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.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Nine West Contigua

Narrow calf riding boots in leather, for under $175 100? Done and done. Nine West has come through this fall with the Contigua, a simple, streamlined style that can easily be dressed up or down.

What drew me to this boot was, of course, the 13-inch calf circumference listed -- and the fact that even its "wide calf" version lists only a 14 1/2" circumference. I decided to fact-check those stats live and in person.

As is often the case, the midcalf came in pretty close to what's advertised, at 13.5 inches around. That's the good news. The ankle is a not-super-skinny 11", though, and unfortunately the top opening in the size 7 1/2 boot I tried measures in at 15.5 inches. So there's a bit of a "flaring" effect between mid leg and knee that may or may not be to your liking.

Another taste-dependent detail is the slightly curved shape of the calf -- like a less dramatic version of the Donald Pliner Prize. This very equestrian element tricks the eye into thinking the calf underneath is somewhat fuller than it really is, which to me doesn't look awful, just a little awkward.

You can see what I mean in << this photo<< -- particularly on my left leg (in front); the curve you're seeing is the boot, not my calf.
The foot is pretty rounded, so you shouldn't have toe pinching problems with this style. I feel like this foot shape visually shortens my feet a bit, which again, is really a matter of taste, but probably better shortened than lengthened, as has been the case with some of the slimmest-calf boots I've reviewed.

If you're aesthetically allergic to stretch goring, you'll be happy to know there's almost none of that on this boot....just this teeny hidden patch on the inside top of the shaft that doesn't seem like it would even offer much give in terms of circumference.

As for the leather, well, to some extent you get what you pay for. Unless you're taking advantage of some outrageous clearance price -- usually in the dead of winter or dog days of summer -- boots in this price range generally are not luxury leather. The Contigua features kind of a middle-of-the-road variety, not cardboard-y but not as rich & supple as some of the (generally much pricier) Italian and Spanish made styles I've posted about here.

I wasn't sure what attracted me so much to the warm brown color I chose, until I realized it's almost an exact match for my beloved, worn-into-the-ground, cognac Frye Taylor boots (at right). So I can attest to the versatility of this shade, if you're in the market for a brown boot.

Bottom line, if you have a) a tightish budget, b) thin but not scrawny legs, and c) a preference for straightforward, relatively unadorned riding styles, give the Contigua a spin. 

And if that one doesn't appeal, here are some other Nine West slim calf riding boots for fall 2014 that may be worth a look, based on their published stats...

photo: amazon.com
<< The Bringit comes in a broader than average color palette -- with four choices -- and has what appears to be a functional buckle both at the opening and the ankle. So theoretically an extra punch could be added in both places, though I'm not sure how that would look, given that the existing holes have gromets, so a new DIY one wouldn't match.

photo: amazon.com
<< If you don't mind stretch panels, the Bridge has garnered some positive reviews from self-reported thin-calved customers.

Rating for the Contigua:
Beauty: ***/5
Value: ***/5
Calf slimness: ***/5

Find it at:
(Heads up! In some sizes/colors, priced around or under $70 -- yes, you read that right --as of early Aug. 2015)
Amazon (in black, brown or a nice looking "dark gray")

October 2015 bargain alert: If you're looking for an exceptional deal on leather boots for skinny legs, check out two styles whose Amazon sale pricing and customer comments on calf circumference -- both thin-legged women rejoicing & average-legged women lamenting -- caught my eye. Like the Nine West Contigua, these are both going for under $100 in some color-size combos as of mid-Oct....

photo: amazon.com
The Naturalizer Jamison (right) allows for a customized fit with what appear to be two slim, functional buckles along the back of the shaft.

photo: amazon.com
And the Kenneth Cole Kent Play (left) adds interest to a classic riding shape with a cute wrapped-strap detail at the ankle.

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