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JK Boots Climber Review: Serious Duty Work Boots

So you’ve heard about JK boots, but before dropping serious coin, maybe you’re wondering if you should go with any of the other Pacific Northwest boot brands.

Well, for this kind of investment, I don’t blame you for wondering. I’m reviewing my JK Boots here to give you all the details you need to know before buying.

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JK Boots Climber
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Bottom line: The JK Boots Climber is similar to their popular Superduty boot (but with an extra patch of roughout leather along the inside of the boot for added durability). The 8oz roughout leather is incredibly rugged and durable, and the 8mm oak tanned midsole is the thickest midsole I’ve ever seen.

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Pros:
  • This is as durable as boots get
  • The Vibram RedX outsole has tons of tread and is thick enough to last years
  • The entire insole, midsole, and outsole construction stack is the most robust I’ve personally ever seen
Cons:
  • It’s fairly wide and quite bulbous in the toe, so it may take a bit to fit your boots with climber spikes

I recently made a video of the best American boot brands and the one comment that kept coming up over and over again was: where’s JK Boots?

I’ll admit, I hadn’t heard of JK when I made the video. 

But I certainly knew about them after I read through the comments. 

So I figured I had to give these guys a try. Since they’re mainly focused on work boots and wildland firefighting boots, I decided to give their Climber a try. 

As a professional boot reviewer, I spend most of my time at my desk and not climbing trees or scouring the wildlands for fires. But I still have some insight on how these boots are made and how they stack up against the competition.

So here’s what I thought.

JK Boots Climber Overview

JK Boots redwood climber boots on white background

I picked up the Climber from JK because it’s quite similar to their “bread and butter” Superduty boots, only the climber has an extra panel of roughout leather along the medial side of the foot for greater durability when climbing trees or pole spires.

And I got a safety toe (ASTM rated composite) as well. I gotta say, these things feel like absolute tanks on my feet. It’s great. 

Author wearing JK Boots

The Climber is a 10” boot with brass hardware and an all-leather stitchdown build. It’s a textbook example of a great Pacific Northwest work boot.

You can also go custom with this style of boot if you’d like. You can choose between a 6” and an 18” height for the boot (18” is almost up to your knee). And if you get a 10” boot or higher, you can also add a knife sheath.   

Things to Consider Before Buying JK Boots

JK Boots climber boots in redwood roughout on model

JK has about a 2-3 month wait time for their fully custom orders, which you can expedite to one month for an added cost. 

That might sound like a long time, but that’s basically the Amazon Prime of Pacific Northwest boots. 

For wildland firefighters and anyone working a trade that’s super tough on boots, I’m going to be honest: I just don’t have the ability to test these types of boots to the degree where I can really say how durable they are. The most rugged I get is some hiking and camping every once in a while. 

But from what I can tell, JK Boots are right up there with the most durable boots in the world. I discuss this a bit more below, but the midsole is 8mm thick. That’s very thick for a midsole, and it’s not going to break down any time soon.

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JK Boots Climber
Get $20 OFF with code BOOTSPY

Give these a bit of time to break in (especially the heel cup), and you’ll find they will be one of the most comfortable and supportive lineman boots you ever wear. They’re tough, sturdy, crafted to withstand temperatures up to 900F, and offer the safe protection of an ASTM-rated composite hard toe. They're on the higher end of the price spectrum, but the quality on offer is outstanding.

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JK Boots Climber Review

First Impression

JK Boots climber profile view detail

I’ve never seen a midsole with an 8mm thickness. You could shoot these things with a bazooka and that midsole would still be intact. 

The signature look of a JK Boot is the roughout bottom and the smooth leather upper. The roughout bottom keeps the boots protected from scratches and abrasion on the job. A scratch on a roughout is also a lot less noticeable than smooth leather.

author william barton in JK Boots climber

I opted for the Redwood color with a nice copper roughout leather and a brown smooth leather. But you can also get grey, black, brown, or even customize the colors of your boots. 

One thing to note is that with the non-steel safety toe, you can see the safety toe bulging the leather out a bit. You might not mind that—and it may be a necessary element depending on your use-case.

Leather Quality and Care

JK Boots medial side lineman patch detail

The leather is 8oz oil tanned leather from the Seidel Tanning Co in Milwaukee, which is where pretty much all the best boot brands source a lot of their leather from. 

There’s also Horween and Wickett and Craig, but for work boots, Seidel is the go-to. In any case, this 8oz leather is thick. 

