Dress boots for hunting - 2015 latest report! (and 2017 update)

I just spent a very long time trying all the black dress boots (for hunting) available at my local Dover in Jan 2015 and thought I’d share my results here.

First lesson: boots in real life bear no resemblance to the boots pictured online! (another reason not to buy online). As most of you already know, most tall boots look the same online - beautifully shaped and shiny, etc. But in real life, you instantly realize the leather and cut feel and look so different!

I tried on the Tuffriders and Mountain Horses. In real life their leather and cut and up-close details really leave much to be desired. Online they look nice but sadly up close they just look cheap. They’re still charging hundreds of dollars, though, so in my mind it’s not really justifiable.

Then I tried on Tredstep Donatello Dress Boots. I think they are good value for their price, and the leather and cut looks relatively upscale. However, for some inexplicable reason, the part of the boot that wraps around your heel is very hard, so that you feel like there is a cup stuck to your heel and really biting into it. I have the Tredstep Giotto Paddock Boots and there is no similar issue. So it’s not my foot, it’s just a weird design quirk. I would have bought it but for this problem. I’m not sure if it would get softer as you “break it in” but I’m not going to risk hundreds of dollars for something that doesn’t work upfront.

The most expensive line in the store was the Cavallos. Surprisingly, the boot was rock hard. I can’t believe it. It was not supple at all. I have polo boots that are rock hard because (I was told) they’re designed to withstand another player slamming himself and his horse into me (and they have). But really, do equestrian dress boots have to be rock hard? They just feel so uncomfortable, and for that top-of-the-line price, I’m not sure if it’s justified.

Finally, I decided (after trying on everything), that the best dress boot at the store was the Ariat Monaco Stretch Zip Dress Boot. Now, there are at least 2 types of Monacos - this one is the STRETCH one. It’s really soft (so much so that it was the only tall boot in the store that doesn’t stand upright, it flops over) and the inside is lined with a high-tech looking soft webbing material. Just one touch of the leather surface and you fall in love - it’s luxurious and supple and moist. The entire design and cut is very upscale and it looks like it’s worth its price. Even the inside is lined in beautiful cream leather. It’s not the most expensive dress boot in the store, but it’s definitely expensive. However, it was the only one that I felt really justified its price and offered true quality, design, and comfort. The only caveat I have is that I’m not sure how waterproof it is, and since the leather is so soft as to feel delicate, it might scratch or crack after one or two seasons no matter how much you oil it (heartbreak!)

I hope this is helpful. Sorry I did not note down the actual model names when trying things on, but they are the Jan 2015 models that are currently online and in Dover stores, so I hope this gives you a good idea if you are comparison shopping online for dress boots for hunting. They did not have other brands at the store that they had online, so I am not mentioning those.

Lastly, as you all probably already know, a Regular calf in one brand is a Full in another and is a Wide in yet another, so you really just have to try them on in the store rather than trust the online specs. And each brand tends to run large or small, too. Infuriating!

Please share your hunt dress boot shopping stories, I would love to hear the latest.

I had a similar experience (trying on every boot at Dover) with different take-away.

I have a pair of custom Vogel boots that suddenly have become impossible to take off. I literally cried the last time I had to remove them. Soooo, I decided I would purchase an inexpensive pair of dress boots to hunt in.

I have a wider than average, but not technically ‘wide’ calf and it’s hard to find off-the-shelf boots that fit. I tried the Tredstep and was disappointed in the leather and footbed. The Tuffrider’s just didn’t fit. I flatly refused to try on any of the Ariat boots because I have never seen a pair that holds up. My daughter has a pair of Monaco field boots (my parents bought for her) that are beautiful, but she babies them to keep them alive in a way I never would. The TuffRider boots weren’t even close. The Mountain Horse boots were at a good price point. I tried on wides and regulars in every style - finally settling on a pair of regular width Firenze.

I LOVE those boots!! The leather is nice - not too thin and not too stiff. They broke in pretty quickly. The foot was a bit roomy so I put a pair of Ariat insoles in them and I swear, they feel just like sneakers. They felt pretty squishy before, too. The fit is amazing for me. My daughters have both commented on how great they look. They make my legs look long and slim(ish).

I’m glad the boots fit and I really do love them, but the experience was the closest thing I have experienced to shopping for a bathing suit. NO FUN!!!

For hunting I personally prefer the rock hard end of the spectrum to protect against bangs from trees and stiff brush when moving at speed. It does depend on your country but my boots historically have plenty of dings and scratches.

For hunting I personally prefer the rock hard end of the spectrum to protect against bangs from trees and stiff brush when moving at speed. It does depend on your country but my boots historically have plenty of dings and scratches.[/QUOTE]

Yes, plus I think they won’t last. I was trying on different styles of Ariats at Rick’s tent sale last summer, and although the butter-soft ones were oh-so-tempting I went with a stiffer pair (can’t remember the model).

I can’t even imagine a pair of Ariat Stretch Monacos in the hunt field. Beautiful? Yes. Hardy? No way. They are designed for the show ring. They would likely die of fright at the first sign of a tree, LOL. (And I love Ariat boots.)

I agree the Firenze is a decent boot, especially for the money. No shrinking violet, that one.

I agree that a sturdier leather is best for hunting to hold up to the bumps & scratches you’ll encounter there. And what are often sold as dress boots are really meant for the dressage ring, so they may be very stiff, or even have a stiffener in the back seam.
I’ve gotten around the stiffness factor by purchasing my Dehner’s used and letting someone else break them in :slight_smile:

Agreed. The buttery soft leathers for show ring riding are not meant for the hunt field. I realize it is not possible for everybody, but finding a used pair of older Dehners or Vogels is a far better idea. It really isn’t unheard of for those lovely old boots to serve 2 or 3 riders before their usefulness is over.

I have to agree that the butter soft boots just aren’t made for the hunt field. I can’t stand super stiff pull on dress boots, so I mainly hunt in a pair of Ariat Bromont tall winter boots. They are comfortable, and after being conditioned and polished they look a sight better than they did out of the box. I have the field version, but they also make a dress version. I figure no one is looking too closely at my boots anyway.

This year I did purchase a pair of DeNiros from Smartpak and they seem sturdier than the average show boot. Definitely comfortable and very beautifully made as well. I don’t plan to use them for hunting, but they do seem reasonably sturdy. I only mention them because Dover doesn’t carry them and I think they compare favorably to the boots mentioned in the OP.

2+ years later update: I’ve owned the Ariat Monaco dress boots for more than 2 years now. I usually wear them in the arena. I trail rode for 1 long day and I hunted for 2 days in them, and they held up just fine going through light constant rain, crashing through woods (light branches and leaves), and tramping through mud (when I took a spill). They would probably get irreparably scratched or fall apart if I crashed into the rough bark of a tree, or walked for hours in a muddy river, but SO WOULD I…so I try to avoid getting into those situations if I can! If I hunted regularly I would probably have a backup pair of tougher ones, but for those of you who normally wear paddock boots and chaps, and just want a nice dress boot that doesn’t hurt when the occasion so demands, this pair would hold up to occasional use over the years. I would say it has the same shelf life of the Monaco or Devon Pro line of Ariat paddock boot. And I don’t really need to take any special care of them: I just wipe them clean with tack cleaner and wax, as with my other leather things. Hope this is helpful info for those of you wishing to make an ‘investment’.