Women’s shoes with superior construction.
January 10, 2013 3:11 PM   Subscribe

I am searching for beautifully crafted, durable women’s shoes made from leather that will last for years. I know this is a tough bill to fit so I am not limiting this search to any particular kind of shoe or price range. For boots, I typically look for strong welting (Goodyear method) but this is increasingly difficult to find. I love the look of Frye’s but most seem poor quality for the money. For example, the outsole and upper are simply glued together in most models (although the engineer boots look pretty solid). For heels/dress shoes, I am interested in full-grain leather instead of the bonded or “genuine” stuff. I’ve heard good things about Fluevog and Chie Mihara, but haven’t looked into them yet. Any experiences? What other brands might have these qualities? Are there high quality men’s shoe brands out there that also make shoes for women?
posted by turniphead to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (20 answers total) 100 users marked this as a favorite
For boots: I looove White's. They make packboots and smoke jumper boots for women and men, but I wear the "Lady Packers" casually. They are extremely well-made, and you pay for the quality. They last forever and they will re-build/repair as necessary. The Frye's I had were actually fairly good quality, but I had a vintage pair and I doubt the quality has kept up with their recent "diversification."
posted by stinker at 3:15 PM on January 10, 2013

Crockett and Jones or Church's perhaps? I'm looking forward to getting a pair of brogues or loafers from one of them.
posted by peripathetic at 3:17 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Swedish Hasbeens and No. 6 shoes.
posted by greta simone at 3:19 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Cydwoq makes beautiful, high quality shoes. They are built incredibly well. (I've only worn the mens)
posted by gyusan at 3:25 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I came in to suggest Cydwoq, too. My other favorites are Arche and Pikolinos.
posted by kimdog at 4:11 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I own a pair of El Naturalista boots and I recommend them. I haven't worn them heavily but they've lasted for years and feel great. If you go into their shop they talk about hand construction and each piece of leather being different, etc. Also, though I don't own these, I've been admiring everything at a.b.k...(if money is no issue...so gorgeous)
posted by biscuits at 5:14 PM on January 10, 2013

I'm no expert, but I strongly recommend Think! shoes (on Zappos, and their own website). I believe they're handmade in Austria, and most of their shoes (all except the sandals, I think) have removable cork insoles that you can replace and your shoes are basically as good as new. They're also made with expensive and very high quality materials (vegetable-tanned leather, etc.) and hypoallergenic - I'm allergic to almost all shoes (definitely allergic to chrome-tanned leather, and possibly allergic to other things - I can't wear Birkenstocks, Pikolinos, or other natural brands), and these are the one brand I've never gotten an itchy rash from. They're literally the only shoes that I wear. I used to order them from Germany, but as of fairly recently, you can get them in the US. I can't speak for their durability over a very long time, but mine are going strong after a few years, with no signs of wear and tear (I've replaced the insoles and conditioned the leather with Lexol, but otherwise nothing else). They're a bit pricey but you can sometimes find them on sale if you time it right.
posted by UniversityNomad at 5:34 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

Aurora Shoe Company makes shoes to order based on a tracing of your feet. I could only presume that the quality is good, but I know nothing of such things, so I leave it to you to decide.
posted by absquatulate at 5:37 PM on January 10, 2013

Bass loafers are well-made, comfortable and classic. I wish they still made wide 6 1/2s.
posted by theora55 at 7:02 PM on January 10, 2013

Born is a really quality brand. I have had shoes of theirs that have lasted 8 or 9 years! For a long time I thought they did the comfy, sensible but kind of plain shoe only, but recently I bought some nice heeled oxfords of theirs which are not only comfy, but look really nice, too. I get complements every time I wear them. (Though to be fair, people could just be surprised to see me in heels) But, seriously, these shoes last a long time with a lot of daily wear. They are to shoes as Hanro is to undies.
posted by mkim at 7:23 PM on January 10, 2013

I have handled Aurora shoes - they were very nicely made and used great leather but seemed prone to stretching as they are unlined and also if you have a high arch or a foot that is thick top to bottom, they may not be a good fit - they have a very low profile. If you like shoes to look worn-in/patinated (not "worn out", just not crisp and shiny) they seem like very nice shoes.

