Show me hoof boots worn down at the toe, as in this photo, and I will show you a horse with unbalanced feet. In this case one who has toes too long. Or, when you show me hoof boots worn down like this, I would also have to ask if the horse is constantly hill climbing! This is the wear you can expect if a horse constantly sinks, or drives, their toes into an incline as they ascend a hill or lands toe first as they come down a decline.
But now people are expecting hoof boots to perform miracles. When you go out running do you carry a person on your back? How much do you weigh? How far do you run every day? What type of surface do you run on? Have you discovered how cheap running shoes cause your feet to hurt? (and subsequent problems in hips, back, shoulders!) and, What do you pay for a good pair of running shoes?
When it comes to purchasing boots for your horse, be realistic. Whilst it is very reasonable to expect them to hold up to the job in hand, and do so for some time, they all have their limits. Those limits are dictated by all the afore mentioned elements. Your 350kg native pony is going to get a lot more wear out of his or her boots than a 750kg Warmblood*. If you trek out at walk, with the occasional trot, your hoof boots will last much longer than those who are in serious training for Endurance or Cross Country events, and spend many hours every week at trot and canter. If the terrain you ride on is like the surface of the moon, it is obvious boots will not last as long as those ridden over soft forest trails. When boots are not the correct fit or shape for a hoof, or the horse has imbalances in their body, the boots will wear unevenly, even break, due to constant pressure on a specific spot rather than dissipated over a larger area as they are designed to do.
To help avoid any of these issues your first port of call is availing yourself of a professional in barefoot hoof care, to be sure your horse benefits from a correct natural balance trim (and the dietary and environmental advice that would accompany that). That same professional should be able to measure your horses hooves and advise which boots would be the best fit, not just for size, but also for the style of riding you do and the type of terrain you do it on. Failing that, retailers who are happy to discuss options with you and give good guidance when it comes to measuring for boots**, are readily available. And don´t forget, what you spend on hoof boots today, you more than save on hoof and horse health in the future.
* Are you aware that sports shoes for men have more reinforcement than those for women? This confirms that manufacturers realise men are, usually, heavier than women and it would actually be more beneficial to us women to purchase shoes designed for men. They would give us more foot support. This fact needs serious consideration when booting the heavier horse, or one who does work at a higher pace for a lot of hours. This is when the correct pads can often assist the longevity of a boot and by proxy the health of the hoof.
** Don´t forget to allow for growth between trim cycles when measuring.
*** The boot in the photo was purchased over one year ago through another source, and photos sent to me when the client complained he didn´t feel he had received value for money (after one year!). It did not take a lot of investigation to learn the horse was being trimmed in the ´pasture´ style and subsequently had toes far too long, hence the pronounced wear in that area. Had this been a correctly balanced hoof on a balanced horse you can see from the amount of surface still at the heal that these boots would have trekked on a good few hours or kilometers yet.