As shoes have become more specialized for walking, jogging, running, jumping and every activity in between, the cowboy boot has remained constant.

With the exception of toes varying from pointy to round, or a high or low heel, the way cowboy boots look and function has changed very little during the past 100 years.Variety in cowboy boots mainly deals with what they are made of, and not so much what they are used for, says Joy Soper, manager of The American Cowboy in Murray. However, the material can determine whether the boot is for looks or work.

And you name the hide, a cowboy boot has most likely been made from it: alligator, anteater, antelope, deer, eel, elephant, elk, goat, kangaroo, lizard, ostrich, shark and a variety of snake skins, to name a few.

Elk and deer have been popular this year, Soper said, while snake skins were hot the year before. Black leather is also more popular this year than browns or natural colors.

Many of these exotic leathers are expensive - a pair of anteater boots costs $950 - and some are very delicate. So, most people purchase them with the office or a casual occasion in mind, Soper said.

If the purpose of a cowboy boot is work, a tanned cowhide performs best. It's relatively inexpensive, durable, doesn't need polish and a scuff won't affect its appearance much. The leather needs oil rubbed in occasionally, Soper said, to help it last longer.

Soper said one of the most popular cowboy boot styles used for working is the Packer. It's a basic-looking boot with a high-riding heel, but it also has laces up the front. "The laces give you a more precise fit when one foot differs in size from the other," she said.

"I've heard people say after wearing the Packer for 20 minutes, they pulled on their old boots and it felt like they were going to flop off."

No matter the purpose, how a boot is constructed has everything to do with how it performs and lasts. High-quality boots have all-leather uppers, shoe and sole. A working boot will often have a rubber sole that wears longer.

Synthetics reduce the price of the boot. But Soper said man-made materials don't breathe, making the boot hot in the summer. Also, some synthetic soles can't be replaced.

When it comes to style, Soper can tell "true" Westerners by the type of toe they wear.

"Tourists and people from the city want pointed toes, while the `Roper' is popular among real Western people," she said.

The Roper is a rounded toe boot with a low heel. It doesn't look like something a television cowboy would wear, which is why tourists don't care for it, Soper said.