Durable, utilitarian, repairable men's shoes?
April 13, 2015 4:36 PM   Subscribe

I'm tired of buying $100 shoes which don't last any longer than the $35 shoes I used to wear. It's time to put the Sam Vimes Theory of Economic Injustice to work for me. What are some well-made men's shoes that I can wear every day to walk the two miles to my casual academic-environment workplace and back, plus wear at work, without them wearing out immediately? I should be able to get them repaired or re-soled when they do have problems. Under $500 would be ideal.

I don't think I'm particularly hard on shoes, but I might be wearing the wrong kind of shoes. The Merrell Jungle Mocs I'm wearing right now replace a pair where the soles were worn smooth within six months. And the upper started pulling away from the midsole a few months later. The salesguy who sold me this latest pair said that that's just how it is -- shoes are designed to last about six months. But that can't always have been the case, can it?

Basically, I think I'm looking for the shoes an urban postal carrier would have worn in the 1930s or early '40s. How often did they replace/repair their shoes?

I am a heavy guy, over 250 pounds, so that probably plays into it. But I'd be ok with the soles wearing through if I could replace them when that happened, rather than having to throw out the whole pair. Function is my highest priority here; I don't care much at all about fashion. (Although super-dressy shoes are going to look weird against the rest of my wardrobe.) This previous question had some great answers, but I know things can change in five years -- for example, I'm sure I've heard people complaining the Fluevogs have really gone downhill recently.

I'm looking at Red Wing's "Heritage" line right now; anyone have experience with those?

(And I understand that I should buy two pairs and alternate them, rather than wearing the same pair every day. Consider that advice to have been received.)
posted by hades to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (37 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
How do you feel about moccasins? Quoddy are supposed to be very good, but I've never owned a pair.
posted by backseatpilot at 4:47 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

How about sturdy, attractive boots? Because Filsons are the best.
posted by Dr. Wu at 4:52 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

For $155, you can get shoes from Doc Marten's For Life line; the shoes will be resoled, repaired or replaced for the entire time you own them.
posted by kinetic at 4:54 PM on April 13, 2015 [15 favorites]


I've had a pair for 10 years, re-soling every couple years through the company itself. Each time they come back from mephisto, they're like brand new.

I don't think all of their shoes can be re-soled, so make sure to check.

Yes, they are unattractive... Maybe even aggressively ugly.... And you pay a lot... But you'll enjoy the ugliness for a lifetime!
posted by jimmereeno at 4:59 PM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Instead of buying one pair of $400 shoes, buy two or three pairs of $80-$100 shoes and rotate them. It's less the quality of the shoe you're buying and more the amount of use you're subjecting them to.
posted by rtha at 5:03 PM on April 13, 2015 [15 favorites]

My husband just bought some Rockports. It's a leather upper with a decent sole underneath.

Like you, his prior shoes (Sketchers?) had separated and he was gluing the soles to the uppers with SuperGlue, which made me livid.

We got this latest pair at the LL Bean flagship store, but this is the full list of Rockport, here.

He also has some LL Bean comfort mocs, but the Rockports are so much more comfortable and better made.

I myself was looking at women's exercise/walking shoes there, and the Bean brand felt like a brick on my foot, so I went with some Oboz, which are made in Bozeman, Montana, and they plant a tree for every shoe bought. The lady at the register said all the employees were wearing them, so ha. I know you asked about dress shoes, but if you are ever in the market for hiking shoes, try on some Oboz.

BTW my husband is also heavy and a former dancer, so he is VERY picky about his shoes, and he loves the Rockports.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:08 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm wearing a pair of $115 Dingo engineer boots (think motorcycle boots) for the third or fourth year. I wear them daily and because I'm a teacher I walk a couple miles a day (like at least two) in them. I also coach track & volleyball so I run in them, demonstrate the long jump in them, shame the lazy kids into sprinting that last lap in them, etc. When the heels get worn down to precarious I take them to the shoe fixer guy in the mall and start over with new soles/heels.
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:12 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Forgot to add I'm a woman but have to wear men's shoes bc size/shape.
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:13 PM on April 13, 2015

Basically, I think I'm looking for the shoes an urban postal carrier would have worn in the 1930s or early '40s.

