My New Boots
A while ago I talked about some boots that I picked up on eBay. I figured when I did that segment that I would give you a hint that I like boots. I’ve since talked about my boot saga on the podcast, but here is the complete write-up.
I’ve had a pair of boots since I was a teenager. I’ve had mainly cheap boots. I started with a pair of knock-off Vietnam jungle boots. (Couldn’t afford the real thing with the “Panama soles”) I had these in High School. I wore them everywhere. You could walk, run, hike…do just about anything in them. Heck, I even went swimming in them a couple of times.
I remember on time we went hiking. It was in the winter…no snow, but it was cold. I can’t remember how, but the boots got wet and they froze. The only thing that kept me from damage to my feet was that I kept walking…in frozen boots…we all did, we talked about it later, my buddies and I. We had essentially walked with frozen boots until we got back home.
Needless to say, I’m tough on boots, always have been. I’ve had light boots, heavy boots, cowboy boots, hiking boots, motorcycle boots. I guess I just like a good piece of leather wrapped around my feet.
With my history of boots…I had always wanted a decent pair of all leather boots. Now, at the time, I understood good leather boots to be Chippewa’s, Redwing’s or something like that. Now, a pair of Chippewa Apache’s, a 6” boot normally cost about $150. A pair of Red Wing Iron Rangers, another 6” boot cost around $300. So for me I thought this was out of my price range.
Now, here’s the twisted logic…I had spent about that much on a pair of cowboy boot once, and I didn’t wear them all the time…but I couldn’t “justify” the expense on boots I would wear just about every day! Hmmm, there’s something there….
So, one Christmas I had received a gift card to Bass Pro Shops. We were coming back from visiting relative and we stopped into a Bass Pro shop. As I wondered around I got to the shoe section and noticed they had Chippewa Apache’s on clearance. With the gift card they were easily affordable. So with glee, I bought what I thought was a pair of decent boots.
I was so happy with those boots. I showed them off. I took care of them. Cleaned them regularly….never let them stay dirty for more than a couple of days. Treated them with Obenhauf’s LP multiple time. I wanted these things to last so I could enjoy them for years.
But then I noticed that they started “Leaning”. The heels started wearing quickly. In desperation I had them reheeled, but it was to late. The heel counter, the part of the boot that holds the heel in place slowly let go. In other words, my foot was sliding sideways off the sole…sideways at the heel. The counter had failed. The boots no longer supported my foot well. I was sliding off the sole as well. They were pretty much dead. I never expected this to happen with a pair of Chippewa leather boots! So much for my hopes and dreams of a decent pair of leather boots.
How long had I had them? 9 months. I had a “Decent pair” of leather boots and they lasted 9 months! I was devastated…and pissed! So I started researching, studying, digging up all kinds of info on boots.
I looked at different manufacturing techniques, welt construction, style. I read articles, forums and dug into YouTube videos. During this time I ran across what I believe to be the great names in boots…Whites, Wesco, Nicks. These are traditional “Logger” style boots, or at least thats how these guys appeared to have started, and that was sort of the type I was interested in. However, these boots were “expensive” in my mind. I mean, I had waited a long time to get pair of leather boots due to cost, how could I justify a $500 pair of boots?
So, I held the idea again in the back of my mind. Just off to the side of the stove…steaming…simmering. Now, the study was not in vain because I came across a couple of really good YouTube channels. One of these channels was Wranglerstar. (I really like Cody’s channel by the way for all of the other stuff that’s on there.) During one of his videos, he talked about a boot manufacturer in Minnesota, Adam Jimenez. He had a video about Adam’s custom boots. He had a video about the measuring process and the fact that Adam will send you the boots prior to soles and heels to check fit them. He talked about the fact that Adam’s boots are lined.
Well, this also went into the memory bank…Fast forward a bit and I found myself with a bit of disposable funds. Funds that I had not expected or anticipated and funds that well, quite honestly I needed to celebrate with. So, after long and careful thought I ordered a pair of Adam Jimenez boots. You can find him on Facebook. Look for Open Road Custom Boots.
Now, what was my justification. Well, they are built with quality leather. Now, I thought that the Chippewa boots that I had were built with quality leather…not really. Leather yes, quality…debatable. Not only quality leather, but just leather. Some boots are padded and I’m convinced that they are padded to make up for the fact that the darn things don’t fit worth a darn. Your fit feels the contact due to the padding and you think you have a good fit, when in fact your foot is swimming in padding and is not supported or held by leather. Not good when your rough on boots!
