cool diagram that illustrates the different parts of a cowboy boot.

Read On:

The Many Different Parts Of A Cowboy Boot

If you have had the time and the desire to stare at a person's boots, then you may have noticed that there are many parts to this type of shoe. Each part of the boot has a purpose other than to add to the aesthetic appeal.

While there are numerous parts to different styles of boots, this content will focus on the cowboy boot.

Below is a discussion of the different parts of a cowboy boot noting the shaft, the shank, and the different types of soles. 

It will then go into detail about many of the lesser known components of the traditional cowboy boot.

The Shaft

The shaft is the long, cylindrical part of the boot that expands up along the wearer's leg. It is the most obvious item when discussing the different parts of a cowboy boot and can be very decorative.

The shafts can have colored stitch patterns and embroidery completed by tools or by hand, and it is common that hand-stitched shafts are more expensive. This allows a wearer to customize their boots if they choose to do so.

The shaft is also created to protect the leg. Similar to shin guards or chaps, this part of the boot offers protection against heat, cold, sharp objects, and prevents objects from entering the boot to cause discomfort to the wearer.

The Shank

The shank is the part of the boot located between the outsole and the midsole. It runs parallel with the foot between the heel and the ball of the foot. It is a highly significant part of the cowboy boot because it acts as a form of arch support.

Shanks are made from different types of material ranging from steel and carbon fiber to plastic and aluminum. The shank's style is also various and can be forked, flat or contoured. To ensure that the boot is comfortable on your foot, it is recommended that the shanks style matches the contour of your foot.

The Outsole

The outsole is the part of the cowboy boot that tends to receive the most amount of abuse; therefore, it is potentially the most important area. Outsoles are created from leather and synthetic materials. The leather boot is a more natural and breathable alternative that conforms to the wearer's foot. It is available in different thicknesses to accommodate specific needs; however, it wears quickly when it gets wet making it unsuitable for damp climates.

Synthetic out soles are more durable in damp regions, but they present with a distressing side effect - heat. Leather allows the heat to dissipate, but synthetic soles trap the heat in the boot. The choice is based on the wearer's requirements as to which material would be most suitable.

Pullstrap: The pull strap is for pulling the cowboy boot onto your foot as these type western boots can be very snug fitting or tight. 

Piping: The piping is strips of rounded leather that are situated on the sides of the boot. They are found at exactly center of the boot between the back of the boot and the front. They are sometimes sewn with different color leather to make the stitching and the boot itself stand out more.

Insole: The insole is the material that lines the inside of the boot. This makes the boot much more comfortable and warm to wear.

Outsole: The outsole is basically the main component of the sole of the boot. It can be made up of several material including leather, rubber and plastic type materials. Some of the more fancy boots give the option of replacing the outsole if it gets worn out.

Embroidery: This is the fancy stitching that is found on the outside of the boot to give it some flare. There are many different intricate styles and patterns that can be found on the market today.

Front Shaft: This is the front section of the boot that is sewn together with the back shaft of the boot.

Back Shaft: This is the back shaft of the boot that is sewn together with the front shaft of the boot.

Tongue: The tongue of the cowboy boot is the section right before the toe box. This is vital for the strength of the boot and must be designed in a proper manner.

Instep: The instep is the section of the cowboy boot that is situated right on top of your foot. It plays a vital role in how the boot fits and how comfortable it feels.

Toe Box: The toe box is the part of the boot that cover the toes of your feet. It is usually made of a more rigid piece of leather that provides increased support and assists in keeping the shape of the boot intact.

Counter: The counter is the part in the bottom rear of the boot. It helps provide more support and comfort for the wearer of the cowboy boot.

Heel: The heel is the part of the boot that is attached to the very rear of the sole. This is the part of the boot that defines what type of boot it is as there are many different variations of the heel that can be used here.

This diagram shows the many different parts of a western boot:

Cowboy Boots Parts

Styles of Cowboy Boots

There are many different styles of western footwear that you will have to consider during your buying process. Below you will find information on each type of boot that you will be looking at.

There are 5 main types of cowboy boots each with their own unique features.

Below you will find information on each type of boot that you will be looking at during your research.

Cowboy: The cowboy style is a great choice for new buyers because it is one of the more comfortable and versatile styles. It is distinctive for its 12 inch shaft, tall heel and large toe box.

