Van Gorkom Custom Hiking Boots
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $650
My Van Gorkom boots have failed to address the issues related to my narrow feet. I have had a very painful experience with them on multi-day backpacking trips. I am sorry to report that after several years of trying to make them work, I am giving up on them.
I purchased a pair of Van Gorkom custom boots in November 2005 after a long search to find hiking boots that would fit my narrow feet. In my experience, my Van Gorkom boots have worked fine for day hikes, but that is about all I can say in their favor. I have been very disappointed in them in several ways on multi-day backpacking trips:
I still get bad blisters on my heels.
I still get bruises on my toes.
When I try lacing the boots more tightly to avoid the above problems, it cuts off the circulation to my toes, which sometimes results in severe pain.
The elaborate and time-consuming maintenance regimen prescribed by Mr. Van Gorkom to alleviate these problems has not worked for me.
The insoles do not provide what I would consider adequate cushioning.
The boots are excessively heavy. I take a woman’s size 7 ½; my pair of Van Gorkom boots weighs about 3 ¾ pounds, about a pound more than the Vasque boots I am ordering as a replacement. A general rule of thumb is that an extra pound on your feet is roughly equivalent to five extra pounds on your back.
Even the hooks that hold the laces have been a disappointment. I try to lace my boots carefully, but find that the laces have a tendency to come off the hooks at inconvenient times (for instance, in the middle of a tricky stream crossing).
For all of these reasons, I am giving up on my Van Gorkom boots. In retrospect, I’m sorry that I put so much time and suffering into trying to make them work. I’m also sorry that I have to write such a negative review; I had truly hoped that these boots would offer a solution to at least some of my hiking footwear problems.
Use: dayhikes, rough trails, long mountain hikes
Break-in Period: Felt good immediately
Price Paid: $565 USD
These are absolutely amazing boots! I have spent a fortune trying every type of boot made over the years and have had so many problems with all of the off-the-shelf ones, from bunion problems, to sore feet, to heel and ankle problems, as well as heel problems. Only recently have boot makers made an EE wide boot, which helped, but I also have a very high arch and a narrow heel so most of them slip up in back. If I lace the store boots tightly to keep the ankle part tighter, I end up with pain across the top of my foot.
To make a long story short, I found Van Gorkom Custom Hiking Boots on the web and knew I had found a solution. Considering the small fortune I had already wasted on buying boots that didn't fit, the cost of custom boots seemed like a bargain. I wasn't completely sure if the problems I had were foot-related or boot-related, but it seemed like a custom shoe might be the answer.
I sent away for a measuring kit, which came the next week. I measured my feet as instructed, sent the information back, and was told the boots would be complete in two months. Right on schedule as promised, I heard from Charlie to say he was now working on my boots.
Charlie has been very easy to work with. He called me several times to ask very good questions that determined some of the fine points of how he was designing the boots.
When the boots came I fell in love with them! Although I was worried that the weight might be too heavy, they fit so well they felt lighter than my lightweight store bought boots. The leather is beautiful, I hear it costs $200 just for the leather that goes into the boots.
I wore these boots around the house and everywhere, they are so comfortable I don't want to take them off. I have never owned a pair of shoes of any kind that felt this good! My only wish is that I could wear them everywhere.
I have also spent a fortune on orthotic insoles -- from a foot doctor, to a mold, to expensive kinds as well as the cheap ones. The custom orthotic Charlie Van Gorkom makes is incredible! I have never had one so comfortable and my feet have stopped hurting. I intend to wear them around the house and outside as well as on hikes, because just wearing them is making my foot pain go away and my feet feel more comfortable.
I was amazed to find out the Charlie Van Gorkom makes each pair of boots all by himself. They are hand made, and he spends 40 hours or more on just your pair of boots and the custom insole.
I will treasure these boots for years. I had stopped longer hikes because of foot and boot problems. I am now looking forward to hiking for miles because my feet will no longer hurt. In fact, these boots are so comfortable I feel my feet are growing stronger just by using them.
This is a wonderful way to support your outdoor activities and your feet.
Use: rough trail w/heavy pack, mountain hiking, I even wore them to work!
Break-in Period: one week of constant wear, to work, on weekends, on walks with my dog
Weight: about 2.5 lbs per boot
Price Paid: $540
I have been hiking for nine years on various backcountry terrains and always have had difficulty with fit and comfort. Even if I break in a pair of boots I have left every trip with bloody, blister covered feet. I know...a pleasant thought. ;-)
I have narrow heels, an average toe box, flat feet (which I use orthodics for), and I have broken my toes several times, and sprained my ankles more times than I can count.
After literally spending seven hours at various camping/hiking stores and trying on 50-70 pair of boots (this is not an exaggeration!) I still couldn't find a perfect fit. I had the top salespeople helping me, adapting the tongue, socks, using inserts, trying different lacing techniques, still...no luck. So the salesman at one store said I have hard to fit feet...I need custom boots.
I contacted Charles Van Gorkom and after questioning him on his experience and techniques, I decided to pay for custom-made boots.
I made a few payments (it all had to be paid before delivery) to spread out the cost. He sent me a measurement kit and called me to clarify a few things as he constructed my boots.
I broke my boots in like always and after hiking five days...I wanted to continue forever! I decided I LOVE MY BOOTS! Some girls love clothes, some jewelry, I love my custom made Van Gorkom boots.
If you have a hard time finding the right fit...these boots are well worth the cost. They are quality and will last forever.
Where to Buy
The Van Gorkom Women's Custom Hiking Boots is not available from the stores we monitor.
You may be able to find it new or used at one of these sites:
Or you may want to check for a dealer list or direct sales on the Van Gorkom website.
Retailers: Do you sell this product? List your site here.
World-class hiking boots custom made to your feet by Charles Van Gorkom, bootmaker since 1976. They come in two popular heights: 15 cm up the leg from the base of your heel, and 18 cm up the leg from the base of your heel.
The upper is all one piece of 7-8 oz. logger chrome and oil tanned leather (unless a lighter leather is required for lighter use—often the case.) Boot is lined with 3-4 oz calf. The mid-soles and soles are waterproofed, glued, and brass rivited.
The hiker/vibram sole is designed to be replaced when worn out. Each boot has a steel shank, extending from the centre of the heel to just behind the ball of the foot. The orthotic insole is sculpted from different densities of foam, leather covered, hand-sewn, the tongue is leather padded bellows.