The Hunt: Black Tall Boots

Loeffler Randall ViolaSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

We’ve talked about knee high boots before — a lot — but I don’t think we’ve ever done a round-up.  To repeat what I’ve said before — wearing tall boots is very much a “know your office” kind of thing, and in very conservative offices people may attach words like “dominatrix” to boots — so proceed with caution!  I do think in general that black tall boots have come a long way, and provided they’re not over your knee (and they’re well taken care of) most women can get away with wearing them, particularly with opaque black tights and modest skirt (not a miniskirt), to the office. For my $.02, I would also avoid a boot with a thick platform (such as these).  Readers, have you recently bought a great pair of black boots?  What do you look for in an ideal pair — and how much are you willing to spend? (Check out the roundup, below…)


Naturalizer Dinka (Regular Shaft)I like the lace detail on the back of these Naturalizer boots — and the heel looks walkable. These come in black, brown, and “pavement” leather (taupey), as well as gray and brown suede. has a number of colors and sizes for $71.60 (they were $179), and Nordstrom has the regular and the wide calf boots for $118.90. Naturalizer Dinka (Regular Shaft)
Cole Haan Air Jalisa Tall Boot Next up: the Cole Haan Air Jalisa Tall Boot, which 6pm has a lot of sizes (but not all) marked from $298 down to $165 today. Cole Haan Air was the most popular reader pick for comfortable shoes in our recent poll (take it here if you haven’t already), and a 45% discount is hard to ignore. Zappos also has the Cole Haan Lana Tall Boot (not from the Air collection but still with great comfort ratings) on sale from $328 down to $295.99 today. Cole Haan Air Jalisa Tall Boot
Tsubo Lilion These Tsubo boots have a few qualities that I’m not sure about for the office — the glossy heel, the diagonal top to the boot — but Tsubo boots are always rated really well for comfort, and if you watch the video and look at the detail shots on Zappos it really does look like it would be a super comfortable boot. This one also comes in slate; Zappos has both for $275. Tsubo Lilion
Frye Miranda Tall ZipPersonally I love Frye boots for comfort, but it can be a bit tricky to find one that also looks good for the office — but I think this Miranda boot fits the bill. I like the tiny buckle detail at the top, and it has a leather lining also. It’s $298 at Zappos in black, brown, and “cognac.” Frye Miranda Zip
La Canadienne MalvernSuede can be a great for boots (matte! comfortable!) but only if the suede is weatherproof. You can always take your chances with a spray, but La Canadienne guarantees their boots to be waterproof. I like that these boots also have a “technical microfiber lining” that is antibacterial and wicks away moisture, and a cushioned memory foam insole. They’re $385 at Zappos. La Canadienne Malvern
Loeffler Randall ViolaWow: despite the lack of a zipper, these boots are flying off the shelves — there are only lucky sizes left. I like the slightly looser shaft and ankle look, and the leather looks super soft. They’re $595 at Zappos, Bloomingdale’s, ShopBop, and Loeffler Randall (where they at least have a wait list for the sold out sizes). Loeffler Randall Viola

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  1. Anonymous :

    Anybody have any ideas for ladies with wide calves?

    • Vanessa Klisch :

      Good grief, I’d love to know! I’d like a really really nice pair of boots, and I can’t find anything other than Naturalizer and a pair off of Ann, but they’re suede. I’ve called Cole Haan, and they just recommend that you get any with stretch like the ones above, but I feel like my legs look like sausages in stretchy boots.

    • phillygirlruns :

      i have 16.5″ calves. i picked up a pair of cole haan “air violet” gore boots last year – the goring is more like ruching and is much more subtle than the tonal elastic panel you typically see. i googled a bit and couldn’t find them in stock anywhere yet this season, but i’d highly recommend them. the profile and shape is similar to the air jalisa featured here, but without the buckle detail or back panel.

      i also like ros hommerson. i’ve shopped at (and recommended) widewidths dot com before – happy with the selection on the site, but am not familiar with most of the brands that they stock.

