An assortment of many different cowboy boots in different styles and colors

Anatomy of the Cowboy Boot

The general outline of a cowboy boot, which can appear deceptively straightforward, is probably familiar to the majority of people. Even ardent boot wearers and buyers might not be aware of all the components. They share some components with standard shoes or sneakers, but some components are unique to boots. One of these unique elements that sets cowboy boots apart is the leather and skins used to create them. The leather used to construct a cowboy boot has to be particularly strong, because the boots need to be durable and wear well.

The sky is the limit when it comes to skins and leathers; the more expensive the material, the rarer the species. Calfskin is the basic starter, followed in no particular order by lizard, goat, anteater, shark, quill ostrich, kangaroo, stingray, bullfrog, buffalo, snake (not very durable), bullhide (very durable), elephant (the most durable), and alligator (the most expensive). These skins are crafted into the shapes and parts that we typically consider the modern cowboy boot.

The most typical components of a boot are listed below, but keep in mind that not all boots are created equal, so this doesn't cover every boot you might see out there. Some of these components of cowboy boots include the following: top/shaft, toe, vamp, pulls, inlays, piping, and bottom.

 The many parts of a cowboy boot diagram


The artist's canvas is at the top, also called the shaft. However, ironically, if you're a man, the top stays hidden under your pants legs unless you're riding or at a cowboy ball. This is where the most detailed work is done. Although custom boots that imitate vintage styles from fifty years ago or earlier—particularly peewees, the old-fashioned cowgirl boots—occasionally have tops that are shorter, the standard top height is twelve inches. The tops of Luccheses have always been thirteen inches. Even high tops are preferred by wannabe Buffalo Bills and Yahoos, despite the fact that they tend to make feet sweat more in the summer.


Hand stitching is used to assemble custom boots. Think aesthetically pleasing rather than functionally: In the past, leather layers were held together by stitching, but nowadays glue does the trick most of the time. The finer (and more expensive) the boot, the more rows of stitching there are. The norm is two rows. Ten columns are fantastic.


The lower portion of the boot, known as the vamp, should ideally be made from a single piece of leather. In a series of steps, it comes together. It is then stitched with the medallion, also known as a "bug and wrinkle" because of how it appears to be a bug and a wrinkle. It is then stretched over the final and stitched to the top. It is then pulled back to allow room for the toe box. It is then sculptured and dried.


The loops at the top of your boots, known as pulls or ear pulls, are there to help you put them on. Excessive pulls are typical. The fancier options include flush pulls, which sit inside the boot, and mule ears, which are five to seven inches long. Some buyers of boots prefer models with openings at the top for their fingers.


The top or, less frequently, the vamp have inlays sewn into them. This delicate step in the creative process, which occasionally calls for microscopic leather fragments and strands, is what sets it apart. The job is harder and takes longer to complete the more intricate the inlay is. (In the world of boots, overlays, also known as foxings, are pieces of leather sewn to the exterior of the top or the vamp. They serve the same decorative purpose as inlays but are prone to scratching or tearing.)


Your choice of toe speaks volumes about who you are as a person. Pointy toes, also referred to as pin box toes, are popular among rock stars and fashionistas. Although they are fashionable, they are actually the same as the ones that Grandpa wore when he rode horses (the pointy toe makes it easier to stick the boot into the stirrup). The most common type of pointy toe is the box toe, also known as the five-eighth toe because the boxed front measures five-eighths of an inch across. Modern ranchers and professionals who want to wear something with a business suit prefer round toes because they reflect more conservative tastes. The modified pointy toe is the number one round. The button-down crowd prefers the number three, also known as a J toe, which is the most popular of the round-toe styles. Four is so rounded that it might as well be a shoe. Cowboy boots have evolved more recently to include square toes. They also work well for people who have broader feet and they make a more daring fashion statement.


The vertical seam where the tops are sewn together is covered by piping. It's usually just one strand, but occasionally more intricate braiding is used.


The insole, outsole, and shank cover make up the bottom. Before the vamp is stretched, the insole is nailed to the bottom of the last. The welt is made by hand stitching the dried vamp to the insole. The insole's nails are pulled out, and the last is taken off. Next, the welt and outsole are stitched together. The heel's height and purpose are determined by it. Higher heels make it simpler to stay in a stirrup while riding a horse, but they are difficult, if not impossible, to walk in. Most people who wear boots prefer a lower, flatter heel, such as a 1.5-inch "walking wide heel" or a 1.3-inch heel.



Subscribe to our blog to learn more about the components of a cowboy boot and to remain up to date on any country boot trends. Future blogs will go into further details on cowboy boots, the many different types and styles, and finding the best fit of cowboy boot for you. Aside from that, be sure to check out Wild Western Wears' collection of cowboy boots for men and women!

Back to Blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.