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Riding boots have gone mainstream.
Women wear them everywhere.
"Riding boots are definitely not only for people who ride horses, " says Kate Dimmock, People Style Watch fashion director. "They are such a classic wardrobe essential to have in your closet. You see lots of celebrities wearing them, and now you can find them at more affordable prices."
Riding boots are appropriate for most offices and have a practical side, too.
"When the weather is crummy, you can put them on with skinny jeans and a chunky sweater, or tights and a dress, and you will looked pulled together even on a bad-weather day, " Dimmock says.
Riding boots are popular for their elegant styling, versatility and the fact that they are a classic look, say Holly Andrews-Kramer, product manager for English footwear, and Susan Glynn, director of design and development, both from Ariat, a company that creates footwear and apparel for the world's top equestrian athletes.
Riding boots have never really been out of style, says Brooke Hyden, style expert at zappos.com, but this year they are a huge trend.
"They speak to the vintage Americana look that is incredibly popular this fall, " Hyden says. "And they are so easy to wear, and can make any outfit -- even a tee and jeans -- look stylish and classy."
She suggests going with a rich brown, which is the quintessential riding boot. Styles range from flats to heels, zip-up to lace-up, to the traditional pull-on.
"Riding boots are both fashion-forward and functional, " says Kamal Bosamia, media relations manager for Macy's north and midwest regions.
They are comfortable, warm and can instantly upgrade an average outfit to cute and stylish. Choose a hue that best complements the tones you already have in your wardrobe, he says.
Matching a boot with a darker wash in skinny pants or jeans continues the natural line of your leg and offers a slimming illusion, Bosamia says.
Riding boots mimic classic English footwear. They add a refinement and elegance in that they don't read "biker chick" the way some boots do, says Gregg Andrews, Nordstrom fashion director.
"They are also part of the huge trend in flat footwear, " Andrews says. "They are also fashionable. Five years ago, when you would talk about flat, you thought about frumpy, but not anymore."
The riding boot appeals to many women because it offers a clean silhouette. Many are made of soft leathers with interesting details, such as buckles and studs and straps.
"They don't look costume-y, like you have to be in the countryside to wear them, " Andrews says. "Tuck your jeans into them or pair with a short skirt and leggings or textured hosiery. You can also wear them with a feminine dress for that mix of masculine and feminine that is so popular right now."
Riding boots are a must-have, says Lindsay Huggins, senior fashion market editor for Self magazine.
"It's all about comfort, " she says. "And because they are classic, they never go out of style."
Huggins suggests choosing a fashion riding boot versus the real thing, which can be heavy and clunky.
"The best thing about riding boots is how comfortable they are, thanks to flat soles and very soft leather, " says Tracey Lomrantz, contributing style editor for Glamour magazine. "They also happen to be completely classic. You'll never look at a photo of yourself 30 years from now and think, 'Those riding boots are awful, what was I thinking?'
"They also represent a certain bit of luxury, because women who really do ride horses usually live awfully glamorous lives, so I think some women love the idea of being able to convey that same attitude through their shoes."
Caring for boots
Pre-treat before wearing. Use a weatherproofing spray at home or take to a professional. Spray once a month.
Maintain their shape. If boots get wet, stuff them with newspaper to help absorb the moisture and prevent shrinkage.
Remove stains. For watermarks, have a pro lighten and help blend them in. For salt stains, try this at-home solution: Mix one part white vinegar with three parts water, dampen a paper towel and rub into stain. Or use a salt stain remover from your local drug store.
Find the perfect fit
Try on at the end of the day. "That's when feet tend to be most swollen, " says Dr. Leila Ostovar-Kermani, podiatrist at New York University Hospital. "If you're buying heeled boots, remember to leave room for a gel insert for extra padding."
Think about how you wear them. "The fit is different if you're in tights, socks or tucked-in jeans, " says Regina Gardiner, senior accessories editor, People Style Watch.
Make alterations. "A cobbler can insert an elastic panel for a wider leg or take in a boot for a narrow calf, " says David Mesquita, owner of the Leather Spa, a shoe service in New York City.
Choose a fit. For the most elongating look, choose boots that hit right below the knee. If you have small calves, try a fitted style; bigger calves look good in a pair that's a little looser.
Help them last. Boots go through a lot of wear and tear, so take them to a cobbler to get them waterproofed and fitted with protective rubber soles.
Wear them well. This style makes everything from A-line skirts to leggings and jeans look effortlessly pulled together. Just always wear them over your pants, not under, so they don't add bulk to your legs.
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