If you are anything like me, you’ve wondered at least once in your life (before or during wear) if cowboy boots are detrimental to the health of your feet. Cowboy boots and foot health, what exactly is the story?
Of course, it’s not going to be an easy answer. Cowboy boots can actually be both good and bad for your feet. A lot of this depends on you guessed it, your feet. There has always been a myth that cowboy boots are uncomfortable, don’t fit right, you have to cram your toes in that skinny pointed section of the boot, etc… Lol, it’s pretty funny if you’ve actually worn cowboy boots for a number of years. I’m here to tell you though, cowboy boots are some of the most comfortable pieces of footwear you have ever worn. You need to get the right fit though. That’s the same with anything you wear on your feet from dress shoes, sneakers, hiking boots, work boots, and of course cowboy boots.
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Why Are Cowboy Boots Beneficial To Your Feet
Let’s get the obvious benefits out-of-the-way first. The traditional cowboy boot of course doesn’t have laces. They have a tall shaft (most of them) that go up to the mid way point of your shin. They can protect your feet and legs when you may be out in harsh terrain from such things as thorns, brush, rocks, and even venomous snakes. I’m not joking about the snake part. We actually wrote a great article are cowboy boots snake proof that may be of some interest to you.
Cowboy boots are also of course made from one type of leather or another and can protect your feet from mud and water. You might not want to test these out on a $900 pair of Lucchese, but you can take my word for it. Ever heard of “Trench Foot“? Trench foot is caused by prolonged moisture to your foot or feet and was a really big problem in many wars for pretty much every nation in the world. Cowboy boots can protect your feet from this menace. You don’t want your feet went in any condition hot or cold. Frostbite is no fun and having dry feet is a big factor in not getting it. To be truthful, cowboy boots would not be my first choice out hiking or in freezing conditions, but you never know what kind of situation you are gonna find yourself in. I would suggest looking into a really good pair of hiking boots if that’s the case.
Now, if you are gonna do some “cowboy stuff” like ride a horse, well boom, cowboy boots is exactly what you need. One of the reasons they don’t have laces is so your footwear doesn’t get caught up in the saddle. If that happens, your foot and ankle and who knows what else could sustain serious injury.
A common foot problem seen by many podiatrists is insertional Achilles tendon pain to the back of the heel. A recommendation and treatment for this pain is heel lifts which are just inserts that go into your shoe that raise your heel up. Cowboy boots are already made with elevated heels which shortens your Achilles tendon and reduces the strain on it. Because of these built in “heel lifts” you will greatly reduce the pain of insertional Achilles tendon and won’t need heel lifts when wearing them.
Another benefit of cowboy boots when it comes to foot health are their soles. Cowboy boots are designed and constructed unlike a lot of other types of footwear. The rigid sole helps create a stable foundation of the boot which helps support the overall foot. But there is also something bad about the sole and we will talk about that below in the next paragraph.
Why Cowboy Boots Can Be A Pain In The Foot
The sole of the boot that I was just praising for being of solid sturdy construction can also be very bad for your foot. That same sole has zero arch support. If you have arch problems, cowboy boots may not be a “good fit” for you. Arch support is a must when you need to treat structural deformities that can lead to very painful conditions such as plantar fasciitis which if one of the most common causes of heel pain.
Do you remember when I was talking about cowboy boots not having any laces and that was a good thing? Well that may be great while sitting in the saddle, but out walking not so much. The lack of laces in cowboy boots causes heel slippage. Heel slippage is actually something you need to know about when trying on cowboy boots to get the proper fit. Heel slippage is of course your whole foot slipping from front to back of the boot which can lead not only painful irritation but blisters on the back of the heel. If you haven’t worn cowboy boots before and just read what I wrote above, don’t do anything rash. You might immediately assume that you need smaller boots for your feet or heels don’t slip. This is not the case. You need this heel slippage to get a proper fit. If you don’t, this may lead to compression pain and nerve irritation throughout both of your feet. Also, trying to squeeze your toes into a “small toe box” can lead to forefoot compression and pain which is called Morton’s neuroma. According to the Mayo Clinic:
Morton’s neuroma is a painful condition that affects the ball of your foot, most commonly the area between your third and fourth toes. Morton’s neuroma may feel as if you are standing on a pebble in your shoe or on a fold in your sock.
Yeah, you definitely don’t want that!
When trying on a pair of new cowboy boots, make sure you have any custom orthotics or pads, etc… in hand. You want to try them on with these so you get the proper fit. Trying them on without, you may thing you are getting a great fitting boot only to return home and not be able to wear them with these products.
