Boot Wearer's Guide to Cowboy Boot Heel Types

Out on the ranch or the dance floor, you need cowboy boots that can keep up with your moves. Boot heels are an essential component of your footwear that provide superior comfort and balance. Whether riding horses or going for an evening walk, the right heel can make all the difference.

If you are looking for the perfect cowboy boots and have questions about the heels, our guide can help. We cover the importance of finding the right heel, the different heel types and heights, and the most frequently asked questions.

What Is a Cowboy Boot Heel?

Cowboys of the 19th century roaming the desert and plains of the midwest relied on their boots, traditionally made of cowhide leather, to protect themselves from brush and keep their boots secure while riding a horse.

Cowboy boot heels served a practical purpose in handling the bumpy and rugged terrain. High heels date back to the 10th century, when Persian soldiers would wear them to remain in their stirrups and maintain stability while shooting bows and arrows.

Over time, heels for riding horses became associated with power and nobility since owning a horse symbolized wealth. European aristocrats latched on to this new fashion as a symbol of strength and military expertise.

Men stopped wearing heels around 1730 after becoming narrower, ornamental, higher, and essentially more feminine. But not everyone ditched the heel. In the 19th century, the cowboy boot was the quintessential example of the masculine boot heel.

Today, cowboy boots feature a rounded heel, also known as a Cuban heel, which provides support in a stirrup. Its moderate height (between 1-2 inches) is the perfect size for those searching for a refined and masculine look.

Cowboy boot heels can range in shape and size, depending on the function. They are made out of various materials, including leather, rubber, and synthetic materials. Rubber heels can provide excellent balance and traction. Leather can be best for line dancing unless you are dancing on asphalt or concrete.

Parts of the Cowboy Boot Heel

Cowboy boots have an iconic and rugged design and shape comprising several components, including the vamp, outsole, instep, toe box, insole, welt, shaft, and pull strap. The classic heel is one of the boot’s most distinctive features.

Cowboy boot heels come in various designs and heights and can include the following parts:

  • Heel counter: A heel counter is a piece of tough and supportive material such as leather found in the back of the boot. It is designed to reinforce the heel area to improve support, comfort, and stability.
  • Heel pad/guard: Heel pads, usually made of rubber, cover the heel area, reduce shock, and protect heels from further wear and tear, so they last a bit longer. For best results, avoid using heel pads on new boots since it may throw off your gait, and use it to even out any wear and tear. Heel pads may be replaced when they are worn down to maintain your normal gait.
  • Heel rand: A heel rand is usually a piece of rubber between the boot's sole and its upper. It protects the joint between these two layers and provides a watertight seal.

Cowboy Heel Heights

There are many components to consider when it comes to cowboy boots, but heel height is one of the most important factors to consider. Cowboy boot heel heights come in four main types: low, standard, high, and spiked.

Low Heel

Low heels, typically 1 inch tall, are super comfortable for everyday wear. The relatively low heel offers the ultimate flexibility out of all heel heights. Although not common in cowboy boots, it is found in roper boots.

Low heel boots are usually best for walking, running, ranch work, and other outdoor activities. Since they are relatively lightweight, they are comfortable to wear in the office or on a night out.

Standard Heel

Standard heels, usually around 1-1 ½ inches tall, have flat bottoms and are best for walking, running, and ranch work. The wide and flat bottom of the heel makes it a popular and comfortable choice for any cowboy. Standard heels are not ideal for horseback riding.

High Heel

High heels are about 2 inches tall and have wide and flat bottoms. They are mainly used for horseback riding or as a fashion statement. The high heels provide the ultimate stability and balance when riding. High heels have a refined and striking design that is not afraid to draw attention. They are not very good for farming but can complete an outfit for a night out.

Spiked Heel

Spiked heels, about 3-4 inches high, are usually designed for women’s cowboy boots. They have a narrow base, perfect for showing off your style, but not suitable for horseback riding or farm work.

Cowboy Boot Heel Types

Man and woman wearing cowboy boots

Beyond heel heights, cowboy boots have several different heel types, each designed for various functions. Consider the height, look, and shape of the heel to find the appropriate one for your cowboy lifestyle.

Common heel boot types include:

  • Fowler heels
  • Cowboy heels
  • Roper heels
  • Riding heels
  • Fashion heels

Here, we will cover each type of cowboy boot heel.

Fowler Heel (Straight and Pitched)

Height: 1-⅛ inch

Fowler heels can be found in straight and pitched varieties. These low heels are a bit taller than roper heels, making them great work or walking boots.

