Buying a pair of boots isn’t like buying a new pair of flip flops or tennis shoes. Boots can be an investment, and they’re made to last for years. But in order to get a pair that you actually want to wear for years, you must know what to look for.
5 Tips for Buying Boots
Every pair of boots is different. Likewise, every pair of feet is different. This renders trying to find the perfect boot a challenging endeavor. But if you know what to look for, the search gets a little easier. Here are several factors to consider:
Brand is obviously a chief consideration. You’re better off buying a pair of boots from a company that’s been around for decades versus purchasing from a startup that just raised a round of funding and suddenly has $1 million to spend on clever advertisements.
Materials are extremely important when it comes to leather boots. If you’re new to boots, you might not realize there are many different kinds of leather. It might all come from the same place, but that doesn’t mean it has the same quality.
The best boots are made from something bootmakers refer to as “full-grain” leather. This is leather that’s taken from the topmost layer of the animal’s hide. In other words, it’s the animal’s skin. This leather has been exposed to the elements for years, which makes it more durable. Companies like Patina make their boots from full-grain leather sourced from the highest quality cowhides. They’re then tanned to perfection and handcrafted into boots.
While not nearly as good as full-grain leather, “corrected grain leather” can still result in a nice boot. This is leather where the tanned skins are buffed to remove coarseness. This process is usually used with animals that have uneven skin texture, such as buffalo, bison, and goat. The problem with this process is that many leather-workers will “over-buff” leather, which results in a texture that’s too thin and plastic-like.
On the bottom tier of leather boots, you’ll find bonded leather and genuine leather. Bonded leather is made from leather scraps that are combined with an adhesive and rolled out to create a sheet. This leather is then cut into shapes and used to make boots.
Despite the name, genuine leather is the lowest-quality leather you can find. It’s made by layering sheets of low-quality leather together, binding with glue, and then painting/dyeing the material to give it an even color.
Saying you want a “boot” is like saying you’re hungry and want “food.” What kind do you want? There are literally dozens of different types. This includes Chelsea boots, Chukka boots, desert boots, service boots, hiking boots, oxford boots, derby boots, cowboy boots, duck boots, rain boots, work boots, etc.
Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to have a pair of work boots, dress boots, and casual boots in your wardrobe. As long as it’s a neutral leather, you won’t have any trouble matching it to different outfits.
We always recommend trying on a pair of boots. It’s the only way to know whether or not it’ll work for you and your foot. If you can try on a boot in person before buying, that’s great. If you’re buying online, make sure the company has a no-hassle return policy that gives you time to try it on at home and see how it feels.
What do others say about the boots? There’s no better way to get a feel for how the boots perform in the real world than by reading reviews from actual customers who have worn the boots.
When reading reviews, we find it’s helpful to read all of the five-star reviews, as well as the one-star reviews. As you search these reviews, look for common threads. Don’t get too hung up on any one review (whether good or bad). People can be finicky and one person’s terrible or amazing experience is rarely indicative of everyone’s experience. You’ll have a more authentic understanding of the boots when you study trends.
Find the Perfect Pair of Boots
Does the perfect pair of boots exist? Well, that’s a matter of personal opinion. While there might not be an objectively perfect pair for everyone, there might be a pair that works best for you. But you won’t know until you start your search!