Boots worth wearing for sake of feet and power

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These boots speak volumes. Every gardener should have a pair just like them.  

So what about the boots?

I notice that you always wear heavy boots while gardening. I usually wear sandals or light tennis shoes to keep cool. However, after recent foot surgery I now have to wear more supportive shoes when I garden. Do you have a favorite brand or type that you would recommend?

Thanks for your newsletter! - Ruth -


Hi Ruth,

So sorry if foot surgery kept you from your garden at all this season. That can make a year so frustrating! On the other hand we're very glad if our newsletters help fill the time until you're back out there. We sure love writing them. We compile what we learn from all over this network we have formed, put it out there and then receive it back, enriched.

We've been wearing boots from almost the get-go in our gardening, after one particularly wearing day when Janet removed sod for hours. Her tennis-shod feet were so sore she felt crippled.

Simple work boots

Then, she simply began wearing in the garden the boots she was required to wear on her "day job." She'd chosen the particular type because they were the only work boots that fit the job's criteria and were also available in a wide size. Even so, they were men's boots. Back in the 1970's work boots in women's sizes were rare. Steven liked and bought into the same brand.

Those boots were Red Wings and we've stuck with them. Seems like in the late 80's we tried some from... Sears?... but they didn't wear as well. We'd come to expect two years from a pair at a full-time gardener pace and maybe a third year if fate arranged less wear than usual on the sole where it joins the heel.

BootHeelClose3040s.jpgThere is a lot of wear where boot meets spade tread as we kick on the spade. That impact gouges even the best sole over time. This boot we wear has a steel shank which offers some additional protection, but the heel and sole still become scarred as you see here. Imagine if an unprotected foot had taken all that impact -- it can add up to serious damage requiring surgery, therapy, etc.

Good boots from people who know their business


We also like Red Wing shoes salespeople. They know their line.

We don't think the service we've gotten is a function of who we are. In fact, the salesman we most often see strikes us as the kind of guy who doesn't give two shakes if he's serving the queen or the ditch digger as long as that person respects the boots!

All the Red Wings people we've dealt with seem to honestly care when we stop in for new boot oil or laces or to check prices. We've been doing that every now and then lately as Janet's current pair wears. Perhaps "her" $150 boot will go on sale.


We know it's time to save for new boots when the toe begins to wear. We spend a lot of time on our knees, toes down, so this is inevitable. No, a steel toe is not the answer. Although we recommend a steel toe for those who move boulders and work with bricks that can drop on toes, we don't need them and found they can actually cause trouble since they do not allow our toes to bend while we kneel.

One of the things we wanted and found in Red Wing boots was a steel shank and arch support, necessary for the day job Janet had before making her part-time garden business full time in 1988. It turned out that reinforcement was great for digging-force impact on the sole and the related extra thickness of leather around the ankle saved her foot from many wayward thrusts of fork and spade. She says "I can dig like Superwoman with boots. Without boots I would've been slower and also sidelined at least a few times with serious cuts or scrapes."JanetDigsBoots0735s.jpg

Below: The scrape on this boot leather would have been a serious gash in the skin.


The more casual gardener may not need so much protection at the ankle and such a strong sole as is listed on our scorecard. However, we do think every gardener can benefit from having sturdy boots laced around their ankles. That ankle support has made the difference hundreds of times. Without it we would have sprained something while moving a heavy wheelbarrow or other potentially limb-twisting burden across uneven ground.