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 -
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
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.
There 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,
Good boots from people who know their business
We also like Red Wing shoes salespeople. They know their
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."
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.