I’ve done it many times: ordered a stylish pair of boots I can’t wait to slip into, then realize that the poor things won’t even get past the bottom of my bulging calves.

When you’re shopping for boots online, it’s important to get a proper measurement of your calf. Particularly if you have a wide calf (like me), you’ll want to be as precise as possible to avoid the dreaded returns.

This post explains how to get the exact calf measurement and also how to factor this into shopping for different types of boots. Our roundup of the best wide calf boots focuses on boots that fit calves 16 inches and up. For now, let’s focus on getting the exact measurement.


When measuring your calf for boots, all you’ll need is a loose tape measure. Sounds kinda obvious, but a rigid tape measure won’t give an accurate measurement!

You’ll also need to sit on a simple chair to get an accurate measurement.

how to measure your calf circumference

  1. Sit on the chair so that your knee is bent at a 90 degree angle. It’s important to get the measurement when you’re sitting as your calf will be slightly more firm and larger.
  2. Establish where the widest part of your calf is by looking in a mirror or simply feeling with your hand. Generally, the widest part of the calf will be about ⅔ of the way up from your ankle.
  3. Wrap your measuring tape around this widest part of your calf and this will give you your true calf size. It’s worth measuring both calves as one could be slightly larger than the other.
Credit: Wikimedia

In the above diagram, 6 shows you where to find your calf circumference. 9 will show you your true calf height.

how to measure your calf height

Calf height isn’t super necessary when picking out a pair of boots except if you’re looking at over the knee boots specifically. It’s worth finding your true calf height if you’re simply curious or want to get a really true idea of the fit of your next pair of boots.

To find your calf height, measure from the ball of your heel to where the 90 degree bend begins by your knee when you’re sitting down.

calf width in relation to boot styles

riding boots

I rarely see anyone wear riding boots “naked.” That is to say, riding boots generally “work” with a pair of simple denim jeans. Therefore, when you’re looking for riding boots, add an inch onto your measurement to account for the jean fabric.

cowgirl boots

I like cowgirl boots because I mostly wear these naked with dresses. The plus size cowgirl boots we selected in our roundup here are all pure leather, which means they also have a bit of give. What this means is that you can generally “size down” an inch or two in cowgirl boots without having much to worry about. Keep this in mind when measuring for calf boots in this style.

rain boots

As with riding boots, if you’re wearing these in the winter you’ll likely be pairing them with jeans or thicker trousers. In that instance, add an inch to the boots in your search. If you plan to wear them with tights or leggings, you can also add a half inch and size up if you want to be comfortable, but generally leggings don’t affect the fit as much.

snow boots

You’ll generally want to add 1-1.5 inches to your calf measurement when choosing snow boots as you’ll likely be wearing these with thicker pants and socks.

add 1.5-2 inches if you’re shorter

While our website is designed to offer fashion advice for tall plus women, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that if you are on the shorter side, you need to add at least 1, often 2 inches to your calf circumference when choosing boots.

This is because boots aren’t generally designed for shorter calves, so your widest point will sit lower than is intended.