Why Do Cowboy Boots Have Heels? (3 Helpful Reasons)

Ever wondered, “why do cowboy boots have heels”? It might seem like a strange addition, but there is a good reason for it:

Generally, cowboy boots have heels to help keep the boot from slipping off while riding a horse. 

What’s more, cowboy heels are also used in fashion and are often more comfortable to walk in than flats.

In this post, I’ll share more answers and information on why cowboy boots have heels so that you can fully appreciate them the next time you see a pair!

Key Takeaways

  • Cowboy boots have heels for both practical and aesthetic reasons.
  • The practical reason is that the heel helps keep the boot from slipping off while riding a horse.
  • The aesthetic reason is that the heel gives the boot a more stylish look.

The History Behind Cowboy Boot Heels

The cowboy boot – famous today – originated during the American Civil War [1]. 

While riding, soldiers on both sides of the conflict often wore boots with small heels to help keep their feet in the stirrups.

After the war, many of these soldiers settled in the American West, where they continued to wear their boots. 

The cowboy heel became synonymous with the cowboy boot and has remained a key feature ever since.

Why Do Cowboy Boots Have Heels?

Now that you know a bit about the history behind cowboy boots with heels, let’s discuss why they continue to be popular and answer your burning question, “why do cowboy boots have heels?”.

To emphasize, one of the main reasons cowboy boots have heels is to help keep the boot from slipping off while riding. 

leather cowboy boot

The heel provides extra grip and stability in the stirrup, which is essential for anyone spending long hours on a horse.

In addition to being practical, cowboy boots with heels also have an aesthetic appeal. The fashion heels give the boot a more stylish look that can be either dressy or casual.

How Does The Heel Help When Riding A Horse?

The cowboy boot heel helps when riding a horse in two ways. First, it provides TRACTION. The rider’s foot is less likely to slip out of the stirrup if the boot has a heel.

Second, the heel helps to HOLD the rider’s foot in the correct position. If the foot is not positioned correctly, it can rub against the horse’s side, causing pain or injury.

By wearing a boot with a heel, the rider can help ensure that their foot is CORRECTLY positioned and secure. 

In addition to these two benefits, many riders also find that cowboy boots look more aesthetically pleasing than other footwear.

Whether looking for function or fashion, western boots can be an excellent choice when riding a horse.

Materials Used To Make The Heels

The cowboy boot heel is typically made from wood, metal, or synthetic materials. The material used will depend on the boot’s style and the wearer’s preferences.

Some materials, such as wood, are more LIGHTWEIGHT and can provide a more comfortable ride. 

Other materials, such as metal, are more DURABLE and can help protect the foot from injury.

No matter what material you choose, ensure it is compatible with the stirrup and will not slip when riding.

Pro Tip: If you are worried about the weight of your boots, try looking for a pair with a lightweight synthetic heel.

The Different Cowboy Boot Heel Types

There are two main types of heels on cowboy boots: the walking heel and the riding heel.

Walking Heel

The walking heel is a LOW heel, typically between 1 and 2 inches. This type of heel provides COMFORT when walking long distances. 

It is also less likely to catch on objects or get stuck in the stirrup.

Besides, the walking heel is a good choice for those who do extensive walking or riding and those new to cowboy boots.

Other Types Of Cowboy Riding Boots

Riding Heel

The riding heel is a HIGH heel, typically 3 inches or more. This heel helps keep the foot in the stirrup and provides TRACTION when riding. 

It can also help control a horse pulling on the reins.

The riding heel is a good choice for experienced riders and those who only walk a little.

Roper Boots

Roper heel boots are a cross between walking and riding heels. They have a LOW heel, typically between 1 and 2 inches. This type of boot is suitable for both walking and riding.

If you are a newcomer to Cowboy boots and want a versatile boot sculpted for walking and riding, then Roper boots can be an excellent choice.

Pro Tip: Roper heels are perfect walking heels for those who want a little extra grip and stability.

Cuban Heels

Cuban heels are a type of high heel, typically 3 inches or more. They have a broad, flat base that helps to keep the foot in the stirrup [2].

Cuban heels are superb for those who want extra traction and control when riding. They are also excellent for those who crave more stylish fashion boots.

Now that you know about the different types of cowboy boots with heels, you can choose the right pair for your needs.

How to Choose the Right Heel for Your Cowboy Boots

When selecting a heel for your cowboy boots, consider the following factors:

Type Of Riding

If you walk a lot, a lower heel will be more comfortable. 

Otherwise, if you are going to be riding primarily, a higher heel will help keep your foot in the stirrup and provide more traction.

Type Of Cowboy Boots

If you wear a boot with a pointed toe, a higher heel will help balance the look. 

On the contrary, if you wear a boot with a square toe, a lower heel will be more comfortable and provide a more relaxed look.

Personal Preference

The third factor is your personal PREFERENCE. Some people prefer the look of a higher heel, while others find it more comfortable to walk with a lower heel.

Pro Tip: If you are still deciding on the heel type, try on a few different pairs of boots with various heel heights.

How To Care For Your Cowboy Boots With Heels

Proper care – whether for your cowboy boots or any other type – is vital. To do this, I present these tips to help boost your ability to keep your boots in tip-top shape:

1. Use a boot brush to remove dirt and debris from the boot’s surface.

2. Apply a leather conditioner to keep the leather soft and supple.

3. Polish the boots regularly to maintain their shine.

4. Store the boots in a cool, dry place when not in use.

By following these simple tips, you can help extend the life of your cowboy boots and keep them looking great for years to come.

Pro Tip: Use a soft cloth to buff your boots after polishing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Change The Heel On My Cowboy Boots?

Yes, you can. Still, I would advise that you consult a professional. By doing so, you’ll (1) get the help you need to change the heel, and (2) keep your boot intact.

Do The Heels Wear Out Faster On Cowboy Boots?

cowboy riding a horse

No, the heels on cowboy boots do not wear out any faster than the rest. Still, they may show signs of wear sooner because they are constantly in contact with the ground.

Can I Put A Higher Heel On My Cowboy Boots?

Yes, but it is best to consult a professional before doing so. These professionals can advise you on changing the heel without damaging the boot.


So, now you know the reason behind “why do cowboy boots have heels.” The next time you see a pair of cowboy boots, you will be able to appreciate them for both their practical and aesthetic value.

Keep this information in mind if you are hunting for a new pair of cowboy boots. 

Consider getting a pair of heels because they are more comfortable to walk in.

But hey, don’t go shopping just yet! Please share your comments with me and how you enjoyed this article. 

leather cowboy boots


  1. Trading J. The History Of Cowboy Boots. Buffalo Jackson Trading Co. Published July 5, 2017. Accessed November 16, 2022. https://buffalojackson.com/blogs/journal/the-history-of-cowboy-boots
  2. Cuban Heel Shoes: Origins of the Cuban Heel – 2022 – MasterClass. MasterClass. Published 2020. Accessed November 16, 2022. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/cuban-heel

Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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