Help me replace my bum-around, easy on/off, handyman shoes!
August 11, 2014 10:01 AM   Subscribe

I have some great shoes I love that are ... falling apart. [pic] Unfortunately, they've been discontinued! I can get something sort of similar but there are still some drawbacks. Diligent searching hasn't turned up my perfect work shoe, though. In short, I want something tough like a work boot, easy to put on and take off (i.e. velcro straps), but with walking-shoe type soles and as light as possible.

I have two snowflake limitations. First is that I have a pretty high instep. I was unhappy with shoes all my life until I discovered Wissota Trader, their Vibram-type-sole Oxford-look walking shoes called Walkabouts. (The quick-grip was introduced later.) I could get these in my exact comfort "size" by getting an 11½ EEE width, which compensated for my instep/arch while keeping the shoe both tight enough and loose enough. I bought these shoes in a gradually expanding variety for 25 years and still have a handful of dressy-for-corporate pairs (but now only rare opportunities to wear them).

The second limitation is that I really, really like the quick grip, especially now that I'm diabetic and have unpredictable sensitivity and swelling in my feet. In fact I spend as little time as possible wearing shoes and just put them on when needed, and I like the ability to adjust the tightness on the fly. So a strong preference for that sort of closure, over the extra time and complexity (and hard on my knees/hips squatting) of tying laces.

Aside: It's great that now New Balance, Dr. Scholl's, Propét, and others have very similar shoes to these nowadays. I've tried them in stores and medical offices and while they look and feel nice they do not seem as old-school durable as the Wissota/Mason versions that have been my life's mainstay.

So, a few years ago Wissota offered this (see 1st pic) brushed buck finish, which allowed it to be a sort of hiking/handyman shoe that didn't look like hell when scuffed. I really wish I'd managed to buy a couple more pairs when Wissota closed operations last year, but cash was super tight. That would have tided me over for a while, anyway. But I've never loved a pair of shoes quite the way I've loved these -- and they are obviously beyond their last mile. (Actually I may try to see how they manage resoled, but that's another story.)

Now, I can get Walkabouts still through the B.A. Mason company as linked above, but in much more basic, and dressy, styles. In fact, I can get this shoe in a chukka style, which is sort of my Plan A. It's still going to have that dressy look, though, that will be pretty pathetic once it's scuffed up from working on my rental property.

Anyway, I like a lot of Duluth Trading products and I did try their Wild Boar Moc. Unfortunately my instep made them very nearly impossible to get on and off. (There's a stretchy connector under the tongue, but it doesn't stretch nearly enough for me.) Scratch that experiment. Plan C might be a too-large size of these, though, and I wouldn't be able to use them in all the ways I would a properly-tightened shoe.

If I had to say what I think I would like in a shoe it's fairly close to something like DT's Grindstone Low Work Boots. Tough, modern soles like a walker, a bit of a cross between a hiking boot and a work(site) boot. But it's laced, of course. This is my Plan B -- I could go either way, but I'll probably go for the lighter, but less durable, comfort (and quick grips) of the Chukkas. If those are my only two real choices.

So, here's the challenge, AskMe -- can you show me something that will work for me given these parameters? Something with the hide of a work boot, the longterm walkability of a hiker, the lightness of a casual walker, and all (most?) of that with a quick grip closure as well? I feel frustrated to be so picky and apparently in a way that doesn't support even a niche market, but maybe with all the possibilities out there now, somebody has something that will be a bit closer to what I think I want.
posted by dhartung to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total)
I wear pretty much nothing but Brooks Addiction Walkers. I walk about 3 miles a day, and they're good-looking enough for my IT office. When they get too scruffy for the office, they get demoted to weekend wear. I'm a 14B, but my brother is a 15E, and he loves them, too--he's on his feet pretty much 8 hours at a time for work. They come in nubuck, and with velcro straps.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:11 AM on August 11, 2014

Best answer: Blundstone work boots.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:12 AM on August 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Timberland has a pair of chukka style boots on final clearance here that fit the bill except there is minimal laces not velcro.
posted by 724A at 10:39 AM on August 11, 2014

Best answer: I love Keen slip-ons. They hit all your marks except the adjustibility, but they're extremely comfortable and forgiving on the elastic. I have high arches and wide feet (but not EEE) as well, and they're great for support. A great walking shoe. I've used them many times on dayhikes as well.
posted by bonehead at 10:47 AM on August 11, 2014

Merrell Chameleon 2 hiking shoes. My feet are a bit like yours and there is nothing I've found more comfortable. REI sell them. Meets your needs as described.
posted by Thistledown at 10:57 AM on August 11, 2014

Best answer: I have to recommend going to a specialty shoe store, such as Foot Solutions. They can look at your walk and recommend a shoe based upon your medical and lifestyle needs.
posted by heathrowga at 10:57 AM on August 11, 2014

Response by poster: These are good suggestions, although most have at least one strike against them, even if they mainly look comfortable. I'm not ignoring that, it's just more of a starting point for me. The Blundstone boots look interesting in a way that makes me wonder if I had them whether another shoe would meet my other needs as well (i.e. one pair for this and one for that).

