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, June 7, 2015

Frye Phillip Harness Tall

It was almost a year and a half ago when I first tried to review the Frye Phillip Tall Harness boot but was thwarted by a shipping error in which I was twice sent the extended-calf version by mistake. The silver lining was that that version was true to its published measurements, so I suspected the same for its non-extended sister, which had garnered some buzz as a great pair of narrow shaft boots for skinny legs, from what for many of us is the ultimate covetable brand.

Forgive me for how long it's taken to actually get this one onto my bird legs, but I can finally vouch for the non-extended Phillip Harness Tall as a rustic beauty that should flatter most slim calves.

The measurements for me were a tiny bit bigger than those published on some sites, but not by enough to through this one off the (slowly expanding) Frye narrow calf boot list.  At the top, the circumference in size 7.5 is 14.5 inches. At midcalf it's 13.5 inches. And the ankle pleasantly surprised me with its 10.5" measurement, a bit smaller than we sometimes get with straighter riding styles.

Just like the Frye Molly Gore, this style joins a slightly pebbled or (I think more accurately) weathered looking leather for the shaft with a smoother texture for the foot. Because the color is consistent, this looks just fine.

The cognac color I chose is coolly variegated, ranging from caramel to espresso. I would say it's actually closer in hue to my 12Rs in the comically misnamed "tan" than my Taylors in cognac.
The Phillip's toe is rounded, which probably contributed to the immediate comfort I felt when I slipped it on. The brass o-ring, strap & studs are as awesome as always with Frye harness boots.

There's a full-length back zip, which has gotten on more than a few reviewers' nerves. I personally found the pulls sticky but manageable with a little patience, and IMO there's something inherently sexy -- while in this kinda-tough-girl style, not even close to trying-too-hard sexy -- about back zips. 

The leather outsole doesn't have grooves but feels solid and slip-resistant. And there is, of course, that lovely, soft Frye leather lining.
Sigh :)

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

Find it at:
Zappos (in an outrageous number of color/leather finish choices -- a dozen as of early June 2015 .... plus the video clip on a relatively slim pair of legs is helpful)

photo: zappos.com
ps! Two other Fryes that are calling my name for fall...
The stunning, long & lean Jackie Button (above, still available at great prices in several gorgeous finishes as of summer 2018) is something I've worn in the ankle version for a while now, finding the extra bit of heel super leg-flattering yet quite comfy. And judging from the video, its knee-high sibling is pretty skinny through the calves.

Then there's the Frye Tabitha Pull On -- a hip Western boot that falls on just the right side of the sexy/showy divide.

And in the deals-and-steals category, as of the tail end of 2015 the classic Frye Jenna riding boot (at right) is under $200 in many size/color combos and features quite a few "good" bad reviews -- i.e., complaints of way-too-skinny calf circumference. (Update: My 2016 try-on confirmed they're a good bet for narrow calves :-)


  1. Super cute, but not nearly as slim as the Frye Chelsea Riding boot...so sad, they are going back :(

  2. I love the Chelsea Riding. Sorry Phillip didn't work for you!