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 :)

Please note: Except where otherwise stated in the captions, all photos & text are copyright this "Howdy Slim" blog and cannot be used elsewhere without permission.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Cole Haan Adler

Ahh yes, after that little detour, we're back to some bona fide riding boots for narrow calves.

At this point I'd like to think my eagle eye is developed enough to spot boots with 13 inch circumference even on a five-minute sprint through the department store. So I'm surprised at having missed the Cole Haan Adler on just such a sprint this fall. Worse, I picked up this boot, glanced at it & put it down, thinking it too wide. Only after seeing numerous kudos online from thin legged ladies did I decide to give it a closer look.

In size 7.5, the Adler measured 13" on the dot at the fullest part of my leg (midcalf, about 11.5" inches up from the sole) and 13.75" at the top opening. Both respectably narrow stats.

What could be a sticking point for some is the ankle measurement. This boot is a straighter equestrian style, with only subtle tapering from midcalf to ankle. I measured the ankle at 11.5" -- which leaves 3.5" of space around my ankles, obviously more than ideal. Overall, the Adler is structured much like the Tory Burch Christy, but with a smaller circumference at the top. It's also a softer, lighter, more pliable boot than the Christy.

You can draw your own conclusion from the photos, but I think the roomy ankle looks better with pants than the thin tights I'm wearing here.

On a very positive note, the ubiquitous (in narrow calf circles) stretch part of the boot is not a stiff elastic fabric this time around. Instead, the back half of the Adler is a supersoft stretch suede. Besides the relatively narrow shaft, that's my favorite feature. The combo of buttery soft leather & velvety soft suede is hard to resist. I'd love to see more companies swapping out fabric for suede in this manner, especially if they can do it for under $200, which is where the Adler's sale price is now hovering.

Nothing trendy about this one; it's a very simple style, save the cute gold buckle detail at the ankle.

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

In black, brown & dark gray.
Find it at (at huge discounts as of early 2015): Amazon


photo (c) amazon
Update: Based on input from a 12.5-inch-calved reader (thank you!), it sounds like the Kenmare (left) may be an even slimmer shafted Cole Haan boot than the Adler. Still available in some sizes -- and actually under $100 in some size/color combos -- as of spring 2017, so take a look.

photo (c) amazon
Update 2: It's late May '17 & I've just spend an hour or so sifting through the newer Cole Haan riding boots to make sure I haven't missed anything promising, and unfortunately most of their calf circumferences are too wide for us. However, the Dutchess (at right) looks to be one of the slimmer OTK leather riding styles on the market, with a "calf girth" measurement of under 14" for a size 7 boot, per the manufacturer. (Generally you need to look at stretch suede, faux suede or fabric for a calf fit this snug in an OTK boot -- or pay 2x, 3x the Cole Haan price for Stuart Weitzman, the luxe label that put OTK boots on the map :) Sorry to be late to the party on this one -- it's actually sold out at sites like Nordstrom, perhaps because of the unusally slim calf.  But there are still a few sizes available, some heavily discounted -- happy hunting!

Finally, you can see the Tilley II Cole Haan narrow calf boots on my skinny calves to get a sense of how they might look on yours. Not a bad fit!


  1. Replies
    1. Have you had a good experience with Duo? How is their return policy?

  2. I have the adler books and I LOVE them! They've held up quite well over the past year. I think i'm going to try to kenmare next! Your blog is awesome BTW. thanks for all the research!

    1. That is great to hear! I may try the Tilley II soon. The Kenmare tip came from another reader here. If you try it, let us know what you think! The more input, the better :)

    2. Just received my kenmare boots from the online Cole Haan outlet ($85 after a coupon!). The top calf opening measured 14.5" which was a bit big for me. At the ankle it measure 11.5". I wear size 5.5, and also found these tan a bit big in the foot.

    3. Darn, sorry to hear that! Esp. with such a small shoe size, the circumferences measurements should be smaller than that. Thanks so much for letting us know.

    4. Any recommendations for a reasonably priced, brown leather riding boot similar to the Kenmare style? Your recommendations are always so spot on, thanks in advance!

    5. I'm a bit behind on reviews at the moment but hope to jump back in within a week or so. The nice thing about Kenmore is lack of stretch panels, and unfortunately that usually comes at the price of extra inches in cicumference. Rare to find all-leather (or very well hidden stretch segments) in truly narrow calf. Will keep everyone updated, as always!