Not all horseback riding boots for beginners are made equal
There’s a lot more to learn when you’re an equestrian than how to post on the correct diagonal, get the right canter lead, or master two point. Understanding the proper equipment is a big piece of the lesson success equation. Selecting quality footwear, like Ariat Heritage Breeze paddock boots, is crucial for safety and helps you ride with comfort and confidence in every lesson.
When it comes to horseback riding lessons, wear boots that are safe, durable, and appropriate for your chosen discipline. Here are our top 13 picks:
- TuffRider Childrens Starter Front Zip Paddock Boot (Kids)
- EquiStar Child’s Field Boot All Weather (Kids)
- Smoky Mountain Children’s Monterey Western Cowboy Boots (Kids)
- Rocky Kids’ Mid Calf Boot (Kids)
- Merrell Captiva Buckle-Down Waterproof Boot(Ladies) (I own and love these.)
- Ariat Heritage Contour II Field English Boot (Ladies) (I own and love these, too.)
- Ariat Heritage III Zip Paddock Boot (Ladies)
- TuffRider Starter Front Zip Paddock Boot (Ladies)
- Roper Crossrider Western Boot (Ladies)
- AdTec Packer Boot (Ladies)
- Ariat Sport V Zip Tall Riding Boot (Ladies)
- Ariat Heritage Lacer Western Cowboy Boot (Gents)
- Laredo Breakout Western Boot (Gents)
Helping out around the barn, too? Check out our 7 Best Boots for Mucking Stalls.
How to Choose a Riding Lesson Boot
After more than twenty years of english and western lessons, I know what it takes to show up in the right mindset (and apparel) to learn. Wear the wrong boots, and you’ll be thinking more about your aching feet than your instructor’s advice.
Or, worse yet, you’ll have a safety mishap that lands you in the dirt.
Luckily, there are LOTS of options out there when it comes to horseback riding boots for ladies, gents, and little buckaroos. It’s easier than you think to find a pair that “does the job” and lasts for years.
I’ve consolidated my top 13 lesson boots in this article, but there are few parameters you should know first.
5 factors to consider when picking riding lesson boots:
- Safety: Even if you’re only doing one lesson per week, your shoes must be closed-toed and have a solid heel. They’ll protect your feet from misplaced hooves (it happens) and keep your feet from sliding through the stirrups and accidentally getting caught. #beentheredonethat
- Discipline: Whether you’re taking lessons in dressage, reining, basic pleasure riding, or jumping (just to name a few), your boot should be designed for the type of riding you’ll be doing.
- Material: From leather to rubber, you can find horse riding boots in several materials. If you’re trudging through the mud and snow, something waterproof and insulated should top your list. If you’re riding in high heat, breathability is key.
- Cost: You get what you pay for when it comes to riding boots, and it’s worth spending a bit more to get something truly comfortable that will last for years. If your child is taking lessons and still growing, you may want to go with less costly boots until they’re done growing. But, remember that reselling nice boots is a lot easier.
- Style: Fashion isn’t first on the list for a reason. Though you shouldn’t buy boots on looks alone, there are enough options out there so you can wear boots you like, design-wise, that also do the job well.
If you want more guidance, check out our full guide about what to wear horseback riding.
TuffRider Children’s Starter Buckle-Down Waterproof Boot (Kids)
If your child is just getting started with horseback riding lessons, or if you need to replace an older pair of lesson boots, the TuffRider Children’s Starter Front Zip is an affordable choice.
- Elastic gullets on the sides increase flexibility.
- The zip front makes them easy to get on/off.
- They come in black or mocha.
- They’re more affordable for the beginner children riders.
- They’re really easy to clean with a damp cloth!
- These boots don’t have a pull-on strap which makes them a bit harder to get on.
- They won’t hold up as long as higher-quality brands, but they’re plenty sturdy enough for lessons.
- The uppers are synthetic leather, and they don’t have much arch support or cushion.
EquiStar All Weather Child’s Field Boot (Kids)
If your child needs a tall boot for riding lessons, check out the Equistar Child’s Field Boot. For jumping and dressage lessons, this is a wonderful choice.
- Flattering narrow profile includes gussets on the top inside for comfort.
- EquiStar Sole System includes twin spur rests.
