With Christmas ahead I can forsee many people asking for new boots from Santa but if you’re like me you may be scared by the prospect of even trying to find a pair that fit never mind asking someone else to buy them for you.
I have always struggled finding long leather boots that actually fit properly and have previously mainly got by with boots that were too wide round the ankle or were close to cutting off my circulation. The reason? I have athletic calves due to running which previously just weren’t catered for in off the peg boots. My ankle and below knee measurements are equivalent to a regular fit but my calf at its widest with thin socks and breeches has come in at 16″ which is over an inch bigger than most regular sizes.
The last 2 seasons I have been wearing a pair of regular Sarm Hippiques that had been stretched by a bootmaker but with increased running this year I was finding I couldn’t actually do them up at all so the hunt commenced for replacements. Wherever I went from early spring onwards that sold long boots I tried on whatever I could in the hope of finding the Cinderella moment. Each time I entered a store or stand the employees would start so positive, of course they would find a boot to fit! One by one they conceded defeat and I was becoming resigned to the fact I may well have to buy made to measure.
Then there was a ray of light when I tried on the MOD100EL Secchiari Riding Boots from Equiclass (RRP £360). They didn’t have the height I required but the shorter version was very promising, for starters it did up albeit only just. Not wanting to risk buying the higher version without trying them first I planned to try them on at Badminton. The secret of the MOD100ELs is the elasticated panel that gives more flexibility to the sizing.
In the mean time I tried on more boots to no avail so Badminton was to be the do or die session of finding an off the peg boot before I gave up hope and sucked up the cost of made to measure.
I started off with Equiclass and the fit was good albeit tight so similar to the shorter length but I decided to take the opportunity to try on some other brands I hadn’t yet to ensure I was getting the best fit possible.
I next headed off to Tredstep. All credit to the team they tried and tried and tried every possible option but unfortunately for my skinny ankles the wider calf widths left them swimming. We tried some of the more regular calve widths and at one point I had two staff members attempting to get the zip up before they admitted defeat. The boots were beautiful and I loved their clever keeper design for the zip to prevent it coming undone whilst riding but sadly they were not going to be the boots for me.
Tuffa were next on my list. The Tuffa Pro show boots were a no go but their Field Top boot the Showtime (RRP £199) was a fantastic fit but as a straight cut it was not what I was looking for but for anyone looking for a show boot with garter strap I would recommended starting with Tuffa.
Parlanti Passion Miami showjumping boots (£332) jumped right to the top of the list of possibles. Although not having the right height in stock the elasticated panel giving lots of stretch left me confident the right height would fit. They are a very stylish boot and similar to the MOD100ELs and quality was also second to none. They pipped the MOD100ELs by being fractionally larger so meaning I could do them up myself, had they had the right size in stock I would have most likely bought them then and there.
So still without a pair of boots in my hands I headed off to the incredibly helpful stand of Ayr Equestrian. I have previously had great service from them and know they stock several brands so it was a natural place to head. At first I wasn’t too hopeful as Sarm Hippiques failed to do up and the next suggestion was Tredstep but I had already tried those but last there was Ariats. I had actually already tried on several pairs of Ariats elsewhere at other events so wasn’t feeling optimistic but with some time to spare during the dressage lunch break and the staff being so determined I was happy to try some more.
None of the Ariat non elasticated boots were even proffered instead we went straight to the Contour range which has a stretch panel on the outside of the leg. Initially I was put off by the outside placement of the elastic, but when hearing the reason for this being when placed on the inside of the leg in testing it suffered undue wear against the saddle, and was likely to require repair far earlier it made perfect sense. We started with the Heritage Contour Field boot (RRP £250) which is a quality boot with a rounded toe, and elastic imitation laces. Ayr also lent me a pair of breeches so I would get as good a feel as possible. I tried on the Medium height regular calf, the first time doing the boot up it did require some patience by the lady doing them up but once up and given a minute I was then able to undo and then do them back up myself. Add in when done up they hugged my calf, ankle and knee beautifully. They were tight around the calf but not circulation stopping and it was obvious the sturdy elastic would give more once worn in.
I was ready to hand over my card and buy them there and then but it was suggested I try on the Challenge Contour first (RRP £330). The Challenge is essentially the same boot in terms of cut but is made with softer calf leather and an improved sole including gel pads for improved fit and increased comfort, they also feature a square toe and unlike the Heritage is also available in brown. Well what can I say I was in love, the fit was even better as the softer leather clung to my legs’ curves and the soles were noticeably comfier. I handed over my money there and then, the search was over I had a new competition boot and just in the nick of time having an event the following weekend. Wearing them in was a very quick process and probably would be significantly quicker for those with slightly smaller calves. I wore them for a day to work under jeans with a pair of heel lifts and rode in them in the evenings and I had no qualms competing in them days later. The soft calf skin leather really made a huge difference over stiffer cheaper leather and the extra cost over the Heritage boots was worth every penny. The elastic really is the defining feature, the panel easily stretches to well over an inch in places but barely moves in others so giving the perfect fit. Add in if I go through a period of less or more running I know that the boot will still fit perfectly as there is still more give in them.
I was slightly disappointed not to be able to try on some Toggi boots as well at Badminton specifically the Cartwright which features some innovative designs including a curved zip which those with dodgy ankles will love and again an elasticated panel. Personally loving the traditional design of a field boot the Cartwright didn’t offer enough of a desire to try before purchasing the Challenge’s but looking at the measurements (there is only one fitting per foot size) they carry a very strong chance of fitting straight off the peg and are very affordable with an RRP of only £125.
Last month though another member of our e-Venting team was asked to try and test the new Toggi Chandler boot. These are based on a polo boot and have several decorative buckles so not designed for competition but we believe (subject to verification from BE) that they may fall within BE rules. The first comment from my fellow team member was that they were generous around the calf and after she measured the boot and I happened to find them on a great introductory offer online I thought why not as I could always return them if they were too small. To say I was pleasantly surprised put it mildly they did up and didn’t cut off my circulation so now not only did I have one pair of boots I had two, both off the peg and combined cost less than a quality pair of made to measure! The quality of Toggi boots has improved dramatically over the past 10 years but they retain their affordability. The leather is not as soft as Ariat’s but then you are paying nearly a third of the cost, and because of this they do require a bit more wearing in. They are aesthetically gorgeous boots and garnered many a comment from work colleagues who believed I had purchased fashion and not riding boots! I have only just resisted the temptation to wear them to work as they really wouldn’t look out of place!
So my Cinderella quest is over with its own fairytale ending, now I can only hope I help a few readers out there with the same issue. I’m pleased to say I have already helped one friend who had given up hope until I forced her to try on the Heritage at Blair. Immediate success for her with the short regular calf being a perfect fit.
So my advice for you on your own competition boot hunt if on a real budget if you like something a bit more modern go try the Toggi Cartwrights, if more traditional the Tuffa Showtime, if though with a larger budget and wanting that something rather special the Ariat Challenge would be my first port of call.