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Teach me about women's boots
June 21, 2014 11:16 AM   Subscribe

I think I need some boots: hiking boots, winter boots and stylish boots. But I am boot-ignorant. Please help me understand what I'm looking for! (I'm female)

I need all kinds of boots, but I don't know what these kinds of boots are called or where to look for them. Here's my current list:

I like to hike but always wear tennis/athletic shoes. I feel like I need more ankle support. In the 90s, I remember seeing hiking boots everywhere, but now not so much. Are they called something different? Where should I be looking for them? Have they changed?

It gets cold but not freezing in the winter where I live. I wear ballet flats year round. But I'd like to have some cute boots that will keep my feet warmer and look more seasonally appropriate. I work in a business casual office and mostly wear skirts and dresses. I cannot wear heels of any kind or height. What kind of boot should I be looking for? and where?

I walk my dog in the winter at least 5 miles a day. I wear tennis/athletic shoes. Last winter, I had a bad fall on some ice. I never realized before how slippery tennis shoes are. I need some kind of grippy, warm, probably water-resistant boot. What kind of boots are these?

I don't want to spend a fortune, but I'm tired on not having winter-appropriate footwear. I live in the U.S. so it's summer now -- but I'm trying to plan ahead. I need a boot vocabulary so that I can be ready to buy boots this fall. Although I could use the hiking boots right now.
posted by OrangeDisk to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Just a quick question: could you give the measurement around the widest part of your calf? If you have athletic legs, you may need boots for wide calves (this isn't uncommon at all), which would shift the possibilities somewhat.
posted by ClaireBear at 11:27 AM on June 21


Hiking boots: buy from an outdoors outfitter type store like REI. Some shoe stores that specialize in sports shoes may also sell them. These need to be properly fitted and matched to your activity level, and you'll probably need sales help or at least to read some specific guides to finding the right hiking shoe.

In my experience almost any leather boot will keep you warmer than something like a ballet flat that exposes the whole leg and most of the foot. I like really simple riding boot styles, but honestly any boot that you like and is made of leather and goes up to at least your calves will help a lot. Most shoe stores sell these, though they are usually easier to find in the fall and winter because stock is seasonal. If you want to buy something timeless that will last for years, try Frye and Cole Haan brands.

For performance winter boots made for activities like walking on ice, look at brands like Sorel. That said, your hiking boots could probably do double duty. Mention to the sales person that you're looking for something with enough tread and water resistance to handle occasional walking on ice.
posted by Sara C. at 11:27 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


It gets cold but not freezing in the winter where I live. I wear ballet flats year round. But I'd like to have some cute boots that will keep my feet warmer and look more seasonally appropriate. I work in a business casual office and mostly wear skirts and dresses. I cannot wear heels of any kind or height. What kind of boot should I be looking for? and where?

Last winter Chelsea boots were all the rage, but I don't think they will also be fashionable next season. Doc Martens are a traditional staple, but I don't know if they will mesh with your style (they're trendy with dresses and skirts, anyway).
posted by sukeban at 11:32 AM on June 21


Keep in mind that, while they seem rugged and performance oriented, Doc Martens have relatively little tread. I have a pair that I use as my winter boots, but they have caused me to slip in slush countless times. They're especially bad on wet surfaces. They're no worse than something with no tread at all, but considering how they look they're unusually treadless.
posted by Sara C. at 11:36 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]


Go to REI for hiking boots! They have a great return policy if you are a member, which is important when shopping for hiking boots. you can also ask about their "garage sale" where they sell returned gear at steep discounts. If you go that route, try on different things in the store, so you know what brands you like before you go.

I also have a cute pair of Merrel and a cute pair of Teva boots that I wear in the winter. They both fit with business casual and are really comfy and warm. Keen is another brand to check out. I live in a wet climate, so waterproofing is crucial, and I've found that brads that also make hiking or outdoorsy boots are the best for finding good boots without heels.

If those kinds of boots don't have enough tread for you, you can wear your hiking boots when you go walk the dog or check out Sorel.
posted by ohisee at 12:28 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


(What *I* wear in winter is a pair of Palladium Pampas Hi like the ones on the left in the linked picture. I have no complaints and while mine are canvas, they have leather versions too. The brand is French, so I didn't link them in my first comment ^^;)
posted by sukeban at 12:51 PM on June 21


I'm a Blundstone convert. They are stylish winter work boots- everything you need in one boot! They are cute with knee high socks and skirts/ dresses and are rugged enough for long walks and light hiking, even in winter. They are SO COMFORTABLE to walk in, especially once you break them in a bit. And you just pull them on, no laces!
posted by smartypantz at 3:16 PM on June 21 [1 favorite]