Just to give fuller objections to indicate my thought process (not dissatisfaction with your assistance in any way!):
* The Brooks Walkers look like perfectly fine walkers, but not heavy-duty enough. The strap variation doesn't come in nubuck, either. :(
* Worried about the elastic gore on the Blundstone boots.
* Timberland chukkas look to have the older-style stiff shoe body and perhaps not as robust a walking sole as I depend upon. (Also, that clearance style isn't in my size.)
* The Keens could work for the more casual side of things, but again, not as heavy-duty as I have in mind. Keep in mind this is a flaw I lived with in the Walkabouts and why they are too beat up to use now.
* Those Chameleons do look close, for a tougher tennies-style, but I really think I want something more in their boot-like range and I can't find a velcro closure.

Foot Solutions looks interesting but the nearest one is a ways away. I'll keep them in mind, definitely.

Thing is, if I could get my bike fixed, lose 25 pounds, and a few other lifestyle changes, I might be able to do all that bending and stretching and squatting to be able to put up with laces again -- and I might not need to do as much adjusting with fewer symptoms of discomfort in my feet. So in a lot of ways this is totally on me and I'm aware of that.

But ultimately I ended up with these beloved, soon-to-be-missed shoes out of practical necessity, so I think I'm going to have to deal with my few available options.
posted by dhartung at 11:50 AM on August 11, 2014

Best answer: I beat the hell out of my last pair of Blundstone workboots, and they lasted years. They finally had to be retired when I walked the soles off -- the uppers were still in fine shape, including the elastic, if that is any help. They are super-comfortable boots, and really easy to get on and off. I need to get another pair...
posted by fimbulvetr at 11:59 AM on August 11, 2014

My wife works in a podiatrist's office and orders shoes for diabetics all the time. They use several different vendors, and the quality varies from good to poor, so I can't make any recommendations other than suggesting it as a Google search aid.

Although most shoe stores sell on fashion, there should be one not too far away that handles prescription and medicare-paid shoes. They, or a podiatrist, should be able to supply inserts/orthotics to fix fit and support issues.
posted by SemiSalt at 12:05 PM on August 11, 2014

I don't know if these are what you are looking for, but they are my slip-on barn shoes. They hold up to milking, fixing fences, rounding up animals, etc., with splitting wood, home repair, working in the shop, etc. thrown in. You can find them at Payless Shoes of all places... I looked and looked for something like this and these were the winners.

They are comfortable enough to wear all day, good support, easy on and off (and they stay on).

Good luck.
posted by Leenie at 2:00 PM on August 11, 2014

One more thing... Are the leather uppers in decent shape? You could take them to a shoe repair business. Maybe they can put a new sole on them or they can stitch together what needs to be. My wife had a pair of low rise boots fixed a couple years ago and they did a great job (even where the puppy had chewed on them).
posted by Leenie at 2:21 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yeah, I said above I might give new soles/repair a swing, but the way they suffered is why I am looking for something a bit tougher that would have the functionality I want.

SemiSalt, yeah, I'm not there yet. I have tried some higher-end orthotic-type shoes but as yet I feel no concerns about being able to get a light-duty, comfortable walking shoe, from mainstream vendors, or transitioning to the medical type later. It's just that what I do (rental property management, with lots of handyman tasks, light construction, and landscaping) is pretty tough on my shoes. In the end another compromise might end up just being accepting that I'll be eating through shoes pretty regularly.
posted by dhartung at 2:43 PM on August 11, 2014

In the same category as the Blundstone boots, I have known a few auto mechanics that swear by Redback slip-on boots ( They have all said the boots are extremely comfortable and durable.
posted by ohjonboy at 7:53 AM on August 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Can't really mark this one resolved, but I think I will be giving the slip-on work boots like Blundstones a try.

I did follow up with a local shoe repair store and was told the factory sole was not possible to separate or replace.
posted by dhartung at 2:54 PM on September 10, 2014

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