Best Shoes For Horseback Riding

Horseback riding is a great way to get some fresh air and exercise while enjoying nature. It’s also a great way to bond with your horse, if you’re lucky enough to have one at home! But what kind of shoes should you wear?

There are many different kinds of footwear available on the market today, but not all are suitable for horseback riding. The best shoes for this activity should be comfortable, durable, and waterproof. They should also have a good grip so that you don’t slip or slide on the saddle when riding in wet conditions (or even dry conditions).

If you want to find out more about the best shoes for horseback riding, keep reading!

Best Shoes For Horseback Riding

9 Rookie Approved Horseback Riding Boots for Beginners

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Wondering what shoes to wear horseback riding? Been there.

If you’re new to the equestrian world, sitting atop a thousand-pound animal with a mind of its own offers enough challenges without worrying about your aching feet, the possibility of your shoes getting stuck in the stirrups, and just looking like a total rookie.

When it comes to beginner horse riders, choose boots that are safe, durable, use and style appropriate for your chosen discipline, and worth the money. Here are our top 9 rookie-approved boots:

  • *TOP WESTERN PICK* Merrell Captiva Waterproof Boot
  • *TOP ENGLISH PICK* Ariat Heritage Contour II Field Boot
  • Ariat Heritage III Zip Paddock Boot
  • TuffRider Starter Front Zip Paddock Boot
  • Roper Crossrider Western Boot
  • AdTec Packer Boot
  • Ariat Sport V Zip Tall Riding Boot
  • Ariat Heritage Lacer Western Men’s Cowboy Boot
  • Laredo Breakout Men’s Western Boot

Whether you’re planning to ride horses on vacation, getting into lessons, or heading out on the trails with your horsey friends, choosing quality boots (like my beloved Ariat Heritage Lacer Paddock Boot) is crucial for safety and helps you ride with comfort and confidence.

How to Choose the Best Riding Boot

If putting your foot in the stirrup feels equal parts exciting and nerve wracking, that’s a good indicator that your gear matters more than ever.

Over the years, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen rookies swing into the saddle in sneakers. National parks, beach vacations, backyard get togethers, it happens everywhere.

It makes me cringe every time, and not just because it looks so out of place—it’s downright dangerous.

(Trust me: I’ve been dragged by one stirrup as a kid, and you should avoid it.)

When it comes to horseback riding shoes, I’ve heard the same excuses over and over:

  • “I don’t want to spend money on something I’ll only wear once.”
  • [Insert safety caution] “Yeah, like that’s really going to happen.”
  • “Those don’t go with my outfit.”

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My boots help me ride well and safely, and that’s the whole point.

Luckily for you, there are TONS of options when it comes to horseback riding boots. You can find a pair that not only “does the job” but also looks great and lasts for years.

I’ve consolidated my top nine beginner boots across tall dress boots, short paddock boots, western style boots, and a couple of great options for men.

5 factors to consider when buying horse riding shoes:

  1. Safety: Riding shoes must be closed-toed and have a distinct heel. The last thing you want is a huge hoof crushing your little piggies. Heels keep your feet from accidentally sliding through the stirrups and getting caught. Safety first!
  2. Discipline: Your boot should match the type of riding you’ll be doing. Dressage, cow work, trail riding, basic pleasure riding, and endurance (just to name a few) put unique demands on your shoes.
  3. Material: Boots come in a variety of materials from leather to rubber. If you’re slogging through mud and snow, you need something waterproof and possibly insulated. If you’re riding in 100-degree heat, your feet need to breathe.
  4. Cost: Horseback riding is a notoriously expensive hobby. (My checking account can attest.) You need to strike a balance between buying cheap boots that’ll break down in a year vs. spending your entire paycheck on a single pair of shoes. There’s a happy middle ground, and I’ll help you find it.
  5. Style: This one is last on the list for a reason. Style should never be your primary buying factor, but that doesn’t mean you have to clunk around in boots you hate either. Each of the options below will have you looking like a pro and strutting in style.

Save yourself the trouble of scouring the web and making all those returns. Read on for nine great beginner boots you won’t regret. (Men, skip to the last two.)

