After owning these boots for a few years, I feel quite qualified to finally have a solid, unbiased review of these boots:
Note: I also did pay for all of them, they were not gifted to me nor sponsored for any amount of money, but I will be peppering some affiliate links throughout this post (at no cost to you) if you do choose to take the plunge as well. Thanks in advance!
FRYE MELISSA BACK BUTTON BOOTS
My first pair of knee-high boots have been these Frye Melissa riding boots in a versatile dark brown (Dark Brown Smooth Vintage Leather-76431) which could go with pretty much everything.
There are other colours like cognac and so on, but I chose it in dark brown.
I got them in a size 8 because I like larger boots for my foot to swell and still be comfortable size which takes up half a size. I also like to add Birkenstock cork insoles to all of my boots, and that takes up about another half a size.
I do find that even if I didn’t put the insoles in and I took my real size, the leather is soft and stretches beautifully around my toes and doesn’t create any kind of rubbing or pain from walking a lot.
I chose the style with the zipper up the back because I was trying to avoid having that strange Bubbly Zipper Effect that happens on all boots at the zipper after they soften up and get all loosey-goosey, like below. I think it looks particularly bad on the inside of boots, so I tend to try and avoid zips on the inside.
This effect happens because the leather is softer and the zipper doesn’t change with it, so you have excess, soft fabric that ripples and bubbles as it stretches out over time but is sewn to a metal zipper that hasn’t done the same.
I think I chose correctly because I don’t have that effect near my ankles on the inside of my boots, and from the front they look very clean and sleek as you don’t see the zipper or that Bubbly effect.
This particular pair also came with two leather tabs on each boot to snap on top and on the bottom.
It looks cute at first until you realize you have to keep snapping this stuff each time you put on your boots (4 in total), and have to match the snap up correctly or it won’t snap! It isn’t magnetic. 😛
I also find that I walk pretty fast so the tab sometimes pops off and I have to stop and snap it back.
It is minor as an annoyance given everything else this boot offers but is something I should point out.
I love that the inside of the boot is lined in leather but hate that my dark rinse jeans have stained it.
I guess it gives character…
There are also these riding boot pull tabs to help you pull your boots on. Not really helpful, it has a zipper and is not a pull-on boot, but again, I guess it’s the style.
I had to get Vibram soles put on because Frye boots all come with only the barest of bare rubber coverings and after only a few months of walking in them, the sole wore down.
I also found them slippery on the floors and when it rained without the Vibram soles, so don’t forget to budget for that.
They’re handmade in Mexico which is nice and very hipster but also means that they can vary slightly in terms of fit from one size 7 to another. I haven’t experienced this in this style but in the Engineer boots this was pretty apparent.
Overall this is one of the best boots to buy as your first option for a long lasting pair that will be a classic forever and stand the test of time.
Just budget for Vibram soles ($40 CAD) and buy a full size up if you want to put in Birkenstock half cork soles in addition to being comfortable after 14 hours in them.
Even without the Birkenstock insoles, they are still very comfortable, which is one of the hallmarks of Frye.
AQUATALIA ODINA STRETCH LEATHER BOOTS – BLACK
The second pair of boots I got were the Aquatalia stretchy black boots. To be fair, I got them secondhand for half the price in store (they run $600 CAD a pair at retail) and it was because I wanted black boots, but didn’t want to buy Fryes again for something different.
The boots were pretty much new when I got them, they had zero signs of wear and use, the brand on the sole wasn’t worn at all.
I’m glad I plunged in my $300 for them!
(They need a bit of a cleaning. Have been wearing them to the sand pit in the park a lot.)
This is the second brand I’d recommend for longevity.
They wear like iron, and are so instantly comfortable it is incredible.
The shape of the toe is a little ugly at first but then you realize how smart they are because it is the RIGHT shape for a foot. The kind of square shape of the foot is perfect for swelling feet at the end of the day and I feel ZERO rubbing, friction or pain in these boots after 14 hours of walking.
I don’t even have any Birkenstock insoles in them and they feel comfortable.
I took my real size in 7 because it was the only size available secondhand .. Not much choice in used goods I’m afraid.
I didn’t like the stretch back on the boots at first because I like a streamlined all leather look.
Over time, I started to appreciate having stretch at the back because it meant it would never get that strange Bubble Zipper Effect because it would always hug tight to my calf as long as the stretch held tight and didn’t stretch out.
It is also more comfortable as you walk, to have something already moulded to your calves like a pair of stretchy leggings.
