Saturday, July 11, 2015

How to Buy Cowboy Boots

I love cowboy boots.  They're flat and they don't require a close fit in the heel, which suits my bad feet, and they're flamboyant and hard-wearing, which suits my personality.  At this point, I have eleven twelve pairs of cowboy boots.  Awesome.  So, I thought I'd share some of my strategies for buying cowboy boots.

(1)  Shop for Used Boots

I always shop for used cowboy boots.  Cowboy boots stand up to wear very well, and can last decades if properly cared for.  A pair of new quality cowboy boots can cost $200-300 or far more.  I generally don't pay more than $150 for a pair of used cowboy boots, and I've found boots in excellent condition for as little as $25.

Where should you look?  In general, there's a tradeoff between price and the amount of time you spend hunting for boots.  You'll tend to find the lowest prices at flea markets and antique fairs, but you'll also have to spend a lot of time hunting through everything else that's for sale.  Antique malls and small-town antique stores tend to have mid-range prices.  Vintage stores generally tend to be the most expensive, though, again, we're talking $70-200.  These prices are just general trends-- I've found exorbitantly overpriced boots at flea markets, and bargains at vintage stores.

A pair of boots at my favorite antique mall.
(2)  Check for Condition Issues
I'm assuming you want to wear the boots, instead of just use them for decoration, so you'll need to check that they're in good condition.  Check the leather upper.  Creases are OK, but don't buy a pair of boots if the leather is cracked.  Check the soles to make sure that they're not worn through and don't have holes.  At this point, you're looking for reasons to reject the boots.  Do not be fooled by prices.  I've seen used boots for $250 that were in terrible condition, with the leather cracked through, and used boots for $25 that were in pristine condition.
Don't buy these-- cracked leather.
Don't buy these, either-- the leather is worn through.
And don't buy these-- there's a hole in the sole.

(3)  Bring Lots of Socks
You want to bring a variety of socks with different thicknesses.  Why?  You're shopping for used boots, and this allows you to wear a larger range of sizes.  Depending on the socks I wear, I can generally wear boots between sizes 7 and 9.  Here's the assortment of socks I bring with me.  I even layer socks on top of other socks.  Some of my favorite cowboy boots require me to wear two pairs of socks, but I don't mind, because that means extra cushioning for my feet.
Left to right:  thick synthetic socks, thick wool socks, thick cotton socks, thin cotton socks.
(4)  Check the Fit
Cowboy boots don't fit like other shoes.  They're supposed to fit snugly around the instep, but be a little loose around the heel.  You should have to tug them a little to get them on or off.  This comes from their origin as riding boots-- if you fell out of the saddle and got your foot caught in the stirrup, you wanted your foot to be able to pull out of the shoe so that you weren't dragged along the ground. 

(5)  Walk Around In Them
This part goes without saying.  How do you know how well they fit if you don't try them out?

(6)  Use Leather Conditioner
Once you've bought the boots, you want to keep them in good shape, right?  So, you should use leather conditioner periodically to keep the leather supple and hydrated.  Exotic leathers, like reptile leather and ostrich leather, require different types of leather conditioner than cow leather.  I don't have any particular advice on which leather conditioners to use; I just take the new pair of boots to Allen Boots and get their opinion.

I hope that helps!  Enjoy your hunt for an awesome pair of cowboy boots!
Couldn't have a post on cowboy boots without some cows, could we?


  1. great post - like the comment ' you are looking for reasons not to buy them' excellent advice

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