Pitched fowler heels

Also known as slanted heels, pitched fowler heels have a sleek and elegant look, a good option for more formal occasions. They are great for securing to stirrups or taking a brisk walk.

Straight fowler heels

Straight fowler heels are not slanted like pitched fowler heels. Instead, they run straight down. They provide the right level of comfort and stability for walking.

Riding Heel

Height: 2 inches

Riding heels are moderately tall heels that have a distinct slant. Its practical shape makes it great for working on the farm and looks great, too. Plus, they can add a bit of height, giving you confidence and a cowboy swagger.

Riding heels are the traditional choice for cowboy boots. The riding heel does not have a 90-degree angle but a 60-70-degree angle that is easier to hook into stirrups and more comfortable for the horse.

Walking Heel

Height: 1-½ inches

The walking heel is a good alternative when riding heels are too high for you. This classic heel is one of the most comfortable for all-day wearing. The slightly slanted form of the heel has a wider bottom than a riding heel, providing the ultimate stability.

Walking heels are usually made from rubber rather than traditional wood. They are found in many western boots but are not the best for riding.

Roper Heel (Straight and Pitched)

Height: 1 inch

Roper heels are a blend of traditional cowboy boots and dress boots. These low heels add a touch of refinement to the rugged aesthetic of a western boot. Roper heels come in straight and slanted versions.

Roper heels are flat and stable, suitable for walking, working on the ranch, or a night out. They are lightweight, and because they have a low shaft, they are easier to put on and take off.

Cowboy Heel

Height: 1-½ inch

Cowboy heels feature a distinctive slant that can help handle demanding tasks around your property. Its angular design keeps the foot from slipping forward in the stirrup and gives you excellent control when riding.

Cowboy heels offer comfort, style, and balance for challenging farm work. Its heel is shorter than a walking heel and taller than a riding heel. Its sleeker look than riding or walking boots makes it a good pairing choice for classier occasions.

Stockman Heel

Height: 1-1-½ inches

Stockman heels are a popular option due to their excellent stability and balance. Its block heel shape and flat and wide bottom give you a more solid footing than the traditional walking heel. Although they are not as stylish as walking or riding heels, they are functional footwear that can help you get the job done.

Fashion Heel

Height: 2 inches or more

Fashion heels, generally found in boots for women, are taller than traditional cowboy boot heels and have a distinctive slant. They are usually made from rubber for quiet footsteps and a bounce in your step.

FAQs About Cowboy Boot Heels

Cowboy boot in stirrup

Cowboy boot heels serve a practical purpose, but also function as fashionable components that can tie your look together. Here, we answer your most frequently asked questions about cowboy boot heels, why they are sometimes slippery, and how to find the perfect fit.

Which Cowboy Boot Heels Should I Choose?

After reading about the differences in height, shape, and function between cowboy boot heel types above, you can make a more informed purchase. Everyone’s preferred boot heel will differ depending on their lifestyle and work.

Work on a ranch or love to hike? Invest in cowboy boots with low heels. Low heels provide you with better stability and balance than high heels

Love to go horseback riding? Get yourself some riding boots, which have moderately tall heels designed to keep your boots secured in the stirrups.

Looking to spice up your everyday outfit? Try out fashion boots for women. These high heel boots make a fashion statement but are not fit for working in the dirt and mud.

In today’s world, having just one pair of boots may not be enough. An entire cowboy boot wardrobe, stocked with low and high heel options, can keep you looking good for any occasion.

Should Cowboy Boot Heels Slip?

Cowboy boots should slip a little in the heel. Foot movement causes the boot to flex and requires space for the heel to ride up slightly. When you first buy boots, the heel counters are stiff and can cause more slippage. As you break in your boots, they mold to the shape of your heel. One-quarter to a half-inch heel slip is normal.

Why Are Cowboy Boots Slippery?

Traditional cowboy boots and their soles were made of leather and designed to be used on the farm and to ride horses. Because of this, cowboy boots need to be slippery, making them easier to slide in and out of the stirrup.

The high heel was designed to keep their feet secure while riding. Today, western boots can come with leather soles, but rubber sole and heel alternatives are an excellent anti-slip option.

Shop Custom Cowboy Boots at Drew’s Boots

Find your perfect cowboy boot fit at Drew’s Boots. For over 100 years, we have offered our customers premium footwear, including western, firefighting, ranch, work, and custom boots. Explore our wide selection to find a pair of boots that will last you for decades.