I am very happy with my hiking boots that you made for me last December. In February, I was already able to do a whole 5 hour hike covering around 10 miles and 1500′ but at that time (two months from the time I received the boots), I still had some tight and sore spots around my small toes, but the usual pain in my knees and hips were much reduced. I am happy to report that after 6 months, I feel very comfortable and happy with the boots that it has reduced the overall pain, and given me more comfortable and enjoyable hikes. And the boots are still very good looking too. Thank you so much!
I just wanted to give you an update on my boots. I took them to Italy for our hikes in the Dolomites without any backup shoes, and they worked out perfectly—no blisters or any other problems during break in. I was able to hike all day, every day without any foot discomfort. The other folks on our hike (except Debbie) complained of bruised feet from walking over rocks. The boots were so comfortable that they were my go-to footwear for walking in Rome and other cities. Thank you for a great product!
Bootmaker’s note: “I made a pair of boots for Dan’s wife Debbie. As commonly happens, Dan ordered a pair soon after.”
I’ve had very flat feet and correspondingly bowed ankles my entire life. I’ve muddled through with orthotics and struggled with off-the-shelf footwear reasonably well, but I always paid for long hikes or walks with blisters, pain in my toes, and aching arches. I’ve never let it hold me back though and recently my daughter and I decided we were going to tackle a bucket list item and signed up for a trip to Mt Kilimanjaro.
It became painfully clear, literally, during my preparatory hikes that standard footwear would, at best, make this trip painful, if not impossible. I found Kevin’s site and knew that this was likely the only option for having a successful trip—no matter how well conditioned I was personally, if my feet couldn’t handle the effort, it wasn’t going to work out and I would likely waste the investment in money and time for this trip.
In a leap of faith, I contacted Kevin. He carefully explained the process he’d follow and the quality of the materials he would use, and after a short deliberation I decided to work with him on these hiking boots. He was very professional, clearly very knowledgeable and skilled, and in a short amount of time, I had a snazzy new set of hiking boots.
The difference was immediately obvious. The shorter hikes were suddenly much easier. Last weekend, my daughter and I did a more strenuous hike in Yosemite on the Upper Yosemite Falls trail. The trail is advertised at almost 4 miles, but my FitBit (and Apple Watch) both recorded steps equivalent to 12 miles after the 7 hour round trip.
I can say at the end that without these shoes, it would not have been possible. While understandably tired, my feet had no blisters, sore spots, squished toes, or any other similar issue I’d experience wearing conventional footwear on similar hikes—we did Glacier Point 6 years ago so I definitely had an apples-to-apples comparison.
In the end, regardless of how this trip goes otherwise, there is no question this was an excellent investment in a very high-quality set of footwear that could very well last me the rest of my life. Kevin said these would fit like nothing I’ve every worn before and he was absolutely right.
Update Feb 2017…
A week ago, we returned from that trip to Kilimanjaro. My daughter and I successfully reached the summit about 6:30am on 29 January. It was seven days from the start of our trek to the top and we took roughly two days to descend. I wore the boots Kevin made the entire trip, through lush rainforest, arid desert, and atop the snow and frozen skree at the top of the mountain. You can see me in the picture below, lower left, in the blue/white/black coat with Kevin’s boots proudly on my feet at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
For all the conditions, the scrambling over rocks, changes in temperature, these boots never let me down. I didn’t have a single blister or any other issue with my feet—frankly, between the boots and the socks, my feet were never even cold. Others lost toenails and had other problems, but Kevin’s promise rang absolutely true—these wore like nothing I’d even worn before, nor like anything I’d wear again. They got me there and they got me back. Getting these boots made was absolutely the single best decision I could have made for the success of this trip.
Kevin, yesterday I took my new boots out for a four mile spin, two miles with 1000 ft of elevation gain and back down. The last time I did this hike the last half mile was very uncomfortable. This time it felt GREAT! My new boots are a huge success – thank you!! There was plenty of room for my toes on both feet going up and coming back down. The softer soles and arch support were perfect, as was the padding over the instep. There was no rubbing around my heels or toes. I felt no need for moleskin anywhere. My feel felt comfortably snug in the heel and didn’t shift around. The last couple of times out I’ve come back with sore toe pads, but not this time. (I have little cushions, like tiny bolsters, for my hammer/claw toes on my right feet that I might try out to see how they feel.) My bunions started making themselves known toward the end of the hike at the very end, but so much less than on any hike on the descent in years – worth a mention because it felt so much better!
