Few people stop to realize that the Western Cowboy Boot, by it’s very nature is a bit of engineering ingenuity. Boot enthusiasts just know the right boot is darn comfortable, without ever having to consider the mechanics of how or why. Different than virtually any other type of footwear, the Western Boot addresses a unique challenge – how to snugly, securely and comfortably (and dare we say fashionably) contain the foot in a way that gives mobility, support, ease of on and off – without the use of the laces, a zip, or elastic – essentially with no closure mechanism. The masterful, artful way a bookmaker addresses this challenge is the most defining attribute that separates the Cowboy Boot from other footwear.
Now about getting that boot on and off – and how exactly does one judge the perfect fit?
The most common error people make in purchasing a Western Boot – is purchasing a boot that is too large. This stems from the fact that a too large boot of course goes on and comes off easily – right from the outset. Boots are in fact made however to fit a bit snug – particularly when new. The boot should require a solid tug on the pull straps while forcing ones heel into the floor to put on initially. There’s a dead give away when we fit someone in boots – we can tell before our client stands up, or even before feeling their foot if it’s a fit: It’s the whoosh sound that comes when the heel fully lands in the heel socket of the boot That whoosh sound is the air escaping from the heel of the boot – and if we don’t hear it, loud and clear we know either there’s too much room or if the sound is muted – not enough room in the boot. If we can pull the boot off your foot with little effort initially, say with one hand even, the boots are too large. Once on, we check fit by feeling across the instep, or top of your foot. We shouldn’t be able to pinch any leather. This is where in particular we look for snug. Now snug mind you is not “uncomfortable” – boots will go from snug to darn comfortable, but don’t really go from – “this is killing me” to a right fit. Our next key indicator is when you take your first few steps: your heel should lift up inside the boot – about 1/2” or so. This is a new feeling to the client who is just getting their first pair. What happens when you have the snug instep and slight heel lift though is what ultimately makes a boot so darn comfortable. Initial wear of the boot makes the leather across the instep “break” – which is just a fancy way to say soften, or conform to your foot. As the instep breaks, the heel starts to stay down with each step, and the counter – the leather around the heel cup in the boot – literally forms to your foot. A high quality boot will over short time become better than your best custom made pair of footwear, all on it’s own.
A proper Cowboy Boot contains a few other attributes that contribute to it’s unique level of comfort. That heel that may look like a finely stained type of rare rainforest wood – is actually stacked leather, so each step comes naturally with a soft landing. The “strike” of a properly fitting boot – where your weight lands on the ball of your foot is carefully engineered, and that area under your arch of your foot is actually supported by a steel shank nested in-between the outer and inner soles of leather. The tell tale sign of a handmade quality boot is the lemonwood pegs that can only be done by hand – securing the sole to the vamp. The unique property of lemonwood is that it expands and contracts with the leather, where as a nail cannot, and will over time loose it’s grip ultimately compromising the structure of the leather over the top of the boot.
We are all smiles when we get a client in boots who marvels about how comfortable they are. Whether it’s a first pair or just time for a new pair – we are here to get you your perfect pair of boots. Give those trainer’s a day off, or save them for the gym, and discover or re-discover the very coolness of great pair of handmade boots.
Whether you’re a Lucchese loyalist, prefer the refined elegance of Stallion Boots, ultimate comfort of a Rios of Mercedes or fashion sensibility of Old Gringo or Liberty Boots – we’re sure to find you the perfect match and fit!