Footwork in the Foothills

“My spark for boot making happened over a number of years. I knew I wanted to work with my hands and had been searching for a very long time for a business that was creative, functional and unique. Making custom footwear definitely checks all those boxes,” says Ryan Barron.

Meet Ryan Barron of Barron Boot Company.

Story & Photos by BAR XP PHOTO – Kirk Prescott

Born and raised in the Foothills of Alberta, Barron is no stranger to the western way of life. From horses to hiking, biking and skiing – Barron is handy in many disciplines and building custom footwear certainly keeps him on his toes. Growing up, Barron was involved in team penning, team roping and ranch work. His parents owned a training and boarding facility south of High River, Alberta, and his love for the western way of life sprouted there. Barron worked on ranches and in feedlots as a young man and the cowboy lifestyle even landed him a film position, riding for John Scott in a few productions. Barron went on to become a cowboy/stunt-guy in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show which took him to France for seven years, working for Disneyland Paris. Returning home, Barron owned a training facility near Turner Valley, Alberta for several years and recently relocated to Millarville, Alberta where Barron Boot Company was established.

Barron, at work in his studio.

A road trip in the fall of 2021 spurred Barron’s boot making journey forward. First, he spent two weeks with Deana Mcguffin, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Here, he gained a basic understanding of the trade and developed an even greater thirst for knowledge. Barron then travelled to Kerrville, Texas to spend time with John Weinkauf. With more than 50 years experience, Weinkauf – a self-taught boot maker – solidified Barron’s direction and set him forward to creating custom footwear in Canada.

Stitching each pair of uppers takes time and precision. The colors, detail and design are fully customized.

Describing his hands-on internship with Weinkauf, Barron stated, “John was so generous with his space, time and knowledge. It was a true privilege and honour to have that opportunity.”

Barron’s workspace is attached to his home. The shop’s character speaks for itself. Adorned with vintage machinery and personal touches, the room is quaint and centered around craftsmanship. The aroma of quality leather and the warmth of unique images and artifacts captivates visitors.

Barron holding a “last,” which is a wooden/plastic model of a foot.

In Barron’s words, “I feel like I have decorated it in a way that both speaks to who I am and where I have been, and what I am interested in. I like to surround myself with things that I find interesting and inspiring. I think it also gives everyone who comes to the shop an insight into who I am.” An eye catching, 750-pound, Curved Needle Stitcher, truly completes Barron’s space. Used to sew soles on boots, Barron describes it as an engineering marvel from the 1950s.

Barron’s process entails roughly 370 steps. Each pair takes about 30 hours to complete. First, Barron takes a tracing and measures the client’s foot. Next, the measurements are transferred from paper to a “last,” which is a wooden/plastic model of a foot. The “last” will be built-up or sanded down, depending on the client’s foot. The toe shape is also added in this step, basically replicating the client’s foot and the overall, lower boot shape. Barron then cuts paper patterns for the upper portion, based on client measurements and the desired boot height. At this time, he will incorporate designs for stitching and add initials/brands, based on the client’s instructions. After selecting the various leathers required, Barron will begin the process of cutting and sewing everything together. The entire process is meticulously carried out and the finished product is outstanding.

Each pair of boots is unique. One of the challenges that Barron enjoys most is achieving a balance between what the client wants and what he thinks will look good. Barron is dedicated to his craft and continually expands his portfolio. From custom footwear to gloves, belts, bags, and more, Barron is game to try it all.

In his words, “I feel that I am building the client a personalized gift or a present. It doesn’t feel like a business transaction to me. That is what motivates me to continue to try and always do better.”


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