Well, Red Wing has the Heritage Postman, based on 1950s specs.

I mostly wear boots. My default pair are Rossi from Australia that have taken years of wear and look better now than when I got them. I have heard decent things about the Chippewa core range and the boots they make for LL Bean.

It's less the quality of the shoe you're buying and more the amount of use you're subjecting them to.

Up to a point. There's a threshold at which the construction methods change and you get welted soles and proper lasting, and while rotating cheaper shoes will certainly extend their lives, you're more likely to hit a point where they have to be tossed because there's no feasible repair. You can get quality construction without paying top prices, but that's a price range where you can also get crappy construction from fashion brands.
posted by holgate at 5:15 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I walk a lot and really like Allen Edmonds.
posted by naturalog at 5:17 PM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Red Wing
posted by rhizome at 5:22 PM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

I like my Allen Edmonds as well. However, I'm not sure I'd subject them to a long walk to work every day and expect them to last years upon years. I have six pair I rotate through. I also wouldn't wear them in really nasty weather.

As for Rockports, maybe it depends on the model, but I have had a few pair and while they were fine, I didn't find them at all notable in terms of durability.
posted by primethyme at 5:30 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'll third that my Allen Edmonds have been the most comfortable shoes I've ever owned but.....I ruined the first pair with leather soles by wearing them too often (every day) and in bad weather. Ruined as in I wore a hole through the sole in like 7 months but it's repairable.

The second pair I got looked similar but had rubber soles. Even more comfortable for everyday wear and they still have good support even after 2 years of wear. I worked in a job at the time where I had to walk to various departments during the work day then about a half mile to/from my car. I wore boots in the winter and carried the shoes in a bag.

Third pair with leather soles I wear for special occasions and I think this one will last forever at this point.

For price, it cost me about $250, $150 and $295 respectively. You can find coupons/discounts on Amazon or through Allen Edmonds sometimes.
posted by eatcake at 5:36 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've been wearing a pair of Chippewa boots almost every day for the past 15 months, and they're barely showing any signs of wear. Some people say the soles wear too quickly, but they can be repaired/resoled by any cobbler.

Chippewa also make oxfords, similar to the Red Wing postman style.

Allen Edmonds are very nice, too, if somewhat "dressier."
posted by bradf at 5:48 PM on April 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Allen Edmonds is having their anniversary sale right now.
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:49 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

My dad's a farmer and owns one pair of Red Wing 6-inch boots at a time (not sure which style -- I know they are mahogany and have the black padding at the top). I think they usually last him at least 5 years, but I'd say closer to 10. He wears them 7 days a week and weighs about 200 pounds, generally. He's on his feet a lot. I'd go for Red Wings.
posted by jabes at 5:59 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

In addition to rtha's suggestion, another one to make them last is to use wooden shoe trees. They're supposed to absorb sweat and odors and moisture from rain/snow: put them in as soon as you remove shoes from your feet.

Suggestion No. 2: Is applying polish 1 per 3-6 months approachable? The polish adds a measure of water resistance. The water resistance is important if you wear them in the winter's snow and slush and salty melted snow. The polish can be applied so that it isn't military I grass glossy: apply it with polish applicator brush and then buff off with a buff brush. It's only slightly bright but its brightness wears off after a week. It's the third step of misting and T-shirt buffing that would give the probably unwanted high gloss

These two have allowed me to make any brand of $100 shoes last 3-5 years, I also replace the heals as needed, maybe every 12-18 months.
posted by dlwr300 at 6:29 PM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

My Rockport World Tour Classic shoes held up pretty well, with rotation. My more recent Rockport dress shoes have lasted fairly well, too.

That said, walking shoes will wear out, and the thinner the sole, the faster they'll go. I think you'd be better off leaving a pair or two of good comfy shoes in your office to wear during the work day, and walking to and from work in shoes with a more substantial sole. If the problem is that they wear smooth, and you need lugs or tread for traction, look for shoes with a Vibram sole or equivalent.
posted by brianogilvie at 6:51 PM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've had a pair of Born shoes that are going on 8 years now. I wore them all the time for several years, and still wear them regularly. I live in the city and walk a lot.

