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.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Frye Riding Chelsea

This boot  -- The Frye Chelsea Riding -- has long graced my list of all-time fave slim calf riding boots. The barrier has been its over-$500 retail price, which is on the high end even by Frye standards. But the style went to clearance pricing -- a rarity for Fryes, as you know if you're a fan of the label -- at least once over the past year and may do so again.

The fact that the Chelsea Riding is extinct at other shoe sites suggests that it's been discontinued, though Frye has a more reasonably priced version out now, the Lindsay Gore (70% off in some color/sizes as of April '15!)-- a bit shorter in shaft, which may help average to shorter in stature boot lovers.

But back to the Chelsea .... 

I could tell as soon as I opened the box that this would be a winner, and my tape measure bore that out. At the top opening and in a size 7 1/2, they measure 14 inches around, at midcalf they're 13", and around the ankle they're 10.5. Overall a very slim profile -- yes! I'm not sure we'll see a slimmer Frye than this ever, actually, so this is a huge deal in my book.

The Riding Chelsea should appeal to fans of last year's Tory Burch Christy, which had essentially the same style but in a pebbled leather. Good news: The ankle on these Fryes is a half-inch slimmer than on the Christy, and up top we're talking a whole inch slimmer. As cute as Tory's "T" logo is, I think the Frye one signifies just as much (if not more) style & durability, and based on personal experience, I'd pick this brand over pretty much any other for a timeless boot to wear for years, possibly decades.

Fave touches for me, besides the overall fit and quality, are the subtle top-of-shaft button detail...

The lovely wood heel, and (of course) that irresistible Frye logo >> 

P.S. For a different take on knee-high Frye, check out the also-gorgeous (though slightly wider-calved) Frye Melissa Riding.

Rating for the Riding Chelsea:
Beauty: *****/5
Value: *****/5
Calf slimness: ****/5 

Find it at:
(Update: Appears this stunner was reintroduced/restocked sometime in 2015, based on more sizes now available...yippee!)
Amazon (in cognac, black & my fave: espresso)


Deal hunters: Frye busted out a couple new boots for skinny legs in 2014 that you might want to check out for 2015 savings:

First up, I first saw the stretch riding boot at left -- the Frye Molly Gore -- looking great on some lean legs in the Nordstrom anniversary sale catalog and eventually got them onto my own. Happily, I spoke too soon about the Chelsea being the slimmest Frye we'll ever get!

photo: amazon.com

Besides the Molly, a Nordstrom anniversary sale boot that got major blog love was the Phillip Riding (pictured at right). Amazon seems to have, as of early spring 2016, a better range of sizes and colors for this one than Nordstrom ever did, and -- in many size/color combos -- is offering even kinder pricing than that exciting Nordies sale rate. It's a half-inch wider in listed circumference than the Molly, but that's still pretty slim for this brand. 

Please do post a comment if you try either of these (or the Chelsea, for that matter) on your narrow calves!  

Finally .... if you're looking for non-trendy Frye short boots for skinny ankles, I'm loving my new Jackie Gores. They're not as hip as all the moto styles out now, which I do like, but unlike those they'll still be in style next year, and many years after that, until they finally succumb to "overuse injuries" ;)  The small ankle circumference leaves space for jeans and cords but doesn't look ridiculous with just socks or tights.


  1. Im the male long boot wearer who has posted before. I love these elasticated sides....they remind my of my short jodphur boots.....I agree summer is the best time to buy long boots, some great deals around.....Great to wear long boots in the summer too...

  2. Glad you like these too! They really are great, and yes, summer prices most welcome. I wear boots year-round too. Enjoy :)

  3. Just wanted to say that a Frye SA recommended the Chelsea to me for my skinny legs (about the same measurements as yours, but I am 5'8", in a full size smaller than my regular 9. They fit perfectly. I can wear them both over jeans (my usual with this style of boot) and, if I really wish, alone.

  4. Love this blog! I can comment on a few recent Frye styles. I tried the Phillip riding and the Phillip riding with harness detail. Both were too loose for me. I have the same calf measurements as you do and wear a size nine. I ended up buying the Molly, which was the narrowest Frye I could find though it still does gap a bit in a 9. It's interesting that the last commenter bought the Chelsea a full size down! Molly is also 40% at Nordies right now. I love both the Aquatalia and Equine boots you reviewed as well, but I guess I better wait for a sale :)

  5. Hi! Not sure if you still check these comments, but I just bought the Chelsea in espresso and it's the only boot I've ever found that fits my skinny calves! I'm considering the Molly gore in cognac, as well. How would you say they compare in fit? Just as tight? Tighter? I'm worried they'll be too loose, as the Anna gore is. Tia!

  6. Hi Tia --
    Glad the Chelsea fits; I just adore this boot and am so glad it's finally been restocked (at least for now!). The Molly Gore fit is pretty similar, but it's about a half-inch wider at the very top (the opening of the boot) - so depending on how skinny your calves are, you may see some gap there. Pls report back if you decide to grab that one - would love to get your feedback.

  7. How tall is the shaft for the Chelsea ridding boot?? Thanks:)

    1. Between 15 & 17 inches tall, depending on shoe size. What's your shoe size, what's your height, and (proportionally speaking) is most of your height in your legs or your torso? If you don't mind sharing that info, I could take an educated guess at whether these will be too tall for you...

  8. I am wondering the same thing. I'm 5'4 1/2" but longer legged than torso. Is that measurement from the floor or top of the boot foot?

  9. You are only 1/2 inch taller than I, and proportioned similarly - long legs, short torso. I would venture to guess these boots will hit a very similar spot on your leg to mine (see pix). I measure from the bottom sole of the boot (not floor) to top of shaft, for height.