- “Leather look” material provides the style of typical riding boots at a more economical price.
- Dri-Tex liner offers superior sweat management for warm weather riding.
- This boot can run a little small, so you may want to order two sizes and keep whichever fits best.
- These aren’t real leather, so they won’t last as long. (Though, they are made to be “all weather.”)
Smoky Mountain Children’s Monterey Western Cowboy Boots (Kids)
Children in western lessons will love the Smoky Mountain Children’s Monterey Western Cowboy Boots.
- Classic western style includes accent stitching on the shaft and toe.
- Nice safety heel to keep the boot from slipping through the stirrups.
- Comes in five cute colors appropriate for girls and boys.
- Faux leather material won’t hold up as well as real leather, but it’s plenty durable for riding lessons.
- This boot runs large, so you may want to order a size down.
Rocky Kids’ Mid Calf Boot (Kids)
If your child needs a good boot for horseback riding lessons and playing around the barn or ranch, go with the Rocky Kids’ Mid Calf Boot.
- These full-grain leather boots have a rubber sole, and the combination is durable and comfortable.
- 6” shaft is sufficient for riding but also short enough that it won’t restrict play.
- Round toe style won’t pinch your child’s toes.
- Overall style is more rugged than other children’s riding boots.
- Sizing can be a bit tough on this boot. Read the customer reviews below to make sure you order the right one for your child.
New to equestrian sports? Learn more in our article about How to Ride a Horse for Beginners (Basics, Safety, Mistakes).
Merrell Captiva Buckle-Down Waterproof Boot (Ladies)
I bought my Espresso Merrell Captivas on a whim five years ago, and I’ve worn them for every western ride since. (I also ride english, but so you’ll find my favorite english boot next.)
I’m obsessed with the comfort and durability and plan to buy a second pair as a backup because I love them that much!
- The craftsmanship has held up to riding 2-4 times per week in this boots without a hint of wear and tear.
- They’ve got a subtle heel, but it’s enough for riding safely.
- They’re waterproof!
- They’re SO comfortable, and the cushy sole makes a big difference on trail rides and long days around the barn.
- The instep zipper makes it easy to get them on/off.
- They look great with jeans, worn inside or out, and come in black, espresso (my fav), and burgundy.
- I wish the buckle wasn’t there, as it looks a little odd to have the second spur strap under them. Though spurs work completely fine with these.
- They’re a little shorter than cowboy boots but still taller than paddock boots, so they might hit at an odd spot on tall riders’ legs.
- If you have bigger calves, the top of the boots may be too snug.
Ariat Heritage Contour II Field English Boot (Ladies)
Here are my favorite English boots. I wear my Ariat Heritage Contour II Field Boot for every dressage, stadium jumping, and cross country ride (and have for 3+ years).
- Ariat is the leading english boot brand, so the quality and style is top notch.
- This is the perfect safety heel for riding and has a good spur stop on the back.
- They’re easy to break in and have a full zip in the back for easy access.
- The upper is made from premium full-grain leather that lasts forever (with proper care).
- The gussets on the inside knees increase comfort whether you’re in the saddle or not.
- I actually got the “short” size in this boot and they fit perfectly. (I’m 5’6 and 120 lbs.) If you’re on the shorter side, you’ll definitely want to go with the short.
- These have the field style lacing, which may or may not be your style.
- If you like riding in regular jeans, they’ll be too bulky for this boot. (Jean breeches are fine though!)
- Due to the craftsmanship and style, these are a bit on the costly side.
Ariat Heritage Breeze Lace Paddock Boot (Ladies)
The Ariat Heritage Breeze Lace Paddock Boot is a super beginner choice because they’re less expensive than most dress boots and more convenient before/after your ride.
- They have a nice safety heel and easy pull strap in the back. Plus the laces make it even easier to get them on/off.
- They have a washable leather upper and a rubber sole built to last.
- This boots features ankle flexion notches for increased flexibility in the saddle.
- You may want to add an extra sole insert for cushion. They’re rather thin.
- They aren’t waterproof, so don’t wear them out for long during mud/rainy season.
TuffRider Starter Front Zip Paddock Boot (Ladies)
TheTuffRider Starter Front Zip Paddock Boot is an economical lesson boot for any horse rookie. They won’t last as long as an Ariat boot, but they’ll do the job fine if you’re only riding occasionally.