REI is a great choice for hiking boots and when it gets into fall/winter, also has some great choices for winter walking boots. Finding the right salesperson there is key - someone who knows about the different boot styles and can help you find and test the right fit. Often REI stores have a fake rock slope in the shoe section where you can "hike" and test the grip of the boots. Also they have great customer service generally and can order you a size or a style if they don't have it in store. You don't have to be a member to shop there. [I'm not a shill for REI btw :)]
posted by Red Desk at 4:39 PM on June 21


Thanks for asking about my calves, I should have included that -- they are large, about 19-inches around at the widest point.
posted by OrangeDisk at 6:07 PM on June 21


Hiking boots are generally not tall enough that your calf size comes into play, and I agree with previous commenters that REI is a great place to shop for those.

For your ballet flat replacements (office-appropriate boots), you'll probably have better off-the-rack luck with "ankle boots" than knee-high. Nordstrom is excellent for this in-season; Zappos as well. Things like chukkas and Chelsea boots have been popular the last few years. You will also see mention of "booties," which more often than not just means the top of the shoe comes right up to your ankle bone, so no actual boot "shaft;" I suspect you're better off ignoring them if ankle support is important.

If you have a decent amount of budget to play with, I have heard good things about Duo; their line runs up to 19.5" calves, and this may let you investigate what are often called "riding boots." These are knee-height, either pull-on or zip-up, and generally run between 0" and 1" of heel (this will depend on the brand and their style). They will likely lack non-slip soles, though; those are harder to find for office-appropriate boots. A Zappos search for "riding boots" will give you more visuals, though their business boots top out in the 17" range at the moment. There are also riding boots with shorter shafts, though what's available right now seems to be in the 1-2" heel height.

In general, for non-slip boots, they need to have "lugged soles." A current search on Zappos for your calf size displays only winter/snow boots, all of which have lugged soles. Their search tops out at 20", though it doesn't look like they currently have business-casual boots in anything above the 18"-18.75" range.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 6:01 AM on June 22


I walk my dog in the winter at least 5 miles a day. I wear tennis/athletic shoes. Last winter, I had a bad fall on some ice. I never realized before how slippery tennis shoes are. I need some kind of grippy, warm, probably water-resistant boot. What kind of boots are these?

These aren't boots, they are "trail runners"--sneakers with lots of grip and they come in waterproof, too. If you will be on slush and snow but NOT hard, man-made surfaces (bare concrete or asphalt), you also want some yaktrax, like snow chains for your shoes.
posted by anaelith at 6:35 PM on June 22


I have a great pair of teva boots (Jordanelle 2 is the model name) that adjust from rain boots to snow boots - I also walk my dog long distances, and they're super comfy and have kept me upright even with a 75 pound dog trying to pull me into the snow. They're a waterproof shell with a removable insulated liner for winter. It got down to 5-10 degrees F where I live this winter, and my feet were totally fine in those with a pair of warm socks. They're lace-up, so I think they should ok for wide calves, but am not 100% sure about that. Sorels are also a good choice for snow/ice.

For work, I agree that you probably are best off with either ankle boots (available everywhere -I think piperlime offers a good selection of fashionable ankle boots) or riding boots if you'd like a taller boot. I think naturalizer and similar brands often carry wide-calf riding boots.

I also hike in sneakers, so am no help there!
posted by snaw at 7:25 AM on June 23


Hiking: Yes, go to REI. You probably want “mid cut” hiking shoes, which are like rugged hiking sneakers with higher sides for ankle support.

Winter biz casual: I think knee-high riding boots look the classiest (wear with discreet knee socks that don’t show, or tights/leggings) but a 19” calf circumference will severely limit what you can buy off the rack. Most brands design for a 14-15” calf, and 15-17” is standard “wide calf” in mall brands. For instance, definitely look but I believe you may be sized out of Frye, Cole Haan, Naturalizer, and the like (look for a wide-calf style made out of stretch fabric, less dressy but may let you get away with a 17” calf). Duo or a similar custom-made option is good but pricey (in the range of $500 for a pair of boots).

Chelsea boots (basically flat ankle boots that look like the Blundstone linked above) have been trendy recently but are also classic in their own way. They’re probably your best bet since most fashionable ankle boots will have at least a 1-1.5” heel, often higher.

Winter walks: If you buy a waterproof mid-cut hiking shoe, they can probably serve double duty. Fashion boots are not designed with grippy soles and real snow boots are probably overkill for a moderate winter.
posted by serelliya at 7:56 AM on June 26


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