With scrawny 11.9-inch calves, I've been on a mission for years (decades!) to find the very best, most beautiful slim calf boots. There have been successes, but for whatever reason, what remain most elusive are the perfect riding boots for thin calves. Heels and wedges are challenging to find with a narrow shaft, but equestrian inspired? The toughest of all. In this blog I'll review riding boots with calf circumferences published, or reported anecdotally, at under 14 inches around. If your legs are like mine, maybe you'll find your dream boot here :)

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Michael Kors Arley

Arley riding boots for thin calves
August 2015 update: Sorry it's taken me so long to notice that the Michael Kors Arley is available at fab discount shop 6pm
(bummer! gone, as of winter '16...) after spending some time last year as a Macy's exclusive. From the on-leg video, I actually think the 6pm stock more closely mirrors the original Arley, with calf-hugging stretch panels, than does the Macy's version. Note to MK: To clear up confusion, could you please start numbering your Arley updates? :)

(Side note: While trying in vain to find the nonstretch Arley for a trial run at the Macy's near me, I saw a thin young woman buy a pair of MK Fulton Harness boots, so as soon as she left I tried those on. They indeed feature very slim ankles and are super flattering on the leg. The top opening was not snug for me but only left about an inch of space -- not bad. FYI the Macy's listing online is nuts: The shaft is definitely taller than 12", and most definitely smaller than 18"! I didn't have my tape measure with me, but based on the look and feel of this style, I'd agree 100% with the reviewer who warned "Make sure your calf isn't over 13 1/2." Also, the foot part runs small, so size up by at least 1/2 size.)

My original post from late 2013, re the Arley stretch version:  
Riding boots for thin legs, real leather, under $200? They're not a mirage; they're the Arley. I am very impressed with these babies, for a number of reasons.

The opening is 13.5" around, which leaves me an extra inch and a half, but with skinny cords it's barely noticeable. More significant to how this looks is its 12.5-inch measurement at 11.5 inches up the shaft, from the bottom of the foot. That's only a half-inch extra around the widest part of my calf, which looks fab. One could argue that these are really 12.5 inch calf boots, as that's their dimension where the fullest part of most legs will be.
narrow shaft boots
narrow calf riding boots

I measured the ankle circumference at 9 inches, which is only an inch bigger than my ankle -- quite uncommon among the styles I've tried over the years. None of the dreaded ankle slouch here, due to the materials used as well as the small ankle circumference. The stretch part of this boot -- in back -- is softer than with some stretch boots, but the leather part is just right (not too stiff, not too soft) for preventing slouchiness. The Arley will stand up in the closet rather than flopping over as some stretch boots do....something that doesn't matter hugely to me, but it gives you an idea of their overall "texture."

The gold accents are really pretty, from ankle buckle and zipper to the little pull-on tab in the back.

Great riding boots seem to fall on a continuum between rustically cool and sleekly chic.  This one definitely errs on the sleekly chic side. Would fit in most corporate environments but be equally at home over skinny jeans. I would not wear them to, say, a muddy outdoor concert.
Possible cons: Logophobes may not like the "Michael Kors" nameplate in front, tasteful and small (1.5-by-0.75 inches) though it may be. Also, the foot part felt a bit tight when I first put them on, so ordering up a half-size might not be a bad idea. On the other hand, it could just be that the leather needs a bit of breaking in, as with many boots.

Beauty: *****/5
Value: *****/5
Calf slimness: *****/5

In black or brown.
Find it at: Nordstrom

Winter 2016 update: Not surprisingly, these appear sold out. I'd suggest scouting ebay -- still some there as of Feb. '16. Good luck!


  1. I've seen a couple of people with these boots and I love them! It was late winter though so I couldn't hit up the store to snag a pair myself :( maybe next fall/winter!

  2. Hi there two things? Have you had time to try the newer version from Macy's yet if so is the fit good? Also this comes in a heeled version do u happen to know if the fit is similar �� your blog

    1. Okay, so I hit the nearest Macy's today, but unfortunately they didn't have the Arley. I tried on a nice Cole Haan boot with stretch back much like the Arley, but it was too wide up top to feature here. I'll post above about the other slim MK boot I found.

  3. Hey there! I haven't tried them yet but hope to early next week & will report back if that happens, As for the heeled version, I remember seeing that last year but didn't look too closely at the stats. Do they have it out again this fall?

  4. Hi there! I wanted to give you my thoughts on the Arley's. I picked up a pair at Macy's online during cyber Monday for 1/2 price. I figured it was worth a try. Sadly the all leather do not follow your great review of the original. I look like I am wearing fishing boots.these will be going back to the store and my quest for the perfect boot continues. Boo!

  5. Darn - I was hoping the reviews mentioning a narrow shaft were valid. Sounds like no. Thank you so much for the report!

  6. Just tried the Michael Kors Arley (all-leather version) from Macy's in size 8 (I'm usually size 7.5-8) and while it was a little difficult to get on and off my heel, it was actually loose when I was walking. Also the shaft of the boot was wider than I'd like, I had at least 1-2 inches around with skinny jeans and socks on (I'm not sure what my calf circumference is, but probably around 12-13 inches based on other boots I have). :( Size 7.5 might be better but I'm going to look for the stretch versions instead.

  7. Sigh -- must be wider than the original Arley, which really was skinny. You could try ebay for the stretch version. Let us know if you're successful!