The Western Cowboy Boot
Nothing says “The American West” like the Cowboy Boot, but why was it popular among cowboys? Surely there was more comfortable footwear at the time, and where did the style originate? The answers might surprise you. Riding Boots were designed with the stirrup in mind. The “Stirrup” is what you place your foot in when riding a horse and it is attached to the Saddle. The stirrup aids in getting on the horse from the ground, and increase the riders ability to stay in the saddle. The ball of the foot rides on the stirrup and the heels of the boot are down (see photo). Keeping the heel down prevents the boot from slipping through the stirrup in the event that the rider falls from the horse, and the boot heel is designed to catch on the stirrup further preventing this occurrence. If the rider were to fall and his foot got stuck in the stirrup, there is a good chance he would get drug by the horse. It’s not very likely that this would occur while trail riding since commercial trail rides don't come close to the rigors of cattle work, Out on the range, however, there are a large number of things that might cause a fall, and it was important that if a cowboy did come out of the saddle, his foot would not get caught in the stirrup. This is also the reason why cowboy boots do not lace since the weight of a fallen cowboy will pull the boot off thus freeing the rider. The pointy toes on the Cowboy Boot were designed to help the rider get his foot into the stirrup, although, roper style boots have a more rounded toe.
Most people trace the origins of the Cowboy Boot to Texas, but Vaqueros brought the design over from Mexico, and the Mexicans in turn got the design from Spain, but if you go back farther, the Western Boot got its origins from Mongolia where stirrups made their debut. Just like the Tin Can led to the design of the Can Opener, the Stirrup led to the Riding Boot. Traditional Mongolian boots did not have a heel, but they did have the pointy toe which was necessary since the first stirrup was only a strap.