The buckles are decorative (thank goodness) because I have no patience in fiddling with buckles.
The sole is also full rubber and I didn’t spend a penny on resoling!
They are also AT LEAST water-resistant (they say waterproof) and I’ve worn them comfortably and confidently during rainstorms and winter although I prefer not to because I have actual boots for those purposes (the gorgeous Aigle – Miss Juliette Satin Rainboots).
Thus far, I have not tried puddle jumping in them to soak my legs up to my calves so I cannot say for certain HOW waterproof they are but at least that they are water resistant.
They do have a little bubble leather effect happening at the ankles, but it isn’t so bad.
If you want all-weather boots that look good even after rain, salt and snow, these are it.
Frye boots look slightly better than these and more casually equestrian but are a little more delicate in my eyes unless you coat them in water repellent silicone which is not good for leather as it doesn’t allow it to breathe.
TORY BURCH DERBY RIDING BOOTS – ALMOND
I bought The Tory Burch riding boots in Almond during the Black Friday sale and got them in a 7M (37).
I first off, LOVE the almond brown. My goodness it is a gorgeous deeper version of cognac and it is truly stunning.
The TB logo wasn’t ostentatious at all (partly why I chose it), and looks more like a lacy leather decoration around the heel with cute gold tabs at the bottom and at the top:
The tab to pull up is also covered in leather and cute:
I normally like my boots a size bigger because I wear thick socks and find my feet also tend to swell after walking a lot and it can feel uncomfortable.
I took my true size 7 in these Tory Burch riding boots because they looked bigger, looser and not as fitted as my other boots like Frye or Aquatalia but I wish I had taken the 8 in hindsight so that I could put in Birkenstock half cork insoles. If you don’t put in any insoles then I suggest just going up half a size for comfort.
What I am happy about is not having to buy Vibram soles for these, they came with rubber soles already:
The lining comes in a Tory Burch print, which is nice, and doesn’t show the stains off your dark rinse jeans.
At the end of a long day, I find it tends to get a little tight around the toes, and it doesn’t help that the leather is also sturdier, and stiffer than what I am used to. It holds up well, and stands up well (even without boot inserts!!) because it is a stiffer leather but that means it rubs against your toes after a long day.
The toe shape is also nice looking but again, not the true shape of a foot (slightly wider, more angular) so that doesn’t help.
They feel very well made (in Brazil), and I do find that the top of the boot on the outside (it curves up) does hit my kneecap a little when I walk, I am 5’6” as a reference but I can’t imagine being shorter and wearing these.
They would really start tapping/rubbing against the bottom of my kneecaps if I were any shorter and that can get annoying or painful.
I think they are very stylish and over the year or so of wearing them on occasion, I have found the leather to start to soften around the ankles where they bend the most but not anywhere else.
Would I recommend these? Sure, if you like slightly stiffer, more equestrian-like fashion boots. Just buy half a size bigger to account for your toes.
Would I buy these first? No.
I think Frye or Aquatalia are a better boot if you plan on only buying one pair.
Frye Melissa Black Button Dark Brown Vintage Boots
- More casual
- Fully leather-lined
- Long-wearing and long-lasting
- Passed 14-hour walking test
- Needs Vibram soles or else you’ll slip everywhere
- Take a full size up:
- Fits true to size; suggest half a size bigger for comfort
- Doesn’t need Birkenstock insoles but if you do put them in, get an additional half a size bigger
Aquatalia Odina Black Boots
- More formal
- Signature styles mostly have stretchy calves
- Long-wearing and long-lasting
- Passed 14-hour walking test
- Toe section is perfectly shaped, won’t need another half size to account for swelling
- Get your true size; I don’t have Birkenstock insoles and they’re comfortable as-is
- If you plan on putting insoles, get half a size up
Tory Burch Almond Derby Riding Boots
- Most beautiful of the bunch
- Gorgeous range of Browns (almond is stunning)
- Smooth, solid leather but is very stiff
- Will bunch/soften up at the ankle only
- Logo can be distracting if it is an emblem in gold on the calf; look for a style with the logo in leather as a decorative lace design instead
- Beautiful inner lining design
- Toe box is pretty but not shaped to the foot
- Passed the 6-hour walking test before they felt right and rubbed at the toes
- Take AT A MINIMUM a half size up, I would suggest a full size up and add Birkenstock insoles
P.S. While these knee-high boots are considered essential style classics to me, these are my 10 Uncommon Wardrobe Essentials, and if you want to know what else I have bought, here are all of my What I Bought Roundups.