The Scoop on Custom Tall Riding Boots – Fitting and Selection
With Big Dee’s Custom Boot Event kicking into full swing this week, I thought it would be a great time to give your the scoop on custom tall riding boots and my recent ordering experience!
Why are Tall Boots Important?
Regardless of your riding interests and style, everyone has that perfect picture in their mind of how we would love to look and feel in the saddle. I envision myself in a classic ensemble that includes a tweed hacking jacket, rich brown boots and a smart brown helmet. Beyond the obvious fashion aspect there is more to a good quality boot. For me, my boots and helmet are the only two things that I really must have in order to feel safe and confident while riding a horse. Tall boots are a key transmitter in the language between you and your horse through your leg aids. Undoubtedly the comfort and fit of your tall riding boots can make or break your ride all together. Whether they are too tall, too tight, too small in the foot, too sloppy in the leg, or perhaps just too old, battered and broken; we’ve all been there, that moment when you decide enough is enough and you’ve got to find something better.
Why choose custom?
Last spring my schooling boots failed beyond repair, and I started wearing my Tredstep Field Boots. They are beautiful, fit me like a glove and had previously been reserved for use only while showing and foxhunting. In an effort to ensure their continuing good looks I knew I should get another pair of tall boots to take up the brunt of my daily wear. Despite being able to shop through an extensive offering of top name brand tall boots in both brown and black, finding an off-the shelf brown boot to fit my very wide calves from any of the manufacturers, has proven virtually impossible. If I want a brown boot to fit my not so average leg, custom is my only option. Luckily for me, Big Dee’s offers expert fitting for full-custom and semi-custom tall boots from Cavallo, Dehner, DeNiro, Königs and Vogel. I was very apprehensive to take the dive into ordering custom boots, aside from being a fledgling foxhunter I am also a very frugal foxhunter. However, one lesson I have learned over the years is that price often correlates directly to quality and in turn with proper leather care – longevity. Ok let’s do it!
Beyond the satisfaction being guaranteed a boot to fit, regardless of your height, weight and foot-size; the sky is the limit when it comes to style, color and bespoke accents to make your boots truly yours.
Time for your fitting!
Designing your boot really is going to be the most time consuming portion of your custom ordering process. The actual measuring portion will take an average of 15 minutes. Prior to your fitting appointment I suggest browsing around the various manufacturer’s websites (Cavallo, Dehner, DeNiro, Königs and Vogel). Put together a list of wants and needs for your new boots. If you see a boot that you love snap a picture and bring it along! Once you arrive at Big Dee’s for your fitting you will be able to browse through the various leather swatches and the manufacturers catalogs and lists of additional options. Being fitted for custom boots was a really enjoyable experience for me, and goes far beyond just taking a measurement of your calf and choosing the right shoe size. Multiple measurements are taken from the width of the ball of your foot to the depth of the instep and at multiple points all the way up the leg. The height of your leg is measured and tracings are made of each of your feet. In many cases when being fitted at our Streetsboro, Ohio store we are able to confirm the the foot size and height measurements taken by the boot fitter, against stock boots, on hand, within the same manufacturer. Here are a few things to consider when making the decision for yourself and booking your appointment for a custom tall riding boot fitting.
- What is the intended use for your new boots?
The intended use of your new boots can help the fitter guide and direct you to the best base boot for your needs. They can also make suggestions for additional features that may help the boot last longer or be more comfortable to you. Features such as a wear patch on the calf, inside front zipper or a stiffener in the shaft can help your boots last longer, be more accessible to zip or limit the amount of drop for a crisp clean look in the dressage ring. Consider the following if you are going to be using them primarily for Schooling – how often and how many horses are you riding? Do you tend to ride in the mornings or more often at the end of the day when feet and legs tend to swell. If you will be showing, what disciplines and to what level do you aspire to ride? If you are going to be foxhunting regularly, are you riding with the field? or are you likely to be going after hounds on foot as part of the staff? You may not want a zipper if you are going to be in the lowlands on foot.
- What should you wear?
Wear the weight of breeches that you most frequently wear when riding, same for socks. You can let the fitter know if you ever intend to wear long-johns or winter weight breeches and/or thicker socks, they can add just a little more to your actual measurements in order to allow for an extra layer of clothing if needed.
- Do you have any complaints about your existing boots?
Make note of any issues you have with your current boots, adding a little extra room in the instep or choosing a different zipper style could help to alleviate common causes of discomfort.
- What is the difference between full-custom and semi-custom?
There is a difference between custom design and custom sizing. Let’s explore custom sizing first. When referring to the base boot for the most part the boot makers have a set of patterns and templates that they have found over many years to cover the vast majority of foot and leg conformations. By taking careful measurements we can determine if any of these templates will work for your new boots. Semi-custom is any one deviation of a leg from a larger or smaller boot to be paired with your foot size to make an ideal fit. In the event that none of the existing configurations are a match to your measurements a full custom made-to-measure boot is needed. When full custom is required, the maker will use your exact measurements to create from scratch a boot to fit you. In terms of custom design, these are all of the added bells and whistles that you choose beyond the stock boot from the company. This may be the addition of elastic gussets, initials on the swagger tab, a different top style, colored piping, upgraded soles, the list goes on and on and each addition is priced al la carte.
- What about the cost?
The ultimate cost of your new tall boots will be directly dependent on how your measurements align with the manufacturers in terms of stock, semi-custom and full-custom plus whatever additional features you choose to add to your boots to make them your own. Starting prices average around $850 and go upwards for a pair of new tall boots that are custom made to your specifications.
- I’ve placed my custom boot order – now what?
You’ve been measured, designed a boot that fulfills your list of wants and needs and placed the order, now the waiting game begins. You can expect to wait 8-10 weeks for Deniro and Königs, 10-12 weeks for Dehner and Cavallo and as long as 16-18 weeks for custom Vogels.
What did I choose?
There were so many choices to be made when designing my own custom tall riding boots. I knew that mine would be used primarily for daily schooling and informal ratcatcher attire foxhunting days (which surprisingly outnumber the formal days). So what did I end up going with?
I chose a brown DeNiro boot with a plain front (no laces) and an “S” zipper that in theory will help alleviate the discomfort I have experienced with standard back zip models chewing up my heels. Even though I am in love with the punched toe cap I chose a plain toe cap to avoid having to use a tooth brush to clean out the little holes after a muddy day of foxhunting. Though I have never “burned” through the calves in my other tall boots I opted for an inside wear patch to add to their longevity. I picked a brown stained woodgrain sole for a smart and refined appearance and had my initials embroidered into the swagger tab in a light brown thread. My order has been placed and now I wait and pray that I do not lose or gain too much weight over the coming months! Stay tuned for the arrival of my new tall boots which should be here around the beginning of April 2017.