      • Fitzwell was suggested to me a few weeks ago on here. I found a pair on 6pm thanks to Kat mentioning the 10/11/12 $13 sale. They were not $13 obviously, but they were an incredible deal and super duper comfortable! I have 18 inch+ calves so it is incredibly hard to find boots that fit comfortably. Make sure you measure your calf! Extra wide to one company may not be extra wide to you. Zappos also has a calf circumference sorting feature. I found an RSVP pair on there… not the most comfortable boots I’ve ever owned, but they fit over my legs, so I’ll take what I can get.

    • Duo boots are made in both shoe sizes and calf widths ( I have two pairs, Beech in black and Avron in taupe. I recommend contacting customer service for help in choosing a style because while shipping from the UK is free (and fast), returns cost about $20.

      • Also, if you find a pair you like that turn out to be just a little bit too narrow, before giving up and returning them, take them to a skilled cobbler and ask about having elastic gores added. You can also have too-wide boots taken in. It’s not cheap, but it does give a good fit.

    • I posted last weekend about my hunt. I ended up with boots with stretchy panels.

    • CrimsonClover : I have almost 19 inch calves (I’m only 5’2!) and couldn’t find ANY boots for YEARS and this site absolutely changed my life!- I now have three pairs from them (all Ros Hommerson brand that custom makes fitted shafts and shoe widths for these special boots- a flat black leather buckled riding boot, a tall, beautifully plain 3 inch pointed toe black leather pair, and a gorgeous rouched chocolate brown 2.5 inch pair) and fall more in love each day I wear them. FWIW, I am NOT light on my feet at all, so they take a beating and hold up perfectly with some TLC (rain and stain guard!). The company is also has great customer service , and really knows their fittings (even mentioning to add an inch to calf circumference when under 5’3)… I can’t recommend then enough!

      I also have a pair of knee high, cognac colored lace up brogues from Duo that are just beautiful (and very comfy), but their sizing/returns/delivery (must sign) can be a little tough to navigate if you’re not really sure about your measurements… definitely worth it with either purchase to measure first!

      • Yes!! is the best site ever for wide calf boots!! I recently moved to a cold city where boots were an absolute necessary and I have gotten 4 pairs from there!

    • lucy stone :

      Fitzwell from Zappos. I got the recommendation from somebody on this site years ago. I have two pairs that are each two years old and they’ve held up well. I have 17.5″calves and the extra wide calf boots from them are wide enough that I can fit jeans in.

  2. For women with bigger calves, high boots are an issue – they just don’t tend to zip over the calf muscle. Ever.

    For this, I highly recommend duoboots ( they tend to be 250-300$/pair, and the size/foot width/calf diameter is all made to measure). I have worn these for a year and am basically in love with them:

    • Vanessa Klisch :

      Really? Please oh please tell me that they are holding up really well and of good quality.

      • They are and they do. I wore them almost every day all winter (through snow/salt/ice) and just took them out and shined them and they look pretty much new. Highly recommended, and (IMO) worth the money.

      • Honey Pillows :

        Yes, seconded. I’m looking for basic black solid boots for bigger calves, and I’ve been considering Duo, but for the price, I want to know they’ll last for more than two years.

        It seems ridiculous that things are made so cheaply. My mother had a pair of boots last for over twenty years, just resoling and regularly polishing and taking care them.

      • Thirded. I have a pair of Duos that are pretty basic black equestrian. When I first tried them on, I thought they might be a bit snug, but after wearing them a few times they are perfect. I wore them a ton last season and they still look great.

      • Divaliscious11 :

        I have 4 pair of duo boots and have had for 4-5 years. They look terrific.

    • If you are looking for an outside of work pair of flat boots for a wide calf, give real horse riding boots a try. They are usually sturdy, comfortable, very warm and come in a variety of shaft widths. I can recommend Dublin boots as a brand.

  3. SF Bay Associate :

    How timely. I just bought the Aquatalia Toast at my Nordie’s personal shopping appointment over the weekend. They are beautiful, comfortable, and waterproof… and $500. I am frankly not sure if I am keeping them given how expensive they are (DH is a bit horrified and wants to know if there is really no other pair of less expensive boots that would do), but le sigh, they are so lovely. Must ponder. I also tried on the Ferragamo Fersea boots and the LK Bennet Sol boots with the rickrack trim. The Ferragamos came up too high on my leg, and the LKBs were actually pretty loose in the calf (narrow calf my left foot, Nordie’s website!). FWIW, I do wear knee boots and knee-length pencil skirts/dresses to the office in the winter, with black opaque tights. There’s possibly an inch of tights-covered skin showing between the boot and skirt hem.

