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Lightweight Boot Review: Ariat’s Iconic Performance Footwear Evolution

ariat bantamweight boot(Photo/Nicole Qualtieri)
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The brand name Ariat is synonymous with working Western footwear. And it continues to bring new technology to the forefront of athletes in need of boots.

I remember the first pair of Ariats I bought. I’d saved up my allowance to buy paddock boots that would replace the first pair of tall, hot, and uncomfortable rubber riding boots my parents had bought me. I could only afford the synthetic boots at that point, but they were a revelation — even in the mid-1990s.

To my young teenage brain, the gel footbeds were peak technology. And I wore these boots all summer from dawn to dusk, mucking stalls, catching a ride when I could, feeding, tacking, and caring for equines. They were comfortable, broke in quickly, and safe in the saddle. They also lasted, and this was a key point for a kid paying her own way around horses.

Today, I have (at least) five pairs of Ariats in my closet and a few equines of my own. I’d guess that at least 95% of the time I’ve been in the saddle or around horses, Ariats dressed my feet. And that’s still true today.

So, getting the chance to head to Fort Worth, Texas, to visit Ariat’s latest storefront, speak with members of Ariat’s team, and see the brand’s newest technology firsthand was, suffice it to say, right up my alley.

Ariat Stores Offer Unique Opportunity to Contrast and Compare

Back in the day, I’d buy my Ariats at the local tack shop, and if they didn’t have what I needed in my size, they could order directly for me. These days, I mostly shop online, though it’s still possible to pick up Ariats at most any farm and ranch store nearby.

Additionally, Ariat offers 10 brand stores and outlet locations across the country. If you’re in Utah, California, Texas, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, or Arizona, you’re in luck. I found myself in Ft. Worth’s Stockyards in Ariat’s newest brand store, and there I was able to see firsthand how the brand continues to evolve.

Maybe it’s the combination of a post-pandemic lifestyle and the rural necessity of online shopping, but it almost felt nostalgic to have an in-store experience with folks who knew the brand and offered up help on what may or may not work.

And that said, the store bustled. The few times I stopped in, the space was packed. People clamored for boots, and it showed. However, the actual product lines were limited to new, seasonal offerings. And in Texas, Ariat certainly focuses on the cowboy boot and Western wear, versus the paddock boots and breeches of my youth.

Ariat’s Evolving Technologies

ariat VentTek boots
You can see the mesh panels on Ariat’s VentTek boots in the Ariat store in Ft. Worth; (photo/Nicole Qualtieri)

Ariat, back in the day, was the first to nail hybrid performance footwear for human athletes in the equine world. It had to look traditional; it had to be comfortable. Today, that technology-forward mindset dominates its performance footwear, and it also bleeds into lifestyle footwear as well. The gel footbed that I recall continues to evolve toward bigger, better things.

The first technology that stood out to me in-store was Ariat’s Bantamweight sole. Much lighter than a traditional boot, the Bantamweight sole partners a chemical compound with wear-resistant mapping to create a durable, lightweight sole. And it’s striking just how much lighter the boots feel in hand.

The other technology that is primed for summer is Ariat’s VentTek technology for boots, which smartly (and simply) incorporates mesh into the panels of the boot and a dri-Freeze lining for the foot and sole. As someone who’s spent summers sweltering in leather boots, this is a big win.

And many of the VentTEK offerings partner with the Bantamweight sole for a lightweight, breathable boot. It’s good stuff.

Trying It Out: Ariat Plano Boot Review

ariat bantamweight boot
Above, you see my older Ariat boot. Below, notice how the bantamweight boot’s sole offers up a unique pattern for wear and tear; (photo/Nicole Qualtieri)

I’ve been wearing the Plano Bantamweight boot ($210) for a few weeks now, and the difference in weight is so noticeable that it’s not. I’ll explain. Oftentimes, especially on long days, I’ll switch in and out of boots if I need to run an errand or take some downtime away from the barn.

I haven’t felt the need to do that with the Planos. For clarity, they’re men’s boots and I’m a full-blown woman. But I’ve often rocked men’s cowboy boots as they tend to be plainer, more neutral, and to the point. They also tend to be heavier.

These are not. And in every other way, they fit the bill for me. And though the Plano style is sold out online, the bantamweight offerings tap in at 39 options for men and 18 options for women. So, you’re not out of luck.

I’ll admit that I wore cotton socks (doh!) the first few times I wore the Planos, and I did end up with some blistering. But had these come home with me, I would’ve broken them in a bit more slowly — and not in the Texas heat in cotton socks. I haven’t had any issues since, and I’ve already put a bunch of riding miles on this pair of boots.

As Ariats always have for me, they feel superb in the saddle and great when on my own two feet. When I pick up an older Ariat boot and the newer Bantamweight, the weight difference is obvious. This technology has made it into my perma-lineup of riding gear.

Looking Ahead, Testing More From Ariat

ariat bantamweight boot
The Ariat Plano Boot and my gals in the background; (photo/Nicole Qualtieri)

Even as a lifelong enthusiast of the brand, I’ve certainly worn other boots. From high-end cowboy boots to vintage thrifted boots, I’ve tried it all. And yet, I keep coming back to Ariat. It’s affordable, it lasts, and it offers up the gamut when it comes to boots for any style of riding I’ve done. From jumping to polo and trail riding to reining, Ariats have been on my feet.

In the future, I don’t suspect much will change. This summer, I’ll put the VentTEK technology through its paces on the hottest days in Montana. And through the winter, I’ll look to insulated boots from the Ariat Terrain collection to carry me through.

Ariats simply work for me and my two feet. They always have. And I suspect that they always will.

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