Zippers 101

Zippers 101

One of the biggest conundrums in boots and boot care stems from one single part of a boot - the zipper. This small strip of materials (plastic, metal, nylon, or other materials) holds an extreme importance for any equestrian. And sometimes, it fails. Why are zippers so delicate? How can we help our zippers stay zipped for as long as possible? Read on…. 

Kingsley custom riding boot zipper

Equestrian boots didn’t always have zippers. In fact, that’s why the “stovepipe” dressage boot exists. The boots had to be large enough in the ankle to be able to slide a person’s foot down into the boot. But more on that in our article “Hard versus Soft: What is a Dressage Boot?” FUN FACT: According to Parlanti, the first equestrian back zippered boot was introduced to the market in 1991.

Many boot companies purchase their zippers from a company called YKK (YKK Fastening Products Group). Zippers can come in a variety of different types, styles, and materials. The gauge of a zipper describes the width of the zipper when it is closed. For example, a 5 mm zipper is called a #5 gauge. The larger the number, the bigger the zipper. The larger the gauge, the stronger the zipper. Kingsley currently uses #10 zippers on its premium models (and the Kingsley Maris) - this is currently one of the strongest zippers used in equestrian boot making. The Aspen and Lexington models have a #8 zipper. DeNiro uses a #9 zipper.

Zipper anatomy - photo by YKK Americas, Link:

FUN FACT: The patent for the first prototype of the zipper was owned by the inventor of the sewing machine, Elias Howe, in 1851.


Every zipper is made of two rows of teeth on strips of tape and a slider that draws the teeth together. The slider is both responsible for joining and separating the teeth when it is opened or closed. A zipper can break when anything occurs that disrupts the mechanics of the slider drawing the teeth together or separate. Therefore, a single grain of sand can cause a zipper to misalign and break. 

In the equestrian world we are surrounded by dirt, sand, and other foot materials. No boot zipper is going to ever be 100% impervious to breaking in these conditions, but how do we protect our zippers, and provide longevity for our zippers?

  • NEVER force a zipper - in the case of new boots it is not uncommon to not be able to zip the last inch of the boot.
    • Always talk to your boot fitter and send them pictures if you have concerns about boots not zipping all the way up right off the bat.
  • Make sure your zippers stay clean - a toothbrush is great tool to help brush away any arena dirt, sand, etc.
  • Use a good zipper lubricant - like Christian Lower Leather Care’s Zipper Glide.
  • Slide a finger along the back of your zipper as you zip it to ensure it doesn’t snag on any fabric. 
  • Use top and bottom zipper protectors and keepers where applicable. 
  • Only zip "UP" NEVER "OUT"
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