FWIW, my husband and I both love Keens, but we both wear through them just like you did your Merrells in less than a year. We were harder on our shoes though: farming and job similar to postman - walking *all day*, but they started peeling apart just like you describe. Comfy though. I haven't worn the Borns farming, but they're all leather and stitched - they could be resoled/fixed. I haven't needed to =).
posted by jrobin276 at 7:09 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have the Red Wing Heritage Iron Ranger boots and I don't see them wearing out in the near future. When they eventually do, it's $125 to do whatever repairs need to be done, cheaper if it's just heels or soles/heels. There's definitely a break-in period, but after that you're golden.

Keep in mind that the regular Red Wings aren't always repairable, but all the heritage ones are.
posted by Huck500 at 7:12 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've had great luck with Ecco brand shoes, which I believe I first learned about on another thread here from several years ago. I think the City model has been my favorite and sadly is no longer available.
posted by scottso17 at 7:40 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I’ve been buying Birkenstock Londons in “hunter black” (as opposed to the oiled black) since 1990. When i had a good, local shoe-repair shop available i was able to get a pair to last for years by replacing the rubber sole (the exact replacement material is available; it’s a quick job for an experienced cobbler). When they have died on me is when i didn’t/couldn’t replace the sole and wore all the way into to the cork/leather on the heels.

I avoid puddles, but otherwise they have been fine shoes for the urban, rainy Pacific Northwest.
posted by D.C. at 8:00 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I f**n hate Merrell Mocs now after exactly the the same problem.

Here is a good place to start your research.
posted by lalochezia at 8:13 PM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Danner is another good heritage brand that I don't think I've seen mentioned yet.
posted by box at 8:30 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Buy a pair of shoes that are of sufficient quality that the soles can be replaced & have them re-soled as necessary. They won’t necessarily last much longer without needing attention, but having the soles (or often just the heels) replaced is *much* cheaper than buying new shoes every six months.

Alternatively, buy comfortable trainers or walking shoes for the walk to work (which is probably hardest on your footwear) and switch to more formal attire when you get there.
posted by pharm at 1:54 AM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Check out Blundstones ($200). They're not super supportive (insoles will fit easily) but the soles will not wear out and many people find them super comfortable. They last forever.
posted by lafemma at 5:04 AM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was about to say Blundstones as well. My first pair lasted ten years of frequent wear with a lot of walking in all conditions before the soles started falling off in chunks. They're the most comfortable shoes I've had. I tried getting them resoled but the new soles were a different type and I did not love them and I got new Blunnies as soon as I could after that.
posted by you must supply a verb at 6:04 AM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've been wearing these safety boots from Ethical Wares for four+ years now, and by wear I mean beating the shit out of.

The first two years of their life was spent as work boots in construction environments and archaeology sites, where I scuffed up the top of the toes and exposed the steel toe a bit. I've also liberally gotten them soaked in water and then quickly dried on radiators many a time. Since then, I've been back to office work, but wearing these boots just about every day and walking 2 miles to and from work consistently in an urban environment in sun, rain, sleet, snow and salt. Most winters they've been coated in road salt and gone through several more rounds of total wetness and fast drying.

The uppers are still solidly affixed to the soles. Some of the stitching on the seams of the uppers is starting to go now and the salt's corroded them a bit, too, but they're still completely functional. The soles are about due for replacing and I'll probably get that done and see if a shoe repair place can fix the stitching and patch 'em up a bit. I'll probably also buy a new pair as well, but other than not looking particularly nice, they're still an excellent fit for my feet and gait.

Also, for folks who care, they're vegan.
posted by ursus_comiter at 7:07 AM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, re: resoleing.

I've had a mixed bag with it. I had a pair of ultra light hiking boots I loved, but I wore the soles right out of those. By the time tried to get them resoled, the company making them had discontinued the brand and I couldn't get the original sole. I had to opt for a standard vibram replacement that marked the end of their tenure as ultra light or even light boots. The new soles did last, however. On other occasions, I've had new soles that fell off after only a few months of wear.
posted by ursus_comiter at 7:13 AM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Cole Haan.