- Elastic gullets on the sides increase flexibility in the saddle.
- The zip front makes them easy to get on/off, and they come in black or mocha.
- They’re more affordable for the beginners.
- They’re really easy to clean… you just need a damp cloth.
- These boots don’t have a pull-on strap in the back.
- They won’t hold up as long as higher-quality brands if you’re wearing them a lot at the barn.
- The uppers are synthetic leather vs. full-grain leather.
- They don’t have much arch support or cushion, so you want to add inserts.
Roper Crossrider Western Boot (Ladies)
If you’re a western rider who prefers short boots, the Roper Crossrider Western Boot is a great option for your lessons.
- Roper is respected in western circles so the quality and craftsmanship is high.
- They’ve got a classic western design that looks great on its own or with half chaps.
- The forged steel shank adds stability and support.
- The safety heel is great for riding, and there’s plenty of traction on the sole.
- Style-wise, the sole is thick (not my personal preference).
- They aren’t waterproof, so invest in a waterproofing spray to help these last.
- For sizing, they run on the large side.
AdTec Packer Boot (Ladies)
Though it shouldn’t be style over substance when it comes to picking a riding lesson boot, I must say the style of the AdTec Packer Boot is super cool.
- Super safety heel with a full-grain leather upper and rubber sole.
- They have a really flattering style (as opposed to a chunky work boot).
- I love the two-tone cherry/black option, but they also come in tan or solid brown/black.
- They have a removable orthotic insole cushion for extra comfort.
- You can remove the fringe accent piece if that’s not your style.
- They’re on the heavier side, so they aren’t the best choice if you’ll be doing a lot of walking daily.
- There isn’t a ton of traction on the heel or sole.
- The heel is 1.5” tall, which is pretty prominent visually.
Ariat V Sport Zip Tall Riding Boot (Ladies)
If you like a sportier look, you’ll love the Ariat V Sport Zip Tall Riding Boot. It’s got a unique design and all the “must have” features for riding.
Equestrian Vlogger and horse trainer Shelby Dennis also included this boot in her Horse Rookie Equestrian Gift Guide.
- They’re really comfy and don’t require a “breaking in” period.
- They’ve got great traction on the sole and a nice safety heel.
- The navy Spanish style top design is beautiful (and has a snap closure).
- The full zip down the back makes for easy on/off.
- This boot has elasticized panels that make for a custom fit without paying for a custom boot.
- It’s on the pricier side, but you get what you pay for.
- Calf sizing can be trickier on this boot, so you may want to order two sizes and keep whichever fits best.
- Sometimes the zipper can slide down (no leather keeper to hold it in place).
Want to wear some cool western boots around town? Read about our 16 Best Cowboy Boots.
Ariat Heritage Lacer Cowboy Boot (Gents)
For gents, the Ariat Heritage Lacer Cowboy Boot is a clean, classic western boot for riding lessons and wearing around town.
- They have a leather upper and rubber sole that are durable and comfortable.
- The Duratread outsole is tough and flexible, and they feature advanced technology for added support and stabilization.
- Ariat quality and craftsmanship makes these a great investment.
- There’s no pull strap in the back.
- The soles are built for riding vs. tough terrain (e.g. forestry work).
- They can take some breaking in, so be sure to wear them around a few times prior to your first lesson.
Laredo Breakout Western Boot (Gents)
If you prefer a more classic cowboy boot, the Laredo Breakout Western Boot is a great choice. It’s one of my favorite men’s boots because it’s timeless design lasts as long as the boot itself.
- They have a genuine leather upper and synthetic sole for durability and comfort.
- Good safety heel for riding is paired with a classic design you can wear out to dinner. (Gents: Clean them first… 😉
- I love the accent stitching on the shaft and toe. It’s subtle but adds a western flair.
- The breathable mesh lining helps keep your feet cool.
- They aren’t insulated, so if you’ll be riding in the winter you’ll want something warmer.
- They run on the small/narrow side, so you may want to order two sizes and return the one that doesn’t fit.
Best Half Chaps for Beginners
If you decide to wear paddock boots for your lessons, you’ll need a good pair of half chaps to go with them.
Half chaps fit over the top of your boot (with a strap under the arch) and provide the coverage and grip of a dress boot.
