Katharine Stancliff: based out of SC, Certified Saddle Fitter proudly representing Stübben North America servicing SC, NC, TN and GA. Catch me competing at local events with my buckskin Connemara cross Poppyfields Tristan, especially around the Tryon area.
Monday, June 13, 2016
The Struggle Is Real
Boots; the classic equestrian footwear. I remember as a kid taking lessons, I had a number of sturdy rubber dress boots that I rode in every week. They were hot in the summer and cold in the winter, wore out quickly, had very little support, but you could stomp around in puddles and mud up to your knees and keep your feet dry. I definitely wasn't winning any fashion contests wearing them, but especially as a kid going through growth spurts they were an excellent choice.
Just like these!
Now as the eventing world has embraced the Dubarry fashion trend (mimicked by nearly every boot company worth their salt), riders can have stylish and more supportive footwear while still keeping their feet dry! Which is great! Unless...
Unless you have oddly proportioned legs and ankles. I have been cursed blessed with very narrow ankles and calves, paired with larger and very flat feet. As a teenager, we discovered the main reason I had terrible shin splints and leg pain was due to my feet containing extra bones, which aren't very helpful and throw everything out of wack dooming me to wear orthotics and supportive footwear for the rest of my life. (No wearing high heels long term for this non-fashionista)
Enter the Dubarry "Galway" boot
But then Dubarry gained popularity and I got starry eyed at their display during Rolex several years ago. I pined and pined over their boots, but they were always too wide when I tried them on (ankle and calf). I dreamed about being able to walk my cross country courses in the dry comfort of leather boots (including the water complexes). Previously I would have to decide on either a) being comfortable and wearing tennis shoes or b) being hot and sore wearing rubber muck boots that could brave the water. Lucky me, Dubarry eventually released their "Clare" style, which was a tad narrower in the calf and ankle than their original boot!
I managed to snag myself a pair and after a brief break-in period, I was in love. I would wear theses with shorts, dress up and wear them out to dinner, they were perfect barn work boots, and I took better care of them than I would of a child! (It's true) Unfortunately after having them for several months, I noticed something strange when walking through water with them. While they were still keeping my feet dry, the GoreTex liner seemed to be separating within the toe from the leather outer shell giving me the feeling of a bubble of water forming over my feet. I'd had some friends with less than savory experiences with Dubarry's customer service, but as soon as I contacted them with my issue they quickly and easily replaced my boots with a new pair! But... after having those for a few weeks, I discovered that there was an area that was stitched improperly and was coming undone. I met with a Dubarry rep at a trade show and again, their excellent customer service took care of me and replaced my boots yet again!
Which brings me to the current pair I own. They're waterproof, they're beautiful, but something is just different from the previous boots I've owned. Both the other pairs I've had, after a short break in period fit like a second skin. The newest pair I have (which I've babied) never fit quite like the previous pairs. The right boot especially allows my heel to pop up and down, causing nasty blisters. After a lengthy period of time hoping for the fit to improve, I've finally come to the conclusion that they just don't fit my skinny little ankles.
Now I'm aware that Dubarry has newly released a "narrow" version of the Galway boot, but comparing the with of the ankle to the original, I'm 99% certain it's only really narrower in the calf. "But Katharine, there are loads of other brands with similarly designed waterproof leather boots!" Which is great, except they all have a wide ankle.
This has lead me to continue my search outside of the equestrian shopping experience! I was very hopeful when I first started, but as this has dragged on for several weeks, I find myself thoroughly disappointed. Truly "waterproof" boots for women are few and far between, unless you can comfortably fit in a rubber boot (which I can't due to the wide ankles). Here's the closest options my search turned up.
I know, I know, they're pretty gaudy and out there with the camo and the name, but as far as something to fit snugly through the ankle and calf I was pleasantly surprised how comfortable these were! Plus they have Cabela's version of GoreTex called "4MostDryPlus" and since they're meant for hunting (and protecting the wearer from snakebites which is a plus) they feel very sturdy. The downsides were the thick insulation, which I can't imagine being comfortable walking courses in 90+ degree weather, and the sizing runs a bit small so I wasn't able to try the correct size in the store. For almost $200 I definitely wanted to give them a thorough test.
These boots from Merrell caught my eye. They have a similar look to "equestrian" styled boots, boast a waterproof membrane, and the biggest complaint on product reviews were that the ankle and calf were too narrow! My biggest holdup is that the inside has a full length zipper, so how can they possibly be waterproof? I called Merrell HQ and asked their product division just that, and the answer I got is that they will "stand behind their product". I was also able to find them on Nordstrom Rack's website for $105, less than half of their list price with a great return policy if they don't work out. I took the plunge today and ordered them!
I tried several other styles of rubber boots too since North Face had one that looked narrower in the ankle, but alas everything I tried was still too wide. I hope my search has come to an end with Merrell, but I'll have to wait and see when they come in. In the meantime, my beloved Dubarry Clare's are going to make their way onto EBay to hopefully sway the cost of new boots. I'm very disappointed that they can't work out for me. Ah well, first world problems.