Pros and Cons of a Boot Kiltie (Plus Where You Can Find Replacement Kilties)

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by  Jon Wadsworth | Last Updated: 

Hard work can be tough on your boots. 

For tough jobs, adding a boot kiltie to your boots offers an extra layer of protection. From preventing sharp objects from piercing the tongue of your boot to an extra layer of weather protection, a kiltie, or false tongue as they’re also known, is as functional as it is decorative. 

A kiltie adds that little extra to your boots style and level of protection, and offer you peace of mind for those tougher jobs, as well as the added benefit of looking good while they do it. It turns out a kiltie is a surprisingly versatile addition to a pair of boots, they’re not just for show. 

I’m going to cover what benefits a kiltie can offer and what the drawbacks are, so let’s get some tongues wagging, shall we?

What is a Boot Kiltie? 

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Whoever came up with the term boot kiltie hit the nail right on the head because once you see one for the first time, it’s obvious you couldn’t come up with a more perfect name for them. 

Aside from having a great name, what does a boot kiltie actually do? In its most basic form, a kiltie is a strip of leather covering the tongue of your boot to add an extra layer of protection. If you think of a kiltie as a false tongue, which is another name for them, you can get a mental picture of how they work. 

Nicks Boots Kilties

Nicks kilties are the go-to for all makes of boots you have. They have a unique shape and provide an extra cushion to keep the tongue protected from laces and elements.

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Kilties are classically seen on logger boots because while out in the woods chopping trees, it’s not impossible for a sharp branch or root to impale the front of a boot, its weakest point. I’ve never heard of the sole of a boot being punctured by a branch or root, though it’s not impossible, but the tongue of your boot has to be accessible in order to get your boots on.

To reduce the chance of injury and also to just generally protect the softer gusset part of a boot, a shaped piece of leather (the humble kiltie) is tied over the tongue of the boot using your bootlace. It’s a simple yet elegant solution to a problem, and you also get the added benefit of being able to swap out the kiltie if you’re working in an environment that doesn’t need them.

If you’re not already on board, now is probably a good time to go over the pros and cons of kilties; you may find that this simple yet effective boot add-on is just what you’ve been looking for. At the very worst, when someone points at your new kiltie, you get to say the word kiltie, which is always fun. Kiltie.

Pros of Using a Kiltie

1. Enhanced Protection

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For what’s basically a strip of leather attached to the lace of your boot, a kiltie has several features and benefits that can take your boot to the next level. From the top of your boot down to the soles of your feet, you’re pretty much covered, but there’s one obvious entry point where your foot isn’t quite as protected as it possibly could be. And that’s where a kiltie excels.

The primary benefit of a kiltie is what it was originally designed for: protection. Your boots may be rugged, hard-working, and as tough as old, well, boots, but there’s a flaw, the tongue at the front is the weak point.

Anything from debris, muck, mud and razor-sharp shards of wood can penetrate the front of your boot. The gusset has to be soft enough to be pliable and thin enough to be comfortable while on your foot. A kiltie maintains all of these features, with the added benefit of even more protective covering. Usually made with thick full grain leather, a kiltie can and will take a beating for the team.

Logger boots are a perfect showcase for kilties; used in a harsh industry, the risk of accidents are going to be higher than normal, and kilties offer that much needed extra protection. In the same way soldiers wear body armor, a kilte just sits right where it needs to, at the most vulnerable part of your foot. 

Chippewa Waterproof Insulated Steel Toe EH Logger

The Chippewa Steel Toe EH Logger is a high-quality boot with a high-quality price. If you’re going to be exposing your feet to the elements and don’t want to replace your boots every few months, then the Chippewas are your best bet.

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2. Reduce Wear And Tear On Boots

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Anything that adds to the lifespan of your boots is a good thing, right? A really well made pair of boots can be a hefty investment, from dress boots to hard-wearing work boots, you can pay a premium for style, comfort, and protection. The tongue of your boot is usually the softest area, which can lead to fraying, wear on the leather, and generally over time, look a bit tatty.

