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.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Frye Phillip Tall Harness

 Phillip Wide is only 15 around, suggesting the regular could really be slim!

(June 2015 update: I finally got these -- the non-extended version -- on my legs! Check it out here.)

(March 2014 update: Don't miss my test-run of the Frye Melissa Tall Riding Boot if you prefer a harness-free look.)

If riding boots for thin calves are an elusive treasure, then Frye slim calf riding boots are the Holy Grail. The venerated brand simply doesn't cut their styles all that narrow. That's why, though I am the very happy owner of two Frye ankle boots & two midcalfs, I haven't yet been able to add a tall Frye to the collection. So imagine my excitement in finding the Phillip Tall Harness boot has a circumference of only 13".

But a funny thing happened on my way to nirvana. Not once but twice, Amazon sent me the extended-calf Phillip by mistake. Too bad, as the price was right with a coupon code, and the boot itself is gorgeous, at least in the wine-undertoned dark brown color I ordered. In my mind, this label is at its best on the more rustic end of the riding boot continnum. My secondhand 12Rs in the rugged "tan" shade, bought specifically to camouflage dust & mud from music festivals, have actually become one of my all-time faves and look especially good with girly ensembles for a tough-and-tender vibe. The Phillip is a couple inches taller, and softer looking with its almond toe, but still has plenty of that characteristic Frye rusticity going for it.

The good news is that the Phillip wide calf boot measured very true to its listings, which suggests the non-extended version might actually be a slim 13 around, which would be same as my midcalf Taylors (left) that fit fabulously. 

I'll post "on leg" photos if I manage to get hold of the standard-calf Phillip Harness. In the meantime, I'm feeling hopeful :)

Beauty: *****/5
Value: ***/5
Calf slimness: Unsure for the moment, but hopeful!

Find the Phillip non extended calf at: Zappos
(Have yet to receive an incorrect product from the Big Z!)

Tip for the tiny! If you're under 5 feet tall with small feet, the kids' version of this boot will save you big bucks. Just add 2 sizes to the kids' size for a rough equivalency: kids' 3 is about the same as an adult size 5, kids' 4 = adult 6, etc. Only caveat is that some feel Small Frye quality isn't quite up to the adult brand. At half the cost, though, it may be worth a look.

One more note: Another candidate for best Frye boot for skinny calves, per reviewers, is the terrific looking Lynn Strap which is a half-inch taller than the Phillip & adorned with a small buckle rather than a harness. Hoping to try that one soon & report back. 


  1. Did you end up getting the regular-calf Phillip Harness? Would love to know your thoughts and see on-leg photos if so!

    Thanks in advance! Love your blog!

    1. So sorry, Natasha; I'm afraid I still haven't gotten hold of that one. Am thinking the newer Phillip Riding (sans harness) that Nordstrom's had on anniversary sale this summer might have broader appeal, but I haven't had a chance to try that one either. Ditto for the Melissa Button Back Zip, which looks to be narrower than previous Melissas. Sorry no new on-leg Frye pix for now...

    2. So I have very similar measurements and just returned the button back zip Melissa today. I'm obsessed with finding a boot that fits! Have you had a chance to try yet? I'm contemplating the Phillip or Melissa regular riding...if you have any commentary on how they all compare to each other, I would greatly appreciate it.

  2. Sorry - the only knee-high Fryes I can vouch for from firsthand tryouts are the Melissa Tall Riding and the Chelsea Riding. While neither was super snug, they both looked good on my 12-inch calves. Check out those posts for pix. Best of luck!

    1. ps -- I think the Zappos video clips are pretty helpful, when the slimmer models are on duty. The model wearing the Phillip Harness over jeans appears to have fairly thin legs, and you can see there's a bit of extra space but not a ton.