The Best Cowboy Boots For Men & Women With Plantar Fasciitis
I hope you aren’t reading this section in the hopes of me recommending the perfect pair of cowboy boots for your Plantar Fasciitis! If that’s the case you are in for a disappointment. You can go to a bunch of sites and you might see someone saying “This cowboy boot is great for arch support” or “wear this cowboy boot if you have Plantar Fasciitis”. Believe me, don’t listen to them. They are just trying to make a quick buck at the expense of your feet.
It’s pretty simple. Plantar Fasciitis means you definitely need arch support in whatever you are wearing.
Support is derived from two basic areas on the shoe. The base, or outsole, of the shoe is the bottom part, where the rubber, (or in this case, leather,) meets the road. The wider a base, the better the shoe is for balance, which is better for overall support. Above the outsole is the mid sole. In an athletic shoe, this is usually made of foam. It’s the bit that atop the base and below your foot. The higher the contour of the mid sole, the more arch support a shoe has.
With that criteria in mind, let’s examine the cowboy boot:
From a base perspective, cowboy boots are usually fairly wide… though they do have a heel which can affect balance. But perhaps the most glaring support issue in cowboy boots is regarding the mid sole: It isn’t there.
Usually, a cowboy boot is made very well. There’s a durable outsole, and quality uppers that protect the foot. But there isn’t usually a mid sole between the sole and the foot.
No mid sole, no real arch support.
I would love to tell you “Hey, this pair of Lucchese or Tony Lama’s are a great pair of boots with built in arch support”, but that’s just not gonna happen. I can say they are both great brands that will last you for years, but you may want to think about getting some inserts for them.
Can you buy insoles for arch support for cowboy boots?
This can be pretty difficult. Because of the design and shape of cowboy boots, these aren’t something you are going to be able to pick up at Walgreens. There are some die hard cowpokes that just have to wear their boots and have resorted into buying custom-built orthotics for their arch support needs. I know what you are thinking, this could get a bit pricey.
With that being said, you might want to check out Orange Light inserts which is a must if you need arch support for cowboy boots. I believe they run $20 a pair and are well worth it. You can find out more info on their site.
Pay Attention To Pre Exisiting Foot Problems & Selection
There are a couple things you have to consider when buying footwear. Cowboy boots, sneakers, work boots, whatever, you have to do things right. Proper fit is a biggie. Improper fit can lead to a myriad of problems with your feet that you just might not be able to come back from. There isn’t much else to say about the subject, it’s pretty self-explanatory. Once again, if you have never worn cowboy boots, make sure you get the proper fit. It’s a little different getting cowboy boots then a pair of Adidas. Here is a guide on what to look for when trying on your new pair of cowgirl or cowboy boots.
The 2nd most important thing is taking in to consideration any pre-existing conditions you might have. I hate to say this, but depending on your problem, you just may not be able to wear certain type of footwear such as cowboy boots. If you have a condition such as Plantar Fasciitis, you might want to stay away from cowboy boots all together depending on the severity. Wearing them could make it much worse. High heels are one of most common foot issues out there. If you suffer from any issues because of this, look for something with a shorter heel. Luckily these days you have a bunch of options when it comes to cowboy boots and shorter heels.
You know your feet, get to know what you are putting on them and if it’s a good match. You may read on some sites that cowboy boots shouldn’t be worn if you have some preexisting conditions because of their pointed toe boxes. First, not all cowboy boots have long pointed toes anymore. Cowboy boots have changed and evolved over the years and there are many different toe types in the cowboy boot world these days. I’m really starting to love square toed cowboy boots.
A great piece of advice that I read from a podiatrist was “Wear the appropriate footwear for the activity at hand.”. This is true when it comes to the overall health of your feet.
The Health Of Your Feet Is What’s Important
With everything you just learned, remember that your feet are what’s important. Whatever you wear on them, make sure you are wearing them for this reason, not what looks good. That maybe a little harsh, because no matter what issue you may or may not have with your feet, you can always find something pleasing to wear.
For the most part, most people won’t have a problem wearing cowboy boots. As I said, they are super comfortable and really have some great qualities when it comes to foot health. Cowboy boots and foot health won’t be an issue in most cases if you have the proper fit. If you do have some foot issues, ask your doctor. I guarantee he or she will know the answer and most likely has some firsthand knowledge on the issue.
I hope the information in this article has helped you decide if a pair of handmade cowboy boots is the right fit for you!