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The Best Cowboy Boots for the Ranch or the Road

Whether it's your first rodeo or you're a fledgling collector, our guide has the right boot for you.


Like many wardrobe staples of Americana, cowboy boots have an iconic style and are rooted in function. Pull them on, wear them hard, use them for years. They look equally at home on the ranch and in the city and they’re built to take a beating. From Lucchese and Tony Lama to Tecovas and Heritage Boot Co., cowboy boots span heritage makers and fresh competition. So stop obsessing over Chelsea boots and embrace a domestic classic: the pull-on cowboy boot.

How Should Cowboy Boots Fit?

Breaking in your cowboy boots is a bit like breaking in any other boot, but you’ll know when you’ve found the right fit, says Tecovas District Manager Bob Reiff.

"For the most part, the boots will tell you," Reiff says. The vamp of the shoe should fit comfortably but close, and the toe box should offer some wiggle room. When first stepping into the boots, you might feel a gap between your heel and the footbed, but the footbed will adjust to your foot over time. Since your feet might swell throughout the day, Reiff recommends a pair of boot socks to aid in compression and all-day comfort.

How to Break in Cowboy Boots

Breaking in cowboy boots functions in much the same manner as any other pair of sturdy leather boots, but with a few key caveats, Reiff noted. It all starts with fit and construction (see: How Should Cowboy Boots Fit?), but material is equally important in the world of cowboy boots.

Crucially, Reiff says that "high-quality leathers and a genuine cork footbed will become your second skin.” Don’t be afraid to really wear your boots either, starting with the first time you take them out of the box, Reiff says.

"As with any leather-soled footwear option, you'll want to scuff up the bottom of your boots on the pavement a bit before your first wear," he noted. Like any pair of boots, with cowboy boots, the more you wear them, the better they’ll get – current fashion trends would seem to echo that sentiment.

How to Clean Cowboy Boots

Depending on how down and dirty you get your cowboy boots, they’ll need a good cleaning now and again. Plus, taking care of fine leather is just good form, no matter how old or new your boots might be. The choice sometimes comes down to the customer, our expert says.

"We really appreciate the individual expression a pair of boots provides and value the end-use of each of our customers. For some, nicks and scratches are part of the journey. Others want to retain that mirror finish.”

To give your new favorite cowboy boots a proper cleaning, he recommends using a horsehair brush to knock off any dirt before applying a thin layer of leather conditioner evenly. Look for a quality, wax-based polish to amp up the protection on your boots. For boots made from exotic leathers, Reiff recommends cleaning your boots several times a year to keep the material in tip-top shape.

How to Style Cowboy Boots

Now that you’ve got your new favorite cowboy boots unboxed and ready to go (or refreshed and ready to be rocked again), you’re undoubtedly faced with a crucial question – how should I wear my cowboy boots? The answer is a bit more simple than you might think.

Cowboy boots, typically with a higher, stacked heel and a distinctive profile, are well-suited to pair with cotton denim jeans and rugged complementary pieces in just about any color, be it a henley or a flannel or chambray shirt. You can them with a spectrum of bottoms, too — from boot-cut jeans to slim or slim-straight-cut denim. Cowboy boots, when worn with the right pair of relatively tailored chinos, can even function as a replacement for Chelsea boots in some circumstances (just be sure your pants of choice aren’t too slim – that way, they’ll still fit your boots nicely and create a clean, tailored finish).

It’s a matter of preference, Reiff says, but the best cowboy boots offer the chance for originality. "The right pair of boots will make you feel like you own the room," he says, whether at a tailgate or a honky-tonk. "They're as much at home with a beat-up pair of jeans as they are at your wedding."

Above all else, cowboy boots demand you don’t let the boots “wear you,” as the saying goes. “As long as you're wearing them confidently, you're wearing them correctly,” Reiff says.

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