A kiltie can prevent damage to your boots, which means you get to keep your comfy, pricy boots for much longer. Whether by design or by chance, a kiltie keeps out a lot of the daily grime a work boot encounters, water, mud, and anything else you come into contact with.

It’s relatively easy to maintain most parts of a boot. A good brush and regular maintenance are critical to a long life, but the tongue area is notoriously tricky to keep completely clean. It’s harder to get under the boot, behind the tongue, and invariably, that will become a weak spot. 

I’ve found that one of the best ways to combat this is to add a kiltie, the tick leather is excellent at keeping out grime, and adds an extra layer to the tongue which can really slow down the wear and tear. Given that you might wear your boots often, especially if you work in them, they can take serious abuse over time, and a kiltie will take the brunt of that abuse, and you can simply remove it to clean and condition it, hassle-free.

Nicks Boots Kilties

Nicks kilties are the go-to for all makes of boots you have. They have a unique shape and provide an extra cushion to keep the tongue protected from laces and elements.

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3. Simple to Attach and Replace

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If you can tie a shoelace, you can attach a kiltie. The less effort they take to use and switch over, the better. While that may not sound that important, it’s worth taking into consideration, as you may prefer to wear a kiltie while working, but leave them off for more casual wearing. You’ve now got the potential to have the same pair of boots having double the functionality.

Your work boots are safer and cleaner when adding a kiltie, and then for wearing around town, you could simply remove the kiltie or swap it for another style. There’s no reason why a spare pair of kilties can’t be in the bottom of a rucksack in case of damage while out in your boots. It only takes as long as removing your laces and re-lacing them once your kiltie is in place, and away you go.

Here’s a great guide to lacing up a boot kiltie to make sure it stays in place and you get maximum comfort and stability when wearing your fully accessorized boots. You’ll find that the better you lace up your boots, the less your feet will ache. Once you’ve found the method that suits the shape of your feet, you shouldn’t even notice your boots are tied. 

There is more than one way to skin a cat, so if you don’t find the above video to your liking when it comes to lacing your boots, why not check out our very own YouTube video on how to lace boots like a pro over on the BootSpy Youtube channel? There we show you six expert ways you can lace your boots, and you can easily accommodate your kilties into one of those methods.

4. Laces Feel More Comfortable

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If you find the bridge of your foot sometimes aches after wearing your boots for long periods, it could be the laces are too tight or not quite in the proper position. It’s often the last thing you’ll check if a boot feel uncomfortable on top, but poorly tied boots can add to your discomfort. A kiltie between the tongue of your boot, and your laces, acts as a perfect barrier.

It’s just another neat benefit to attaching a kiltie, as it will distribute the pull of the laces over itself rather than your foot. It could be the solution to your problems, especially if you’re prone to tying your boots up really tight or often feel aching in the top of your feet. A simple add-on like a kiltie could potentially save you from needing a podiatrist.


5. They Actually Look Quite Smart

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If you’ve never seen a kiltie on a boot, you’ll be surprised at how noticeably smarter the boot looks. A functional add-on needn’t be ugly on the eyes. What’s wrong with looking good at the same time? A kiltie won’t detract from your boots normal look, and for a minimal cost could smarten your old boots up, giving them a new lease of life.

There’s several style of kiltie to choose from, and regardless of what type of boot you wear, you can really add something to your boots. For old or new boots, adding a kiltie adds a new look to your boot that’s refreshing. A kiltie can be bold or understated, depending on your preference.

Because they’re replaceable, a kiltie can keep a pair of boots looking fresh too, and as long as you condition them the same way as the rest of your boots, they’ll blend in and add a nice touch of style to your look. 

6. Easily Modified At Home

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I’ll go into the different kinds of kiltie styles later on, but if you find your boot kiltie is a bit frayed or it’s simply beginning to show its age, it doesn’t mean you have to throw it away. You can trim a little off the bottom of the kiltie to give it a nice clean line to it, and it can give your boot a whole new lease of life. 

Modifying your kiltie yourself is as easy as placing a glass over the kiltie and simply cutting around the glass with a sharp knife. If you’re feeling adventurous or you just like the idea of creating your own style, you can be as creative as you want. If you think you’re creative enough to cut out miniatures of Bart Simpson’s head, go wild, they’re your boots.

