A good pair of cowboy boots can cost hundreds of dollars or more, so to most people, it’s a major purchase that is not to be taken lightly. If you’re wondering how to know how to pick a high quality pair of boots apart from the numerous faux leather options and cheap pairs constructed with shoddy workmanship, this handy buyer’s guide will tell you everything you need to know about spotting a great pair of boots.

Know the Types

Before anything else, you’ll want to narrow down your search to the specific boot that you’re looking for. Instead of browsing an endless assortment of Western and cowboy boots, consider what you’ll wear your boots for. Are you looking for something to wear while riding, or simply a stylish pair with the look that you love?

Women’s Boots

Women’s Western boots don’t just come in the traditional cowgirl boot style, although that is certainly a popular option. Here are some of the most popular types of women’s boots.

  • Classic Western boots. With their knee-high upper, stacked heel and pointed toe, the classic Western boot is easily the most recognizable style of women’s boot. These boots normally feature elaborate leatherwork and designs across the tops and sides, although their details are normally muted and understated.
  • Fashion boots. This type of Western boot has the same general look as a pair of classic cowgirl boots, but with a whole lot more detailing. Because these boots aren’t necessarily meant for working, their heels are often higher and they’re usually decorated with metal details, studs and colorful patches.
  • Roper boots. Short roper boots extend to just above the ankle to the middle of the calf. These sturdy boots are designed for walking and working in the barn, and they’re usually not very decorative.
  • Square toe boots. Square toe boots have a look that many would identify as a biker boot, though they are often worn in Western settings as well. These boots have a squared-off toe, but their heights vary from pair to pair. 

Men’s Boots

For the men, there are just as many boots for both working and for fashion. Here are the basic classifications. 

  • Cowboy boots. Just like the women’s, men’s cowboy boots feature a pointed toe, knee-high height (or just below the knee) and a stacked heel. They are usually just as decorative as the women’s versions.
  • Roper boots. Shorter roper boots feature lower heels and more tread to wear while working and riding.
  • Work boots. Work boots are designed solely for function, complete with thick treaded soles and extra padding around the sides. These boots aren’t always made of leather, and are often made of waterproof materials.
  • Square toe boots. These boots feature a squared-off toe that men with wide feet often find more comfortable than pointed cowboy boots. 

men's boots

Finding the Perfect Size

When purchasing leather boots online, it’s very important to measure the foot before ordering your usual size. Western boots often run differently than more common types of shoes, so it always helps to know your exact foot size.

Measure your foot by tracing both feet onto a piece of paper while wearing the socks that you would normally wear with boots. Use a ruler or tape measure to measure both the length and the width of the tracing. Just about everyone has one foot that is slightly larger than the other, so be sure to take the measurement of the larger foot. 

size chart

Know What to Look For

In terms of the quality of the boots, it helps to know a few key points, especially if you’re not able to touch the boots before purchasing. The first thing you should look for is the material. Even if a pair of boots says Western or riding boots, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s made of real leather, so be sure to read the full description before purchasing.

Next, inspect the seams. High quality boots heave very neat, clean and nearly invisible seams, and they never show glue or other adhesives. There shouldn’t be any loose threads or pit marks in the leather, and the toe portion of the boot should look smooth and hard without any bulging.