I'd like to find boring shoes that aren't so cheap
January 9, 2015 6:44 PM   Subscribe

What's a step up in quality from Vans sneakers? I like that they make plain, neutral-looking canvas sneakers, but I don't like that my shoes wear out in six months. I like real-life stores so that I can try on shoes and ask staff for help. What store should I go to in San Francisco?

For context, I walk 2+ miles a day on concrete. The heels of my shoes wear out quickly, probably because I walk with a relatively hard heel-strike (instead of a more whole-foot strike) due to an old big toe joint injury that makes it hurt a little to flex my toes a lot. Shoes with super thin/flexible soles don't work too well for me. I'd prefer to avoid leather. I'm expecting shoes to cost $50-75 and probably not more than $100.

Another wrinkle: I'm a size 10.5 in women's shoes, and many manufacturers don't make half sizes above size 10 in women's shoes. I sometimes end up trying on both 10s and 11s and hoping something runs small or large, or trying men's shoes instead (which sometimes don't fit quite right). So it can help to go to stores with human staff who can help me find something that fits; I find ordering a pile of guesses from Zappos and inevitably returning all of them to be not very fun.

I've tried: Keds (similar quality, too narrow) and Teva Freewheel shoes (doesn't come in my size). A friend suggested SeaVees but they weren't in real-life stores last time I checked, and I'm a little skeptical that their shoes will fit me well since they're designed for men.

I can just buy another pair of Vans, like I have for years, and maybe find some kind of insole to put in them, but it might be nice to try a new brand instead. Thanks!
posted by dreamyshade to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (22 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Chrome's forged rubber sneakerswould be worth exploring. I'm really not sure the sizing, but my wife wears dudes shoes all the time; they're not built any differently really, they're just bigger. The chrome buddies do take a little time to break in, but they last markedly longer. They have more than one store in your area.
posted by furnace.heart at 6:51 PM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Perhaps Camper sneakers might strike your fancy? They have both funky and classic designs. Good quality, not cheap but not too expensive either, and a great return policy.
posted by smorgasbord at 6:51 PM on January 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

There is a Campers store in SF - these are $$$ but really good quality. I wear their mens' shoes, since they are sort of unisex and I too have bigger feet. Also have you considered a pair on converse? I walk a lot (up to 6 or 8 miles some days) and they hold out well.
posted by Toddles at 6:52 PM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Have you looked at Payless? That's where I get my (allegedly) vegetarian non-leather shoes.

I'm in SF and my wife often get's her shoes resoled. We walk a lot and the rest of the shoe is fine, but the sole is worn out. There's a ton of cobblers who will resole a shoe fairly cheaply.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 7:07 PM on January 9, 2015

A bunch of my friends got those chrome sneakers for free when they did the "mail your shoes in, and we'll mail you some chrome shoes" promotion. They ALL fell apart. They're like, cargo cult well made. All the materials seem good, but the soles actually disintegrate and the glue between the rubber and canvas/nylon parts fails.

They weren't the new "forged" ones, but i think that chromes stuff is really overpriced for what you get(and i love their bags, which do actually last forever).

Another friend gets shoes for crews really cheap through work. They seem to last a surprisingly long time, especially since he just wears them every day.
posted by emptythought at 7:21 PM on January 9, 2015

I'm all about Keen shoes for everything. These sneakers are great and have lasted me longer than similar type sneakers (like the Teve Freewheel). It may take a bit of looking around the find them in store.
posted by Pineapplicious at 7:46 PM on January 9, 2015 [5 favorites]

I was going to suggest payless too. Not because of quality longer lasting shoes, but because you'll be able to find similar shoes for $10-20 instead of $45. So you won't feel bad if they wear out in 6 months. The Dexter/Dexflex brand is VERY comfortable, and I always buy a half size smaller than usual when I buy that brand... so maybe if you are a 10.5 you'll fit comfortably into a 10?
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 8:00 PM on January 9, 2015

What part wears out? If it's just the sole wearing and not the actual canvas then heel taps are a thing you can try--basically a hard plastic bit that goes over the part that wears, which will be easier and cheaper to replace on a regular interval.
posted by anaelith at 8:07 PM on January 9, 2015

I love my Keens... Super sturdy and they run large, so you may feel good in a 10. Try Notdstroms.
posted by samthemander at 8:38 PM on January 9, 2015

I think there are Doc Martens that come in a plimsoll style in canvas. I have a mens pair and they're pretty long wearing.

