How does the shoemaker love his work? Heart and sole

Peter Limmer comes from a family of footwear makers. Today he crafts custom hiking boots with the tools, and in the shop, that his grandfather left him.

This story appears in the January 2020 issue of National Geographic magazine.

In 1939 a German-born shoemaker named Peter Limmer got the first U.S. patent for a “ski boot”—a stiff, square-toed leather shoe made to order. Today, gray-bearded Peter Limmer III hammers out about 200 pairs of hiking boots a year using his grandfather’s tools in the Intervale, New Hampshire, shop his grandfather opened. There’s a perpetual waiting list for the custom boots, priced at $775 and up; loyalists come from as far away as Tasmania for final boot fittings. Limmer, 63, still loves his work. “The best part,” he says, “is seeing customers dance in the driveway with their new boots on.”

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Foot models and boot stretchers dangle from the workbench at Peter Limmer’s New Hampshire shop. The bench top holds equipment for cutting, thinning, pressing, and holding footwear materials in place.
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Well-oiled machine: Produced by Landis, a machine company founded in 1895 in St. Louis, Missouri, Peter Limmer’s curved-needle stitcher, also called an outsole stitching machine, lets him attach soles to the upper leather of boots.