Today I share a story about my old Wesco Highliner boots, the resole job done in San Juan del Rio, MX, as well as an interview and profile of the man who did the fine work, Ponce Moreno Cayetano.
This post is the first part of my big boot post, which I will continue at a later date.
Tack and gear for horse travel and outdoor living must be chosen carefully. Although I am not traveling by horse at the moment, I am, as always a complete gear head, and I still spend a lot of time outdoors.
Now that I am not on the road, I am free to choose items that may weigh a little more. Which brings me to my Wesco Highliners.
These beauts were made in 1986 in Scapoose Oregon, USA. I bought them used in 2015 for around 90usd, new in 2020 they retail for 450usd. https://builder.wescoboots.com/StockBoot.aspx?id=Highliner_rsv
They are built to last, and that’s why I had them shipped down from Canada for further use.
After traveling by horse for 2 years and going thru 2 pairs of boots, I had spent a lot of time thinking about what makes a good boot.
As the trip ended, my criteria expanded as the limits of weight were removed.
The Wesco’s are an INCREDIBLE boot.
For solo horse travel, they are possibly a little too heavy. However, they do offer some key features:
- The leather is thick and bombproof.
- There is no liner to wear out.
- They are fully and easily resolable.
As you can see from the before pics below, they was very little midsole width left on the boot, thus creating issues for further resole operations.
I spent a good many hours thinking how I could resole the boots, maintaining integrity while allowing for further resoles before I send the boots back to Wesco for full rebuild. This is a cool service they offer, just cementing the fact that quality lasts, and is worth preserving.
To resole properly I would need to remove the midsole as well, as it was starting to rot out. But to be able to add another rubber sole after some time, I would have to extend the leather midsole out from the base of the boot.
This is what we did and this it how it looks. The footprint is wider than I would have liked, but this wide midsole allows for more areas to sew the next resoles at a later date.
Now I’m going to talk about how I got the Wesco work done.
San Juan del Rio offers all the necessaries to complete the job. I bought the leather and tread from a shoe sole specialty shop.
Looking for a cobbler was tougher. Most cobblers here do rubber resoles and sport shoe resoles, but midsole replacement most often requires a specialty shop, or shoemaker.
Luckily for me, I found Cayetano, a super experienced and talented shoemaker with over 60 years experience. The quality of the work speaks for itself. The extra tight stitching, although unnecessary, bring a classy touch to these 34 year old boots.
Botines San Juan is the only shoebuilder shop in San Juan del Rio.
It took me a while to find this place.
After visiting Cayetano to go over the boots, them returning 6 weeks later with the materials. I noticed that this artisan really knew his stuff. It was then I decided to do a profile interview with him. It’s in the audio player at the top of the post. You can download it if you like. In the interview, we go over his history and shoe building story.
He has 63 years in the business, and guess what, he’s from Leon. The Mecca of Mexican shoes, boots and leather work.
His origins explain a lot, as when I was looking or a cobbler to do the resole, most of them told me, “Go to Leon”. One cobbler, who had agreed to do the work, told me when I arrived with the materials, no its not me that’s going to do it, it’s a man called Cayetano, here’s his number. So that’s how I got in touch.
Shoes, boots, semi boots and orthotics. All custom. Repair work and resole. Leather work as well. This is what you will find at Botines San Juan.
Just don’t expect them to be in business much longer. Cayetano is in retirement age, with no son or otherwise to replace him. There are still boot builders doing hand craft work, but you have to look hard for them. Once you find them, you won’t regret it.
As far as custom boot makers in the US, they seem to be huddled together in the Northwest. Wesco, White’s, Nick’s and Frank’s all make these types of boots and they all do custom builds and rebuilds to various degrees.
Now, back to the boots.
Something else that was done was to lower the heel a little. This was due to the fact that I walk a lot in them, and was preparing to move to a super hilly area. A little less heel was in order, and done well. Also to be noticed is the matching black trim extending out from the top of the midsole. This was done by gluing a thin piece of black leather on top of the midsole, from the front 2/3s of the way to the back of the boot, before gluing, sewing and nailing the midsole to the boot itself. All in all, it was tidy job.
The boots are more solid than ever, and I look forward to using them extensively as I have in the last 4 months here in Mexico.
They are heavy, they are overkill, but they are as dependable as a boulder. For their weight they are surprisingly comfortable, and the lack of liner allows for a commendable breathability.
Would I use these boots for horse riding? Definitely. They are my go to boot.
Would I use them for extensive solo horse travel? If I could make them a little lighter…
For 2 or 3 horse travel, wagon travel, ranch or farm work, the Wesco Highliners come with the highest recommendation.
My care routine is to dust and wipe them down daily, applying a vinegar/ water cleaning as needed, a weekly light oiling touch up, with a deep clean and recondition every 2 months. The conditioning product I use is DIY. Olive oil, beeswax and an emulsifier or emollient. A cheaper version would be vegetable oil and parafiin wax, with the emusifier, like lecithin.
One of my philosophies of life is to build quality on top of quality. I try to remove that which is mediocre, to make more room for that which is solid.
My Wesco Highliners, handcrafted in 1986, are a perfect example of enduring quality.