Monday, July 8, 2013

The Boot Chronicles.

I'm pretty sure I looked like a kid on Christmas morning - splayed on the floor surrounded by tissue paper, boxes and of course - boots for the better part of the weekend.  I was busy zipping zippers, snapping snaps and comparing stitching, soles and swagger tabs.  I love being able to investigate new tack, even if it's not mine.

Anyway, I ordered three additional pairs of field boots to join the Sergio Grasso Imperias as candidates for my potential new boots.

The three new contenders were:

Tredstep Da Vinci Field boots ($489):

Middleburg Field Boots (on sale for $199, msrp $309 )

Ariat Challenger II Field Boots (on sale for $199 msrp $399)
I think this is a hideous angle
I scoured some online reviews of all three boots before I opted to ship them out and honestly, they all seem to be good performers for their respective price points.  It really does crack me up what some people complain about, especially when they've only been using a boot (or saddle, or anything) for two weeks. 

I essentially discounted any review that said the boots were too stiff or had crappy leather.  I've decided that the new norm of super soft buttery leather on field boots (and saddles) is not to my taste and also has led to a lot of people not knowing what a good quality thicker hide looks like.  I've always had thicker boots that took a while to break in correctly, but then they last for 10 years, so there you go.  I'm more suspicious of super thin (though comfy) calf leather that I've seen people literally wear through in a season.  So I ignored those comments and also any comments that spoke about the general calf fit since the number of people screaming about baggy ankles seemed about equal to the number of people complaining that the ankle was cut too slim for anyone to use...

I opted to throw the Middleburg and cheaper Ariat in because the height measurements for both boots were spot on for me and I was thinking that if I found something that "worked" for showing but didn't have to be my everyday boot - I could maybe go with a cheaper boot that I wouldn't be as hard on.

Right out of the box I was most impressed with the Tredstep Da Vinci's.  Part of this is because Tredstep actually ships a pretty nice box with boot bags and other unnecessary, but nice extras.  It makes a good impression from the get go which is followed up with some pretty nice boots for the $500 mark.  The overall shape and construction rivaled the SG's, but the lower price showed in some of the details (like the zipper guards and snaps). 

The Ariats also came out of the box well.  The leather is much thicker than their higher priced options (which I like) without seeming too cheap or plasticy.  The zipper appeared to me to be less sturdy than the more expensive options, but otherwise the stitching looked pretty good.  It was hard for me to get excited about them though since they shipped in two calf sizes larger than they other boots (a full as opposed to slim) which makes the silhouette and general fit hard to compare apples to apples..

I have zero experience with Middleburg as a brand and saw such inconsistent reviews on the boot that I wasn't too sure what to expect.  After holding them in my hot little hands though, for $199 I think they are a great buy.  They are definitely going for the same look as the Monocos and while it's obvious that the $900 level of polish isn't quite there... for 1/5th the cost, I'd say their value is exceptional.  The leather is more on the buttery side, and the narrow silhouette and high Spanish top looks on trend and totally legit.  The Middleburgs have a full length elastic gusset down the back which I assume would provide a great tailored fit for someone with actual muscle on their leg (my calf fit pretty well but wasn't stretching the gusset at all).

Okay, so onto my thoughts.

1) the Ariats didn't fit so they were right out and I lost motive to take pictures/give a shit.

2) The Tredsteps honestly offered themselves as a reasonable alternative to the Sergio Grassos in terms of quality.

3) the Middleburgs looked decent enough that I was considering them as an option.

First, the Middleburgs:

I'm a fan of these $199 boots.  The taper at the ankle is well done, and the leather is soft enough that they were immediately comfortable to walk around in.  I'm certain I'd get a blister on my heels the first day until they totally softened in the foot bed, but honestly, not bad.  The height for me was pretty good.  The back of the boot whacked into my knee at about a 60 degree angle which is as good as I get off the rack.  the shape of the foot was nice and I felt like when they were actually on, they looked respectable.  The cheapest thing on this boot is the snap at the top of the zipper.  The elastic just feels a bit cheaper than they other boots and it doesn't look like it's sewn as... stylishly as the others. 
nice high Spanish tops, good profile!
Forgive the blurry pictures.  I was impatient and also late for work (oops).

Not a bad line from the side, though I would probably spend $50 and take the calf in a touch.

From the back I think these are ok.  The snaps bug me and felt like they weren't doing much to support the zipper.  I would expect these boots to drop a bit given the softer leather and no real stiffness up the back.  Not a bad thing, but probably not a good option for me as show boots. 

I've already told S about these as good affordable options for her students who are still growing or on a budget... Overall they get a serious passing grade from me.  I don't really know what else you can get for $200 that does this well.

