WHAT TO LOOK FOR FIRST
When browsing through the EBay listings for 'Cowboy Boots', don't forget to look for listings under 'Western Boots', and 'Cowgirl Boots'.
You should be very careful of size listings for cowboy boots, as American boot company sizes vary from company to company, and also sometimes from style to style. If the seller hasn't already, you can ask for certain measurements for your boot. Don't forget to clarify the measurement you're asking for:
- if you want the length of the sole of the boot, it is a good idea to ask the seller to measure the boot from 'against the wall'. This means the seller will place a tape measure on the ground with the end of it against a wall, place the boot on top with the heel against the wall, and measure to the toe. This means that no matter how but in the heel is, you will get a measurement you can use against a pair of boots you have at home. Don't forget that if you are buying pointy toe boots, you need to allow for extra length for the pointy toe.
- the width of the boot is often mentioned in the sizing of cowboy boots, but again, each company has different letters to denote the width of the boot. You can ask the seller to turn the boot over and measure the widest part of the sole, and if you have a foot with a high arch, they can measure this too. Cowboy boots normally don't come with a zipper, and many people find that they can't get their foot into the boot because the boot has a narrow shaft and they have a foot with a high arch.
- ask the seller to measure around the opening at the top of the boot, or the calf measurement. This will ensure the boots are not too tight at the top, even though the foot of the boot fits you fine. You should get a combination of calf measurement and height of the boot from the ground to know where the top of the boot will come to on your leg. Cowboy boots that are tight around the calf can be really uncomfortable, and push the boot off your foot as you walk.
Make sure that there are plenty of pictures of the boots, including inside the shaft and showing the soles and the heels.
There are many signs of a truly well made boot. Higher quality boots are all leather, including leather shaft and foot, leather stacked heel and leather soles. Some brands have a particular sign of their premier boot line, like Tony Lama 'Black Label' or Nocona 'White Label'. These signify that the boots are top of the line boots from this particular maker. These boots also have an actual black or white embroidered label on the inside of the shaft.
Rolled and double Full Quill Ostrich Skin Handmade Lizard Skin
lemonwood pegged soles. Boots Boots with 8 rows of stitching
Other signs of a well made boot include rolled soles (turn the boot over, look at the area between the sole and the heel, it should have a 'rolled' shape to it, not be flat). Lemonwood pegging in the soles denotes a well-made boot, and double pegging or even triple pegging can be found in a really good boot.
Stitching on the shafts often shows how much effort goes into a boot - a bootmaker would not bother with six, eight or ten row stitching on a boot that was not worth the effort. Usually, the more rows of stitching and the closer together each stitch is, the better the boot.
Be careful when buying exotic skin boots like snakeskin, lizard, eelskin, elephant, crocodile and such - there are many companies that print leather with patterns to make the leather look like a real skin. Also, real skins can be harder to maintain - snake and eel in particular, although skins like crocodile, elephant and ostrich are incredibly tough and will last for years and years.
WHEN YOUR BOOTS ARRIVE:
Expect them to be difficult to get on, you should really need to pull them hard to get them on and off. If you wear them more than occassionally, a boot jack is a good idea to help take them off - these also help in caring for your boots. Please don't use bootjacks made of cast iron on your good boots, wood jacks with leather lining are the best. If you wear snakeskin or eelskin, jacks can be very rough on the skin.
Your cowboy boot should fit snugly across the top of your foot - this keeps your foot from sliding forward and mashing your toes in the end of the boot.
When you first try on your boots, think about the socks you have on - if the boot is really hard to get on, try a stocking sock. This will make the boot easier to get on and off the first few times until the boot shapes to your foot. Once the boot shapes to your foot, getting it on and off should get easier. Many folk wear an ankle sock with a stocking sock over it for the first few wears.
Brand new boots will be a little different than second hand boots that have been worn in some, but all leather boots will shape to your foot after some wear.
The heel should slip a little when you walk, and as the boot shapes to your foot, this will minimise.
Be careful - leather soles are slippery, especially on roads and metals steps etc. If you want your boots for day to day wear, and you will not be riding a horse in them, then you can have a rubber mat put over the leather sole by a bootmaker if you want less slip.