Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Please, please find me tall, black leather boots that fit people with athletic calves! I have wide-ish calves, but “wide” styles always seem to be way too big. I’ve bought and returned so many pairs of boots at all different price points over the last few years and still haven’t found anything that’s both comfortable and flattering; I’m still stuck wearing some old Steve Madden boots from 2009 that I’ve had re-soled two times. —Katy
The struggle to find women’s boots that work for bigger or athletic calves is a very real one, but it’s a problem that’s not talked about all that frequently (which could be the reason behind the notoriously barely-there selection).
Sure, there are boots out there made specifically for those with wide calves or plus-sizes in mind, but because one size most certainly does not fit all, generic standard sizing can have you testing out dozens of styles, only to be left disappointed (and boot-less) every time.
All hope shouldn’t be lost, though. There are tons of brands out there that address the issue — though maybe not by name — by offering a range of boots with softer, stretchier leather, woven or elastic back paneling, extended calf sizes, or — if you’re feeling splurgy — bespoke, customized options.
Naturalizer, the decades-old women’s footwear line you’ve probably seen at Nordstrom, is a great place to start if you’re looking for quality but don’t want to spend too much.
The brand isn’t known for being trend-driven, but if you want a classic shape it’s a pretty safe bet. Right now, tons of accommodating options are on sale, including the Wynnie Boot ($129), which features elastic goring panels at the back and side for flexibility on both its standard and wide iterations. On the site, you’ll also find dozens of costumer reviews for every pair, including this commenter reviewing the Naples Wide Calf Boot ($99): “I have struggled for years to find wide calf boots that don't look like wide calf boots. Naturalizer has done it! I can wear boots!”
UK-based Ted & Muffy — formerly known as Duo Boots — claims to be “fairytale fitters” because of the essentially magical way its (Italian leather, no less) boots fit. Starting under $300, the brand offers boots in 21 calf sizes and shoes and ankle boots in three width fittings. Don’t know your calf measurements? No worries, you can find a printable tape measure and video tutorials that teach you to properly measure your calves and feet on the site.
As far as selection goes, there are subtle variations of classic styles, like the Huntsman Boot ($360), which comes in cherry red, navy, and tanned leather, as well as the standard shaft silhouette, like the Midnight Boot ($360). And, like Naturalizer, Ted & Muffy has racked up hundreds of great reviews for a majority of its styles as a testament to the quality and longevity of the boots.
If finding the right boot has become so big of an issue for you that you’d be willing to spend a little extra for guaranteed fit and quality, look no further than Poppy Barley, a made-to-order footwear line based in Alberta, Canada. The brand offers bespoke boots in women’s sizes 5-12 with custom calf and foot widths as well as boot heights, meaning the boot will literally be made just for you (and your athletic calves).
Poppy Barley offers classic styles like the Uptown Boot ($548) and the City Boot ($548) but also stocks a pretty wide range of more stylized pairs like the Military Boot ($548) — a huge plus in this category.
Sure, you already know of Stuart Weitzman, but if the loads of celebrities wearing the brand’s signature boots gave you the idea that it probably doesn’t accommodate a wider calf, you thought wrong.
The label incorporates tons of flexible, stretchy materials as well as three different width options to chose from in a huge range of styles. Whether you’re looking to cop an all-over suede pair, like the Lowland ($798) — which is made of stretch suede to create the fit of a legging — or something closer to the now-on-sale Halftime Boot ($338, was $675) — which marries nappa leather on the front and elastic stretch paneling on the back — you’ll find perfect fit and equal comfort.
They might be the most expensive picks on this list, but you’ll have designer shoes and they’ll actually fit. It’s a win/win.