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, June 18, 2016

Frye Melissa Button Back Zip

How pretty are these Frye boots for small calves? "Pretty" isn't normally my go-to Frye descriptor -- this is still my all-time favorite boot brand, but usually its offerings are more ruggedly gorgeous than sleekly pretty. The Melissa Button Back Zip is an exception. Its soft, smooth leather is not quite as tough-seeming as you'd typically find with this label, but with some conditioning cream massaged in for weatherproofing I think it should hold up just fine.

Before we get to the measurements, I need to alert you to the fact that I bought these for $134, which for Frye is unheard of outside of used boots on ebay -- and frankly, even on ebay you don't find 'em often at that price point. Do we really need to talk more about how summer is the best possible time to score a pair of classic, timeless riding boots for fall? Even if the Melissa prices go up by the time you read this, I'm betting they'll be well under retail until August, so if you love the look, now may be the time.

Okay, the stats: In a size 7.5, the top circumference is a little roomy for my narrow calves, at 15 inches around. Midway down the calf is much better, at 13.5". And the ankle, at 11", is pretty skinny for a Frye model....a nice touch for those of us with knobby ankles as well as scrawny legs.

Just for comparison, this style is a half-inch bigger in circumference than the Frye Jenna Inside Zip at both the opening and the midpoint, but a full inch smaller around the ankle, which I think gives it a less sporty look. Paired with the right outfit, I could see the Melissa going, in all but the stuffiest workplaces, from office to post-work drinks -- yet it would be perfectly at home at a cookout or street fair too.

The shaft height is identical to the Jenna's, at 15.5 inches, which should accommodate most statures.

Very pretty foot shape - but watch your step with the (too?) smooth sole
Sizing advice is tricky with this one. I agree somewhat with reviewers who've suggested the Melissa runs on the small side, but I'm not sure it's dramatic enough to recommend sizing up. I would say that if you're between half sizes, you might want to go with the larger, unless you've got enough Frye experience to trust that the foot can stretch a little with wear for a custom fit. (I do actually feel this will happen with the Melissa, given the relative softness of the leather, but I can't guarantee it.)

I also agree with the reviewers who have suggested this is a sexy boot :) -- subtly sexy, just the way I like. I think the back zip has a lot to do with that, along with the somewhat more fitted ankle. If you like a long, lean look on your lean legs, this is a nice pick, even though the sum of its circumference measurements doesn't put it among our skinniest Fryes.

One last note: I panicked for a sec in trying to zip the boot for the first time, as it was tough to do at the very bottom, by the heel -- the part covered by the cute snap detail, which you simply unsnap to zip/unzip all the way down. By the next time around, it was working just fine :)

Beauty: *****/5
Value: *****/5 at summer sale pricing
Calf slimness: ***/5

In a nice range of colors, including grey, dark brown & rustic black along with the cognac I'm wearing in these pix (still priced under $200 as of mid-July! cannot beat a summer boot deal...)
Find it at: Amazon (sizeable discounts still hanging in there as of late Feb. 2018, though size/color availability varies at this point)

December 2016 update! 
Over these past few years I've made the somewhat surprising discovery that not only do they carry many of the most gorgeous, sturdy styles on the planet, but Frye also makes, consistently, many of the best-fitting and most flattering women's thin calf riding boots we could ask for.  So I was hoping to offer you one more set of Frye pix on my chicken legs for 2016. 

Unfortunately, I received the "extended calf" Frye Melissa Button boot (unlike on the style featured in main post above, there's no zipper at all on this one -- it's a pull-on) from Amazon. Not sure if it was my mistake or theirs, but I probably won't have time to exchange and get non-extended version pix out to you before the holidays :( 

The good news is that based on the measurements for this wide calf version (pictured above), I feel pretty darned confident that the non-wide-calf Frye Melissa Button would look great on thin calves like mine. I am guessing they'd be at least a ***/5 for calf slimness, possibly a ****/5. 

Why? Well, the extended calf measures 15.5" up top, 14" at midcalf & 12.5" at the ankle -- so even if you subtract only 1-1.5" from each of those measurements (which is a safe assumption for the non-extended boot, no?), you'll get a pretty slim fit. 

Some details on the extended style that are probably relevant for the non-extended too: I am between 7.5 and 8 shoe size, and the 7.5 in the non-zip Melissa Button was a little toe tight on my toes. Maybe it would stretch, but I think sizing up to an 8 would be safer. The shaft is 15.75 inches tall. And the cognac color is a little darker than that same shade on the Melissa Button Back Zip. I like both, but the darker one maybe a tad better. They're both lovely, though. 

One last word: Just like the Melissa zip, this one's got a very smooth sole! You'll wanna scuff these up on the sidewalk before sprinting around town ;)

Do you own, or have you tried the non-zip Frye Melissa Button boot? Please share fit details in the comments, if so -- especially if my extrapolations from the extended version are way off base! 

Happy, happy holidays to all, and a healthy and peaceful 2017 to you and yours. xo, Mary


  1. Hi! I recently found your blog and it's awesome!! SO helpful. I found the Ivanka Trump boots for cheap on ebay & they're my first pair of boots that actually fit my calves. I also found these Melissa button zip back boots for relatively cheap on Amazon, but I was wondering if they ever stretched for you? The toe area is a little tight for me now, but the next size up was way too roomy as I have narrow feet. Thanks again for all of your awesome posts!

    1. Hi Ellen! Thanks so much for your kind words & engagement with the blog! Unfortunately I don't have the budget to keep all the boots I review here :} -- so I couldn't hold on to these. I do remember they fit my foot perfectly with normal socks & tights but would have been a little snug with thick wool ones, etc. For what it's worth, I have owned several other Frye boots long term now, and they've all softened over time to conform to my foot.

      My habit with almost all leather shoes is to put on a tv show or podcast & give them a nice long massage with Frye conditioning cream while I'm watching/listening. It softens the tight/stiff areas as well as providing some weatherproofing. Has spared me a lot of blisters! Hope this helps. Good luck!