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Some basics for bootmen

Logger and Lineman Boots

Logger and Lineman Boots have many common features. The leather used for "true" logger / lineman boots made by the quality bootmakers is full thickness cowhide. In other words it has not been split. It is typically 7 oz or more in thickness (leather thickness is measured by the weight of a small sample). By contrast, the leather used to make your average work boot is 3 to 4 oz and is made from a split hide, often with a fake surface plastic finish called "plating". The thick, oil tanned leather used for true logger and lineman boots (and also for engineer boots) has no surface finish. So it breathes well and is very water resistant if kept oiled.

Types of Logger and Lineman Boots

There are three traditional types of Logger and Lineman Boots:

Logger boots (used as intended) need more surface grip for log rolling. For the ultimate traction, a pair of logger boots with "corks", "calks", or "caulks" - multiple spikes on the bottom of the boot - provide the grip needed. They are often worn by lumberjacks as their regular footwear.
Lineman Boots are specialty boots made for linemen, cable installers, arborists and tree service workers. They are also popular with motorcyclists who appreciate the leather side patches and excellent support. The boots are made of extra heavy cowhide leather and are usually sold unlined. However, they can be lined with leather or with Cambrelle fabric. The significant thing on lineman boots is that they always have double or extra strength steel shanks which stiffen the boot under the instep so it doesn't flex when standing on ladder or pole rungs. They normally range in height from 14" to 20", but they are also made in crotch-high styles up to 38". They lace up from the toe to the top of the boot in a traditional crossed pattern.
Wildland Fire Boots Until recently there was no difference between logger boots and wildland fire boots. In recent years, however, they've become differentiated by silicon-tanned leather, Kevlar thread and VibramĀ® soles, all of which are more fire resistant.

White's Firestormer Boots are quite popular with lots of wildland firefighters because they are very sturdy and have a thick leather shank instead of steel. That leather shank is unique but not necessarily wonderful. It gives the instep a real high profile which many find a bit more than needed. They also have soft toes, so they tend to mash your toes instead of giving them some wiggle room. But they look cool and a lot of older western firefighters wear them so the newbies get them too.


Features of Logger and Lineman Boots

Kilty False Tongue

Kilty False Tongue

The false tongue or kilty is an 8" (20 Cm) strip of leather with a serrated edge at the bottom which is held in place by the bootlace as it passes through the bottom eyelets. Whether you use it is up to you. Either you lace it in when you install the laces or you leave it out. Some people swear by them and think they are the epitome of the logger or lineman boot. Others think they make the boots look like golf shoes. That said, you won't see many loggers in the northwest forests of the US wearing their boots without them.

False tongues were originally intended to provide padding between the bootlaces and the instep of the foot in logger boots. This was necessary in boots which used thin leather for the tongue and also protected the tongue from wear by the laces. Wesco uses thick, supple leather in the fully gusseted tongue, so the false tongue is not as necessary. It is a traditional complement to the boot.

The true (not fashion) lineman boot has multiple accommodations for wearing climbing spikes, or gaffs, as they are called in some parts of the country. The leather side patches and steel side plates protect the inside toe area of the boot from abrasion while climbing; the heavy steel shank allows the wearer to bear his full weight on an inch-wide strip of steel without undue flexing of the sole and the discomfort it produces. The heel breastplate keeps the gaff from grinding into the leather heel.

Neither Logger nor Lineman Boots are suitable for wearing in snow or extremely cold weather. When exposed to below freezing temperatures, the soles on such boots usually harden up and make walking in cold weather and snowy/icy surfaces dangerous.

Lineman Boots The Lineman Boot is essentially a Logger Boot with four added features which customize it to its job of protecting the boots from poles & trees and from the climbing irons worn by linemen.
  • Leather Side Patch & Steel Side Plate -- Protects the boot from telephone poles, trees and motorcycle shift levers
  • Steel Breast Plate -- This recessed plate in the heel protects against climbing irons
  • Leather Half Slip -- This extra insole component provides additional support in the arch.
  • Traditionally, lineman boots are black, but they are also available in brown and redwood. Other available features if Lineman Boots are ordered custom include:

  • leather lining
  • steel safety toes
  • lace-to-toe or regular toe
  • insulated lining for cold-weather wear
  • silver, nickel or black lacing studs
  • traditional tan or black laces
  • stitching in black, brown, khaki, or yellow
  • Vibram® lug soles or other sole patterns
  • heights as high as 38"
    This is a list of manufacturers of Logger and Lineman Boots:

  • West Coast Shoe Company (Wesco)
  • Viberg Boot Mfg Ltd.
  • White's Boots
  • Hoffman Boots
  • Nick's Boots
  • Sadly, a lot of other small logger manufacturers have gone out of business or been subsumed into companies like Whites, Viberg and Hoffman. Most of these were located in traditional logging areas such as British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and Wyoming. Dayton in Vancouver, BC has recently switched to fashion boots. Danner, in Portland, used to make excellent logger and lineman boots but stopped about 12 years ago when they switched to the Ft. Lewis style gortex lined boots for the army. Now they've been bought out by a conglomerate and their boots are made overseas and not using their original, excellent lasts. Red Wing used to make decent quality logger boots but their quality is now all over the map as they have their boots jobbed offshore and don't pay enough attention to quality and consistency of lasts.

    Most content courtesy of Ron Belanger of Big Black Boots and some content from Muddybootsnlevis. Photos courtesy of Ron Belanger, Jim Neuman and internet sources.

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