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!
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!
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)
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.
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!