Riding boots are boots which have been designed specifically for use in horseback riding. There are a number of different styles of riding boot, customized for various equestrian sports, and riding boots are also sometimes used by motorcyclists, since many of the features designed for horseback riding are also useful on a motorcycle. Riding supply shops generally carry an array of riding boots for their customers, and these boots can also be ordered through supplier catalogs.
Several issues are of concern when designing boots for horseback riding. The first is safety. Riding boots are designed in such a way that they cannot slip through or catch on the stirrup, and they must also be sturdy enough to support the rider's leg while preventing it from being pinched in the stirrup leathers or injured in a collision with a fence, tree, or other obstacle. Riding boots also provide support to the rider's ankle, ensuring that he or she can hold a firm seat, and the toes are typically reinforced.
Most riding boots look very similar to conventional boots, until one examines the heel and sole more closely. The sole tends to be smooth, so that it slides easily in the stirrup iron, and the heel is tall and broad to provide support and create a wedge so that the foot cannot slide through the stirrup iron. The top of the boot may also be cut to allow greater flexibility around the knee, especially in the case of boots designed for jumping, where the rider adopts a half-crouched stance.
Field and dress boots are both high, typically reaching almost to the knee. Field boots lace or zip, allowing more flexibility around the ankle so that the rider can easily change position in the saddle, to move into a jump or hunt seat. Dress boots are stiffer, and designed for riding on the flat only. Paddock boots, also called Jodphur boots, are more casual riding boots which reach only to the ankle, and they are less common in competition. Western boots are very similar to dress boots, except with a more pronounced heel, and slightly different aesthetics.
When selecting riding boots, it is critical to try them on, and ideally to bring in the stirrups you use to make sure that the boots are a good fit. Equestrians should try bending through a series of moves in riding boots, to ensure that they have enough flexibility, and they should take note of any discomfort. If riding boots pinch or feel awkward in the store, they may become painful during a riding session. Riding boots should also feel snug and supportive, rather than loose, as loose boots can interfere with commands to the horse or with security in the saddle.