GearHiking
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

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!

Limmer Lightweight boot

Lightweight boot


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.

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.
Contribute to Outside
Filed To: Hiking Boots
Lead Photo: courtesy, Limmer
More Gear