Monday, November 10, 2014

Wide Calf Riding Boot Roundup

Lauren Ralph Lauren
Wide calf riding boots
Love them or think they belong in the tack room, riding boot inspired street styles are here to stay. I'm  solidly in the love them camp. Ridding boots are truly a useful style to toss on with everything from jeans to floaty dresses. Dressy enough to wear to the theatre, but comfortable enough to be able to walk home after the show. On cold days they keep legs warmer than tights alone, and on wet days they keep ankles dry better than pants.

The streamlined simplicity of riding boot styles are so practical that last year I spent nearly each fall and spring day (and many a dry day in winter) lamenting that I no longer had a pair. I had tossed my over-worn cheap pair -- which had been intended only as a holdover until I found a pair I actually liked -- instead of having them fixed at the cobbler. I didn't miss those particular boots, but I certainly missed having boots to wear. I had every intention and expectation of finding a new pair I liked and could upgrade to, but sadly I did not heed the advice I heard to purchase them early in the fall for the best selection. I held out for sale prices, and suffered for it. This year I was determined to find a new pair, but just couldn't give up summer and start searching. I tried to hold onto the warm weather well into October, taking pleasure in the warm days mixed into the warnings of winter that Mother Nature gave. As I turned the calendar to November, panic and practicality took over, forcing me to hunker down and begin my search.

One might ask why, if I love riding boots as much as I seem to, I take such displeasure in finding a new pair. The answer is quite simple: wide calf boots. More specifically, the lack of options for wide calves. Each time I look online or try on boots at a shop, I am amazed at the lack of decent options for athletic or curvy calves. In a society filled with women of all sizes, why are the only options for wide calves made of cheap leather or are still far too narrow for most* women? Wouldn't designers benefit from sales to many more women? And the most irritating part is trying to find a boot made in a leather that looks good -- few stores stock enough wide calf options to make seeing them in person an option, turning online shopping into the only realistic choice. Of course, one can go with shorter versions, but for me they defeat the purpose, pose and practicality of the original style. As I embarked on my search, I decided to try to find wide calf options that appear to look more expensive than their price, styles that are streamlined enough to be worn with both dresses and pants, and had both a good price and good reviews. Here is a little roundup of the best options I found, along with the winner...

(*If the average size of adult women in the States is 5'3" and 166 lbs, then logic says most women have calves that fall into the wide calf range. Heck, just walking a lot can do it -- one of my past roommates who was a size 2 still needed wide calf boots to accommodate her calf muscles!)

The Wish List:
-Dark brown leather
-Simple, streamlined overall look (not too much extra hardware)
-Balanced look between foot shape and shaft
-Full length zippers
-Between $100-$200 (If I can't buy the boots I love, I want them to be affordable)
-Nice leather

The Winner:

Lauren by Ralph Lauren Marion Wide Calf Riding Boots

I'll admit that I'm a bit biased towards Ralph Lauren because I find their items to have great attention to detail. I have also been quite impressed with the Lauren line's leather, so I was intrigued when I found these. But what really did it were the reviews that all stated they were wide enough. For reference, my calves are just over 16" -- something I believe is more common that one might think while boot shopping -- many wide calf boots are 15", which is still on the snug side. I've had boots stretched in the past by cobblers, but I really wanted a pair that would fit right out of the box.

They arrived today, and they fit with enough wiggle room for two fingers. It is wonderful to know I could actually wear jeans tucked inside these boots if I wanted to. The leather is exactly as I expected from the brand -- far better than the price indicates. I ended up with the suede and leather version because they were out of my size, but the advantage to this version is the leather up the back of the boot that adds a nice detail. The heel hight is also just right, and the toe is a perfect classic round shape. Although it pains me to say it, Macy's currently has the best price online. The poor customer service I have received from them forces me to add a warning... Take the discounted price at one's own peril.

Top Placers:

As it turns out, now is a pretty decent time to find a new pair... Sizes and colors are just beginning to look a bit scarce, which means many sites are putting the boots on sale, but there are still multiple sized to choose from. I'm quite pleased that this year I have a good pair to wear.

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