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Hiking Boots

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Kevin Leahy  ♦  Leahy Custom Hiking Boots

Felton, CA  | Hiking Boots |  Website

hiking bootsThese boots were made for walking. No, but really, they were! Kevin Leahy’s custom hiking boots are literally made for your foot. He studied under German and Austrian shoemakers for six years. Then he received a degree from UCLA in Prosthetics and opened up a prosthetic and orthotic practice in Santa Cruz. He knows the human foot inside and out, and because of this, he can make the perfect hiking boot.


GET TO KNOW KEVIN

What drew you to your chosen craft?
I always wanted to work with my hands. The ability to conceive, plan and execute a project from start to finish is something that most craftspeople share. I get to choose my materials from the best sources in the world and use them in my daily work. And having to wear orthopedic shoes from a very early age probably drew me to shoemaking.

What do you enjoy most about your craft?
Seeing the smile on a client’s face when they put on a pair of boots that fit for the first time in their life!

Why is it important for people to make things with their own hands?
Turning raw materials into useful or artistic objects is a type of alchemy. Mythical alchemy is a metaphor for the process that a craftsperson creates when they turn iron ore into a sword, or when a shoemaker takes flat leather hides and transforms them into three-dimensional boots. Society as a whole is not only enriched by hand made goods, but the knowledge that is passed down from master to apprentice over the centuries is also preserved.

In what ways are handmade goods better than those that are mass-produced?
The answer is easy. Nothing fits like a custom-made boot! I can incorporate orthopedic features from the start that are difficult to work into a ready-made boot. Most factory boots are not easily re-solable, whereas my boots can be re-soled multiple times. The materials are better, so the boots last longer, and since the boots already fit, the feet are not trying to break the boots down to be more comfortable.     

What does the future hold for your type of work?
Tanneries are closing all the time, so I have to source most of my materials from Europe. Even in Europe there are fewer and fewer shoemakers, and many shoemaking schools have closed. But there are young people entering the craft anyway, and they are producing beautiful work. Whether any of them expand into the orthopedic aspects of the craft remains to be seen.


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