Failing this, does anyone know a good cobbler in 19104?
November 14, 2009 9:06 PM   Subscribe

Help me find a pair of decent, grown-up shoes to wear to work, that will last me more than six months. Preferably for less than $100 a pair.

Maybe it's just my feet. A few months ago, I picked up a nice looking pair of brown leather Steve Madden shoes from a nearby shoe store. They were on sale for $65. They looked good and were comfortable, and figured they'd be a great option to replace my previous shoes (Rockports), wherein the soles had been worn down to the point where parts of the heel were even with the front sole. *Those* replaced a pair of shoes (Bill Blass) that had detached from the sole.

Anyway, those nice Steve Maddens? They've fallen apart. The leather on the outside edge of BOTH shoes has detached from the sole--looking like it's been ripped, not just popped.

So, in eighteen months, I've gone through three pairs of not-cheap shoes. I just want a pair that won't fall apart that fast. I really don't know where to go here.

Am I underpricing my shoes? I really don't have the ability to drop $2-300 on shoes. I need to eat, after all. What can I do?

(Pertinent Info: I'm a size 11, and normal-ish width. I manage to wear Chuck Taylors, which run narrow, with no discomfort or falling-apart issues. I've had my two pairs of Chucks for over a year.)
posted by SansPoint to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (25 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I know this doesn't help with the sub-$100 issue, but wearing the same pair of shoes every day wears them out faster than you would think. Shoes benefit from a day or so of recovery.

I heard this once, and it has seemed to hold true for me: three pairs of shoes, rotated regularly, will last as long as five pairs of shoes worn every day.
posted by crickets at 9:11 PM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding rotating dress shoes. Using shoe trees will also increase the lifespan of your shoes. You can snag some Allen-Edmonds off ebay at a substantial discount. They are high-quality shoes that will last a long time.
posted by maishuno at 9:16 PM on November 14, 2009

For shoes I only buy Rockport. I bought a pair on a whim in college, and they lasted through three years of on campus walking, they were really the only shoes I owned, besides workout shoes. Then I had them resoled, and they lasted another 2.

I've had 2 knee surgeries and an ankle reconstruction, so comfort is my #1 buying incentive, but the durability of those Rockports kept me coming back.
posted by sanka at 9:18 PM on November 14, 2009

sanka I ought to show you the soles of my Rockports. Maybe I just got a bum pair, but there's seriously something f'd up with how the soles wore down on these.
posted by SansPoint at 9:19 PM on November 14, 2009

Also, if you are going to rotate shoes, have a rubber soled, more inexpensive pair as devoted for use in inclement weather.
posted by maishuno at 9:21 PM on November 14, 2009

I might be wrong here, but Steven Madden shoes are mostly marketed to teenagers. "Juniors" clothes and shoes are typically made of cheaper materials, with cheaper workmanship. I don't think you'll be able to get anything decent for under $100.

Also, 3 pairs of shoes for 18 months, that's presumably 6 months of nonstop wearing of a single pair? I don't think that's unusual at all.

I couldn't find the exact quote, but here is a paraphrase of something Terry Pratchett wrote: "...I find I am often explaining Vimes theory of why the poor stay poor and the rich stay rich to other people: The poor are poor because they can only afford to buy cheap shoes, which are poor quality and don't last. So over their lifetime they buy many pairs of shoes and spend much more than the rich folk who buy expensive shoes that last a lifetime."
posted by halogen at 9:23 PM on November 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

Seconding Allen-Edmonds and rotating your shoes - have a nice pair of brown and black. As maishuno says, you can sometimes find AEs on discount on eBay; I've found that and Zappos sometimes have good deals too.

You mentioned that you burned through three pairs of shoes in 18 months, so assuming each one of those was about $100, thats $300 for 18 months of shoe wearing. For $300 you could buy a nice pair of AEs that will last you for much longer if you take care of them, and look way nicer than chunky sneaker-soled $100 shoes. Consider it an investment.
posted by pravit at 9:26 PM on November 14, 2009

Steve Maddens are really cheaply made, and uncomfortable to boot; forget 'em, and any of their juniors ilk (Chinese Laundry, etc.)

I have three pairs of Clarks, all costing around $100 or less (they have frequent sales). As a brand, I find that their styles seem to vacillate wildly between OMG Cute (often in their Indigo line) and OMG Hideous; my faves from the past year or two all seem to have been phased out, but these are in the ballpark of what I'm talking about. Very comfortable and have held up quite well so far. I also have a pair of Sofft heels that I got for about the same price that have also held up very well and are quite comfortable, too.

As others have said: definitely rotate your dress shoes throughout the week. Also, I've finally gotten in the habit of wearing driving shoes (just an old, beat-up pair of flats I keep in the car). I've started doing both over the past couple of years and have been amazed at how much better my shoes hold up now.
posted by scody at 9:27 PM on November 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Shoes typically last me about 6 months. I do walk about 2 1/2 miles every day, but 3 pairs in 18 months, wearing the same pair every day, sounds about right.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:27 PM on November 14, 2009

nthing rotating shoes...know from personal experience this is the case...

two suggestions, if your looking for actual rec's for shoes:

ask andy about clothes forums

art of manliness forums
posted by knockoutking at 9:33 PM on November 14, 2009

Also, if you live in an area with a lot of rain or snowy winters and you do a lot of walking, you could consider wearing ugly shoes during your commute and keeping your nice shoes at the office. Tons of people in Toronto do this in the winters (some even year-round).