Thank you, Kevin. It was such a pleasure to go for a hike and be able to enjoy the wildflowers and surroundings without pain in my toes. I have been quite apprehensive about my ability to do this hiking trek to Machu Picchu due to the discomfort of my feet. I’ve had visions of being unable to enjoy this trip of a lifetime or having to ride the horse and missing out on the satisfaction of scaling the passes because my feet hurt so badly. Problem solved! Now I just have to focus on getting my body in shape – just 48 training days to go!
Many, many thanks!
Update October, 2016 I LOVE MY BOOTS! They have been utterly life-changing for me, allowing me to go places and do things I was afraid were beyond me—thank you!! I’ve meant to send you this photo of me in Peru going over 15,200 ft Salkantay Pass on my 60th birthday, on the way to Machu Picchu. What a great experience—thank you for making it possible!!! Recently my boots and I went backpacking in the Ansel Adams Wilderness out of Mammoth, and witnessed breathtaking landscapes and lakes that can only be seen if you walk there.
I’ve always had pretty bad luck finding comfortable shoes. These last few years, it has become more difficult. I basically felt like I had a time limit as to how long I could be on my feet, after a couple hours I’d be in some discomfort, it would progress and by the end of the day my feet just plain hurt. This was especially difficult for me since I’m a landscaper, and I’m required to be on my feet all day. I started doing a few tricks, like taking my boots off in between jobs and at lunch. This was becoming unsustainable. So I started looking into it, talked to a couple podiatrists, they told me that there was nothing wrong with my feet, they were just shaped a little different. It dawned on me that shoe manufacturers make shoes to fit the average foot, and if yours happens to be a little different—you’re out of luck. So now I’m thinking, I need to get somebody who can make a boot that is engineered to fit my foot. Is that even possible?
Turns out there are a few people who do that. I poked around online, and found Kevin Leahy. Reached out to him and he talked to me about my situation and what he could do for me. Buying custom boots felt like an indulgence because it’s a big chunk of money for footwear. There was not any salesmanship on his part; he told me what I could realistically expect. It sounded likely that he could help me so I decided to go for it, rationalizing that instead of buying several pairs of boots and shoes each year and throwing most of them out because they never “broke in”, I could bite the bullet now and have one really quality pair of boots that is repairable, and would last me a long time, and I’d hopefully be comfortable in. This turned out to be a great decision! My only regret was not doing this ten years ago! I live 90 minutes from him, so I was able to do the casting of my feet, and an in person fitting. It was one trip for the casting, a second for a fitting, and another trip to pick up the boots. Everything being done within the timeframe he gave me. They say boots have to break in, and they do, but boy… these boots felt great right from the outset, he allowed plenty of toe width, but the boot fit so perfect that my foot was held solidly (in the past I’ve tried to buy other boots with wide toe widths to accommodate my foot shape, and then the boot wouldn’t fit me right in other areas and my foot would slosh around). He uses a malleable leather which feels very nice around the foot. I use Obenauf’s LP, it conditions and protects the boot and helps protect the boot from getting scratched or scuffed and it has some repairing capabilities. The boots were surprisingly light too! The craftsmanship and materials were beautiful and sturdy! He included a custom orthotic engineered to give me good arch support. This was important to me as I’d been suffering from plantar fasciitis.
Fast forward a few months. The boot is working out wonderfully. Only problem is that the orthotics are a little stiff for me, and are not helping with my plantar fasciitis. Kevin offers to make me another pair at no charge. He makes them right away and mails them out to me. These one’s are a little more cushiony, and were just what I needed. Fast forward a few more months, I love these boots. In fact, they are the only footwear I want to wear which is a bit of a problem since I don’t want to wear boots out to a nice restaurant, or to a wedding. Since things worked out so well with the boots I decided to hire Kevin to make me a walking/dress shoe! My boot lasts (forms) could also be used to make shoes, so I was able to order my shoes by phone. Everything worked out beautifully with the shoes as well. To top it all off my plantar fasciitis has finally gone away!
Ok, that was pretty long winded, but Kevin has had a big impact on my quality of life and I’m very excited to tell you about that! I am able to work now without pain, and am able to comfortably do more activities. To summarize, in my opinion Kevin is a rare craftsmen with an incredibly specialized skill set. Also, he’s not about the money. He ultimately wants to make sure his customers get what they need. His boots are not cheap compared to buying retail, but he offers something completely different, and thus, there’s no comparison. He does offer an excellent value in my opinion, and he does stand behind his work. I highly recommend him and hope he continues to provide this unique service for many years to come!
