What is a Good Boot?

How can you tell a “quality” boot from a “less than” pair? Pick ’em up…look at ’em close up…at the stitching…peer inside…turn ’em upside down. Here are some things to look for so you can choose your cowboy boots with confidence.

Overall shape

  • The boot should be good lookin’ with good clean lines to it.
  • Under most circumstances, a boot should stand up straight on its own, without boot trees or other support.
  • The two boots should look like a pair. They should be about the same size, and should each have the same toe shape, top height, and heel height.


  • A flattened nail or steel shank inside the arch of the boot. (You won’t see the shank but you should see the wooden pegs which have been used to keep it in place.)
  • Stacked leather heels…not thin leather laminate!.
  • A piece of hard leather (or “counter”) to stiffen the area behind the heel.
  • The leather used should have an even color and sheen. No gouges or deep pit marks.


  • No rough edges turning up on the outside of the boot; edges and inlays are sewn down well. The boot should be clean of any visible glue.
  • The seams ought to line up pretty close.
  • The stitching around edges and inlay is straight and even. I like at least 2 rows when space allows. There shouldn’t be any stray or loose threads.
  • The seams and stitching found inside the boot should be smooth to the touch. Nothing to rub your leg the wrong way.
  • The toe box should be hard without any ugly bulges.
  • A sewn-on sole made with quality leather. A groove should be cut into the sole, and the sole stitching should be buried inside the groove.
  • The edges of the sole and heel are “finished”, (inked and burnished)…so they have a polished look to ’em.

With all this said…

There are many steps required to make a boot. In the art of custom bootmaking a customer’s feet, expectations, and desired materials and designs differ with each pair. A quality handmade boot is not the same thing as a “perfect” boot. I’ve never met a bootmaker who claims to have made a perfect boot.

P.S. I’d like to thank bootmakers…Clay E. Hathaway (Denver, CO), Lee & Carrlyn Miller (Austin, TX) and Tex Robin (Coleman, TX) for their helpful feed back on this feature.

Custom made, vintage and popular cowboy boot brands. Advice from author & expert, Jennifer June (& others) about buying cowboy boots online.

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