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, November 8, 2014

ECCO Sullivan Buckle

I haven't reviewed many slim calf boots from companies known as walking-shoe brands, for two reasons: Their styles can often be clunky, with comfort trumping style by a wide margin. And then -- speaking of wide -- these labels, in general, are not known for offering narrow calf riding boots. In boot land, it seems an emphasis on comfort often comes bundled with a roomier shaft.

ECCO is one of those brands, but its wonderful Sullivan Buckle style may just have overturned my impression of comfort boots as stodgy, floppy things without much pizzazz. This is a super versatile boot made from high-quality leather that shines softly and is flexible but not flimsy, smooth and sleek but not delicate. These boots were made for walking, indeed....and they'll walk with style wherever you want, from the office to a night out to the outdoor pleasures of a streetfest or farmer's market.

A quartet of buckles nods to this year's moto trend, but the overall silhouette is classic riding boot. The non-buckle side has a full zip for ease of access. There's a touch of stretch goring to accommodate different calf circumferences, but it's small and well hidden.

When you tighten, the extra leather is hidden inside the boot
The thing that most excites me is that the way these buckles and the shaft are designed, it looks entirely possible to add extra holes in the straps to fit super skinny legs. Cobblers or even watch repairers can do this for a small charge (or in some cases gratis, if they're generous or you patronize them regularly) -- or you can try DIY with a hole punch tool to keep on hand for future needs.

The Sullivan Buckle measures in at 14" midcalf circumference, but with an extra hole, I think you could get it down to a teeny 12.5". Up at the opening, it's 15 but could go down to 14 with the extra hole. Unfortunately the ankle, at 11", isn't going to change, but because of the leather quality and design, I don't think it looks too sloppy around my 8ish-inch ankles -- do you?

The sizing is a bit tricky, as half sizes are not offered. I ordered the sz 38, which the company says is equivalent to a 7 or 7.5 US. I am between a 7.5 and an 8 normally, so this felt pretty snug on my foot....but I suspect the 39 (equivalent to an 8/8.5, per ECCO) would be roomy. My best advice would be to choose a shop with free shipping, order both & keep the size that fits best. (I know the free shipping thing falls apart if you're outside the U.S.; sorry. In that case I would recommend ordering the larger size, if you're in between two, especially if you plan to wear these beauties over thick socks for winter.)
Small, well-hidden goring

I was intrigued by the company's description of a concealed inner wedge, but in fact this is subtle and just adds to the Sullivan Buckle's overall comfort. The thing I really like is the "Freedom Fit" that combines a narrower heel-to-instep design with a more generous toe box (that still manages to look graceful) -- recognizing that our toes naturally spread as we walk.

I see now why my guy has been a fan of this brand for years. I'm a convert!

Beauty: ****/5
Value: ****/5
Calf slimness: ***/5 with existing strap holes at smallest settings; ****/5 with an additional hole punched

In black and a pretty dark-brown "mink" shade.

Find it at:
Amazon (30 to 70% off as of mid July '15)

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