How I Found the Perfect Riding Boots for My Wide Calves

How to shop for plus-size riding boots
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Christine Cauthen
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How to shop for plus-size riding boots
Me casually showing off my boots by a shed with leaves on the ground because fall.

Me casually showing off my boots by a shed with leaves on the ground because fall.

Even though I only got my first pair of riding boots a year ago, I quickly became a convert, talking them up to anyone who would listen -- maybe because finding them was SUCH a process or because they are so freaking comfortable.

In the past I had always been able to shop for traditional-size shoes, but when I started looking for my first pair of riding boots, I realized my calves did not fit the mold (The result of my marching-band past?). I couldn’t even shove on the styles I had pined after! So I took more specific measurements, and bought them during a Lane Bryant BOGO Labor Day sale for $90.

If you have wide calves like me and feel lost or discouraged in your search, learn from my mistakes. This will take time, but in the long run the boots you buy will make getting dressed effortless.

1. Take stock of your calves. Your calves are likely different sizes, so measure them. Take pictures, and get to know your calves. If they are noticeably different, don’t worry. Usually it’s not enough to require two different sizes. Always cater to your wider calf. The less stress your shoe endures, the longer it will last.

These boots have two elastic panels on the back, split by a seam that runs the length of the boot. I like that they’re the same shade as the rest of the boot and that they allow for lots of movement

These boots have two elastic panels on the back, split by a seam that runs the length of the boot. I like that they’re the same shade as the rest of the boot and that they allow for lots of movement

2. Inserts are a Godsend. Seriously. You will want at least one elastic insert in the calves of your boot. At first I resisted them because they’re ugly, but if you find ones you can live with, it will make finding the right fit for your calves easier.

3. You don’t have to be a stickler about measurements. When I looked at sizing charts for boots, I was disappointed to see the biggest I could find were 19 inches in circumference. Mine are about 21. Depending on your shoe size and the material they’re made of (hint, hint — stretchy fabrics are your friend), calf sizes vary by a few inches, give or take. Don’t write off a pair before trying them on. To make sure they will work with everything you own, wear your thickest pair of pants to try them on.

4. “Wide calf” doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. Some boots claim to be wide calf but only measure at about 16 inches.

5. Zippers are your friend. I wear size 10 or 11 shoes, and there’s no way I could really slide my feet into a pair of boots without one. Zippers make this process struggle free.

I wouldn’t have the patience to wrangle my foot into this shoe without a zipper.

I wouldn’t have the patience to wrangle my foot into this shoe without a zipper.

6. Don’t wear ankle socks. Yes, it’s common sense, but I have to say it! When I’m rushing around trying not to be late, I tend to grab whatever pair I find first. I have a wicked blister on my left ankle right now because of this. Do as I say, not as I have done. You’ll want to wear average-height socks that hit above the ankle but not quite the top of the calf. There are also wide-calf options for socks that are made for boots.

Lane Bryant Marled Boot Socks, $16.95

Lane Bryant Marled Boot Socks, $16.95

What has your experience been like? What are your favorite brands?