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.

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,

From Troll Feet to Elfen Dancer!

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…

Update: New pair 9/10/19 “Magnificent. Photos attached. Incredible fit and comfort out of the box. The soles you chose are perfect – very safe.”


Thanks again for the boots!

Hi Kevin,
I hope that your new year has begun well. I’m back from my European walking, and want to report what a success the boots were. I walked from France over the Pyrenees to Burgos before I decided to add bus and train to my modes of travel – mostly due to the inclement weather along the way. It was a wonderful and difficult experience, and I tell my friends when asked that one of the main miracles of the Camino de Santiago for me was finally discovering footwear that would allow me to walk more than a few blocks without major foot pain.
My feet and knees came through very well considering the test that they were put through going over the Pyrenees, in particular.
Also, I would like to order another pair of shoes. I’d appreciate if you can give me the details on this so that I can send you what you need to add me to your list.

Great Boots!

Thank you, Kevin

Boots are superb looking and fit great! Hiked a mile yesterday, 4 miles today (I’ll try to control myself). The toe boxes offer wonderful room and are so comfy on the down hill hike, the arch support is right on with no aches or discomfort. The Vibram sole is the right one, I love the no-heel design, comfort and stability is primo. The heel fit is the kicker (so to speak) perfect, such a pleasure wearing the boots. I see no serious nor minor problems evolving presently, nor do I expect to. I would also like to order a pair of your shoes using the same last. Thank you so much for this great boot and your professional gift!


2 photos after 80 trail miles. Comfy and soft and flexible…good ride…great boots Kevin!!!….thanks…

I was just looking at your shoes again on your website. I have decided to go ahead and purchase them. I need another hiker for separate uses. My boots are feeling really good. The leather is quite soft and sturdy…never have felt boots like this..they are breaking in very nicely….have never had such good arch support….few more weeks we will send photos of beautiful broken-in boots…again, the leather is fantastic. Thanks again.

Best regards,