New Year, New Boots by Madelyn Bricken

Finding the perfect pair of riding boots is like trying to find the perfect man.

Not really. But kind of…

A few years ago, I made the decision to donate my competition boots. I had them custom made for me when I was 12 and unfortunately, I grew… the boots did not. So is life. They made an aspiring competitor very happy.

Because I had hit a time in my riding career where I chose to take a break from competing, I settled for my paddock boots and half chaps (nothing wrong with that). Looking for new tall boots seemed like such a daunting task, especially if you were doing the shopping on your own.

How daunting, you ask?

Well, it only took me over a year to decide on these lovely DeNiro Brushed Leather Dressage Boots. During said year, I debated on what brand, what color, what style, what type of leather, et cetera, so much so that I almost drove myself crazy. Almost. There are so many styles on the market these days that it can make your head spin.

Because I am almost 6 feet tall, finding boots that were the proper height became a huge concern for me. Boots that are cut too short can interrupt the silhouette of the rider, which is distracting to the eye. As dressage riders, we want to appear elongated and seamless. I wanted a boot that fit my ankle nicely – not too tight, and one that wouldn’t become too loose over time. I also wanted shiny.

I had quite the list.

With that being said, I really did my homework. I absolutely love the look of a chocolate brown boot. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that a traditional black would probably be a better investment. Patent leather would have been amazing, but with said amazingness, also comes more dollar signs. I am relatively frugal with my money so staying within my budget became an ideal goal.   I searched and searched and I almost sent a check to a dealer for custom-made boots.

And then the beacon of light appeared.

The ever-amazing SmartPak website popped into my head. I grabbed my computer and surfed straight there. Boy, am I glad I did.

I’ve purchased from SmartPak for almost 8 years and not once have I ever been disappointed. Their customer service is incredible – the sales representatives are extremely helpful and make the purchasing experience quite pleasant. However, the main reason why I just adore SmartPak so much? Their return policy is the best. I was so concerned that if I bought a pair of boots and they didn’t fit right, I would be stuck with them. Talk about a major hassle!

SmartPak has a great selection of different styles of dressage boots in various price ranges. After I made the decision to go with the DeNiro brand (a brand I was unfamiliar with), I read many reviews and was encouraged with the amount of positivity. It was time to measure!

The measuring process can be a little intimidating for all the first timers out there (I was a first timer). However, the instructions in the product description tab were quite clear to follow. First, I put on my breeches and typical riding socks. Then, I proceeded to sit down and bend my leg so that my foot was flat on the ground. With the help of my mom, we measured the widest part of my calf, followed by the length of my leg (where your knee bends to the bottom of your ankle). I had a general idea of my foot size, so I did not take that measurement. Also, all measurements were taken in centimeters form.  Remember that the leather of boot will stretch just a little over time, so make sure to adjust your measurements accordingly.

Measurements in hand, I decided to call the SmartPak representatives before I finalized my purchase. The kind woman guided me into what sizes would work the best. My final measurements were:

  • Size 10 in the foot
  • Large in the calf
  • Extra Tall in the height

And here is the final product!




First of all, I love these boots.  The first thing I noticed when I pulled them out of the box was the quality of the leather. The boots were soft yet maintained the perfect amount of firmness. I think the brushed leather is my favorite part – it’s almost patent but not quite – the perfect amount of shine without being overwhelming. The modern square toe, I find, is super flattering, as well. I played with the zippers and found that they were quite sturdy, despite their position on the boot. The snap at the top was snug so my worries of that interrupting my training sessions left my mind. Also, on the inside calf of the boot, the leather is a little rougher and not shiny – (awesomeness), which to me, I felt like that would help with keeping your leg from sliding around, as well as preserving the leather from your horse’s sweat. First impressions are everything and these boots passed my first impression test with flying colors.

However, looks quickly fade if the boots don’t fit.

Lucky for me, they fit like gloves. I eagerly changed into my breeches and slipped them on and oh Mylanta was I surprised! The first thought that came to my mind was “wow, these are so comfortable.” I felt like I could walk around the neighborhood in them and not have to worry about pain. The height was also right on target. I studied them in the mirror and they gave my leg a slimming and long appearance – right on!

A few side notes – (1) I was incredibly surprised just how soft and comfortable the boots were. I highly recommend DeNiro, now. (2) See my monogram at the very top of the boots? Check out Personally Preppy for your own fancy monogram. Needless to say, I’m obsessed with them. (3) DeNiro also sends you two soft boot covers for each boot, little air-filled “pillows” to keep inside the boots so they hold their shape, and a small container of their boot conditioning cream.

I definitely learned a lot through this boot purchasing process. Here is my list of boot-tacular tips that guarantee a more stress-free shopping experience.

  1. Set a budget. Probably the most important tip I can share with you all. Because boots can range anywhere from $200 to upwards of $2,000, know your spending limitations before you start shopping. It is so tempting to gaze at boots with fun accents, such as patent leather, crystals, or exotic leathers, however, understand that the fancier the boot looks, the price usually increases (in most cases). The basic black boot may not have that patent leather finish you desire, but there are ways to DIY and achieve the look yourself. So don’t be discouraged.
  2. Do your homework. Remember how I said I researched for a year before I made the purchase? I wasn’t kidding or exaggerating. As I stated, buying boots is an investment, no matter how you look at it. Ask your horsey friends what brands they like. Ask you coaches or trainers. Read reviews – read a LOT of reviews. Reviews usually have crucial information on how boots fit. Call different stores and get the store owner’s perspective on the different brands. Koenig’s fit differently from Petrie’s and Petrie’s fit differently from Ariat or DeNiro. Each boot is created uniquely. Pay attention to the small tidbits of information – for example, a certain boot may fit better in the ankle than the other.
  3. Pick your style. Do you want traditional black? Or do you want something a little more unique like a pretty brown? Which color will you be more opt to ride or compete in? It’s all about personal preference and I am a sucker for competitors wearing brown… Yet I picked black. Sometimes I crack myself up.
  4. Before you haul off and decide for a pair off the shelf, check out eBay or Facebook equestrian groups. Sometimes you can find an amazing deal on a great pair of tall boots. Because I am tall and my foot is a size 10, it was harder for me to find an option using this route. However, the deals are out there, so don’t be afraid to bargain hunt.
  5. Take your measurements several times. Even if you get the same number each time, that’s okay. You want to make sure you’re relatively accurate, even if that means using the tape measure 5 times.
  6. Lastly, don’t panic when you first put on your boots and they’re uncomfortable. The SmartPak representative told me that they should be slightly painful in the beginning. Because the leather will eventually soften and fall just a tad, the breaking in process will most likely be a little unpleasant. It will be worth it in the end – I promise.


In conclusion, finding tall, dark, and handsome (or insert your appropriate adjective) boots is an important part of equestrian life. With an insight into the purchasing process, I’m hoping that all your shopping endeavors are seamless.

Until next time…!

Madelyn Bricken

3 comments for “New Year, New Boots by Madelyn Bricken

  1. Merrin
    December 28, 2017 at 9:17 PM

    Thanks for this review! 🙂 I too have been hunting for the right dressage boot (price/size). Now that you’ve had these boots a couple of years – would you still recommend them? I’m tossing up between Ariat and DeNiro.

    • February 28, 2018 at 11:00 AM

      Both brands are amazing! You could not go wrong with either choice!

  2. Kaylee
    February 11, 2018 at 12:16 PM

    How have these held up through the years?? Did they drop much?

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