How do I find good men's dress shoes?
June 24, 2016 8:26 AM   Subscribe

This sounds like a simple enough question, but how do I find good men's dress shoes? I wear size 12 to 12.5 (US), and I like to try on shoes first, plus my budget isn't terribly large, so I've failed to find anything a number of times when looking at lower-cost shoe stores and sections. But I realize I've had the same 4 pairs of shoes for 5+ years, so I could probably splurge once a year on a new pair and not break my budget. Bonus points: shoe stores in Albuquerque or Santa Fe, NM.

I used to work up the block from a Ross Dress For Less, so I'd wander over a couple times a month and browse their shoe selection, only to find nothing suitable in my size most times, though 3 of my 4 pairs came from there. I've had similar luck when going to Payless Shoes, where my shoe size limits my options. I've been underwhelmed by what I've found at the local Kohls, Sears, etc.

I'm interested in ordering shoes online, if I'm able to return them if they don't fit, but I don't know where to start looking for that kind of thing beyond Zappos.

Alternatively, I am interested in stores that stock a good selection of dress shoes with decent prices, and bonus points for ethically sourced/made shoes (I realize my budget may limit my options, but I could be mistaken). Albuquerque is a fairly big city, and Santa Fe is small but supports some smaller, fancier boutique-scale stores, but I don't know how to start looking for good options. Thanks!
posted by filthy light thief to Shopping (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What counts as "splurge"? Allen Edmonds are a perennially-solid choice. If you know your size in, say, the classic Park Avenues (go to a fairly high-end department store and get fitted), you can set up an Ebay alert, where you should be able to snag a pair for ~$100 if you're patient.

Don't wear them every day and they'll last for years, at which point you can get them recrafted and they'll be as good as new, or better.
posted by supercres at 8:32 AM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm a fan of Allan Edmonds. They are not 100% American made, but pretty close, and they have a good-enough-for-me reputation as an employer and manufacturer. Their store locator comes up with one result in NM, in Albuquerque.

I bought my Allan Edmonds used on ebay for 80% off unseen and it worked just fine, but you could try them on locally, then buy online to save, or just pay full price at the store. I'm sure they would be able to help you out if they didn't have anything immediately on hand that you liked and that fit.
posted by michaelh at 8:35 AM on June 24, 2016

If you've had shoes last you 4 or 5 years, I would just buy those shoes again. Find them on zappos and order new pairs. Zappos has huge selections, why "look beyond" zappos when you can just order from there and return what doesn't fit?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:38 AM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I like most of the shoes i have bought from Johnston & Murphy, which sometimes show up at discount shoe stores . The durability varies a bit between their shoe lines though.
posted by TheAdamist at 8:50 AM on June 24, 2016

Cole Haan are my standing order, but I suggest if you want to splurge look for a vintage pair with the green label and have them hand soled.
posted by parmanparman at 8:52 AM on June 24, 2016

I've had a few pairs of both Johnston & Murphy and Allen Edmunds and the AEs were noticeably nicer but also a lot more expensive.
posted by ghharr at 8:54 AM on June 24, 2016

I bought a pair of Rockport's Dressport line years ago, and they are the most comfortable dress shoes I ever owned. They have soft soles and are very light. When it came time to replace them, I ordered the replacements from Amazon. (Size availability seems to be hit or miss depending on style.) (My first pair lasted me well over 5 years, and in fact they are still perfectly functional, just tired-looking.)
posted by The Deej at 9:05 AM on June 24, 2016

My wife buys all mine at Marshall's and TJMaxx.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:28 AM on June 24, 2016

You can order Allen Edmonds "factory seconds" online from the Allen Edmonds shoe bank. Factory seconds are shoes with minor defects that make them fail quality control and make a significant difference in the price, but are often barely noticeable. I recently bought a pair of Strands in walnut that way and couldn't find anything wrong with them. I'd recommend going to a store in person first to find your size if possible.

Depending on how dressy you want to go, the McCallisters (wing tip Oxfords), Strands (cap tope Oxford brogue), and Park Avenues or Fifth Avenues (cap toe Oxford w/ minimal brogueing) are solid choices.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:09 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I can also vouch for Allen Edmonds shoes, and since you're not competing with me for the same size shoe, I'll also plug the eBay Alert feature :)

A good quality pair of shoes ($300+ and priced that way due to materials and workmanship, not just the name) is your best bet. Get them used for ~$100, and they will still last longer than a pair that costs $100 new.

One frequent indicator of quality is a leather sole. Typically, shoes with leather soles are higher end shoes. Stay away from ultra-shiny patent leather, and instead try to get full grain leather (it wears much better over time). People also rave about cordovan leather shoes.

Here are a handful of higher end shoe brands where a well used pair (of the right model) would still be an outstanding shoe you could wear for years (plus more years when you replace the sole):

Allen Edmonds
Bruno Magli
Salvatore Ferragamo
posted by reeddavid at 3:07 PM on June 24, 2016

i recommend which is a site for men's fashion and sales/deals and it features both high quality and affordable options. (not affiliated there fwiw)
posted by lescour at 3:25 PM on June 24, 2016

A 100 dollar shoe is the same as a 60 dollar shoe, which is the same as a 200 fashion shoe. A 300 dollar shoe, like Allen Edmonds, will last for years, and can be resoled to last even longer.
posted by OmieWise at 5:33 PM on June 24, 2016

Another recommendation for Allen Edmonds. Mh oldest pair is now 25 years old and on its second soles. The company's customer service is second to none, the shoes are fantastically made and look exactly right in the style. All but 1 pair of my dress shoes are Allen Edmonds.
posted by BrooksCooper at 5:10 PM on June 25, 2016

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