How Boots are Made

The Make Up of a Boot


Regardless of the style, boots are far from simple. Boots have a lengthy construction time, often necessitating dozens (if not hundreds) of individual steps until they are fully made. For instance high quality hand crafted leather western boots can have about 300 individual steps from the time the leather is cut for the boot until the boots are inspected and boxed. This can mean dozens and hundreds of people are often involved in the production of every single boot. From stitching up vamp (front) of the boot to the counters (back) of the boot to attaching the outsole (bottom) of the boot: boots take teams of specialists. This can make the labor costs of producing a boot quite high. But, the cliche "you get what you pay for" really applies when it comes to western boots. The same is true for work, motorcycle, casual and fashion boot styles. If you'd like to learn more about what goes into the making of a boot we recommend reading "Art of the Boot" by Tyler Beard and Jim Arndt.




Leather is often the choice of material for boots. Because leather is known as a luxury material, leather boots and shoes are considered high quality, durable products. These aren't tennis shoes! Thus, the brands found on take their product quality and functionality very seriously. Leather is prepared in a number of different ways from suede to distress to rough out. Each prepared style gives the boot quite a different look and feel. Add on to the obvious fact that besides cowhide, leather can come from a variety of sources from pigs to snakes to birds to elephants.


Main Components



The Outsole is simply the bottom of the boot and gives your feet some "grip". The occasion that you wear boots and the style will greatly influence what type of outsole is on the boot. For western boots, you generally have leather or rubber-like outsoles. Leather outsoles are for traditionalists and are good for dancing. The general trend for western boots is heading more and more towards rubber. Two reasons are rubber generally tends to last longer and it is making the boots less expensive. Don't forget the new cushy crepe outsoles of which the material allows extra comfort for standing and doesn't slip as much when riding on horses. On work and motorcycle boots the outsole will likely be a rubber material that has special trends and properties depending on your needs. For instance a work boot may have an outsole that is specifically designed not to track mud and dirt or it can be designed to be slip and oil resistant. There is no standard tests that brands use to determine if a boot is slip resistant, oil resistant, water resistant, etc. Generally, brands use their own standards to determine if a boot meets one of the above requirements.




Insoles give your feet a little cushion to add some extra comfort. Different brands use different insoles. Each brand offers the latest technology and patented designs for their insoles. Sometimes insoles will be just a light EVA pad to cushion and form to your feet or it will be a multi-layered signature system by a leading brand name. There are many who prefer not to have insoles and often remove them. We don't recommend removing a boots insoles. Just remember, insoles are not required on boots, but they do help provide some extra comfort.


Top Construction


Construction often refers to how the outsole is attached to the boot. Outsoles are generally either pegged (or nailed), sown or cemented onto the bottom of the boot. Outsoles that have been cemented or directly attached to the boot are generally more flexible to begin with, but often these boots can not be resoled. Often outsoles that have been welted or pegged can usually be resoled.




Shanks aren't needed in every boot. Depending on the need, boot makers insert a "shank" in the middle of the bottom of the boot to give it extra form and strength. The shank is usually a small metal, plastic or fiber piece of material that gives extra form and strength to a boot. Boots that have shanks are not as flexible on the outsoles as those boots that don't have shanks.




Adding height and style to a boot, heels range from less than an inch to many inches. On western boots cowboy heels are slightly sloped and are generally 1 5/8" in height. Roper and Walking Heels are usually a bit larger at the base and slightly smaller with a flat, uniform slope. Occasionally work boots will have an extra padded heel to prevent slipping, while fashion styles may have small treads on just the heel for the same effect.




Toes can mean style or function. For example western boots are typically either a narrow toe, medium round or wide round toe. Narrow toes give a unique style and look while wider toes offer more room or comfort. On the toe some boots can even have a small stitch pattern referred to as a medallion and can have a toe rand (metal piece) at the tip of the boot. Motorcycle boots are generally round or square-like (snoot or snip). Casual styles can be all of the above and more. When it comes to work, extra functions such as safety and non-safety apply. Some prefer non-safety toe to comfort and a lighter weight boot. Yet, some professionals need the extra protection of safety toes. Safety toes have a small steel plate or composite plate on the top of the toe region of the boot. These toes pass the ANSI test, meaning that the toe can withstand 75lb impact & compression up to 2500lb.