Here are seven great half chaps for riding lessons:
- Perri’s Child’s Zipper Half Chap (Kids)
- Ariat Girls Scout Chap Half Chaps (Kids)
- Saxon Equileather Half Chaps
- Horze Amara Easy Care Suede Half Chaps
- Ariat Unisex Terrain II Half Chaps
- Ovation EquiStretch II Half Chaps
- Tough 1 Breathable Half Chaps
Dressing the part is an important consideration for new riders. Check out our blog about What to Wear Horseback Riding.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are the best horse riding boots overall?
The Ariat Heritage Breeze Lace Paddock Boot is one of the most versatile riding boots. There are women and men’s versions, and you can wear them as a short boot or pair them with half chaps for a tall boot look.
Q: What are the best riding boots for kids?
If your kiddo is starting horseback riding lessons, or they’ve simply outgrown their old pair of boots, the TuffRider Children’s Starter Front Zip is an great choice.
Q: What are the best girls riding boots?
If you’ve got a cute little cowgirl obsessed with horses, she’ll love the Smoky Mountain Monterey Western Cowboy Boots.
They have classic styling, a safe heel for riding, and come in several fun colors.
Q: What are the best boys riding boots?
You can’t go wrong with the Rocky Kids’ Mid Calf Boot. It’s durable, has a 6″ shaft that won’t slow playful boys down, and it’s rugged enough for the barn, ranch, or school.
Q: What are the best riding boot brands?
The “best” boot is the one that fits your unique foot. The brands below produce some of the most popular riding boots, so they’re a great place to start!
- Smoky Mountain
Q: What are riding boots used for?
“Riding boots” is a term that refers to a boot’s style and function. Equestrians have unique needs like safety heels and grip that purely fashion boots don’t.
If you’re not sure what else to wear to your lessons, we have a full guide here.
Q: Can I ride horses in tennis shoes?
No way! Sneakers are NOT safe for for riding lessons (or any other time you’re around horses). Tennis shoes don’t have the necessary safety heel or protect your ankle from rubs or saddle pinching.
Mesh sneakers (for example) also offer no protection if you get stepped on, which is why you’ll almost always see leather boots (or the synthetic equivalent).
Q: Should horse riding boots be leather?
Typically yes, riding boots will be leather or synthetic. Grip, durability, and protection from the elements are the top reasons why.
Q: Are there vegan horse riding boots?
I’m a vegetarian (not a vegan), but I’ve wondered this before and did some research. It turns out vegan horse riding boots are hard to find, as demand is too low for manufacturers to up the supply.
Q: Are paddock boots good for riding?
Paddock boots are arguably the most popular riding boots you’ll see in lessons. These short boots are versatile if you’re riding, working around the barn, or grabbing coffee with friends.
The most important thing is to get a durable, high-quality boot with a safety heel.
Q: What are the best short riding boots?
Q: What are the best muck boots?
If you’re doing horseback riding lessons, you won’t necessarily want to wear your nice lesson boots out to the soggy field or to muck stalls. You’ll want a solid pair of muck boots you can change into after you ride.
We wrote an entire article about how to choose the best boot for mucking stalls.
Q: What are the best winter riding boots?
If you you’re not into the Horze Montana, Ovation makes a Blizzard Winter Boot with solid Amazon reviews.
Q: What do you need to go horseback riding?
We tell you exactly what to wear horseback riding in our beginner’s guide.
Q: When is it too late to start horseback riding?
Trainer and guest contributor hears this question a lot, so she wrote an entire article about when it’s too late to start horseback riding. You’ll be pleased with what she has to say about this common myth!
Live, Learn, Lesson
When you’re prepping for your first horseback riding lesson or simply want to up your game, the proper boots are a significant factor in your success.
Poorly fitting boots, rubbed ankles, and flimsy shoes are classic #rookiemistakes. Stick with one of our favorite lesson boots above, and you’ll be riding like a pro in no time.
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
- Horseback Riding: What to Wear (With Pictures)
- $hit Happens: 7 Best Boots for Mucking Stalls
- 10 Best Pull On Work Boots
- Horseback Riding for Beginners (Basics, Safety, Mistakes)
- 12 Best Gifts Barn Managers, Owners, and Workers Will Actually Love