What is the Difference Between a Non-Tapered and Tapered Ankle?

What is the Difference Between a Non-Tapered and Tapered Ankle?

When looking at modern dressage boots, you often see two vastly different shapes. The traditional stovepipe look (non-tapered) and a contoured look that hugs the curve of your calf down to your ankle (tapered). In this part of The Distinguished Rider’s boot education series, we will discuss: when you would choose a non-tapered ankle or a tapered ankle, the pros and cons of each choice, and how your boots should feel. 

When would you choose a non-tapered ankle?

A non-tapered ankle, also described as a “stove pipe,” is a traditional dressage look. Before zippers, riders used to have to pull their boots on and off their legs.  In order to get one’s foot through the ankle area, the ankle had to be large enough in circumference to allow the foot to pass through that area. This is why older and more traditional boots look so straight in the shaft and down through the ankle.  

Konig Boot - Non-Tapered Ankle

(This photo is a Konig Grandgester Boot)

Thanks to the addition of zippers, modern boots can have a more tapered look without the danger of getting stuck in your boot!

Cavallo Boot - Tapered Ankle

(This photo is a Cavallo Ladies' Stanford Dressage Boot)

Unless you have a larger ankle, the straightness of the shaft will leave a bit of extra room from where the largest point of your calf is down to the ankle. This is because while the calf curves down to your ankle, the shaft of the boot would not follow the same curvature. The non-tapered ankle is great for those who want to streamline their calf, have a high instep, or want to relieve nerve pressure around the ankle.

Visually, here is what is happening INSIDE of the boot when you have a stovepipe vs. a more tapered ankle. With a tapered ankle, the leather of the boot is coming into closer contact with your lower calf and ankle. With the stovepipe ankle, there will be space in between the leather of the boot and your lower calf and ankle.

In summation, you would choose a non-tapered ankle IF:

  • You want a traditional look/streamline your calf
  • You have a high instep
  • Your ankle is larger
  • You want to relieve nerve pressure around your ankle


  • If you have a smaller ankle, you will have a LOT of extra room in a traditional/stove-pipe ankle

When would you choose a tapered ankle?

A tapered ankle is where the boot follows the curvature of the leg; the ankle circumference of the boot is therefore significantly smaller than the circumference of the calf at its largest point. A person might see this referenced as a "skinny ankle". Because the tapered ankle accentuates the look of the calf, some people with more athletic calves don’t prefer this option. In addition, when the ankle circumference on a boot is small, the instep of the boot will also be small. For some, this can make a tapered boot more uncomfortable to break in. With that being said, if you like the shape of a tapered ankle, and prefer a snug feeling against your leg you might want to try a tapered ankle for your next boot! 

Tapered versus Non-Tapered

In summation, you would choose a tapered ankle IF:

  • You like the look
  • You want a snug feeling around the ankle


  • Understand that a smaller ankle on a larger calf size will accentuate the shape of the calf
  • The smaller the instep is, the smaller the ankle will be, so it may hurt to break in (depending on your anatomy)

“How should my boot feel?”

If you’re asking the above question, we have a simple (yet complicated) answer. The boots should feel how YOU want them to feel. At the end of the day, you are the one wearing the boots. Therefore, you need to make the decision on how you want your boots to look and feel. If you want a streamlined look, and don’t mind potentially having room in your ankle, go with the traditional non-tapered ankle. If you want your boot to be snug and follow the shape of your calf, a tapered ankle is for you! If you don’t want the boot to be too snug, but still want the tapered look, consider adding 1cm to your ankle measurement. This will still give you a tapered look and still give you some amount of wiggle room in the ankle. 

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.