Skip to Content
From The Guest Room is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Read more

Riding Heel vs Walking Heel: Exploring the Essence of Cowboy Boot Heels

Riding Heel vs Walking Heel: Exploring the Essence of Cowboy Boot Heels

When it comes to cowboy boots, one of the key features that sets them apart is the type of heel they possess.

Whether you’re an avid rider or a fan of Western fashion, understanding the differences between riding heels and walking heels is essential to finding the perfect pair of boots that aligns with your specific needs.

In this comprehensive review, we delve into the distinct characteristics, benefits, and drawbacks of both riding heels and walking heels, equipping you with the knowledge to make an informed choice.

So, saddle up and join us as we explore the world of cowboy boot heels and help you step confidently into your Western style.

Key Takeaways:

  • Riding heels embody the timeless essence of Western footwear, providing stability and support for riders during long hours in the saddle.
  • Walking heels offer a comfortable and practical option for everyday wear, prioritizing mobility and versatility.
  • Choose riding heels for a confident, stylish gait and optimal performance while riding horses.
  • Opt for walking heels if you value comfort, anti-slip properties, and ease of movement for standing and walking.
  • Regardless of the chosen style, cowboy boots with either type of heel make a bold fashion statement and embody timeless Western craftsmanship.
Construction/ FeatureRiding HeelWalking Heel
Height2 inches or more1.5 inches (approx.)
ShapeSlanted and taperedSlanted, but less pronounced
Bottom MaterialMainly leather, sometimes rubber, or syntheticMainly rubber or synthetic, sometimes leather 
Bottom WidthNarrowerWider
  • Provides stability and support for riding
  • Ideal for horseback riding
  • Emphasizes comfort and mobility for walking
  • Suitable for everyday wear and walking
Toe Shape and Shaft
  • Often paired with round, snip, or pointed toes
  • Often come with tall shaft (11 to 14 inches)
  • Compatible with round, square toes, or broad square toes
  • Often go with shorter shaft (9 to 12 inches)
TractionQuite slipperyOffers enhanced anti-slip properties
BalanceLess balanced for walking on uneven surfacesOffers better balance and stability
Fashion ImpactClassic and iconic cowboy boot lookContemporary and versatile style

What Defines a Riding Heel?

Ah, the riding heel, often hailed as the epitome of the “cowboy heel.” It captures the timeless essence of Western footwear with its classic design and utilitarian charm.

Typically standing at a proud height of 2 inches or more, this heel provides equestrians with the stability and support they need during long hours in the saddle.

Unlike its rigid and block-like counterparts, the riding heel boasts an underslung or tapered design, offering a distinctive flair.

Its narrow bottom, crafted from durable leather, occasionally incorporates rubber or synthetic materials for enhanced functionality.

As a testament to the equestrian lifestyle, the riding heel exudes tradition and fine craftsmanship, captivating horse enthusiasts and fashion connoisseurs alike.

cowboy boots with riding heel

Renowned brands such as Tecovas, Ariat, Dan Post, Lucchese, Durango, and Laredo proudly embrace the riding heel tradition in their boot collections.

Why does the riding heel possess such distinctive characteristics? Let’s delve deeper.

The Advantages of Riding Heels

Cast your gaze back to the days when cowboys toiled on Western farms, requiring sturdy boots to safeguard their feet. These boots needed to possess additional attributes to assist in riding. Thus, the riding heel was born.

Traditional cowboy boots with pointed, round, or snip toes effortlessly nestle into the stirrup, aided by their slippery outsoles.

In addition to their distinct construction, cowboy boots with riding heels often feature higher shafts ranging from 11 inches to 14 inches.

These taller shafts are designed to hold up your feet tightly while riding, providing stability and preventing the boots from slipping off in the stirrups.

The combination of riding heels and taller shafts ensures a secure fit and enhances the rider’s control during equestrian activities.

And let’s not forget the crucial detail: the riding heel’s height and slanted angle, which allow it to securely latch onto the stirrup.