They make great shoes - both casuals and formals. I have one of each and they are just great shoes to be on your feet with.
posted by rippersid at 7:40 AM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'll join with many others in promoting Red Wings. I've got a pair of their Heritage Beckman boots, which I wear roughly every other day from fall to spring (in MN, that's like, 80% of the year), and occasionally in the summer. They break in hard, but are very comfortable for extended walking afterward. After over three years of the above use, the only repair has been replacing a worn lace... Last month. The soles hardly even show any wear. Besides normal "character" marks, the leather is in great shape (minus some areas of salt staining, which is my lazy-ass fault, not the boots').

I also love my main pair of Allen Edmonds (their Strand model), which saw every-other-day rotation for about a year, before I expanded my options. I did have to resole them after a few years, but -- again -- that had more to do with my kinda-negligent care regimen than the quality of the soles. Super-comfortable for long walks; like the Red Wings, despite being "hard" shoes, they really conform to the wearer's foot over time. The style I'm describing is probably dressier than you want, but they certainly do more casual versions, many with rubberized/weather-safe soles.

I haven't seen this one mentioned, so I'll add it to the mix: Velasca is an Italian brand that comes in slightly under an AE quality/materials standard, but at like, a minimum of half the price. In other words, I've bought five pair from them in the past few months, for about the cost of two pair of AEs. Not as many style variations as more established brands, but all the styles are simple and pleasant (which can't be said of a Clarks, Rockport, and/or etc.). With the exception of one pair, I haven't found these to be quite as comfy as my first two examples, but they aren't at all uncomfortable (and, to be fair, I've only had them a few months). In any case, they seem to be wearing quite respectably.

Velasca is one of several "bargain" quality shoemakers to enter the market in the last couple of years. I've also heard great things about Meermin (although maybe too fancy), Bexley, and Jack Erwin, among others.
posted by credible hulk at 9:31 AM on April 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh, yeah, speaking of Clarks... It's not the general style you're describing (which I take to be an open-lace, hard leather, shoe), but have you considered a desert boot? Their version is a classic (and almost literally, the only shoe they make that isn't an abomination of design), costs around $130, and is absolutely delightful to walk on.
posted by credible hulk at 9:39 AM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

A Guide To The Most Impressive Men's Dress Shoe Brands For Under $350
The Best Men's Shoes
The 6 Shoes That Will Last a Lifetime

I searched men's best quality dress shoes for these articles, and could have done a great deal of research, but I got so envious of men being able to buy shoes that last and can be repaired that I had to stop.
posted by theora55 at 9:50 AM on April 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would look for a pair of Alden Indy Boots. You might consider a Vibram sole, instead of the leather. They will last forever, they are a great style, and Indiana Jones wore them. What more do you need?
posted by Silvertree at 11:54 AM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Man, there are a ton of great answers here; thanks! (And that Buy It For Life subreddit is a rabbit hole I'm not sure I want to go down; I know my tendencies.) I think I'll make a trip over to the eastside this weekend -- there's a store which carries Chippewa not too far from a Red Wing retail store, and I can compare or possibly get one of each if they both seem awesome. If those don't do it, I've got a lot of fallback options here.

I may go back and just mark everything "best answer" tonight.
posted by hades at 2:12 PM on April 14, 2015

The best cheap office-type semi-dress shoes I've bought in years of experimenting, in terms of durability, have been Rockports. Everything else basically fell apart within a year of daily wear (which I know is not recommended, but) or less.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:49 PM on April 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've had great luck with Ecco brand shoes...

Just to let people know; I've had terrible luck getting Eccos re-soled, even when I went through their recommend resoling place. Apparently the way the sole is attached to the upper can't be replicated during a re-sole, and they'd keep gluing it down and it would keep coming apart.

I suspect the same would hold true for Cole Haans.

I have a pair of Red Wing Brogue Rangers, and the heels are starting to wear down but otherwise look pretty good. I've had topy sole guards put on a lot of my leather soled shoes, though there's a debate about how much that really saves/helps. Also, heel taps are your friends.
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:34 AM on April 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

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