Q:

Why aren’t custom-made boots more popular?

With boots being so hard to fit, why aren't custom-made boots more popular? What about custom insoles? John Athens, Georgia

Jul 14, 2006
Outside
Outside Magazine
Limmer Lightweight boot

Lightweight boot

A: Well, I can think of a couple reasons. Price, for one. The off-the-shelf Limmer Lightweight (www.limmerboot.com), made by a well-regarded maker of custom boots, sells for $265. That’s off the shelf. Order custom, and that price promptly jumps to $500 or more. And that’s a relative bargain. Charles Van Gorkom (www.hikingbootshandcrafted.com), a custom boot maker in British Columbia, charges $900!

Then there’s the wait. It can vary, but if you order a boot now, your odds of seeing it this year are about one in five.

So custom boots remain a hugely niche product. But in any event, I’d say 95 percent of the people walking this earth can find a boot that fits well, although sometimes it may take a little sleuthing. The tricky part is that every boot maker uses a slightly different last—the form on which the boot is made—so they all fit a little differently. And it’s not just length and width. The foot volume also makes a big difference.

Still, someone who is wearing non-custom boots can do a fair amount to change how they fit. You mention after-market insoles, custom or stock, as one solution. Superfeet (www.superfeet.com), for instance, make excellent insoles that cost around $35 and come in a variety of styles for different kinds of shoes (running shoes versus boots, for instance), or for high- or low-volume boots. They provide better arch support than standard insoles, and also can allow a user to adjust the boot’s interior volume.

You can purchase custom insoles through a podiatrist or other sources, for anywhere from $100 and up. One intriguing custom option is to buy a heat-moldable insole from Sole (www.yoursole.com), a Canadian company. You put them in a 200-degree oven, pop them into your shoes, lace them up, and stand for two minutes while the insoles cool and mold to your feet. They’re about $45, and have been highly rated by several reviewers. Before going the complete custom route for either boots or insoles, I’d try a pair of Superfeet or Sole insoles.

The votes are in: Check out the winners of Outside's 2006 Gear of the Year awards, including the year's hottest light-hikers.

Filed To: Hiking Boots

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