They will last. Due to quality construction methods, and quality leather, they will last. The counter (the part that goes around your heel) is a good area to look at in a boot. Is it strong and thick or does it feel like a thin piece of cardboard? The Chippewa boots that I have feel thin in this area. It was real evident when I basically walked out of the sides of them. Of course, you have to take care of them, and keep them clean. I do, so it’s not an issue for me. However, this is a note to those that have boots that stay caked in dirt and mud until you step in a puddle! That dirt and clay will dry out the leather. Dry leather fails quickly! Keep ‘em clean and moisturized. It makes sense if you think about it. Skin is kept in good shape mainly by the fluid filled body that it covers. No body, no moisture. So it’s up to use to provide moisture in the leather.
They fit. These are custom made and therefore made to the measurements of my feet. Thin where my feet are thin, thick were they need to be. The idea is to have a pair of boots that feel like they are a second skin down to the ball of the foot. Then they need to open a bit to allow your toes to spread out and give balance and support. The heel counter needs to wrap around the heel without excessive tightness or excessive room. You want the baby bear version in Goldilocks…you want everything to be “just right”! With a measure and fitted boot you get that.
They were rebuildable. That’s one of the nice things about certain types of shoes and boots. Once you get past the glue and thermoplastic types, you get into construction methods that allow you to take apart and rebuild several times if necessary. You can put new soles and heels on. You can even rebuild the lower part of the boot if necessary. In other words you can get years of service out of these boots.
Ok, down to the economics. I had purchased a pair of boots from Chippewa. They were on sale and normally these boots cost about $150. They had lived about a year! Adam’s boots were about 3 times that price when I ordered them (they’re more now, I got in at a good time.) You can still get White’s, Nick’s or Wesco’s a bit cheaper than Adam’s but Adam’s boots have a bit of exclusivity for a touch more. Anyhow, I figure I will get 2 to three years, maybe more out of these boots before a resole. The alone put’s me into the ballpark of a pair of Chippewas every year. Resoling will cost in the $100 to $150 neighborhood from what I have investigated. And I should be able to get another 2 to 3 years out of them. At this point, I’m ahead dollar wise. Meanwhile, I have a boot that fits! I have a boot that I’m happy to own. It’s essentially cheaper in the long run. It just costs more up front. (At least that’s my thought process at this point) We’ll see in a couple of years if my theory holds up.
So, I wrote Adam and told him I wanted a pair of his boots. (You can find him on Facebook – Open Road Custom boots.)
I received a folder in the mail with a fabric measuring tape and some brief instructions on where to measure things. So I asked for some help from my wife and we got to measuring and outlining. I sent this back to Adam with an explanation of what it was that I was looking for in a boot. I wanted something that I would wear a lot and hike / camp in. He asked for half the cost to get started and I sent it to him. This was in May of 2014. I then waited.
Now I realize that custom boots take a while. I was prepared for “a while”. I would call on occasion just to touch base. I was thinking in my head, Thanksgiving or maybe Christmas time frame….In January I received a box. It was from Adam and it had my boots, without soles or heels.
First off, I was ecstatic! They were beautiful. They fit like they were painted on. Triple stitching on all of the pieces.
Moose lining was perfect. The toe box was large – no issues with going down hill and having toes squeezed or rammed into the front of the boot…Perfection.
Just to give you an idea, this is a view down the back of the boot. On normal boots there would be a seam. However, since these are lined, there’s no seam. Nothing to cause irritation and nothing to wear. Again, I’m very happy with these. The lining also prevents the boot tops from sagging or wrinkling badly.
I sent the boots back to him and told him I wanted a Vibram sole and natural leather sole and heel stack. And then I waited.
The agony would have been easier to take if I hadn’t already seen these beauties. He called to verify the selection and said he was working on them. And I waited…anxious for news, a call, a shipping notice…anything! (Remember this is the first time I had done this. I had no experience in this arena. I had no idea what to expect!)
Then the other day he sent me a message that they had shipped and yesterday I received my boots. Brilliant! They fit perfectly, no hot spots, no tightness. They still feel like they’ve been painted on. Great stuff! Excitement does not explain the emotion. Joy, gratitude, reverence…those are the emotions that I feel.
The fit is unlike anything I’ve ever had. Even new tennis shoes feel inadequate. These are perfect. My legs are still getting used to the “feel” of the higher boots, but the fit at the feet is perfect. There is a little soreness at the heel / arch but that will recede as I break them in and is normal. The laces allow for a bit of “Customization” of the fit. So far they have really been great fitting boots.
So features…12” tops, Elk lined. The lining is pretty much everywhere on the inside of this boot. If you look at the inside back of almost every boot, there is a seam of some type that runs right down the back of the leg / heel. With a lined boot, there isn’t a visible seam. The lining also gives a little more stiffness to the tops of the boots.
Another really nice detail, speaking of the boot tops are the pull holes. Not pull loops, but pull holes. They are reinforced and big enough to easily get a pair of gloved hands in them. So far these pull holes really work nicely.