Most boots you try on might be a 4oz leather. Some great boots might bump that up to a 6oz leather. And then you have the Pacific Northwest beasts that use 8oz. 

author wearing JK Boots superduty boots

This is exactly what you want if you work a trade that’s tough on boots. Add an additional lineman patch on the inside and you won’t be wearing through these climbing boots any time soon. 

One thing I really liked was that JK shipped their boots with some Obenauf’s Leather Oil. This is a different formulation than the Heavy Duty LP, and is a bit lighter and more for conditioning than full waterproofing. 

I’m probably not going to use the leather oil on my boots because I truly don’t need to. But if you’re working in damp conditions or a lot of rain, you may want to add a layer of boot oil before you get out to work with these boots the first day. 

But that’s not mandatory—the roughout leather and smooth upper are fine with some water and you can always condition your boots in a week or two. 

Sole

JK Boots vibram sole detail while walking

The sole is the most impressive part of this boot for me. 

The Climber is made with a 270-degree stitchdown build—common for most Pacific Northwest work boots. 

JK Boots sole detail on white background

The insole is oak tanned leather, and the midsole is a fat hunk of oak tanned leather. It’s skived down toward the forefoot but the heel ends up being a full two inches tall. 

There’s a leather stacked heel and the outsole is a Vibram RedX Outsole, which is NFPA Fire rated, so you can wear this if you’re a wildland firefighter. 

The heel counter is a thick piece of leather and there’s also a leather shank which has the benefit of being a little easier on the insole once you start to hit the 5 year mark.

JK Boots sole close up with vibram red

Overall, the sole is really well built and I think it’s the most impressive aspect of this boot entirely. 

Get $20 OFF with code BOOTSPY
JK Boots Climber
Get $20 OFF with code BOOTSPY

Give these a bit of time to break in (especially the heel cup), and you’ll find they will be one of the most comfortable and supportive lineman boots you ever wear. They’re tough, sturdy, crafted to withstand temperatures up to 900F, and offer the safe protection of an ASTM-rated composite hard toe. They're on the higher end of the price spectrum, but the quality on offer is outstanding.

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

Fit and Sizing

JK Boots superduty roughout leather in redwood

I’m a 10.5D on the Brannock and got a 10 average. The boots fit a little large, but JK also shipped some inserts along with the boots and once I popped those in, the fit was perfect

I don’t mind the larger size—I’d say it’s still in range of something I’d wear without inserts. I think that’d come in handy particularly if you’re wearing gaffs and you’ve been working for six or seven hours and your feet are starting to swell. 

You can get custom sizing if you have uncommon sizing for your feet. 

Break-in Period

author william barton in JK Boots

The break in period wasn’t too tough. I figured I was in for disaster with the amount of oak tanned leather in the insole and midsole, plus the 8oz leather. 

But it actually wasn’t bad at all. 

It took me a bit to get used to how heavy these boots are, but other than that, I was able to wear my boots for a full day right away. It wasn’t like putting on a pair of sneakers, but it also wasn’t difficult either. 

My Thoughts Overall On the JK Boots Climber

What I Like

  • 8oz roughout leather and about a half-inch of oak tanned leather through the insole and midsole—this is as durable as boots get.

  • The Vibram RedX outsole has tons of tread and is thick enough to last years, plus is NFPA fire rated.

  • The entire insole, midsole, and outsole construction stack is the most durable I’ve personally seen. 

What I Don’t Like

  • These boots are quite wide and heavy—great for durability, but can take a little longer to slip into spikes/gaffs, and they’re not quite as agile. 

Who is JK Boots for?

JK Boots is an excellent brand if you don’t want to go through the 6 month wait time and you need a pair of serious work boots.

The Verdict

I’m really impressed with JK Boots. The Climber is a tank of a boot and it’s surprisingly comfortable for how much oak tanned leather is in the midsole. 

One thing’s for sure: these aren’t going to wear out any time soon. 

I like their shorter wait time compared to most other custom boot makers. From a quality perspective, the construction and materials don’t get better than this, at least for work boots.

Get $20 OFF with code BOOTSPY
JK Boots Climber
Get $20 OFF with code BOOTSPY

Give these a bit of time to break in (especially the heel cup), and you’ll find they will be one of the most comfortable and supportive lineman boots you ever wear. They’re tough, sturdy, crafted to withstand temperatures up to 900F, and offer the safe protection of an ASTM-rated composite hard toe. They're on the higher end of the price spectrum, but the quality on offer is outstanding.

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

FAQs

Who is JK Boots owned by?

JK Boots is owned by John Khadzhi and his sons. John learned bootmaking in Maldova and Ukraine before coming to the US and eventually starting JK Boots in Spokane, Washington.

When was JK Boots founded?

JK Boots was founded in 1996.

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