    • SF Bay Associate :

      Just ordered the La Canadienne Dawson off Amazon ($320, based on $400 minus 20% promo code for signing up for Amazon’s new shoe emails). They are only 2.5 instead of the Toast’s 3.25. Hmm…

      • not to be a total enabler, but I have a pet peeve against shoes that pre-curve upward (unless they are in fact cowboy boots). For that reason I vote Aquatalia. But, you know, it’s easy to spend other people’s money!

  4. Anon Analyst :

    I love my tall black boots. I wear them all the time in the fall. Mine are from a brand called Impo that I found at DSW. The boots hit just below the knee, have a moderate heel and have a “moderate” pointy toe. I love the style so much, I bought the same pair in gray and brown.

    I also have a few pairs of “slouchy” boots that are for more casual wear.

    Luckily my office is casual enough that I can wear either style of boots.

    • Second the recommendation for Impo! They have a low heel and are very comfortable. i am currently also on the hunt for tall black leather boots so this article is timely. Have some Corso Comos on the way from Nordstrom after a LOT of online searching and a couple of returned mail order purchases, hope they work.

  5. Skinny Calves - Big Feet :

    Any recommendations for those of us with big feet and skinny calves? I can never find a boot that is big enough for my feet without a giant gap at the top. I bought my last pair of boots in London more than ten years ago after several months hunting for the perfect fit. They desperately need replacing.

  6. Diana Barry :

    ‘R*tte PSA for today:

    I was walking on an errand and saw a woman in a non-matching suit. And it was not black, but GREEN. Bright, kelly green, in two different shades! Yeesh.

    Reminds me of why I always turn on the light in my closet when getting dressed (even if it will wake up my husband!).

    • This was almost me, but in brown. I completely changed my outfit.

    • I thought about this site this morning when I saw a woman in skirt suit. She was carrying her jacket and every single thing about the suit was wrong.

      First of all, it was a cream-colored silk shantung and was definitely a “ladies who lunch” suit and not a work-appropriate suit. Secondly, the color and material are not appropriate for 50 degree weather in Boston in October.

      And the skirt was too tight and too short and the halter top she was wearing with it was also very tight.

    • It happens! A few months ago I accidentally wore a charcoal gray skirt with a navy jacket due to getting dressed without a lot of light. To a breakfast with the CEO of my firm. And I didn’t notice until we were leaving the restaurant. Hopefully no one else did either!

  7. Sofft Vondra boots :

    I found a pair of tall black Sofft Vondra boots at Nordstrom Rack last year for about $100. With socks I have walked in them for four miles and I have feet that easily blister. I get compliments on them nearly every time I wear them as they look feminine, powerful, and fairly formal with the three buttons on the top.

    Personally I prefer black boots to heels in the winter because you can wear socks for them, which really helps me with the blistering thing.

    • i second the Sofft Vondra, I tried them on and they were great. I have big (long), but narrow feet and a narrow calf, but I can’t do pointy toes or stiletto heels. I need a good, stable stacked heel.

      But in waiting for a sale price on the Sofft, I found the Ecco Hope Tall boot. Same thing, very comfy padding, good solid stacked heel, rubber sole. And doesn’t slouch/wrinkle in the ankle area. I can wear them for hours, love them!

  8. Thanks for the round up! Any chance you could do a round-up of flat black dress boots? I have a pair of black riding boots that I wear to the office sometimes, but I think they are a little too chunky and look better with casual outfits. I would like to replace them with something more sleek and form-fitting, possibly with a tiny wedge heel or a slightly pointed toe. I always look for this magical boot in brick-and-mortar stores, but flat boots which are also dressy always seem to evade me.

  9. PharmaGirl :

    Any other recommendations for the Miranda? I’ve been looking to buy a pair of Frye boots but most are too casual for work so I can’t really justify the price.

