Randy Merrell

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Randy Merrell is a boot maker and medical pedorthist. His custom boots with their signature blue laces draw people to his humble, dugout lab in rural Utah.

While growing up near Vernal, Utah, Merrell helped run the family farm—the home of 40 acres and Arabian horses—and do chores for his father. One of the chores was a monthly trip into town to get his father’s shoes repaired.

On a trip to Salt Lake City, Merrell fell in love with a pair of Tony Lama boots. The price tag was $67 and his father refused to pay it. So Merrell saved to buy the boots himself. His next pair of boots came to him in Brazil for $13. Merrell was laboring as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and came across a shoemaker named Pedro Barrato. Merrell was awed by Barrato’s trade—most of which was machinery free. After his mission concluded, Merrell went to Boston to attend the Lynn Independent Industrial Shoemaking School where he learned pattern making and machine maintenance.

Back in Vernal, he began developing hiking boots better suited for the American terrain. In 1981 he wrote a seven-page article on selection and fit that found its way to two men in Vermont who wanted to back Merrell Boots. Within two years it was a multimillion dollar enterprise. At one time, Backpacker Magazine named the boots “the most comfortable and functional boots in North America.” But the personal cost for working with his dream became too high and he left it for a company on a smaller scale that would allow him more time with his wife and sons. Merrell Boots became a subdivision of Wolverine World Wide. His new venture, called Merrell Footlab, involved conducting boot-making seminars and creating orthotics. He grew into the niche of helping people who needed custom boots.

Rather than using digital scanning technology common today, Randy uses a foam box to capture an impression. He physically presses a client’s foot down into the foam. 
“That allows me to capture the foot making the motion that it needs to be making, not the motion that it’s been making on its own causing the problem,” said Randy. “So, there’s where the magic happens—the position we capture the foot in.”
He says this step is critical, because many people that dispense orthotics often just replicate the problem by capturing the motion the foot has been making on its own, and this can sometimes make things worse.
Once Randy’s completed the impression, he uses it to fabricate the orthotics.[1]

“I have two goals for myself,” Randy revealed. “First, to treat people as I would choose to be treated myself. The second goal is to knock their socks off.”[2]

Merrell has known heartbreak in his life—he lost his father, son Luke, his wife, and his grandson Jackson tragically. But his faith in God sustains him and he finds meaning in his losses. He has been a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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