Competition Riding Boots Buyer's Guide

The Ultimate Guide to Competition Riding Boots

Are you looking for a new pair of competition riding boots?  Not sure whether long or short riding boots are the right choice?

There is no doubt about the importance riding boots play in your performance and appearance when competing in all levels of equestrian events.

But, with the multitude of prices, styles and quality of riding boots for men, women and children available in today’s market, how do you choose the boots that will give you the polished look, durability, protection and comfort needed when competing in equestrian events?

This guide will help you make an informed choice by looking at the different options available in competition riding boots and guidelines for getting the best fit.

Product Types



Field Boots

Dress Boots

Short Boots





Riding Styles




Show Jumping



Choosing a product



Competition Level

Measuring yourself


There is also some practical advice on how to look after your competition riding boots to make sure they continue to look and perform at their best over time.

How To Choose Competition Riding Boots

When looking for competition riding boots, style, comfort, and quality are the most essential qualities to consider.

The boots should provide firm and comfortable ankle and lower leg support and inside calf protection to aid stability and control whilst preventing strains, bruises and rubs.

For competitive riders, riding boots that offer advanced technology for peak performance are the best investment.

Boots that have some level of water proofing, a soft lining, and breathability will keep your feet comfortable through even the most strenuous riding.  So, you will have better feel and therefore control of your horse

The sole has an integral part in the safety component of all riding boots. It should:

  • be thin enough to not interfere with the foot’s dexterity or feeling
  • be made of rubber with a light tread providing good yet adjustable grip both on the ground and in the stirrup
  • have a heel (about one inch) that prevents the foot from sliding through the stirrup

For equestrian competitions like jumping, dressage, schooling or hacking then a lighter tread is preferable. Boots with a slightly deeper tread are ideal for beginning eventers (eg. Harry Hall Edlington Riding Boots).

Whether riding in long boots or short boots with gaiters, boots made of full-grain leather provides the best grip in the saddle – giving more stability to the rider’s leg position. And, it also gives an elegant look to all riders.

Most equestrian events take place outdoors. So, competition riding boots need to be durable enough to stand up to the wear and tear of hours of riding in all sorts of weather conditions – hot and dry, as well as wet and muddy.

Traditionally, long riding boots were a ‘pull on’ style. But, many models now designed specifically with the active equestrian competitor in mind, have full-length, discreetly placed zips at the back. So getting in and out of the boots quickly is much easier.

The traditional top with a straight cut on long boots (as on hunt boots) is quite acceptable for competition particularly at lower levels.

But, the Spanish cut, is more popular and the norm in the higher levels of equestrian events. This shape is a higher cut on the outside of the rider’s leg extending slightly over the outside of the knee giving a longer, more elegant appearance to the leg.

Regardless of style, black is the most popular colour for competition.

Which Style Of Riding Boots?

Choosing the right style of boot depends on mainly on three criteria:

  1. the type and level of competition you will be doing
  2. how often you will take part in horse riding competitions
  3. your budget


For beginner riders or those just starting out in low level competitions, a versatile riding boot made of rubber or synthetic materials is a budget friendly option.

A pair of boots that are made waterproof, moulded synthetic with a breathable liner and a durable rubber sole (like the Dublin Universal) have the versatility to go from riding lessons to low level competitions. 

For riders moving up to or already riding in higher levels of equestrian sports, a pair of quality full-grain leather boots is the best investment in the long term.

When moving up from lower levels, check with the governing body, show organizers or your riding instructor for the appropriate style of boot for specific types of competitions.

Remember that you’ll also spend at least some time walking and standing in the boots at horse events. So, competition boots also need to provide foot support and stand up to dirt and mud.


Jodhpur or paddock boots are an attractive, durable and versatile choice for competition riding (like the Ariat Heritage IV Paddock boots) for men, women and children.

They can be worn just as well for riding in competition, schooling or hacking, attending equestrian events or simply as a stunning pair of all-round boots for everyday wear.

Paired with gaiters, they give the rider’s leg an elegant look similar to that of a long riding boot.

They are a budget friendly and versatile choice for riders who can’t find the right fit in long boots or aren’t comfortable wearing them.

They are also a good option for children as well as novice and occasional competitors.

Not all short boots are suitable for competition wear. Short boots suitable for competition riding have:

  • a brogue look
  • zip or lace front closing
  • elasticated panels allowing ankle flexion
  • spur rests
  • padded or gel foot support
  • gentle tread for grip on the stirrups


Gaiters (also called show chaps) have most of the benefits of long boots with the disadvantages. A beautiful pair of gaiters (like Ariat’s Close Contour Show Chaps) creates the impression of long boots when worn with jodhpur or paddock boots.

A big advantage is being able to quickly remove the gaiters to cool down after completing your round at the competition or to switch to other activities – like driving your car.

For competition, top quality gaiters made from premium, full grain leather outside and a leather lining inside look stunning and feel comfortable while still having durability.

Gaiters have a stretch panelling skirt on the front that makes it easy to slip on over your jodhpur or paddock boots. A heavy duty elastic band that goes under the boot keeps them securely in place.

Where half chaps have the closure on the side, competition style gaiters have a discreet full length zip in the back. An elasticated panel ensures the fit conforms to the shape of the leg ensuring a flattering and polished look.

Competition gaiters often have the Spanish cut – just like the best long boots – creating an elegant curve that elongates the rider’s leg.


Field boots are favoured by riders in jumping disciplines such as

  • show jumping
  • cross country
  • fox hunting

The lace-up closure at the front of the ankle gives greater flexibility and comfort for the rider’s ankle which makes a difference when riding with the shorter stirrup length needed for jumping or galloping across country.