Our Take on the Best Boots for Horseback Riding

Merrell Captiva Buckle-Down Waterproof Boot

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For the past five years, I’ve ridden in my beloved Espresso Merrell Captivas for every single western ride. (I also ride english, so you’ll see my favorite english boot next.)

I bought these boots on a whim my first trip to Montana, and I’ve been obsessed with them ever since.

Pros:

  • They tick all the boxes for safety, durability, and style (e.g. heel, closed-toed, waterproof synthetic, classic riding design).
  • They’re SO comfortable. I’ve ridden in these 2-4 times a week for years, and the cushy sole (or exterior) has never showed even a hint of wear/tear.
  • The instep zipper makes getting them on/off really easy.
  • They look super cute with jeans tucked inside or out. (I ride with skinny jeans inside.)
  • Comes in black, espresso (my fav), and burgundy.

Cons:

  • While I love the buckle style, you end up with a second strap under it if you wear spurs. (But my spurs work fine with these.)
  • The 12” shaft is a bit shorter than typical cowboy boots but taller than paddock-style boots, so they may come to an odd spot on tall-legged riders.
  • If you have larger calves, you may find the top of these boots too snug.

Ariat Heritage Contour II Field English Boot

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These are my favorite English boots, and I’ve worn them for every single dressage and jumping ride for 3+ years.

The Ariat Heritage Contour II Field Boot is the most comfortable dress boot I’ve owned in 20 years, and it’s reminded me why Ariat is a go-to boot brand for riders.

Pros:

  • Ariat is arguably the leader in equestrian dress boots, so the quality and style will have you looking like a pro.
  • They have a really solid heel, nice spur stop on the back, and they’re easy to break in.
  • The full back zip is a MUST for dress boots, and it’s held up well.
  • Premium full-grain leather upper and full leather lining lasts forever (with proper care).
  • Gusseting on the inside knee increase comfort in the saddle and out.

Cons:

  • I have these in a “short” and they fit me perfectly (I’m 5’6 and 120#). So if you’re remotely on the shorter side, the regular shaft may be too tall.
  • These are the field boot style with laces, so if that’s not your personal style you may prefer dress boots sans laces.
  • If you like riding in jeans, pick another boot. These are designed to fit snuggly over breeches, and jeans will be too bulky.
  • These are an investment cost-wise. But the craftsmanship will last for years and be easy to resell if you ever change your mind.

Ariat Heritage Breeze Lace Paddock Boot

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The Ariat Heritage Breeze Lace Paddock Boot is basically the short boot equivalent of the previous Heritage Contour.

Paddock boots are a great beginner choice because they’re usually less expensive than dress boots and easier to wear out and about before/after your ride.

Pros:

  • They have a great heel for safety and an easy pull strap at the back.
  • The laces makes getting this boot on/off a breeze.
  • They have a washable extra soft full grain leather upper!
  • Classic equestrian styling looks great solo or with half chaps. (More on those later.)
  • Leather upper and rubber sole is built to last.
  • Ankle flexion notches increase flexibility in the saddle (and keep your ankle bones from getting rubbed raw).

Cons:

  • The soles are a bit on the thin side, so you may want to add a cushion insert.
  • They aren’t waterproof (but choose these if that’s important to you).
  • Spur rests keep your spurs in place on the back heel.

TuffRider Starter Front Zip Paddock Boot

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If Ariat isn’t your style (or you’d rather not spend that much to start), the TuffRider Starter Front Zip Paddock Boot is a nice alternative.

Don’t expect them to hold up quite as long, but if you’re only riding occasionally, they’ll do the job just fine.

Pros:

  • Side elastic gullets increase flexibility in the saddle.
  • Zip front makes these pretty easy to get on/off.
  • Affordable for the beginner horseback rider.
  • Comes in black and mocha.
  • Easy to clean with a damp cloth.

Cons:

  • No pull-on strap in the back (unfortunately, as I prefer them).
  • Quality and craftsmanship aren’t as high as Ariat, so these won’t hold up wear to everyday use if you’re at the barn a lot.
  • Synthetic vs. real leather uppers.
  • Very little arch support or cushion, so you might need inserts.