Cowboy Boot

Ropers: This style of western boot is designed for horse competition such as rodeos and is designed with a more rounded toe, shorter shaft and a more common height to the heel portion of the boot.

ropers cowboy boots

ropers boot

· Stockman: The Stockman design is more for the common man who is out working the fields and does a lot of walking or standing and not so much riding horses and such. It is very similar to the Cowboy style but has a shorter heel which is also a little bit wider as well. This style of boot also has a deeper scallop than the cowboy style.

stockman cowboy boots

stockman boot

· Western Work: This one is very similar to the Roper but has a more toe space and usually comes with a steel toe….hence the larger toe box. The heel are usually made of materials that are less susceptible to slipping. Rubber is a common material that is implemented.

western work boots

western work boot

· Buckaroo: This boot style is intended for the show rider who needs leg protection while still being a bit more stylish than other styles. It is designed with a much larger shaft as well as a high heel. These boots are usually very elaborate and fancy.

cowboy boots

Buckaroo Boots

6 Tips For Picking The Right Cowboy Boot

Each style of western boots available today also have many different options to choose from ranging from toe style to heel construction.

You will really want to take your time and consider all the different options available to you before you make your selection.

Below you will find some great tips to make you decision making process a little bit easier and add a quality product to your fine footwear collection.

#1: Which material to choose?

Cowboy boots can be produced in many ways and using many different materials. The most common material is cowhide leather which can be very nice and best of all affordable.

Cowboy boot technology has evolved over time though and now many different animal hides are used to produce boots and other outdoor clothing.

Other options include snakeskin leather, alligator leather, ostrich leather, stingray leather and even lizard leather.

There are also other options which are not naturally occurring in nature but look just as real for those who do not want animal hide of any sort.

As with many things in life there are pros and cons to the decisions you make. Material choices for cowboy boots is no different so please make sure you research the details of any material you choose!

#2 Which Toe Shape Works Best For You?

One of the most important consideration of choosing the right cowboy boot for you is comfort.

You really want to make sure the boot feels good to you and doesn’t hurt your feet.

The “toe shape” plays a vital role in how comfortable the boot will be for you so you want to make sure the toe space is large enough for your foot….but not too large.

There are several different toe shapes to choose from and below each one is discussed.

  • Classic Toe: Basically the classic toe shape of a cowboy boot is a combination between the pointed toe shape and the rounded toe shape. This provides a very comfortable fit for the user and is quite nicely designed.
  • Pointed Toe: This toe shape is very popular these days and has been so for a long time. Picture the old western movies and the cowboys who wore these types of boots.This toe shape has two variations that can be chosen from. One is the “snip toe” which is a shape that looks like the pointed toe but is “snipped” or squared off at the very end of the point.The other variation is the “needle Point” which is a pointed toe shape that comes to a fine point at the end.
  • Square Toe: This toe shape is just like it sounds. The toe is shaped in a squared off design.This toe shape style is not really for working around the farm or in the fields because of the comfort factor.It is more of a fashion statement and does look quite appealing and snazzy when worn out on the town!
  • Rounded Toe: The rounded toe shape is by far the most comfortable to choose from.This toe shape offers a much more comfortable fit for the user because it allows for more room in the toe space and is great for people who have wider feet.So if you are looking for a cowboy boot that you can work in or walk in for long distances this one is the perfect choice.
  • Broad Square Toe: This toe shape is a great choice for people who are on their feet in the country for long periods of time.Similar to the square toe shape the broad square toe has a lot more room in the toe space area for people who need that bit of extra room.This toe shape has become much more prevalent recently and should be considered when making a buying selection.

#3: Which Heel Height Is Right For You?

The heel height of your western boot is also an important consideration when making you buying decision.

Cowboy boot heels come in a variety of heights and designs. Usually men and children will choose a heel height that is around 1 inch high to 1 and ¾ inches high.

Women will choose a heel height that is slightly higher than mens and will be around 2 inches in height.

#4: Which heel design do you prefer?

There are a few cool heel designs that you can choose from with the slanted or undercut heel being the latest craze in cowgirl fashion.

On one hand you have the common heel that is in the same plane as the boot itself. These are usually found on roper boots.

On the other hand you have the slanted heel or undercut heel. This type of heel is angled toward the front of the boot for a very nice trendy look.

The common heel is one that offers more comfort to the user but is not very cool looking when compared to the slanted heel which is very trendy but not as comfortable.

#5: The Construction Process Of The Cowboy Boot Is An Important Consideration

There are many companies who produce cowboy boot brands these days and each one has their own process of making each boot.

This is something you really want to research when making your buying decision because you do not want to purchase an inferior product or pay inflated prices for your western boot.

What you want to look for when buying a new pair of cowboy boots is that they are made of 100% real leather, even the sole of the boot. Many of the inferior boots are made of a variety of different materials and these are usually overpriced and of poor quality.

Avoid making a huge mistake by paying close attention to the manufacturing process.

#6 Trying On Cowboy Boots Correctly is Very Important

Many people get this one wrong.