Premium field boots (like The Ariat Heritage II Field Zip women’s riding boot) are designed with advanced technologies to help riders achieve peak performance whilst capturing the elegant, traditional equestrian style.


The traditional and stylish dress or “dressage” boot, gives a very polished look to every rider. It is designed to provide more ankle support than the field boot and prevents the heel from dropping.

This extra support makes it a good choice for riders in any discipline who have weak ankles requiring as it aids with keeping a solid leg position.

These sleek boots are the classic and tastefully understated footware of dressage riders. However, dress boots are also popular for other equestrian sport competitions.

For eventers, who don’t want to invest in two pairs of competition boots, dress boots go seamlessly from the dressage ring to the cross country course.

Dress boots are traditionally black in colour and made from leather, although rubber and synthetic dress boots are available for riders on a tighter budget.

How To Measure Yourself

Just as important as choosing the right type of competition riding boots is getting the right fit. Ill-fitting boots can be uncomfortable, distracting and even dangerous.

For short riding boots, only the foot size and width is required. The calf width and height will be needed for correctly sizing the gaiters they’ll be paired with.

When you’re choosing your competition long boots, remember to make a note of the foot size as well as the calf length and circumference, to ensure the best fit.

Follow these steps to find the correct size of long riding boots or gaiters:

  • Find what the calf width and height corresponds to and pick sizes accordingly.
  • Use a flexible, fabric tape measure.
  • Measure the widest part of the calf on each leg whilst standing straight
  • With the legs slightly bent, measure from the crease of the knee to the heel of the foot.
  • For long boots, remember to also include the foot size.

Compare all the appropriate measurements (calf width, height and foot) to the manufacturer’s size guide.

How To Care For Your Competition Riding Boots

Buying a pair of competition boots can be an expensive investment. But, as long as they are properly maintained and cared for, they can last for many years.

Synthetic riding boots can simply be rinsed off with warm water, cleaned with a mild detergent, rinsed and dried with a soft towel.

Leather riding boots require more care. To prevent the leather from drying out and cracking, use specialized leather products to clean and condition them regularly.

  1. Using a firm brush, gently remove dirt build up from around the boot paying particular attention to the zip and rim of the sole.
  2. Rinse with a clean, damp cloth.
  3. Apply a specialized leather cleaner sparingly to the entire outer boot and carefully wipe away any remaining dirt.
  4. Remove cleaner with a soft, clean damp cloth.
  5. Allow to dry naturally away from direct heat sources.
  6. Apply a specialised leather conditioner to help preserve the leather.
  7. Optionally, apply a protective spray which will help guard the leather against water which can degrade leather over time.

If the boots have a zip, keep it in good working condition by opening it and wiping off grease and dirt after each wearing. This step will prevent debris from building up and causing the zip to become stuck or split.

Store all of your riding boots in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Stand long boots up while not in use by placing placing boot shapers or rolled up magazines inside the calves.

For long periods of storage, thoroughly clean your boots, condition leather and put them in a dust bag or box.

How To Break In New Long Riding Boots

When boots are “broken in”, they conform comfortably to the leg without pressure points or rubs.

If the first time you wear your new competition riding boots is when you’re in the saddle or at a horse show, you’ll find that they are stiff, uncomfortable and result in blisters on your ankles and behind your knees. Avoid this pain by taking the time to break in your new boots before riding in them.

There is a difference between breaking in short boots and long boots.

Short boots are the easiest style of boot to break in. The leather is usually softer than that used in long boots. Simply walking about in them for short periods of time - at home, in town or at the yard – will get the job done.

Once broken in, field boots will soften and drop down around the ankle. The top of the boot will drop, as well and mold to the shape of your leg. The average boot will drop 1-2 inches.

Dressage boots are stiffer than other riding boots as they are designed to support the ankles.  They aren’t meant to soften and drop at the ankle the same way as field boots do.  The best way to break in dressage boots is by riding in them.

Following these tips will help break in your riding boots more quickly:

  • Wear field boots around house every day as walking helps soften the ankles
  • Sit in a chair so the ankles and knees are at right angles to each other simulating the leg position when riding
  • Stand on a step facing up and let the heels drop to simulate the heel’s down position when riding
  • Apply leather conditioner to the ankle area of field boots where the need to drop and to the top where the boot sits behind your knee. Be careful not to stain your breeches.
  • Wear wet socks when walking and riding in the boots as this softens the leather from the inside out making it more pliable and mouldable.
  • Alternatively, lightly spray the inside of the boots with water before wearing them
  • Put boot shapers (or rolled up magazines) inside the boots when not being worn to keep their shape and stretch them a little.
  • Apply oil to saddle flaps and girth (leather only) as the motion of the legs will work that oil into the boots when riding
  • Have the boots stretched by a cobbler.
  • Protect skin from possible blisters and irritating pressure points by putting plasters where the boots rub.




Field Boots

Short Boots



Dublin Universal Tall Boot

Dublin Elevation Zip

Dublin Stretch Fit Half Chaps


Mountain Horse Sovereign Boot

Mountain Horse Sovereign Paddock

Mountain Horse Renown Half Chap


Ariat Heritage

Ariat Devon Pro

Ariat Close Contour


Still Not Sure? Just Ask – We’re Here To Help

If you require any more help on choosing the right equestrian attire for your needs, one of our expertly trained members of staff will be more than happy to assist. For online enquiries, please contact our customer service team on 01702 597833


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