  10. Anonymous :

    How about a pair for those of us who are 5″2′ and under? And with slender calves? Nothing like putting on a pair of boots that hit your kneecaps. Or that are an inch too wide all around. Had a perfect pair from AK Anne Klein that I bought 5 years ago and I’ve worn them to death. Wish I had bought 6 pairs, as I may never find another pair that don’t look ridiculous when worn with tights.

  11. I am looking for boots with a 1-3″ heel that are casual and wide enough in the calf to be worn over skinny jeans. I am short and my husband it tall so I rarely go out without some sort of heel, but most high-heeled boots I’ve seen are tight on the leg and would look wrong over jeans. Any ideas?

  12. Sydney Bristow :

    The Bandolino boots I ordered last week didn’t fit. I have 16.5″ calves and the 17″ circumference boots wouldn’t zip up. So sad because they were beautiful. Now I have a giant Zappos box to try and get to a ups store too, so that’s extra frustrating. I’ll probably try to find an 18″ pair, but I didn’t really like the looks of the ones I was seeing. This has been such an issue for me for as long as I can remember that maybe I’m just destined to not wear cute tall boots.

  13. I just purchased a pair of boots this weekend at Nordies (link to follow in the next link) that come in black, though I got them in burgundy. They are the Born Crown collection Lira boot. They are a more weathered leather then these but they are basically flat (or with a very low, very wide heel) and I like the ankle straps that prevent accordion ankles. They fit my larger then average calves while still tapering down to the ankles without looking saggy.

  14. IMHO, what gets boots the “dominatrix” label is high heels, especially the spiky kind on some of these. I have some Redwing boots with an inch or so platform heel that I got a coie years ago that work well with skirts or pants. And they have elastic gores.

  15. Can I just plug my super-cheap Payless boots? Predictions for Payless Nadia tall boot. $34.99, zippered, comes in wide width and wide calf. Mine are about a year old, and they’re definitely showing wear, but if I cared about that (and maybe I should!), I’d just buy another pair. Or two. Seriously. I walk 2-4 miles most days, and I can wear these all. day. long.

  16. Stuck in moderation, reposting without the link:

    Can I just plug my super-cheap Payless boots? Predictions for Payless Nadia tall boot. $34.99, zippered, comes in wide width and wide calf. Mine are about a year old, and they’re definitely showing wear, but if I cared about that (and maybe I should!), I’d just buy another pair. Or two. Seriously. I walk 2-4 miles most days, and I can wear these all. day. long.

  17. emcsquared :

    DH came home from work a few weeks ago and announced that a fairly conservative female coworker of his wore (his words, not mine) “f*ck me” boots to the office. When I asked what made them qualify for that moniker, he said, “Oh, they were like knee high, skin-tight, with a high heel. Totally stripper boots.”

    I asked if there were buckles or spikes or studs or anything else – nope. Probably could have been any of the boots shown above.


    • Yep, same with my husband. Also, I work in a very male dominated industry and wore a pair very similar to a meeting once and got some eyebrow raises.

      Whatevs – I like tall flat boots better anyway.

  18. SoCal Gator :

    Boots are on my mind, but not tall ones or black — I have that covered. Instead, I want a brown boot to wear mostly with casual stuff — skinny jeans, cords. I can’t decide if I should get a bootie or a low boot that is a slouch or something with a moto vibe. My options are limited by the fact that I need a very deep wide toe box for my bunions and I can’t wear a high heel. That measn they either have to come in a wide width or be cut European with a wider box and narrower heel (Like Ecco, Dansko, etc). They also need to be comfortable.

    I am considering the Cobb Hill Belinda, the Clarks Wish Mood (last years but on sale at 6 pm), the Naya Virtue, or the Ecco Saunter Mid Cut….or something else entirely. I am so confused. So many cute boots, how to choose? Input is welcome. Links to follow to avoid moderation.

  19. I like the Ecco boots you posted but dislike the light soles. Ihave your feet, and I love my Ecco Hobarts from the NAS.

  20. Just a reminder that you can search boot height, heel height, calf circumference, etc. at Zaapos. I still haven’t found my holy grail black real leather 18″ height, 2 inch heel, 16 inch calf boots, but at least I can narrow down to all the options with a few mouse clicks. Sounds like we all have some magic combination we’re searching for!

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