When you go out to shop for cowboy boots and start trying them on you need to be aware that the socks you are wearing will have an impact on how they fit and how they feel.

Make sure you take into account the thickness of the socks you are wearing or better yet buy some boot socks that are specifically designed for cowboy boots when making your buying selection.

Also when testing out each boot you need to ensure that the “ball of the foot” or the widest part of your foot is situated at the widest part of the cowboy boot.

This will guarantee the most comfort for you when you are wearing the boot.

Another thing you will want to pay attention to when going through the fitting process is the toe room.

You need to make sure the toe room is ample enough for your foot. As a general rule a ½ to 3/4 of an inch is a good amount of space for maximum comfort.

One more important consideration when fitting cowboy boots is the “arches” of the boots.

Make sure that the arch of your foot and the boot shank have matching curves. As many people have different type arches this is an important thing to study when making your boot selection.

You will find an awesome video on choosing the right cowboy boots for you going here: Choosing the right boot. Check it out for a better understanding!

How To Make Your New Cowboy Boots Comfortable

Cowboy boots can be worn for practical purposes such as riding or walking through rough terrain, or they can be worn as a fashion statement. Whatever the reason, new boots can cause a lot of pain and agony in the beginning, but the longer you wear them the more comfortable they become until they eventually fit like a second skin. However, before you can enjoy this soft comfort, you will have to wear them in first. Fortunately there are several ways that you can speed up the process.

A Proper Fit

When trying on new boots they should have a snug fit and feel comfortable without any pinching from being too tight or rubbing from being too loose. The leather used for making boots has different variations of softness depending on the style and the decoration used. However, this can change as leather stretches and shapes itself around the foot when there is enough warmth, movement and moisture. Continuous wear provides these three essential ingredients in the form of heat, sweat and action which will cause the leather to stretch in the right places, making them very comfortable to wear.

Tools That Will Help Make Cowboy Boots More Comfortable

Some things that you will need to help make your cowboy boots more comfortable are:
Wearing good quality socks that fit snugly and are thick enough to protect your feet and absorb excess moisture is very important. Thin, synthetic socks will make the feet slide around inside the boot and cause blisters.

If the leather is very stiff you can use boot stretchers available at good leather supply stores. They are inserted into the boot and adjusted to apply tension that will gently stretch the leather. Boot stretchers are also great to use while the boots are not being worn to retain their shape and prevent the leather from shrinking and hardening.

Most cowboy boots have very little in the way of comfortable insoles, let alone cushioned ones. Gel insoles are great to provide comfortable cushioning for the soles of the feet as well as taking up space if the fit is slightly loose, thereby preventing blisters from forming.

Leather conditioning cream keeps the leather soft and pliable and prevents them from becoming stiff and unyielding. Soft pliable leather boots are much more comfortable and look a whole lot better when they are cared for with leather conditioning cream. If there are areas that are particularly hard and press on the foot, rub the cream into the leather from the inside as well.

After you buy new cowboy boots, wear them for at least one hour a day to gently break them in. This is a much better way than wearing them continuously for days and will save you a lot of pain and discomfort. The boots will gradually adjust to the shape, size and the gait of your walk until you can wear them for longer periods of time without causing too much agony in the process and will definitely make cowboy boots more comfortable.

Related Topics You May Be Interested In

Stingray Boots: In the past such a thing as stingray boots would be unheard of. Over time though they have become a very popular and swanky footwear for those trendy and hip people out there. There are many good things about stingray boots with the durability and toughness of the stingray leather being at the forefront. They are also very beautiful to behold and this page discusses a few of the more popular brands to choose from.

Ostrich Boots: Similar to the stingray boots evolution, Ostrich boots have also exploded on the scene. This is because it is a perfect material to use to produce the finest handcrafted cowboy boots. This exotic skin is very supple and very attractive. It is a good choice for you to consider as the boots made with this type of material are easily broken in yet immensely durable and rugged. They will last a long time and serve you well over your lifetime if you take proper care of them.

Caiman Boots: Genuine caiman boots are very stylish yet durable and are definitely ones you should consider if looking to buy a new pair of exotic cowboy boots. Caiman leather is similar to alligator leather but is far superior in terms of quality and durability. There are several different areas of the caiman that are used to produce fine western footwear with the most supple and elegant part being the belly area. The tail and back are also used to handcraft these types of boots.

Snakeskin Boots: This reptilian hide is another amazing leather product that can be used for making very fine western footwear. It provides a different look though then other boots because the snakeskin leather pieces have to be sewn together to make the full boot. This is a result of the width of the snakeskin being quite narrow when compared to other exotic leathers such as stingray or caiman.

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