Kristen Kovatch puts Noble Outfitters’ lightest-ever boots to a thorough test and presents her review here!
While most equestrians are pretty fluid in their favorite brands, makers or styles of riding apparel, I’ve found that we as a tribe develop strong loyalties when it comes to our boots. When I coached a college western equestrian team, we would entertain ourselves for a long time on road trips to away shows by discussing our personal takes on boot brands, and I was pretty sure I had established my identity as a wearer of my own particular favorite.
So I’ll freely admit that my usual sense of neutrality that we all try to adopt when we review a new product was a bit, shall we say, tweaked when I opened the box from Noble Outfitters. I didn’t want to approach these boots with an open mind. I didn’t want to love them. I wanted to wear them around for awhile, write a review and then slide my feet into my comfortably-worn pair from my declared favorite maker. Here I am now, stating for the record that everything I said up to this point about my boot loyalties went right out the window within 48 hours of first trying on the All-Around Boots.
Fit, features and comfort
First off, I want to state that I’ve been wearing these boots now for about a month — I wanted to be able to present a thorough review, which for something as critical as footwear I don’t believe should be done in a day. These have been my only boots worn for daily chores, riding and driving as well as knocking around town on errands.
Noble Outfitters boasts that these boots feel broken-in right out of the box, with which I agree — the leather was soft and supple and my feet slid right in as though this was a familiar pair I had been wearing for years. Walking around in the All-Around Boots for awhile made me realize how oddly my last pair of boots had broken in — that annoying little bit that pokes in at the ankle on some boots had been driving me nuts during a long ride or a full day spent at the barn, and with these butter-soft boots right out of the box I never had to worry about breaking them in poorly.
Having a well-fitting pair of boots, I’ve found over the years especially when I was teaching and training full-time, can make or break your comfort and energy level for the day. As someone with a high arch, I found myself adding my own insoles to my riding boots for a more custom, supportive fit, but the molded performance insole provides the support and comfort I would expect from an athletic shoe, not a boot.
In the saddle, the steel shank provides plenty of stability for the foot in the stirrup. Combined with the cushioned, comfortable insole and the totally-unique Physio Outsole, these boots made for a great secure ride with no slip or slide. The Physio Outsole is an athletic design and super-lightweight — which is an innovation I feel has been a long time coming in the equestrian world. The outsole provides light tread, which is perfect for transitioning from the barnyard to the saddle and back: no chunky workboot tread to get hung up in the stirrup and enough grip that you’re not sliding on other surfaces.
Regarding the lightweight outsole — I did the highly-scientific “hold up each pair of boots in your outstretched arms and feel which one is lighter” test and while the Noble Outfitters’ All-Around Boots might not have felt THAT much lighter, I can tell you that after wearing them around all day I could definitely feel a difference. Seriously, we’ve managed to get our athletic and running shoes down to mere little clouds of weight on our feet, so I’m really glad someone figured this out for riding boots.
Legitimately, these boots were so comfortable that I never wanted to take them off. Therefore, I had fun making this silly video:
(Hiking, jogging and SUPing are not actually recommended in western boots.)
Look and style
I love the square toe of the particular pair I reviewed — I know there are plenty of opinions out there on toe style, but I just love the look and feel of square toes. When I pulled these boots out of the box, the black leather in the foot was almost shiny, like a patent leather, which I thought looked really goofy; however, I’m assuming this was perhaps a factory polish or something similar because within a few wearings these boots developed a nice weathered patina like I’d been knocking around in them for a long time — no big scratches or dings, but just a developed color and a more matte finish in the style that I personally prefer.
Unless you’re planning on wearing these boots with skinny jeans or a skirt, there’s not a lot of reason to worry too much about what the tops look like, which is why I feel a little silly for admitting that I’m not totally in love with the embroidery on the shaft. I’m a sucker for old-school scrolls and feathers and the very “western” look to an embroidered shaft, and these boots fall flat for me with their design. It’s not really a dealbreaker for me, since I have a fancy pair that I wear out on the rare occasion I do the skinny jean look, and my riding jeans cover the shaft of these when I’m riding. I’m not a huge fan of the new styles cropping up in all cowboy boots with unusual embroidered shapes, designs, embossed symbols or wild patterns — I just like that old-school look and I’m not necessarily getting in these boots.
However, I’ll take the fit and comfort of these boots over the shaft embroidery hands-down any day. Aesthetics are all fine and well but at the end of the day, if my feet are happy then the rest of me is happy, and that’s the kind of fit I’m loving in these Noble Outfitters boots.
Check out the full line of All-Around Boots (for both men and women!) and find the style that suits you best. All-Around Boots start at $199; a list of local retailers is available at this link as well.