So, the first day I spent a short time in them. I didn’t get to put them on until around 6:00 pm after all. The second day, I put them on when I got up and pretty much worked the whole day in them. Call it 6 to 8 hours. A little sore in the heel and arch area but that’s it. I’m very surprised and very impressed. The next week or so, I spent as much time as possible in them. There was some soreness in the left heel. However, this is slowly diminishing as I continue to wear them. All in all great stuff.
The toe box on these are larger than what I have had before. This is a blessing and a curse at this point. The good side is that so far in everything that I have done, I have not had a toe hit or contact the front of the boot. Since I had told Adam that I was going to use these for hiking, this is a great feature. I appreciate that he put the larger (a number 4 I believe) toe box on the boot.
The down side is that my boot is longer than what I’m used to. I catch things with my boot tip from time to time unexpectedly. (This has stopped being an issue the longer I wear them.)
Now that I have worn these boots for a while, here are some observations. First, they have broken in much sooner than any other boot I have ever owned. Additionally, this break in period has been for the most part completely pain free. (Again, something that I’m not used to.)
A bit of heel / arch soreness for about a week as I wore the boots for about 2 to 4 hours a day.
I wore them the other day for a camping trip with my Scout troop. I noticed that the boot fits so well that it hugs my foot perfectly from the ball of the foot, back to above the ankle. This means that when I’m walking up a hill, there is no heel slip. Now at first this is a little disconcerting since all the other boots that I have ever had had heel slip. I had come to think that this was normal!
Additionally, going down hill, the boot hugs the foot snuggly and doesn’t let it slide forward into the toe box. Again, perfection. At angles, the boot is stable and doesn’t let things move, slide, shift, or anything. The foot is just firmly in the boot. It really is a rather incredible feeling. Oh, and this is true on both feet!
If your like most people, one foot is a slightly different size than the other. You may be fortunate to get one foot to fit correctly, but the other foot is aways a bit “off”. It might be to loose or to tight, but it’s different. This is not the case for these boots since each boot is custom fit to each foot. It’s a remarkable feeling after all my years of wearing shoes and boots.
So, all in all this has been a strange experience. As an American “consumer” I’m used to rather instant gratification. I’m used to going to a store and walking out with something. From that aspect, this boot purchase was exhilarating and terrifying and exasperating all at the same time. If I had a magic wand, I would have done more research in ordering custom boots and learning the lingo so I could have more effectively spoken to the boot builder. Not knowing what things are called makes communication difficult if there are chunks of the language missing.
I searched the internet during the wait for these boots and am much more comfortable talking about boots and boot construction.
If I could change the experience I would ask that folks who make custom…well, anything, is to have more patience and be more communicative with your customers. Ask if they have ever ordered something like this before in order to know how to communicate in a way that will make them feel comfortable and good about the experience. Just a tip. If they’re happy with all portions of the transaction, they will brag about you and what you make to anyone that will listen. If they had an experience that was strenuous from their perspective, they will be less prone to brag. As a business, you need folks bragging on you.
As an example, my boots did not come with “False Tongues”. I called Adam and asked if they were extra. He said that they were not but that most people didn’t ask for them. Now the leather that is in the place of the normal boot tongue is folded over and then the boot is laced up. Under hard use, the laces can actually wear through this leather. Since this leather is also held in place by the eyelets and lace hooks, replacing it would be about impossible. Since I want these things to essentially last a lifetime, I asked him to send me some false tongues. He said he would. Then I waited.
Two weeks later I called and asked him if I needed to get them from someone else? He said that he sent them, but he would send some more. I thought this was odd since all other correspondence and mail I don’t typically have an issue with. Then I waited.
Two weeks later I texted him telling him I was disappointed and that I would search for false tongues somewhere else. He called me within an hour and said he would send them out. This episode made me wonder if he ever sent them in the first place. It really bothered me as I had essentially lost trust in someone over about $1 worth of leather. I finally got my false tongues and they actually make the boots feel better in the arch.
If I had give advice to someone buying a pair of boots for the first time I might suggest you deal with a bigger company that has a good reputation such as Nicks or White’s. I would suggest you pay the extra money to get the boot custom fit. Your probably wondering why I wouldn’t send you to Adam. Well, first off he is now in high demand and has shut down orders for the time being. This wasn’t the case when I ordered mine and it took around 10 months. I can’t imagine how long it would take now, nor how frustrating that wait would be. Since your in the first time boot buying segment, you’ll want to get your hands on your boots soon. (I know that I did!) I’m not trying to beat Adam up, I’m just relaying my experience.
If you’ve done this before, I don’t think you could do any better than Open Road Custom Boots. Adam makes a heck of a boot. I love mine. They are a source of immeasurable pride for me. In fact if he ever starts taking orders again I may order another pair of custom boots with a walking sole instead of the big vibrate lugs just because these things are that comfortable. I would wear these all day long every day if they fit my work environment.
All in all, custom boots are highly recommended.