Nicks Boots Kilties

Nicks kilties are the go-to for all makes of boots you have. They have a unique shape and provide an extra cushion to keep the tongue protected from laces and elements.

Check Best Price
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Cons of Using a Kiltie

Cons is maybe a strong word to use here, and I’m not swaying you to the opinion that kilties are vital; it’s just that because kilties aren’t a necessity if you agree with one of the cons of using a kiltie, the simple answer is don’t use one.

1. They Just Look Too Different

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I’m all about the classic look when it comes to boots, and I don’t want to see a cowboy boot with wifi. If you turn up at my house with boots on that have those lights in the heels that you often see on children’s sneakers, you ain’t coming in, even if you bring beers and snacks. And when it comes to kilties, you may find that you just don’t like them.

And that’s absolutely fine; having the choice is part of the appeal, and if your boots came with kilties, you might have tried them and found them just odd enough to dislike them. If you don’t like chocolate, you just don’t eat it; the same choice should come with your boots. Footwear and clothing are all about your personality; if kilties don’t do it for your style, leave them out.

2. They’re Not Easy to Find

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They aren’t that easy to come across without looking for them, you’ll rarely walk into a store and see a kiltie section, which depending on your feelings, might be a shame, or maybe you don’t care. 

Given that everyone these days is after a side hustle, most of us know someone who makes candles to sell online or those odd little tubs of dead flowers that smell like lavender. I think there’s a niche to be found here. I’m as much of a leatherworker as I am a space cowboy, but if you’re the creative kind, hop to it. My cut is non-negotiable.

3. Kilties Aren’t Necessary

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Kilties aren’t strictly necessary; most of us have lived long, happy lives and never felt the gaping sense of loss that comes from not owning kilties. Part of that may be because you’ve never heard of them, admittedly, but even if you have, perhaps you just don’t see the point of them. It’s noticeable that very few boots are sold with a pair of kilties included, and that’s also true of serious work boots, if they’re that good, why don’t all boots have them?

If you work outdoors in your boots, and there’s some risk involved, then certainly, a kiltie could come in handy one day. As the saying goes, “fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” But day-to-day, you just don’t need a pair of kilties.

I’m not looking for generalizations here; I personally wouldn’t use kilties to protect my feet, as I don’t work outdoors for a living in boots. Would I buy them as an addon to add something to my boots look, even adding a little boot protection in for good measure? Yes, I think I would, I like the look of the classic style of kiltie, but do I have to have them? Not really.

3 Types of Boot Kilties

Boot Kiltie Types

There are three main types of boot kilties, though all do precisely the same job, and the design differences are purely aesthetic. Strangely, considering there’s only so much cutting and design work you can do to a kiltie (unless you really did add cut-outs of Bart Simpson into there), the designs are noticeably different. 

Your choice of kiltie will usually come down to personal preference, I know I have a favorite, and given the choice I would pick that one every time. And depending on the look you’re after, I think one of the three designs usually jumps out at you as something that would look great on your boot. 

As all kilties offer protection and help your boots stay clean and healthy, what type of boot kiltie you choose is entirely up to you. The visible pattern at the front end of the kiltie doesn’t impact their functionality, but you might find one style suits your boot better than another.

Boots come in various colors, made from any number of sources of leather, and luckily you can find kilties in several colors to match your boots. I suppose you could if you wanted to, wear a kiltie of a completely different color to your boot, but again, you won’t be visiting my house in these boots.

Logger Kiltie

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The logger kiltie is the most common of the three types of kiltie, with a jagged cut to it very similar to a saw blade. A classic look that’s been around for almost as long as the kiltie itself, its clean design is smart yet draws attention to the boot in a good way. 

The logger should be reasonably easy to cut yourself if you need to. If it’s started to fray slightly, all you need is a steady hand and a sharp blade, and you can cut the zig-zag shape yourself. I like the logger kiltie look, I’ve seen it before on boots, and it just looks classic, well worth considering.

