I’m Kevin Leahy, and I started making custom footwear in 1976, apprenticing under an Austrian Master Shoemaker in Seattle for three and a half years. Heinz Heiss was from Tyrol, and his specialty in the old country was making custom hiking boots and ski boots (back when ski boots were made from leather). During those years I learned various methods of constructing shoes and boots, including the art and nuance of measuring feet, patternmaking, and design. Heinz had learned his craft at a trade school located at a monastery. There was no electricity in that part of Tyrol back then; everything was done by hand. A sharp knife was essential, and there was to be no waste! Although Heinz had made some accommodations to more modern techniques, essentially Heinz was still a very traditional shoemaker intimately connected to a tradition that went back centuries. I started out sweeping the floor and tidying the workbenches, and by the end of the 3 1/2 years I was making the shoes from start to finish, and Heinz would present them to the customer as his own work, which I considered the highest possible compliment. Heinz was tough, fair and expected perfection. Only a few of the many people that started apprenticeships with Heinz finished. But it was worth it.
I went on to work for the Veterans Administration as a custom orthopedic shoemaker, then took over a custom diabetic shoe program for the University of Texas Health Science System. But I knew my training was not complete. I traveled to the Munich School of Orthopedic Shoemaking and hired the valedictorian of the class. We returned to Texas, setting up a shop with all the latest German equipment and hired two additional German orthopedic shoemakers. As the supervisor of the facility I was able to absorb the latest skills and techniques of German orthopedic shoemaking for the next three years.
After thirteen years of shoemaking I completed the UCLA graduate Prosthetics Program. After my residency in prosthetics I opened a prosthetics and orthotics facility in Santa Cruz, which I operated for fourteen years. During this time I continued bootmaking and pedorthics.
This is what I have to offer you:
40 years of fitting shoes, braces and artificial limbs to hard to fit feet and limbs. Countless hours of training and experience in gait analysis and anatomy. Traditional training in how to make hiking boots combined with formal education in orthopedic appliances. I continue a close connection to German orthopedic shoemaking, attending courses and meetings in Germany. I directly import most of the components of your custom hiking boots from Germany.
If you have any kind of fitting problem I can address it. With my unique fit kit I will not only make a pair of boots that fit, but you will also have a custom made pair of orthotic arch supports.