This feature prevents the boot from sliding too far forward, ensuring a rider’s foot remains firmly planted on the stirrup. When mounted, cowboys place the ball of their foot on the stirrup bar.

In the event of an unfortunate slip, the elevated and angled riding heel acts as a steadfast anchor, halting any unwanted movement. jeans, cowboy boots and saddle's stirrup

With this remarkable attribute, the riding heel becomes an indispensable companion for horseback riding.

cowboy boots with riding heel on the wood table in the farm

But what if you aren’t an avid rider? Fear not! The following reasons will undoubtedly convince you to embrace the allure of riding heels:

  • Gait enhancement: The heels of cowboy boots, especially riding heels, are renowned for their positive impact on gait, endowing wearers with a distinctive and confident stride.
  • Height and confidence: The height of a riding heel adds an air of stature and masculine confidence, reminiscent of the fearless cowboys of yesteryears.

Does the Riding Heel Have Any Drawbacks?

Of course, no solution is without its limitations. If you spend long hours working or walking outdoors, opting for riding heels higher than 2 inches (approximately 3 inches or more) may prove less than ideal.

Such height places additional strain on your hips, knees, back, and ankles, potentially leading to discomfort.

For more details, read: Are Cowboy Boots Bad For Your Feet?

Introducing the Walking Heel

But what if you find yourself enamored with cowboy boots despite not riding horses? Fear not, for the walking heel beckons you!

Compared to its riding counterpart, the walking heel possesses a more modest slant, offering an approachable demeanor.

Typically measuring around 1.5 inches in height, this heel provides a comfortable and supportive experience for those who prioritize standing and walking.

men wear cowboy boots with walking heel

The walking heel has a wider base, usually made of rubber but sometimes also made of leather or synthetic materials. This wider base helps you move easily and shows that it’s designed for walking.

In addition to their comfortable and practical design, cowboy boots with walking heels often feature more room in the toe box.

This generous space allows for a variety of toe shapes, including round toe, square toe, or broad square toe styles.

The roomier toe box provides added comfort and flexibility for everyday wear, accommodating the natural shape of your feet and allowing for greater freedom of movement.

Whether you’re strolling through the city streets or tackling daily tasks, cowboy boots with walking heels offer both convenience and comfort, making them an excellent choice for those seeking a blend of style and functionality.

Numerous esteemed boot brands, including Laredo, Dan Post, Ariat, Tony Lama, and Double H, proudly feature cowboy boots adorned with walking heels.

These versatile boots, known as Stockman, Roper, or Cowboy Work boots, embody the marriage of traditional style and practicality.

Advantages of walking heel

As the name implies, walking heel supports those who enjoy using cowboy boots for standing and walking on their feet, rather than just sitting still.

Its standard height, ranging from 1 to 1.5 inches, combined with a wider bottom, grants enhanced stability and supports prolonged periods of walking.

walking in cowboy boots


Most walking heels incorporate a rubber sole, bestowing superior traction and ensuring confident steps in a variety of environments.

Unlike riding heels, cowboy boots with walking heels typically come with shorter shafts. The shorter shafts offer convenience and ease of use for everyday wear.

With shorter shafts, these boots are easier to remove or put on, allowing for quick and effortless dressing.

The emphasis on convenience and quick accessibility makes cowboy boots with walking heels a practical choice for individuals seeking comfort and efficiency in their daily activities.

Consequently, contemporary enthusiasts lean towards walking heels due to their enhanced balance and versatility, while still embracing the timeless aesthetics of the slanted heel.

Are There Any Downsides to the Walking Heel?

Besides the strengths of a riding heel that a walking heel cannot have, a walking heel is the type of heel that has very few weaknesses.

The weakness of a walking heel may be that it cannot help you lift your height as dramatically as a riding heel. If you want to look arrogant like a real cowboy, riding heels will help you better than walking heels.

Choosing Between Riding Heels and Walking Heels

In a manner akin to the spirited debate of “pointed toe vs. square toe” the opinions surrounding “walking heel vs. riding heel” offer a more harmonious discourse.

Enthusiasts find admiration and appreciation for both types of heels, acknowledging their unique merits.

