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Western Boot Styles



  • Cowboy Boots

Classic cowboy boots are the most common Western boots. They have an angled heel of intermediate height (usually an inch-and-a-half or more). This heel type is slightly lower than heels found on true Western riding boots, and is ready for riding or walking. The shaft of a cowboy boot usually reaches to about mid-calf, with an overall boot height of about 12 inches.

Cowboy boots fall in the middle of the road for Western boots, in terms of overall height and heel height. Most cowboy boots are great for sitting in the saddle, kicking up your heels on the dance floor, or everyday wear.

  • Western Riding Boots

Western-style riding boots are designed specifically for horseback riding or working in the saddle. These are the favorite boots of many cowboys and cowgirls in rodeos and horse shows.

Of course you never want to fall off your horse. If you do, though, you certainly don’t want to be dragged because your boot is caught in the stirrup. Western riding boots are designed with this type of rider safety and utility in mind. Riding boots have:

  • High, angled heels (usually around two inches) to prevent a rider’s feet from sliding through the stirrups.

  • Smooth leather soles to prevent snagging in the stirrups in case the rider takes a fall.

  • A noticeably tapered toe for easier insertion into the stirrups.

  • A higher shaft (at least mid-calf height) to protect the legs from pinching in the saddle and protect the rider from brush and thorns.

  • No laces, to prevent hang-ups.

Note: Some modern Western riding boots may offer a lace-up style for a better fit than pull-on boots, but these boots can increase the risk for feet getting caught in the stirrups.

  • Ropers

Ropers represent a newer design of Western boots that were created (and so named) to help rodeo cowboys rope calves in competition. The “calf roping” event requires cowboys to ride their horses after a calf to rope it, then to dismount and run down the taut rope to restrain the calf. This event goes far more smoothly with the shorter heels of a roper-style boot.

Ropers are similar in style to English riding boots. They have the lowest heel height of all Western boots, usually just over one inch (a heel this low is often referred to as a “walking heel”). The heel is typically squared off, with a 90-degree angle formed between the heel and boot sole. These Western boots also have the lowest overall height, with the shaft height being several inches above the ankle. Also, most roper boots have a rounded toe and flexible sole for a more comfortable fit.

Many ropers are lace-up boots, which provide a great fit and ankle support but can cause problems if used as riding boots (such as being dragged if thrown from the saddle).

Note: The “roper” boot style should not be confused with the “Roper” brand, a leading manufacturer of all types of Western boots.

  • Work-Western Boots

Work-western boots usually have slightly lower or roper-style heels that are easier on the feet when walking than riding heels. The soles of work-western boots are often treaded and have at least some rubber surface for traction, and may have a cushioning mid-sole for shock absorption. This Western boot style often costs less than other cowboy boots because the leather used is usually cowhide or another less-exotic material, and less artistry goes into crafting boots designed more for function.

  • Western Fashion Boots

Western fashion boots come in a wide range of styles and follow virtually no rules. They may be of any height, heel height and design. This is the one Western boot style where you will sometimes find synthetic materials used for the shaft, rather than genuine leathers. Also, the most exotic leathers are used for these boots.

Many Western fashion boots have the taller, knee-high shaft that is commonly seen on performers on stage. Fashion boots may also have an extremely pointed toe and a highly decorated, colorful shaft. Western fashion boots that have the bright colors and retro flair of early Hollywood and Roy Rogers are usually referred to as vintage Western boots.

We would not recommend using this style of boot for practical purposes like horseback riding or working, but instead for going out on the town.

A Summary of Western Boot Types

Boot Type

Shaft Height

Heel (Height, Shape)

Toe (Shape)



Relative Cost

Cowboy Boots Mid-calf (around 11-12") Around 1½", angled Pointed, flattened or slightly rounded No Smooth leather, may have heel cap Highly variable
Riding Boots Mid to upper calf (around 12-13") Around 2", angled Pointed or only slightly rounded No Smooth leather Mid-range
Ropers Between ankle and mid-calf (around 7-10") Less than 1½", squared-off "Roper" heel Rounded or squared On some styles Variable, often with tread and traction rubber Low to mid-range
Work-Western Boots Mid-calf or lower (around 9-12") 1¾" or less Rounded or slightly tapered On some styles Variable, often with tread and traction rubber Low
Western Fashion Boots Variable Usually over 1½", variable Variable On some styles Variable, often with tread Highly variable


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Most recent revision October 19, 2018 08:42:51 PM

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