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The Main Reasons Why Cowboy Boots Have Heels

The Main Reasons Why Cowboy Boots Have Heels

Have you ever noticed that cowboy boots have heels, unlike most men’s shoes or boots?

It might seem strange because we usually see heels on women’s fashion boots. But cowboy boots aren’t just any boots—they have a unique feature called high heels.

And not just any heels, but slanted or underslung heels. Let’s dive into the past to discover the story behind this interesting feature!

The Reasons for Heels on Cowboy Boots

Back in the day, when cowboy boots were first crafted, they were designed to meet the specific needs of farmers who required boots that were not only tough for farm work but also affordable and suitable for horseback riding.

The answer was found in cowboy boots made from cheap, durable cowhide, featuring smooth outsoles and narrow toes, perfect for the job at hand.

The standout feature, however, was the boots’ high heels.

You might wonder, why the high heels? These heels were ingeniously designed so that, if the boots slide too far forward, the heel will catch the stirrup, ensuring it is securely positioned in the boot’s heel nook.

cowboy boots with smooth leather soles hook in the stirrup

This innovative design was vital for safety, ensuring the cowboy boot didn’t slip from the stirrup, which is crucial for a cowboy’s stability and balance. The traditional 2-inch high, slanted heels acted as hooks, securing cowboy boots on the stirrup bar, a deliberate design for rider safety.

In fact, the smooth outsoles of cowboy boots, often made from leather, facilitate easy sliding in and out of stirrups. This design necessitated the creation of high heels on cowboy boots to prevent the foot from slipping too far forward, ensuring the rider’s safety and stability.

Why do Cowboy Boots have Underslung Heels or Slanted Heels?

You might wonder why cowboy boots have slanted or underslung heels instead of block-shaped ones.

men wear cowboy boots with walking heel

Block-shaped Heels

The reason is simple: slanted heels hook onto the saddle’s stirrup better, preventing your feet from slipping out. Block-shaped heels, though great for walking, don’t offer the same security when riding a horse.

jeans, cowboy boots and saddle's stirrup

Underslung Heel (Slanted Heel)

In fact, it’s extremely risky if the horse falls or if an agitated horse causes you to fall out of the saddle and your leg gets trapped in a stirrup due to your cowboy boot heels.

In such moments, your best bet for safety is to quickly remove the cowboy boots to avoid being dragged along. However, any seasoned cowboy boot enthusiast knows that freeing yourself in these moments is no easy feat.

This is precisely why cowboy boots are designed with smooth outsoles and pointed toes. These features aren’t just for looks; they help you smoothly slide your boots into and out of the stirrups with ease.

This design makes it easier to handle dangerous situations effectively.

When you’re riding, the sole and toe shape of your cowboy boots play a significant role in your experience and safety. For a deeper understanding, check out our detailed articles:

How High are Cowboy Boot Heels?

Cowboy boot heels can range from 1 inch to 3.5 inches high.

There are various types of cowboy boots, each with different heel heights suitable for different activities, from riding to walking.

The standard height is around 1.5 inches, but if you’re looking for something higher, you can find boots with heels 2 inches or more.

For example, roper boots and stockman boots often have lower heels, around 1 inch, which makes them perfect for day-to-day work and walking, offering comfort and stability.

Riding boots, on the other hand, typically feature taller heels, often exceeding 2 inches, to ensure a secure fit in the stirrups for effective horseback riding.

cowboy boots with riding heel

Meanwhile, fashion-focused cowboy boots can sport even taller heels, sometimes surpassing 3 inches, catering to those who prioritize style and are looking for a bold fashion statement.

A woman wears black cowboy boots with jeans and jacket and bag and are walking on the street

This diversity in design highlights the versatility of cowboy boots, accommodating everything from practical needs to fashion desires.

Read more: Types Of Heels On Cowboy Boots

Can you Change the Heel on A Cowboy Boot?

Yes, changing the heel on a cowboy boot is possible, whether you’re dealing with wear and tear or simply seeking a new look or functionality.

Typically, cowboy boots should have their heels replaced every 2 years if they’re leather and every 4 or 5 years if they’re made of rubber, especially if you wear them regularly.

The approach to replacement depends on the extent of the damage and the type of change you’re looking to make.

For minor wear, such as a worn heel cap, you might be able to manage the replacement yourself.

Heel caps are often designed to be replaceable, and with the right tools and parts, this can be a straightforward DIY project. This is an easy fix that can extend the life of your boots and maintain their comfort and style.

Cobbler changes the heel

However, if the entire heel needs replacing, this typically requires the expertise of a professional cobbler.

Replacing the full heel involves more complex work, including removing the old heel, shaping and attaching the new one, and ensuring it’s securely fastened and aligned with the boot’s design.

Signs You Need to Change Your Heels:

  1. Wear and Tear: The most obvious sign is visible wear on the heel, especially if the material has worn down significantly.
  2. Nails Showing: If the nail starts to emerge on the surface of the heel that contacts the ground, it’s a clear indicator that the heels are due for replacement.

Whether you’re updating the heel cap yourself or having a cobbler replace the entire heel, regular maintenance ensures your cowboy boots remain both functional and stylish.


In conclusion, cowboy boots have heels for a good reason. They help keep a rider’s foot from slipping through the stirrups when riding a horse, which makes it safer and easier to ride.

This was really important for cowboys who spent a lot of time on horses. Today, those heels are also a cool part of cowboy boot style, but they started out as a practical solution.

So, when you see heels on cowboy boots, remember they’re not just for looks—they’re a piece of cowboy history that helped riders stay safe on their adventures.