Kevin is a rarity: a true master craftsman. He knows footwear, his work is meticulous, his boots and shoes are durable, he designs and fits at the smallest level of detail. Moreover, he is extremely accommodating, easy to work with, dependable, timely, and a likable person. You’re reading this, so I assume you care about what you wear on your feet; be assured Kevin cares as much as you. If you have difficulty getting a good fit with off-the-shelf footwear, or if you simply want boots of unmatched quality, Kevin is your man. You are lucky to have found him. I have purchased hiking boots, chukkas, and shoes. Highest recommendation!
If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon or make a better mouse trap than his neighbors, though he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
My boots were polished by a Bhutanese forester guide at 13,000 feet on the Druk trek in Bhutan. This was not his job, but he said he wanted to do it in tribute to the boots and how they helped him do his job, which was taking care of me. Trails in the Himalayas are much more difficult than ours in the United States—filled with stone, tree roots, steep inclines and declines, not to mention yak poop. I had dislocated my right elbow in early July and had balance problems. Despite that and my unfortunate tendency to walk toe to heel (you can see wear on the toes that document this), the tread on my boots has not failed me once. It is amazing and they are worth their weight in gold!
Before I review Kevin’s master shoemaking I must tell a story about a boy…and his feet…
Astronaut, explorer, scientist, pioneer, doctor, cowboy, priest, fire fighter, forest ranger – the hat depended on the day and the circumstances. Dangling from a high tree branch on a clear fall day with the canopy rattling in the breeze and the forest floor awash with gold and crimson it was a forest ranger. Feeling somewhat holy singing from the choir balcony in the cavernous church it was a priest. Riveted to the family’s first black & white 12 inch grainy screen television as Mercury 7 blasted off – it was definitely an astronaut.
What would get him wherever he wanted to go he had no idea, but he was certain shoes were important and necessary for the journey. PF Flyers sounded magical so he tried them, Keds too, Converse, Hush Puppies, Clark’s and many more brands graced his feet. He dared not mention “Hush Puppies” on his feet for the certain ridicule that would rain down upon him from the other boys. Clark’s proved to be a character builder as his ego had to overcome the constant chiding about the “elf boots”. Color, shape, brand, shoestrings, or not – no shoe characteristic mattered – except one. That boy would wear high heeled pumps if his feet would fit in them!
Each foot settled down into the cool slippery stainless steel slot, the flip switched, the machine hummed, the sides and ends closed in, and magically like the reels of a one armed bandit the length and width for the foot would lock in on the backlit determiner. One year 5 x E, The next 6 x EE – for the left foot, the tragically extra wide right foot always added an extra E. Eventually the right foot would settle at 8.5 x 5E! A troll ancestor became a suspicion in the boy’s mind as a reason for his utterly impossible feet. Mad under that bridge, biting its toe nails, occasionally coming up to eat a sojourner, then one day falling in love! The entire prospect disgusted the boy, and it was that stupid nasty troll’s fault he was stuck with those feet!
“Well you do have wide feet.” The shoe salesman solemnly said.
“Let me check in the back and see what we have that might fit.”
The boy knew what was coming – a D width shoe 1 or 1.5 lengths too long. It would be another year of shoes with curled up toes… with a forceful shove of the heal sliding down the shoe horn they were on. The boy would meekly whimper…
“They’re a little tight.”
“Those are the widest shoes we have.”
His feet would be bound like a child Geisha’s for yet another year.
“Don’t worry they will stretch out.”
The boy wanted to say “Yeah sure – when the seams bust out.”, which they always did.
The boy grew up, became an equine veterinarian (horse doc), was constantly on his feet, loved hiking and camping, and had many a relationship with shoes and boots – most of them jaded.