The Tredstep Da Vinci's:

Since the Tredsteps were quickly shaping up to be directly compared to the SG's, I figured I'd do a more direct side by side comparison.
Like, literally side by side.
 When I took this picture I was shocked as how much "tighter" the Tredsted (on the left) looked in profile than the SG Imperia.  Then I took a shot from behind:

In which the Tredstep (still on the left) looks way chubbier and more stovpipe-y than the SG.  Also note that although the overall height is similar between the two, the SG Spanish top is much more pronounced, whereas the overall height of the TS is higher (particularly at the back of the knee). 

Other thoughts from this photo shoot:  I think the SG zipper guards (both top and bottom) are way sexier.  They are more integrated to the boot and really just seem more functional and less likely to tear off or wear out. 

The actual foot part of each boot is pretty similar in terms of styling.  The Treadstep has their signature super soft leather across the laces and top which does make them very easy to walk in from minute one, without turning the whole boot into a overly soft slipper.  The SG has a "rounder" shape which looks a little juvenile to me, but I think is still streamlined.  The TS has a squared toe that I thought I would hate but actually think looks ok.

Time to put them on.  (These pics are extra blurry but oh well)

 TS is still on the left.  SG is on the right.  I think the boots look pretty damn similar here from a style perspective.  The TS was a bit tighter on my kneecap from an extra 1/2" of overall height, which was a good thing.

Outside of the TS, inside of the SG
I like that the TS has a less crumply ankle.  (at least for now).  Still they look similar.

Reversed, showing the outside of the SG and the inside of the TS.  Still comparable...

This one is funny because at first I was like "Oh no! now I like the one on the right!" before realizing I had turned around and the TS was now on the right and the SG on the left.  I think there's some room in the calf to take in if I was being super picky, but the extra height on the TS is obvious here.

The Verdict:

I took the Tredstep Da Vinci's to the barn and schooled in them yesterday.  S gave them a thumbs up, and for the price I felt like I was getting "what I liked" about the SG's at a better price.  Another deciding factor is that (supposedly) the piping down the sides of the zippers are reinforced with a "spine" to help keep the boot from collapsing down the back.  They are pretty comfy, although I have a small blister on my left heel which makes sense since that's my slightly smaller foot. 

I accidentally forgot the damn things at the barn, so the additional question of how well they take polish is still up for debate.  Calfskin is notoriously difficult to get a patent shine one (which I covet), but we'll see.  My old Effinghams look like mary janes when I polish them up, where as my newer (softer) Konigs won't take a shine to save their life.

The real test will come this week while I school in them and next week during long days at the show.  I have high hopes...

Overall I'm very happy.  The Boy is somehow convinced we "saved" money and I had fun playing Boot Fairy.  Now I just need to pack them all up and send them back pronto...

SAGA OVER (for now). 


  1. Good to know! I've been eyeing the tredsteps, as I love their half chaps and sizing options, but I've never had an opportunity to handle them in person.

    I'm not in the market for show boots just now, but it's good info to sock away. ;)

  2. Great review! I have the cheaper Tredsteps and have curad to work magic with regards to shining. Seriously, it's amazing.

  3. Oh Effinghams!! My boot of choice! I've been considering the Tredstep Raphael...did you consider those?

  4. I'm glad you settled on the Tredsteps, I was pulling for them throughout the post! They're beautiful and basically look custom fit for you :)

  5. I don't use full boots, but I do have the Tredstep ProG2 gaiters and LOVE Love love them! Like KM I was pulling fro them throughout the review - not only cos I love my pair but cos I'm ridiculously patriotic & wanted to see the Irish brand win out! :p

    Wishing you well wear with your new boots!

  6. I was very excited for this post. It sounds like you ended up with a pretty good option!

  7. I tried the Middleburgs and the Tredsteps on my last boot hunt too! The Middleburgs are everything you say, and what a killer deal! They weren't a custom fit for me and I knew the break in period would be frustrating. I wound up buying Tredstep zip paddock boots and the custom fit half chaps and I LOVE them. You can hardly tell they're not tall boots and the leather is gorgeous on them. So far they are brekaing in really nicely!

  8. Love the TS. They look great on you!

  9. Love my Middleburgs! I'm certainly not still growing but am definitely someone on a budget and after trying on Ariats and Mountain Horse field boots I was thrilled when my trainer bought some of these and I tried her pair on. Now we all have them! There was no break in period for me at all with them. Good luck with your new TS boots! :)

  10. Ooo, I want to have a boot party! Glad you decided on one.

  11. Thanks for the great review!! Im not in the market for boots right now but ive def taken notes :)

    Glad you found a pair you like!!


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