By Johnny Mack
Boots and my feet have a love hate relationship. For the longest time, I steered clear of stiff leather boots because of the blisters and hot spots they created on my feet. Being a former collegiate athlete, I was more comfortable in a pair of Nike Air Max 90’s for hiking than true “hiking” boots. At the beginning of my hunting career I tried quite a few different boots. All of them either left me with very little support and would blow out on the sides when getting into steep terrain or they were too stiff leaving me with blisters similar to what you see on the picture below. I finally settled on a pair of boots that worked, but to fit properly I was told to size down a half size which ended up causing my toes to jam into the front of the boots and leaving me with a sensation on my toes that lasted longer than the adrenaline from the hunt.
With the need for new boots prior to the upcoming hunting season, I started searching and ended up coming across Lathrop & Sons out of the state of Illinois. Their story is unique and I had to know more about their 3D mapping and how they go about making boots fit better for customers. As it seemed like I would be the perfect challenge for them as boot fit is something that I obviously have struggled with in the past.
Being that I host a podcast, there is no better way to break down the barrier of questions than to interview Stephen and James Lathrop (brothers) on the podcast to find out first hand if what they are doing is truly different than the rest of the industry. So we sat down for an episode and dove right into all the struggles that I have faced with wearing boots. During that recording they determined that I have very tight achilles tendons causing me to have severe heal slip. Not only that, but I was not blessed with the best feet as I suffer from bunions which cause extreme pain when rubbed all day long against a surface that doesn’t give. What I learned from our recording was that I was the IDEAL client for their custom boot system and 3D mapping.
This June, I went through the process of having them create a custom pair of boots specifically for me so I could see if what they are selling is the real deal. One of the cool things that I learned from the podcast and after doing my research is that they sell both custom fit boots and boots off the shelf that are ready to rock.
Why Go With A Custom Boot System?
A part of what Lathrop & Sons offers is the ability to mold, shape and stretch a boot to fit your specific foot. They have multiple consultations with you, they 3D map your foot for a custom insole built specifically to match your foot and the fit of your boot, and they are able to direct you to what model boot of theirs would work best. They really go the extra mile and care about what they do which I found to be truly incredible. Not to mention, that when you call Lathrop & Sons, you are going to be speaking to either Stephen or James directly.
What is 3D Mapping?
When you decide that the custom boot system is what you want to go with, you are asked to send in pictures of your feet from 4 different angles so Stephen and James can get an idea of the issues you most frequently have with boots and to allow their expertise to really kick in. They say that a picture is worth a 1000 words, so when they look at your feet, they know exactly how to fit you. Especially when the pictures are supplemented by their 3D mapping imprints that you send back to them via a prepaid UPS shipping label.
How do they determine what boot is correct for me?
Part of what sets Lathrop & Sons apart from the rest of the boot industry is the personal and detailed feedback and interaction you get with Stephen and James. I thought that I would want their lighter and smaller model boot but after speaking with them and providing information of what type of hunting that I do, the type of terrain I hunt, the climate, typical pack out weight and more, they dialed me right in and I ended up in their regular Mountain Hunter model specifically molded to my foot. In full disclosure, I was scared to go into that boot as I have trust issues and was putting a lot of trust into their custom boot process and their expertise not to ruin a hunt or my pocketbook for that matter. I assumed that I would go into their Mountain Hunter Encompass model for flexibility purposes and was shocked to hear that not only was I going into the standard Mountain Hunter, but I was being fitted up a size into a 12.5! Historically I wear a size 12 shoe and my hunting boots have been a size 11.5, which caused my toes to jam in the front of my boots on descents.
(Below are pictures of my feet on my previous boots insoles vs the 12.5 (non-custom) insole that is standard in the Mountain Hunter to show the difference in boot fit.)
Mountain Hunter Encompass, Mountain Hunter, Mountain Hunter Elite, Mountain Hunter Wide, Mountain Hunter Warm
- Fit perfectly to my foot
- Never felt the need to HAVE to take my boots off
- No blisters or hotspots
- Great side hilling stability in steep terrain
- Full Grain Leather
- One year Warranty
- Pricey but worth it in the end
- Takes time to complete the process and for the boots to be ready if choosing the Custom Boot Mapping
- $470-$490 (Custom Boot System costs more. Call +1 (618) 544-8782 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info)
- 3.75 lbs.
- 9″ Tall
- 2.6mm Perwanger Leather
- eVent Waterproof Lining
- L&S PERFECT Shank
- L&S PU ROCKER CAM Midsole
- PRO-FORM Rubber Rand
- PU Heel Stabilizer
- Vibram Mulaz EVO Outsole
- Full Length removable insole accommodates L&S High Country Synergy Footbed
- Half Sizes: 8-12.5, 13, 14, 15, 16 (D width)
So How did they do on a week long elk & Mule deer hunt?
Going into the hunt and wearing a size 12.5 rather than a 11.5, I was quite nervous. There is only so much hiking you can do to simulate what a hunt will actually be like. But the minute I stepped afield and started chasing bugling elk, my feet never once crossed my mind again. After hunting 6 days for elk and mule deer in the state of Washington, I never felt the need to quickly get my boots off once I was back at camp. I was completely satisfied with my custom boots and have zero complaints. The stiffness of the boot allowed me to side hill with ease while the support and shape of the boot really helped when it came time to packing out meat.
All in all, I highly recommend Lathrop & Sons in the future when purchasing boots. If you have ever been someone who struggles with boot fit, their Custom Boot System is the only place you need to look to solve the issues of what can single handedly ruin a hunt. Thanks for reading this review. If you want to know more about Lathrop & Sons boots, then check out my episode I recorded with them by clicking HERE or write us a message HERE. In the meantime make sure to check out our show SOUL SEEKERS on CarbonTV as well as follow us on Instagram @soulseekersnation. Knowledge is power and MENTORSHIP IS CONSERVATION.