Then a couple years ago after a brutally painful blistering hike at Glacier National Park I thought to check into custom hiking boots. I am not sure why I never thought to look – I had owned a number of pairs of custom riding boots and they were comfortable – at least for riding horses – but they weren’t exactly “boots – that – were made for walking”. I surfed the net and sure enough there were a few plus one or two custom hiking boot makers. Custom hiking boots were expensive! Kevin of course was one of the boot makers but his prices seemed downright affordable compared to a couple others – I was concerned. At this point in my life, with my feet, I wasn’t concerned about spending a little more I just wanted to get some quality comfortable boots. Wasn’t it likely the best shot was the most expensive boot? I pondered that question. I looked at reviews. I called and talked to some of the makers. I studied the pictures. I chewed my cud. I kept coming back to Kevin’s story and the intense effort he seemed to want to put into the measurement of my feet – the kit, the directions, the many measurements, the imprints, the foam mold, the request for photos (of my troll feet) – photos from both sides, front, back and the top! Kevin’s story, his training and his clear devotion to collecting the detail that would get it right for my feet carried the day. Kevin Leahy became the boot maker to the King – me.
Serena, my dear spouse, made great fun out of assisting me through all the varied directions, photos, impressions and so on. My much anticipated hiking boots arrived. They were beautiful – I know good leather – I spent many years in some quite exquisite saddles. I quickly had them on for a hike and felt I was walking on clouds. My arches seemed to ache though. I soldiered on, wearing the boots daily to break them in, and over the course of a couple weeks the aching subsided. My feet were being born again – as the ache subsided every bone and muscle in my feet started feeling better – and my feet started feeling stronger. I started to be able to curl my toes with gusto – it seems they had been squished into submission by decades of binding. I felt I could swing from the trees with my feet. I could walk for hours and stand all day with feet in utter bliss. I started thinking how nice it would be to always walk on clouds. I called Kevin.
“Could you make a pair of trails running shoes for me?”
“Sure Tom, tell me what you are looking for, and by the way I am coming to Ohio in a month, perhaps we could meet for a custom measurement.”
I was giddy at the thought of a custom measurement. Anyone who has the opportunity to be custom measured by Kevin should surely take advantage of it. He is an old hand and a skilled hand. Most of us have experienced the hands of a highly experienced and skilled physician – those are Kevin’s hands. Kevin arrived with a pair of “glass slippers” – a clear tape mold of my lasts he had built for the original pair. Into the slippers I went and he quickly marked and made minor adjustments. I described the shoe I wanted. Let me digress…
My mother grew up poor in Appalachia on a subsistence farm. There is a picture of her at about the age of 8 with her 2 younger brothers. They are clearly happy. They are covered with dirt – they often worked in the tobacco fields along side their elders. All 3 were bare footed. Their feet look grubby and happy. Throughout my childhood I remember my mother kicking off her shoes whenever she could, wherever she could. She encouraged us to do the same. She encouraged us to touch the earth with our feet, to feel the grass tickle our toes. Even the occasional honeybee sting was an experience our feet should have – according to mom.
What I wanted in those trail running shoes was the energy of the earth to course through to my feet. I wanted to feel the tickle between my toes. I wanted magic moccasins! I got them. Kevin even added magic stripes. He traveled to the Napa Valley to buy the best of the best leather – magic leather no less – luscious, soft and supple. Those magic moccasins pictured here are rarely off my feet. They have been resoled once (by Kevin for an absurdly reasonable fee). They have no less than 4000 hours on my feet, and have at least another 4000 hours to go. They are amazing.
We ordered 3 other pairs of shoes that day along with the magic moccasins – one more for me and 2 for Serena. My hikers and trails runners have outdoor soles – Vibram soles which I love for the stability, grip, and durability. My next pair needed to have “floor soles” so I ordered the plain Jane walker. They may look plain but they have much of the same magic as the magic moccasins – not quite all of it but they are just great, and they don’t pick up the horse manure in the tread!
I promised I would write a review for Kevin well over a year and a half ago. I won’t deny I am a procrastinator. When I needed my magic moccasins resoled I checked in at Kevin’s website to get the phone number, with some certain guilt peaked at the reviews, and there saw a review on a pair of his chukkas. I said to myself “I must have a pair”. I now do. The chukkas Kevin sent are stunning. They are an opus work by Kevin. They dazzled yesterday when I opened the box. They slipped on like gloves. The leather is exquisite, the color is special, “and – they have – miles to go before I sleep”.
I have finally written my review. I believe in these shoes and Kevin. Kevin’s shoes made me healthier – they changed my life. Troll feet or normal feet, Kevin’s shoes can make you fly. Maybe you think I just have a shoe fetish? Maybe you think no person would write such a nutty review unless they were paid for it. Please don’t over-interpret things – although I give I am a little crazy when it comes to my feet. I am a boy and his feet. The simple truth is – we just like magic things and walking in the clouds with our 8 friends…