A women-specific, stylish, knee-high boot with superior proprioception
I have a bit of an obsession with minimalist boots, as evidenced by my recent Winter Minimalist Boot Comparison post, within which is included the new VB Ryder Boot. It is an incredibly stylish knee-high boot made of leather and waxed canvas with a thermal control mesh lining and faux fur top. It has VB’s familiar superior proprioception with a thin and flexible outsole. But how well does this advertised “winterproof casual” boot fair in real winter conditions?
My first experience with a knee-high winter minimalist boot was back in 2010 with the VB Brooklyn Boot (reviewed here), which after a few months of wear, prompted me to write another post about Building a Better Brooklyn Boot. In that post, I made two suggestions for improvements of their knee-high boot design including a wider toe box as well as laces and/or a zipper for better fit adjusting. Did VB hear either of these suggestions during their creation of the new Ryder? Read on to find out…
Price: $225.00 USD or £175.00
Width: Average to Wide
Sole Thickness: 3.0 mm
Drop: 0 mm
Weight: 15 oz or 425 g (Size 39)
Insole: Thermal Plantar-Protection™; Not Removable
Sizing: 5–11; Full sizes only; True to size
Category: Minimalist Boot
Comfort & Fit
These boots are wonderfully comfortable with their wide and roomy toe box, and soft materials throughout the interior. However, although quite comfortable to wear, their fit requires some trial and error in the sock department to work well functionally. They do have a 9.5” or 24 cm zipper along the medial side for easy donning but it does not function at all for personalized fit adjustment. The heel is quite wide as well so I find that the whole boot slips down off my heel with every step and crashes into the ground before my foot does. I eventually worked out the correct two-sock combination to get the boot to fit well without heel slippage while still providing enough room for my foot and toes to splay properly. I am confident that most customers will have to work out a similar situation to get the boot to fit properly as there are no personal fit adjustments to be made.
Despite the last being quite wide, I found the circumference of the top of the calf area to be on the narrow side. My calves measure a modest 14” or 36 cm around at their largest point (I’ve never thought of them as particular muscular) and I find the 16” or 41 cm circumference of the top of the boot just right. However, I do realize that women with larger and more muscular calves are going to find these uncomfortably tight in the calf area. The boots do include a small elastic area at the top of the boot but it is quite tight and stretches just over an inch or 3 cm wider. If your calves are much larger than mine, these boots may not work well for you.
The EUR size 39 fits my generally US-sized 8 feet extremely well. VB is trying to standardize their sizing a bit more as most of my VB footwear is now size 39.
The Ryder is the first VB product I’ve reviewed that has an unfinished footbed. What this means is that the insole is not removable. The Ryder also is the first product to feature a new Thermal Plantar-Protection™ footbed. It is approximately 4 mm thick and appears to be two layers of foam sandwiching a shiny reflective material between with a nylon-like material on top. Despite a thin 3.0 mm outsole, this new insole does a great job at insulating feet from cold ground temperatures while preserving VB’s superior proprioceptive properties.
Barefoot Feel & Function
Even with the insole that can’t be removed, the Ryder has excellent ground feel. They feature VB’s 3.0 mm road outsole with a hexagonal traction pattern of 1.5 mm grip depth. I find it a bit odd that VB would call these boots “winterproof” suggesting they are appropriate for winter conditions when they have a minuscule grip depth of 1.5 mm. There is so little traction with these on snow-covered sidewalks they are a bit dangerous. They’re great for dry conditions, even thoroughly wet conditions, but ever-so-slightly slippery terrain with snow and a little ice and these are not the safest choice in the minimalist boot option closet. As I only have Canadian winter to test these in, I can say that the grip on these is definitely not appropriate for my kind of winter.
As an aside, VB does have a “V Multi 1” outsole included in their Karma and Mia boots that would have been much more appropriate for winter conditions, especially if the product is being advertised as “winterproof”.
As these are a knee-high boot, their weight compared to other minimalist products is not really comparable. I can mention that the way the heel slips and hits the ground with every step makes them feel and sound much heavier than they are. Proper fitting, with an adequate sock thickness solution, alleviates this heavy feeling somewhat.