Truth be told, the decision between walking heels and riding heels need not burden you excessively. Instead, choose the heel style of your cowboy boots based on your intended purpose.

  • For riders seeking confident, stylish strides and a commanding presence, the riding heel remains the optimal choice.
  • On the other hand, if everyday comfort is your priority, the walking heel presents a wise and discerning selection.

Remember, Texan tradition and style reside within both options.

So, embrace your inner cowboy or cowgirl, find the perfect pair of boots, and stride forward with unyielding confidence.

Riding heelWalking heel
Balance and stability⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Here are some ideas about “walking heel vs riding heel”

1. What’s the difference? I’m a little clueless right now – Melvin Gödecke

2. Riding even though I do not ride – Matt Perry

3. I like both. On a square toe I like a walking heel. I like a riding heel on pretty much everything else. Except ropers. I don’t wear ropers because I like my boots taller – Nick Ryan

4. I like them all for looks I like the cowboy heel but I don’t care so long as it’s a cowboy boot. – Lee Nicholas

5. This is what I wear, I just love the look and feel of tall heels. The underslung angle and spur ridge are riding heel characteristics, but I just walk in these – they aren’t exactly stirrup heels lol. – Jey Ping

6. Riding heel for bull riding walking heel for everyday stuff – Kelvyn Walker

7. I have to have at least a little under sling on the heel. It’s all visual for me. I prefer that look .- Tommy Robinson

8. I’m only 5ft 8, so for me riding/cowboy heel, so I can be a little taller. plus I like more traditional boots like medium round toes. – Nick Maynard

9. Walking heel for broad square, for everything else I like a nice No.3 or No.4 riding heel – J M De Hoyos

10. I don’t know what constitutes a riding/walking heel, but my favorite pair of boots has a 1.5 inch heel, and it’s perfect for me – Chris C-Esquire

11. I prefer the riding heel…like the look the best. I do not think any of my boots have walking heels. I do not ride, just prefer the look. – Victor Harrelson

12. Not sure. I don’t really notice heel height or shape too much. Whatever is the standard for Lucchese, or Tecovas. No roper heels though. – Jared Wagaman

13. I prefer what feels better. I typically like the cowboy heel because it feels more agile to me. But a nice roper heel on my square toed boots feel pretty good. It all comes down to what feels the best to you. – Michael Peters

14. Walking heel or anything between 1 3/8 and 1 5/8″ anything higher and I don’t have enough foot for that. Underslung is also good because then where I walk is right at the center of the heel instead of towards the back of the heel. – Gregory Colotario

15. Walking heel for me. Just more comfortable. – Mark Nessmith


men wear cowboy boots with walking heel

In the timeless world of cowboy boots, the choice between riding heels and walking heels holds great significance.

By exploring the strengths and weaknesses of these distinct heel styles, we have gained a deeper understanding of their respective qualities and applications.

The riding heel, often hailed as the epitome of the “cowboy heel,” embodies the traditions of Western footwear.

With its elevated height, slanted angle, and sturdy construction, it serves as a reliable companion for riders, providing stability and support during long hours in the saddle.

The riding heel’s allure extends beyond functionality, captivating horse enthusiasts and fashion aficionados with its timeless charm and craftsmanship.

On the other hand, the walking heel offers a more approachable and versatile option.

With its moderate slant, comfortable height, and wider base, it caters to individuals who prioritize standing and walking.

The walking heel strikes a balance between comfort and style, appealing to those seeking practicality without compromising on the iconic aesthetics of cowboy boots.

Ultimately, the choice between riding heels and walking heels should be guided by your specific needs and preferences. Whether you’re an avid rider, a fashion enthusiast, or someone seeking everyday comfort, there is a heel style that aligns with your purpose.

So, embrace your inner Texan spirit, celebrate the rich traditions of the West, and find the perfect pair of cowboy boots that encapsulate your unique style and aspirations.

Whether you choose the timeless elegance of the riding heel or the practicality of the walking heel, rest assured that each step you take will be imbued with the essence of the Lone Star State. Happy boot-wearing, y’all!