The best dressage riding boots can’t guarantee perfect marks, but they sure do help.
Years ago, with my 21st birthday fast-approaching, I decided it was high time to get myself a pair of top (i.e. tall boot) dressage boots. I was well and truly an adult, and investing in quality boots felt a right of passage.
After trying a few different options without success, I was told I should consider buying a custom pair of Cavallos boots. It was a significant amount of money, but I was assured they were wonderful boots, a good investment, and would last me for at least a decade.
Sadly, all my expensive custom boots convinced me of was that “high quality” dressage boots were the dressage rider’s equivalent of ballet pointe shoes.
Whilst they looked elegant on the outside, they were uncomfortable and fit poorly. Given the amount of money I had forked out, I kept wearing them for the next four years.
I also (wrongly) assumed that this was how all top boots would feel. Luckily, I’ve since realised that good dressage boots, if well made and correctly fit, can be extremely comfortable.
Read on to learn about three of the best dressage riding boots that excel at fashion and function.
New to the sport? Check out our 27-Page Horse Rookie’s Guide to Dressage.
How to pick dressage boots
Before we launch into a discussion on particular brands, let’s briefly touch on a few important considerations. (Or, you can click here to skip right to the boots.)
The question of top boots (i.e. tall boots) vs. short boots (paddock boots) and gaiters (i.e. half chaps) comes up a lot. Short boots and gaiters have a number of advantages, as they’re often cheaper, easy to put on/off, and provide freer movement through the ankle.
That said, tall boots are required once you reach a certain level in dressage competition. The structure of the tall boot provides additional support to the leg and a stabilising effect many riders prefer.
Dressage boots commonly have a zipper located on the inside of the boot and forward of the ankle. The advantage of a forward zip is that it doesn’t disrupt the structure and solidity of the boot.
If you don’t like inside zippers, though, you can opt for tall boots that zip up at the back.
You also need to decide how stiff you want the outer shaft/calf of the boot to be. The iconic and elegant silhouette of the dressage boot is largely due to having a very stiff exterior.
Whilst this looks lovely, if you are used to a soft, thinner boot, you may find stiff boots uncomfortable. Additionally, a stiff outer calf will also mean a longer breaking-in period for new boots.
If you opt for a made-to-measure custom boot, carefully check the rule book of your governing dressage organization first to ensure that you’ll be able to wear them for competition. For example, boots with full laces down the front are increasingly popular, but they’re not allowed in official competitions under the Equestrian Australia rules.
Quality dressage boots don’t just help YOU. Check out the 3 Best Dressage Boots for Horses Moving Up the Levels.
3 best dressage riding boots
- These boots are beautifully handcrafted in Portugal and 100% made-to-measure.
- They come in multiple styles and can be customised as little or as much as you like.
- Starting from $800 AUD, they are reasonably priced for the quality.
- They’re incredibly comfortable to wear on and off your horse.
- For the dressage models, you can select to have a partially or fully reinforced outer calf.
- You’ll need to be patient. These boots are handmade in a small factory, so allow a longer lead time.
- Some riders have experienced fit issues, however these have been rectified free of charge by Celeris.
Learn about 7 Ways to Wow Judges and Improve Your Dressage Score.
De Niro Boots
Another popular boot brand among dressage riders is De Niro. I know several riders who refuse to ride in anything except these beautiful Italian boots.
Though I decided on the Celeris brand for myself, I did try on De Niro boots and loved them.
- These boots offer a traditional and elegant dressage silhouette.
- This brand offers a number of off the rack boots, as well as made to measure
- Made-to-measure boots are considered a custom boot.
- These boots start at a higher price point, and customisation increases the cost cost.
Want to score a perfect 10 on fashion? Check out our 4 Dressage Fashion Trends & Salute-Worthy Styles.
Within Australia and the United States, Ariat boots are a popular choice amongst many dressage riders.
- The lower price point offers an affordable entry point for dressage riders of all levels.
- This brand is easy to find and quick to procure.
- There are several different models available.
- Ariats are typically softer and thinner boots, which means they may be more likely to sink down a bit as you ride. Be sure to consider this when determining the height that you need to purchase.
- There’s no option for made-to-measure boots, so you must choose from standard sizes.
Chief Rookie Aside: I own and love the Ariat Heritage Contour II tall boots. They’re my go-to boots for jumping and dressage!
What are the levels of dressage, and how do you know if you’re ready to move up?
Bonus: Konig Boots
Konig boots are also popular, although they are still less common in Australia. This brand has solid endorsements, given that top dressage riders like Charlotte Dujardin, Carl Hester, and Isabell Werth wear them!
About Andrea Parker
Andrea is an Australian adult amateur dressage rider who competes at medium level on her 13-year-old mare Mon Ami. Andrea shares her journey through the equestrian world on her blog The Sand Arena Ballerina and is working on a new equestrian podcast called Equestrian Pulse. You can also follow Andrea on Instagram.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I measure for a dressage boot?
Measuring for a dressage boot is pretty simple as long as you have a flexible measuring tape. There are two measurements you will need other than your shoe size — height from the floor to the back of your calf and the circumference of the widest part of your calf. The first measurement will be the boot shaft height. Keep in mind that boots made from softer leather will sink a little as they are broken in. The second measurement will tell you if you need a slim, regular, or wide calf boot. The boot manufacturer will have these measurements available for the particular boot you are interested in.
Are custom boots worth the investment?
If you can afford a custom boot, it can definitely be worth the investment. While you can get some excellent boots off the shelf, custom boots are built especially for your leg and foot. These boots tend to be very comfortable and last for a long time! That said, the price tag can be quite hefty.
What color boots should I buy?
There are some really fun boot colors available for riders! You can choose fun colors and materials to complement your tack or outfit. If you are planning on showing, though, you’ll want to check the showing regulations. Dressage and Huntseat riders, for example, are generally required to wear black boots at events.
New to the sport? Check out our 27-Page Horse Rookie’s Guide to Dressage.
How do I break in my new boots?
We’ve got a few great tips for breaking in your boots without killing your feet!
- The first trick is wearing your boots around the house for short periods of time. If you have a thick pair of socks, wearing them will help stretch your boots faster.
- Second, you can use boot stretchers to help make the leather more flexible and remove any boot trees.
- Third, fill a gallon ziplock bag with water and place it in the bottom of your boot, then place your boot in the freezer (No, I’m not kidding!). As the water freezes it expands and stretches the leather. Don’t leave your boot in the freezer too long or it could damage the leather.
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