Danner Logger

The Danner Logger Work Boots are high-performing real-deal logger boots that also look good. Danner is a dependable brand that’s all about checking as many boxes as possible, which makes these boots suitable for work, hikes, and rugged camping trips.

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Packer Kiltie

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The packer kiltie is very similar to the logger, except it has incisions further into the leather, the jagged edge is still noticeable, but the style looks a bit more dress orientated than functional. The packer kiltie is my least favorite design of the three, but that’s just personal preference. And that should be exactly what appeals to you about the kiltie; the choice is yours to make.

If one design stands out above the rest, then you know which way to go. If you know your boots are going to be given a good workout, perhaps avoid the packer kiltie and go with the more rugged logger kiltie instead. 

Casual/Heritage Kiltie

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If you’re holding off from being kilties for your boots because you aren’t a fan of frills and tassels, look no further than the casual or heritage kiltie. With a rounded edge, the heritage kiltie blends in almost seamlessly with your boot, becoming the essence of a false tongue.

This style is my favorite of the three, I prefer a cleaner and more understated look, and while I agree that the logger and packer kiltie is hardy bright pink and covered in glitter, the heritage just suits me. You get all the protection, the ease of use, and the benefit of a cleaner-looking boot, without the frills. 

A bonus to this style is that if your boot is shipped with kilties in one of the other two types of kiltie, as I mentioned above, it’s super easy to simply cut the kiltie into the style you want. 

Where to Buy a Replacement Boot Kiltie

A great place to find replacement boot kilties is Nicks Handmade Boots, the prices are very reasonable, and the selection available is excellent. As well as various styles and colors available, Nicks offers two sizes of kiltie, the standard 7” kiltie and the longer 11” logger boot kiltie. You won’t find many online retailers offering an easier way to source kilties.

Nicks Boots Kilties

Nicks kilties are the go-to for all makes of boots you have. They have a unique shape and provide an extra cushion to keep the tongue protected from laces and elements.

Check Best Price
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Wesco has been making boots and boot accessories since 1918 and has a broad range of colors available for your kiltie needs. Pricing is clear and reasonable, and they also offer two sizes, one for an 8” or shorter boot and one for a 9” or taller boot. Happily, regardless of size or color, the cost of a kiltie from Wesco remains the same, so they’re well worth looking at.

Wesco Kilties

Extra protection for your boots from Wesco. False tongues absorb the damage and, in addition, these simple cuts of leather are easily replaced.

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Conclusion

Regardless of the type you choose, a kiltie can bring a wealth of benefits to your boots, and I especially like the way kilties could bring new life to an older pair of boots. 

If you enjoyed learning about kilties and want to know more about great boots or accessories, why not subscribe to the BootSpy YouTube channel for more great content here?


FAQs

How do you install a kiltie?

When fixing a kiltie to your boot, you have two options, both of which are perfectly acceptable.. You can lay the kiltie in position onto the vamp of your boot and then lace up your boot over it, or you can use the holes in the kiltie to thread your laces through to hold the kiltie in place once you’ve re-laced your boots.

What is a false tongue?

A false tongue is another term for a kiltie, and both terms are interchangeable. The tongue on your boots is overlaid with the false tongue in order to protect your foot from being injured at the weakest point of your boot. A false tongue, or kiltie, offers additional protection, but can also be a great way to add to the aesthetics of your boots.

Where do kilties originate?

The kiltie is hundreds of years old, first developed in Scotland, potentially as long ago as 1457. The often muddy and damp Scottish weather would wreak havoc with gentlemen’s shoes, especially while out on the muddy roads of Scotland, and as this was long before wellington boots had been dreamed of, a solution needed to be found.

The outdoor shoe of the time was the same as someone’s indoor shoe, and kilties were designed to try and protect the shoes of the gentry. As we know them today, Kilts weren’t used until the 18th century, though a longer version using the same term had been in use for many years.

Due to their Scottish beginnings, the term kiltie seems to most likely be in reference to their use alongside a kilt. Kilties were used to cover the laces of shoes when worn alongside a kilt, and so the name has stuck.

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