Also I think SansPoint is looking for men's shoes recs judging from his profile
posted by pravit at 9:35 PM on November 14, 2009

Another thought on rotating shoes. Can you store your "work" shoes at work? Go to work in your beat-up, but sturdy sneakers and then change into your grown-up shoes. They'll last a lot longer this way.
posted by ODiV at 9:36 PM on November 14, 2009

HA! Oh man, so sorry, I just assumed you were a woman (or a trans man, I guess). Sorry for the lady-specific recommendations.

I stand by the suggestion to rotate shoes through the week and to use driving shoes, though.
posted by scody at 9:41 PM on November 14, 2009

(Oh, and Clarks makes men's shoes, too.)
posted by scody at 9:45 PM on November 14, 2009

I rotate two pairs of Ecco's -- several years old now. Buffalo butter keeps them looking spiffy.
posted by mmdei at 9:52 PM on November 14, 2009

Well, just bought a pair of black Allen Edmonds from eBay for $55. That'll get me started, at least.
posted by SansPoint at 10:02 PM on November 14, 2009

Folks have the right idea here. Years ago my father (who grew up at a time when you didn't show your face outdoors if you weren't in a nice suit-think Mulholland Falls or Mad Men and you'll get my drift) told me a "good pair of shoes with a cheap suit will take you further in life than a cheap pair of shoes and a nice suit." If at all possible you should buy at least two pair of a very good brand of shoe with a traditional leather sole. This way you can have them re-soled when the time comes. I'm seconding Allen Edmonds as well as adding To Boot New York by Adam Derrick and Johnston & Murphy. Johnston and Murphy, while not being in the same league as AE and To Boot are very good and long lasting, and typically 2/3 to half the price. Always use shoe trees (preferably cedar) and rotate shoes, giving them a day's rest at the very least. If you're not allergic wool dress socks can help, as they manage your foot temps and perspiration much better than cotton. Using this practice I have kept shoes with plenty of years and city blocks on them looking like new. Pravit is correct; it is an investment, in yourself.
posted by chosemerveilleux at 10:04 PM on November 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Seconding Sofft; I have a great pair of black suede heels from them that I have in heavy rotation right now. They have a sturdy, comfortable, good-quality feel that I find quite rare. My other favorites are from JL Coombs, which is a store that seems to carry only brands that are actually decently built. I've had Clarks in the past that were amazing, though all of them are retired now. I liked my Duck Head shoes a lot at first, but they wore oddly, perhaps because I overpronate and eventually unabalanced them. That might not be true for most people - and it was a side effect of their being so adaptable to different feet and so comfortable - they were my #1 shoes for a while, and that can be good enough.

The pair I swear by most? Doc Marten Mary Janes. Tough, durable, stable, comfortable, and good-looking (they actually look much nicer than this picture). The pair I've had now I've been wearing for years - at least five years- and if they're wearing down at all, I can't tell.

My sister-in-law works on her feet all day every day in her coffee shop, and wears only Dansko.
posted by Miko at 10:05 PM on November 14, 2009

One tip I've heard for making shoes last is to have a rubber sole added over the leather sole before you start wearing them. It's pretty cheap to have done and you can then repeat as necessary while the real sole stays intact.
posted by grapesaresour at 10:13 PM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding graesaresour -- and adding a rubber sole doesn't just work for leather-bottomed shoes. I have a pair of Danskos that have lasted at least three years. I got the shoe repair store to put rubber on the soles, and re-rubberize every time it wears low, and that helps a lot. Cobblers can likewise fix minor problems before they become major problems.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:28 PM on November 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Don't have a lot to add as far as brands, but you keep mentioning your soles wear out preamaturely. This makes me wonder if you have problems with pronation or supination and if so if you might benefit from a fitted insert of some type.
posted by TedW at 3:44 AM on November 15, 2009

Echoing TedW. If you have an atypical gait you can put some really uneven wear on your shoes and blow through the soles quickly. Podiatrists are the real experts in this regard, but if that seems too extreme, it might be worth a visit to a very good running shoe store to get a gait analysis. Lots of commercially-available inserts can correct minor problems.
posted by Sublimity at 6:53 AM on November 15, 2009

Go read my MeTa post, and follow the links to some truly excellent shoe advice.
posted by theora55 at 8:11 AM on November 15, 2009

I have had good luck with Ecco shoes.
posted by Drasher at 8:16 AM on November 15, 2009

If you feel the shoes wore out abnormally fast or the wear may have been caused by a defect, you may want to try contacting the maker to see about a replacement. I did this with a pair of Clarks that the heel cap fell off of after only 4 months and they were very nice about it and walked me through the exchange process. I should get the replacement pair in a few weeks. Might be worth a try.
posted by platinum at 1:01 PM on November 15, 2009

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