Roper Crossrider Western Boot

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Don’t worry Western riders, you can wear short boots too.

The Roper Crossrider Western Boot is a great option for beginners taking lessons, riding on vacation, or helping around the ranch.

Pros:

  • Roper is a well respected brand in western wear, so quality and craftsmanship is high.
  • These have a really classic western design and look great solo or with half chaps.
  • Forged steel shank adds support and stability.
  • Perfect safety heel for riding and lots of traction on the sole.

Cons:

  • The sole is pretty thick, which it’s my personal style.
  • They’re not waterproof, so you may want to spray with a waterproofer for everyday use.
  • They run on the large side and don’t have much arch support.

AdTec Packer Boot

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Style shouldn’t decide what shoe you buy, but I must say the AdTec Packer Boot looks really cool.

It’s got everything I look for in a western style boot I’d also wear downtown for dinner.

Pros:

  • Great heel for riding and a full-grain leather upper with rubber sole.
  • The style and design are really flattering (vs. a chunky work boot).
  • Comes in some really fun color choices like a tone-tone cherry/black, tan, or solid brown and black.
  • Orthotic removable insole cushion for extra comfort.
  • The fringe accent piece is removable if it’s not your style.

Cons:

  • These boots run on the heavier side, so if you’ll be doing a lot of walking daily you may not love them.
  • Not a lot of traction on the heel or sole.
  • The heel is 1.5” tall, which is higher than you need for riding. (Though it doesn’t hurt.)

Ariat V Sport Zip Tall Riding Boot

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For english beginner riders in search of a sportier looking dress boot, consider the Ariat V Sport Zip Tall Riding Boot.

It’s a really unique look with all the “must have” features for riding.

Pros:

  • They’re super comfy and don’t need a “breaking in” period.
  • Great traction on the sole and a perfect safety heel for riding.
  • Navy Spanish style top design is a lovely accent (with a snap closure).
  • Full zip down the back makes for easy on/off.
  • Elasticized panels create a custom fit without paying for a custom boot.

Cons:

  • This boot is on the pricier side, but you definitely get what you pay for.
  • To help them last for a long time, remove them after riding vs. wearing them around for barn work.
  • Calf sizing can be a bit tricky on this boot, so you may want to order two sizes and keep whichever fits best.
  • Sometimes the zipper can slide down (no leather keeper to hold it in place).

Ariat Heritage Lacer Cowboy Boot (Men)

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OK gents, this one’s for you. The Ariat Heritage Lacer Cowboy Boot is a clean, classic western boot for riding, working, and wearing around town.

Pros:

  • Leather upper and rubber sole are durable and comfortable in the saddle and out.
  • Duratread outsole is tough and flexible, and the ATS technology adds support and stabilization.
  • Quality and craftsmanship riders have come to expect from Ariat.

Cons:

  • No pull strap in the back.
  • The soles are built for riding and ranch work versus really tough terrain.
  • These take a little breaking-in time, so be sure to wear them around for a while prior to a long ride.

Laredo Breakout Western Boot (Men)

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If you’re in the market for more of a classic cowboy boot, go with the Laredo Breakout Western Boot.

This is one of my favorite looking men’s boots, and it’s timeless design lasts as long as the boot itself. (A long time!)

Pros:

  • Leather upper and synthetic sole are durable and comfortable.
  • Perfect safety heel for riding with a classic design you can also wear out to dinner.
  • Accent stitching on the shaft and toe is subtle but adds a western flair.
  • Breathable mesh lining helps keep your feet cool in warm weather.

Cons:

  • These boots aren’t insulated, so if you’ll be riding in the winter you’ll need something warmer.
  • These run on the small/narrow side, so you may want to order two sizes and return the one that doesn’t fit.

Best Half Chaps for Beginners

If you land on a pair of paddock boots, you’ll want to pick up a good pair of half chaps to go with them.

Half chaps go over your boot (strap under the arch) to provide the coverage and grip of a tall boot… without buying a tall dress boot.

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Half chaps are SO handy.

You can also whip them off after you ride and just wear your paddock boots (read: hot weather life saver).

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