Hiking in Switzerland

Dear Kevin,
We just got back from hiking in the Alpstein for 3 weeks and my new boots performed superbly! While my partner treasures her 43-year old Lowa boots, she happily removed them after 6-7 hours of hard hiking. She said she needed to give her feet a rest and wore only slippers in the berghotels. I, on the other hand, had absolutely no need to remove my new boots. In fact, when I was forced to take them off in the berghotels, my feet felt just the same! I really couldn’t feel any difference, with or without the boots!
 
Why is my hiking in the Alpstein a true miracle? Well, as I told you when being fitted for my boots, I take a size 13 boot with a width of 6E+. I say 6E+ because I’ve never found a boot (or shoe, for that matter), that was wide enough for my feet. Instead, I hiked in sandals, with only one brand that ever fit. Yes, sandals! But I knew hiking in the Alpstein was going to be far more demanding than allowed by my sandals, so we started searching for a custom bootmaker who would take the time and effort to make comfortable boots for me. And, indeed, they are extremely comfortable! There’s room for all my toes, and the length and arch are perfect!
 
As someone who has been unable to wear ANY store-bought shoe or boot for the last 40+ years, I have to say your boots are an eye-opener! They accompanied my up and down every single trail, slogged through every wet cow patty in sight, and never gave me a single problem.
 
I’ve attached a picture showing my new boots as we took a slight detour from the Alpstein to ride the nearby bobsled run. Aren’t my very, very large wide feet beautiful!
-Ken

SO THAT’S WHAT MY FEET ARE SUPPOSED TO FEEL LIKE AFTER A HIKE!

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!

—Leslie

 

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.

My Feet Don’t Hurt Anymore!

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!

-Sam

Footwear for every Occasion

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!

—Jeff

Mouse Traps & Boots

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)

 
What Kevin Leahy does is make a better hiking boot. And he did “build” his house in the woods.
 
After thirty years of searching for over-the-ankle boots which fit my foot problems, my husband and I decided to invest in custom boots before a planned trek in Bhutan this autumn. My foot complexities include calluses, bunions, ankle bone spurs, wide across the metatarsals and narrow through the ankle plus plantar fasciitis and metatarsalgia.
 
I was very scared to spend money way beyond our usual budget. I now think we got more than what we paid for.
 
We were drawn to Kevin’s training—making orthotics and working with prosthetics on the one hand, apprenticed to a master Austrian hiking boot maker on the other. Also the fact that he lives near Santa Cruz, offered a free introductory appointment, and was close enough to where we live in the Bay Area that we could go down for a personal fitting. We were sold very quickly by Kevin’s clearly competent, workmanlike demeanor and skill. I’m not sure how this is relevant, but it also mattered to us that we were paying someone to blend art and science…and that he is clearly a truly decent person. We liked him.
 
And we love the boots. I never understood what “fits like a glove” meant before. They are beautiful and they fit! And they have great traction.
 
I turned out to have some problem with the insoles because of a sensitivity to cork which I had failed to mention. Kevin made me a pair of orthotics without cork at no additional cost and had them in the mail within two days.
 
If we win the lottery, or even a windfall, I’m getting a pair of boots for my husband and walking shoes for me.
 
—Carol S.
 

UPDATE:
Dear Kevin,
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!

Tomorrow I hope they will take on a pilgrimage to a monastery built into a mountain called Tiger Nest. Thank you again for the time, skill and love that went into making them.

 

Warm regards,
Carol