The ride—good, mind you—lasts eight seconds. But because of the level of risk involved for athletes on the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) tour, they want to dial in every detail of their equipment. That includes the technology in their shoes.
At the recent PBR World Finals over two weekends in Fort Worth, Texas, a common thread ran throughout the riders: the need for a durable, well-fitted boot with technology.
Ezekiel Mitchell, a rising personality within the PBR, says that while he’s focused on style, he’s also locked in on performance. Having been with Ariad since 2019, the Texan wears Heritage R Toe Western boots while riding. His ideal bull-riding boot has a long shaft at the top to attach the spurs in place to prevent them from sliding without creating wrinkles in the boot leather. Having smooth skin on top helps it do that.
Mitchell says he looks for durable leather on the bottom of the boot for a little extra protection from hazards in the arena, and soft leather on the shaft for a snug fit when tying.
Fellow Texan Cooper Davis, an Ariadne rider since 2015, agrees that the soft top is a key. Not only that. Both riders say durability is a key issue in riding boots. As for Davis, she wore a pair of riding boots for eight years before switching to her second pair of Ariad last year.
„I get a lot of boots,” he tells me, „but if a boot breaks, you don’t have to worry about breaking in a new pair. If it ain’t broke, don’t 'fix it.’
Davies, who wears the Heritage R Toe Western Boot, says many riders look for something similar in a competition boot, focusing on a soft leather shaft with a durable heel. Heel spurs, spur slides, and pressure are the most common points of failure in a PBR rider’s boot.
„On the back of the boots, they’re constantly struggling to keep up with a 2,000-pound animal moving around,” Mitchell says.
Riders are also looking for a slimmer fit on the leg to minimize distraction. Of course, any amount of extra comfort is well appreciated. „Arriet does a great job of that,” Mitchell says. „Boots act like we’re walking on air. They’re light and durable. Many designers make that possible. They really consider everything.”
Founded in 1993 by Beth Cross and named after the legendary Secretariat, it became the first boot company to introduce sneaker technology into Western footwear. Ariad added stability to the boots with a Y-shaped carbon fiber shank in the forefoot due to the stress and strain on the foot while riding. Then came the combination of cushioning systems—all encased in a shell that kept them free of external contaminants that could break them—for increased comfort. Ariad also began offering a rubber outsole to handle the muck and mud of working farms.
At the heart of the brand’s advanced torsional stability system technology is a combination of shank and rebound foam. Additional Shock Shield technology features a shock-absorbing gel material in the heel area that helps reduce fatigue without sacrificing performance. Ariet also incorporates VentTech technology with mesh in the boot shaft to improve breathability and reduce weight.
Whether in the bullpen or out, it works for Davis. „I wear boots every day,” she says. „You have that tennis shoe feeling when you walk around. When you get into the shirt, the last thing you want to worry about is something uncomfortable.”
With all the technology, there’s still a bit of choice when it comes to choosing a riding boot. Davis, for example, prefers a rubber sole so he can keep from slipping behind when he goes to slide on the bullpen. Mitchell, however, says he’s still passionate about Leather Soul. „I grew up a cowboy, and a leather sole was always comfortable for me,” he says, admitting that most guys opt for a rubber sole.
Mitchell, known for his all-blue Ariadne kit, opted for black boots on the Bulls to best match his style. But if he’s given the chance to create his own player-edition Ariat model, he has a specific idea in mind. „They have a snip leg or a French leg with a short front,” he says. “They are blue, preferably ostrich [leather] They will have white tops and my brand on the front. They’re pretty slick, if I do say so myself.”
Outside of the Bulls, Davis has a look that focuses on a skinny toe like a French toe. Ariad’s new bench mat collection, a line handcrafted in Leon, Mexico, is still full of technology. „They’re my favorite right now,” Davis says.
For the dress boot, Davis opts for a more slim look, and for the „chic” she also enjoys a tanned skin. His current favorite off-pull boot comes in ostrich leather.
Mitchell says his off-bull style is no different than wearing it on the bull. 'I like a slim profile,” she says. „Black is my go-to. Black is so classic and goes with everything.”
Davis sums up everything on the bull or off the bull. „I like my boots,” he says, „to be beautiful and comfortable.”
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