The upper is made of a leather and waxed canvas exterior with a thermal control mesh lining interior featuring Thinsulate and a faux fur topline lining. These boots have surpassed the harshest water-resistance test I could (accidentally) think of: stepping in a 4” deep, slushy puddle at the curb during a significant snowfall melt. My feet stayed wonderfully warm and dry. The only time my feet have been cold in these boots is during -20C and it was surprisingly only the tops of my feet that felt the chill. The bottoms of my feet couldn’t feel the frigid ground temperatures and my ankles and calves stayed warm. I think because the “Thinsulation” doesn’t cover the tops of the feet, that’s where the cold seeped through. From OC to -15C, my feet were warm enough (with two pairs of socks at the lower temperatures).
These boots require no break-in period as they are comfortable right out of the box. However, as mentioned above, they may need some trial and error with sock thicknesses to find the perfect fit.
As these are a high-quality leather product, they could use a good leather protector to keep them looking their best. I would not recommend walking in crusty snow in these as the leather will scuff and scratch quite easily (sadly, another situation in which they are not the best Canadian winter-appropriate footwear).
I have noticed that the canvas part of the upper picks up dirt quite easily (from rubbing against a dirty car, for example). A damp cloth cleans them quite well, however.
The outsole is VB’s 3.0 mm road sole with plenty of flex and no arch support. There is ample proprioceptive feedback. However, why VB opted to include the road sole on a knee-high boot advertised as “winterproof” when they could have chosen their deeper grip depth V Multi 1 sole, I have no idea. If the boot were designed as more fashion footwear than winter functional, I would understand but the Thermal Plantar-protection insole, the thermal control mesh lining, and the faux fur topline make this boot plenty warm and clearly a winter marketed product. Perhaps this sole is more than adequate for a UK winter, where they were designed, but it is not appropriate for anywhere with significant accumulations of snow.
The quality of both the manufacturing and materials is impeccable; there are no flaws in the review pair. These boots will likely last multiple seasons with some appropriate leather care on required areas. If the plan is for them to last many seasons, I would recommend not wearing them in abrasive snow as the leather will deteriorate faster.
My only other comment regarding quality is the unfinished look of the boot with the zipper open. Granted, nobody is going to be walking around in these with the boot unzipped and it is included in the design for easier donning only, but I remember my first impression of this boot being one of wondering if the design was quite finished as the view of the thermal control mesh interior is less than a professional finish. Since the zipper makes no difference to me getting them on and off, I haven’t had the thought since first opening the box but I thought I’d include it as an oddity of the product.
I love the style of the Ryder Boots. A black (or brown) knee-high boot is a great piece for leggings, skinny jeans or even skirts, weather permitting. The leather strip along the length of the back of the boot lends a classic look to the warmer canvas upper. The zipper with the hex design on the back side is pure VB styling and a nice detail. They are mostly slim-lined but I find they are a bit loose around the ankle and can bunch there but they are designed as a cold weather boot and the extra room will help them fit a wider range of customers.
The Ryder Boot with their road outsole is a quandary for uses. They are warm enough for cold weather excursions but are likely too hot for much indoor, room temperature wear. They are well-suited to wet conditions with their excellent water-resistance but are definitely not suited for any kind of slippery terrain. Their design is very stylish but to keep them looking new, they are best not worn in snow that might scuff or scratch the good-looking leather. I do like that they are so fast to slip on and off (a feature not generally included in winter footwear) so I have been wearing them for quick trips around town and I try to walk carefully where it might be slippery.
At $225.00 USD, they are priced at the high end of minimalist footwear products but the mid-range of leather boots. If they had been made with a more appropriate winter outsole, I would have said that they were well worth their price for a Canadian winter-appropriate minimalist boot. However, considering their limited use where I live, I think the price is kind of steep for their limited uses. If you live somewhere wet and need a water-resistant boot for cooler but not freezing temperatures, the Ryder may be a worthy purchase for you considering their stylish design and potential for multi-season durability.
I must admit to having high hopes for the Ryder Boots. I was hoping for a Canadian winter-appropriate boot that fit well. I am extremely happy that VB made the last wide enough for a midfoot as wide as mine but the equally wide heel area makes the boot slip down with every step. This can be alleviated with a sock thickness solution but does require some trial and error. I was also hoping for an outsole that would be safe in snowy conditions but the road outsole is simply not sufficient for this type of use. The Ryders look beautiful and are warm, water-resistant, super easy to get on and off, and have great proprioceptive feedback but I can’t safely wear them often where I live because they are not safe in slippery conditions. Even with their 3.0 mm sole, the rubber is not soft or sticky enough in colder temperatures to allow my feet to grip contours in the ground. I do enjoy wearing them for quick trips around town but I’m extremely careful where I step.
For more information about the Ryder Boot, you can check out the VIVOBAREFOOT website.