I do like the Payless (or discount store idea), buy cheap and replace often. I also use firm, Croc-like foam inserts if soles are too thin for my tastes. Can't remember the brand at the moment.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:05 PM on January 9, 2015

I have a pair of these (but in leather) and they are super comfortable. I think that a UK 9 is a US 11...

Alternatively, Superga sneakers are quite similar to vans in style but are so much more comfortable. They do run a little small and don't have much give in the toe area, so I think an 11 would be a good fit.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 10:23 PM on January 9, 2015

Also came in to suggest Keens. I love mine. They're a pretty neutral gray canvas-like shoe. They run wide, and I had no idea how awesome it is to wear wide shoes. Apparently my feet are kinda wide. I wouldn't say they run too large - maybe a 1/2 size. I usually wear a 6.5 and I think my keens are a 6. They're expensive, but worth it? Go and at least try them out somewhere.
posted by hydra77 at 10:32 PM on January 9, 2015

The original Palladium shoes last for years and years. Didn't even know they made sneakers. I've had the Pampa style with heels. Very comfy, very sturdy. You have to like the style, though.
posted by ouke at 12:09 AM on January 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was also going to suggest Palladiums -- I have a pair of Pampas canvas hi-tops that I bought in '11 and they're still in good form. They also have low-tops like these.
posted by sukeban at 1:59 AM on January 10, 2015

You should also look at Supergas - love them!
posted by ersatzkat at 5:49 AM on January 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you are happy with vans, another option might be buying 2 pair and rotating between them. Wearing the same pair of shoes everyday is a sure way to wear them out quickly. You'll probably get much more than 1 year out of the two pairs.
posted by anthropophagous at 7:32 AM on January 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

I wear a woman's 10 3/4 (or I would if they existed) and I currently have these boring but fine Columbia Conspiracy Vapors on my feet, with Superfeet insoles. I'm pleased with them and will probably buy another pair when these wear out; they've lasted a long time, for sneakers.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:26 AM on January 10, 2015

Superga have a kind of Vans aesthetic but are supposed to be reasonably high-quality.
posted by pocketfullofrye at 11:31 AM on January 10, 2015

I was doing a similar search this summer, and was surprised to find that Frye sold a few kinds of sneaker-ish type shoes. They're leather, not canvas, but they have size 10 and 11, and can be re-soled.
posted by MrBobinski at 4:42 PM on January 10, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! These embroidered Camper sneakers aren't what I was aiming for but I love them anyway for "I don't plan to walk 5 miles today" shoes, and I went to try them on yesterday, but even their largest size (theoretically size 11) was too small for me. Nooooo. Oh well.

Unfortunately the Vans I get are too cheap to seem worth resoling - the canvas detaches from the bottom part, the cushion and rubber sole both develop large holes in the heel, the rubber lining at the back of the shoe falls apart... There's a pretty short comfortable period between "breaking in" and "starting to fall apart". I bought two pairs of Vans last time, and together they didn't last a year.

From looking at them, Converse seem to be similar quality to Vans, a similar kind of canvas-glued-to-rubber thing; I've assumed I'd run right through them too. I get dressy non-leather shoes at Payless but haven't been happy with how their sneaker options look; sometimes they're a little too odd looking for me (like Superga and sort of the Keen shoes too).

Vans seems to have a supposedly higher-quality line that I might try, but I also have some other options from this thread that are worth investigating!
posted by dreamyshade at 12:07 PM on January 11, 2015

I have those exact same Campers that you linked to, and walk four miles in them on a fairly regular basis, so they're actually better for walking than you might expect. Looking at the Camper website, it looks like they made them up to a size 12, but are sold out of the largest size now. So it might be worth doing some searching if you really love them.

Even if those don't end up working out, I'd definitely second the Camper recommendation overall. The ones I've had for longest and found most comfortable are the Peu Cami which come in both mens and women's (so, larger sizes available) and are in-stock up to a size 12 women's on Zappos. I've had mine for years, and other than some discoloration on the leather (which is light-colored, and I've never taken care of it) they still basically look new.

If those don't strike your fancy, you might check out the Imar, Motel, or Portol families. I haven't worn those myself, but with the exception of one pair of boots, every pair of Campers I've worn have been fabulous. New spring colors will probably be coming soon, and there will probably be more canvas models as well in those styles.
posted by duien at 12:19 AM on January 12, 2015

Whatever the brand or quality, you'll get a lot more mileage out of your shoes if you don't wear them every day, especially if you're walking long distances. For any of the above suggestions, get two pairs and wear them on alternate days and you'll get an added bump in longevity that offsets the initial cost of an extra pair.
posted by homesickness at 12:15 PM on January 12, 2015

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