Poppy Barley

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The Fit

Tall Boots for Athletic Calves

Full confession: I have my father’s legs. Seriously. Growing up, my family sometimes joked that my legs were “tree trunks”.

The only thing that gave my legs some credit is that I also inherited my mom’s longish-legs (well, long for someone who only stands at 5’4” tall). My body is compact, athletic and strong. Ready-to-wear clothing designed for slim, tall frames is a total disaster on me. My tree trunks (aka legs) are naturally muscular in build (read: not tiny). Strong thighs, hamstrings and calves are perfect for playing soccer and running, but not so great for skinny jeans, miniskirts and boots.

Walk into any shoe store and there’s a 30% chance that my legs will fit into off-the-rack boots. That’s pretty low. And frustrating. The other 70% of the time, I hit a point on my calf where the zipper will simply zip no more. I once splurged and bought a pair of Frye boots, the pull-on kind. To wear them, I’d need about 30 minutes to do an awkward dance to get my feet and legs in. Given the antics required to get into the boots, I could never wear them anywhere that might require me to take them off.

Poppy Barley's Kendall Barber, a marathon runner, talks tall boots for athletic calves

Here’s the thing: my “wide calves” aren’t even that wide (15.5 inches). When I tell people I struggle to find boots that fit, they glance down at my legs and dismiss my complaint. Perhaps saying that I “struggle to find boots for athletic calves” would get more sympathy.

I have a theory about my athletic calves. I blame running.

I run a lot. Every week, my legs log between 50-90 km (30-50 miles). My calves are strong and muscular, making me fast and competitive in running races. But there’s something else special about my athletic calves: my calf hits its widest point higher up on my leg than on the legs of the non-running population. Because mass-manufacturers aren’t solely designing their boots for athletes (where wide calf boots truly are necessary), or any one group in particular, off-the-rack product simply cannot accommodate.

Poppy Barley founder Kendall Barber talks about finding boots for athletic calves

Running (and maybe age) has also changed my feet. I feel that the more I run, the wider and flatter my feet get. In the past 10 years, I’ve gone from wearing a 7.5 shoe size to a size 8, and my feet are wider (despite the rest of me getting smaller!). My wider feet are way happier in a slightly wider footbed (both for boots and flats), but most “wide width shoes” are too wide for me. With Poppy Barley, I love how precisely we can define the foot width to offer the perfect fit.

Poppy Barley's Kendall Barber, a marathon runner, talks tall boots for athletic calves and how made to measure can help

These days, I rarely think of my legs as “tree trunks”. Overall, I really appreciate my runner’s legs and feet. I spend hours training to make my legs faster and stronger. I’m grateful for their swiftness and athletic prowess. The only time I am self-conscious about my legs and feet is when something doesn’t fit. When you can’t buy something off-the-rack, it makes you question whether you’re “normal”. When I zipped up my first pair of Poppy Barley boots, they fit beautifully, perfectly, elegantly. And I thought: beautiful boots for beautiful running legs. Now that’s acceptance.

(Big thanks to lululemon athletica for the photos of me running in Edmonton’s stunning river valley. The “sportraits” were snapped by the talented Sean Williams for the new lululemon atheltica at Southgate Centre. I’ll be a run ambassador for the store. I’m really excited for lululemon’s support of some projects I’m working on for the Edmonton running community. Thanks Laura!)

Kendall Barber

Co-Founder, Poppy Barley
Kendall is the co-founder of Poppy Barley, a company redefining luxury footwear with its focus on style, comfort, ethical manufacturing and materials--not markups. Kendall is a marathoner and lululemon run ambassador, a self described "pretend chef" and "cookie monster", and a morning enthusiast (you'll find her running trails at 6am). She lives in Edmonton, AB with her husband, Ross and puppy, Whip.