Fiorentini & Baker shoes and boots are also mostly very well made - I've had several pairs. The ones with the leather soles with an inset rubber logo wear through very fast, though - they don't seem to use good leather for the soles. The solution is to get a topy/sole-cover put on them at your cobbler. I particularly like the "Elf" boots with the folded leather. I did have a pair which started out blue and the leather dye ran in the rain so that they ended up a handsome, streaky grey - but they held up well and honestly, I got a bunch of compliments on how they looked after they turned grey. F&Bs are pretty casual-looking and run a bit big and wide.

Trippen shoes are these artsy shoes from Germany - the best constructed are the leather lined shoes in the "closed" line. The Vivienne (sort of an ankle strap mary jane) is a wonderful, wonderful shoe that I've gotten a million compliments on. They are welted shoes. They run a little bit big - I wear a large 10 in women's shoes (and a wide 10 when I can get it) and the trippen 41s fit me perfectly. There are several sellers in the US but you can also order from Germany - their international service is absolutely reliable.

I have heard nothing but good things about Rancourt - be sure to check out the men's shoes as well, since all the styles are basically unisex and they make the shoes custom, so I am pretty sure that they'd make the men's shoes in women's sizes.

I've also heard good things about Dehner boots - and this sort of oxford/monkstrap cross is very charming.

If you are determined to break the bank, you can get women's Trickers via the Shoe Healer in the UK. Trickers are gorgeous shoes that I can vouch for personally, although my pairs are all men's sizes that I got gently used via eBay. Women's styles are very hard to find for Trickers. If you wear a women's 8 or 9 or larger, though, you can buy a UK men's size 6 or 7. I wear a men's 8/women's 10, and mine are a UK 7.5. But they are expensive new - you're looking at ~$400.
posted by Frowner at 7:48 PM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

Papabear and I have been wearing John Fluevog shoes for more than 20 years and just love them. Excellent quality and construction. They also really stand by their shoes in terms of repairs when needed (mostly for re-sole-ing).
posted by mamabear at 8:59 PM on January 10, 2013

I have some Fluevog Oxfords that I like very much. They have held up well to heavy use. I'm not an expert in shoe construction (these are the first expensive shoes I've had) so I can't comment on those details.
posted by medusa at 9:32 PM on January 10, 2013

Seconding Churches and C&J for great old fashioned artisanal quality. Both are well worth the money, although leather soles can be high maintenance. I can also vouch for Trippen, whose shoes appear to be indestructible.

You might also try stalking Yoox.com for Italian artisanal quality and design at a knockdown price. It looks very spendy, but make a wish list, watch the prices drop and wait for the free shipping and promotional codes to come up. I've had great experience with Marsell and Santoni, both of which are available there, along with top designers such as Prada and Margiela 22, who also produce in Italy to very high standards.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 4:17 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you like service boots, or packers, another place to look at is Dayton. I own a pair of both and a motorcycle boot that's not listed on the site (maybe they don't make them any longer?) and have nothing, but good things to say.

Fluevog? I see them gets lots of praise on the green, but I've had nothing but trouble with them. One pair started to fall apart (the sole was coming away from the upper) after wearing them for two days, the staff at the store were impossible to deal with so I never went back.
posted by squeak at 5:40 AM on January 11, 2013

Frye made good boots back in the late 70s / early 80s (at least the men's boots were well constructed - I don't have any personal experience with the women's boots). Hie thee to a vintage clothing store?
posted by DaveP at 8:44 AM on January 11, 2013

Liebling makes amazingly stylish, comfortable and well-crafted shoes/pumps/boots. They're based in Tel Aviv but have an online shop and ship all over the world, and they are happy to accommodate special orders if you need a particular style cut, sized or crafted a certain way.
posted by muirne81 at 8:58 AM on January 11, 2013

another vote (by proxy) for Trippen.
posted by progosk at 9:10 AM on January 11, 2013

For dress shoes look at Capezio dance shoes with leather (not suede, those are really for dance use only) soles.
posted by yohko at 1:54 PM on January 11, 2013

I'm pretty happy with the Josef Seibel boots I got recently. The leather is gorgeous. Being used to shoes made in China, I was pleased to see these are made in Europe (Bulgaria).
posted by MelanieL at 3:40 PM on January 11, 2013

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