Walking shoes or stomping shoes? (Converse vs Dr Martens)
October 15, 2016 2:42 AM   Subscribe

I prefer to have just one pair of shoes per type that I wear to death, and my mostly loved Converse Shoreline shoes are falling apart after a year of daily wear. I'm considering Dr Marten Mary Janes, but I'm not sure if I'm being wildly impractical.

Last year, I bought another identical pair of Converses but I'm planning to move from the tropics to seasonal NZ this coming year, and my canvas Converse shoes died because I like to wander into fields and through mud with my dog and kid, so they've worn apart in the cloth and the sole is half-worn and flaking now.

I'm looking for something a step below full-on hiking shoes that I can wear with jeans. I don't go on proper hiking terrain, just scrambling up footpaths and lots of street-walking, the occasional park and field, but I end up in puddles a lot. NZ is likely to be wetter and more "farm field" like.

I have wobbly ankles, I like wide toe-boxes, and I wear medium-thick socks happily and have very fond memories of school Doc Martens (the Converse shoes were a throwback to school canvas shoes I loved too).

Are they shoes you can scramble around a field in? What happens when they get covered in mud and sand? The Converses, I just scrub out in the shower and dry. How are they with wobbly ankles? I want these double-buckle Mary Janes, but should I just get a pair of Skechers Go-Walk or another Converse slip-ons instead of switching to leather?
posted by dorothyisunderwood to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried Keens? I've had a variety of pairs over the years, from the more urban-casual sneakers to the hiking shoes to the fancier boots and loved them all. They require no breaking in, have a wide toe box, great ankle support, and are often weather-resistant/weather-proof. All of mine have done really well with mud--it tends to just cake up and flake off. Plus they're super durable and really comfy!
posted by stillmoving at 3:20 AM on October 15, 2016 [12 favorites]

I am not experienced with the Mary Janes but I can tell you one thing: the leather on Dr Martens is extremely stiff. Maybe not every make and model will be a problem, but when a costume department issued me a pair of the classic lace up ankle boots, by the end of just one day they'd rubbed a sore into my ankle that took several weeks to heal *and I only wore them the once*.

However, those who get along well with Dr Martens certainly don't find them *impractical*. I think you would do best if you polished them every day as maybe part of your bedtime routine. And also got two pair and alternated them, then you could get the longest life of all out of them.
posted by tel3path at 3:25 AM on October 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think Docs would be great for this purpose. I fine the leather soft and pliable, nicely waterproof, instantly comfortable, the sole genuinely excellent and anti-slip, etc. I've never polished or conditioned the leather on any of my Docs, and all are still going strong, both the very old ones (about 25 years old) and the newer ones (6 years old.) Keep in mind the quality of Docs has plummeted, but they are still some of the best shoes I've found. The only issue I see is that if you have wobbly ankles, the Mary Janes won't provide support in that area. Also note: there are usually various leather options for the different styles, so look into them. I especially like the matte softer leathers.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 4:44 AM on October 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, that double-buckle style does have decent stabilization properties based on previous experience. I just don't know if it's enough, if your ankles are super wobbly.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 4:51 AM on October 15, 2016

I used to own those shoes and I don't think I'd recommend them if you're planning on walking a lot, especially if you're going to be walking in fields and on hills and through puddles and things like that. The sole is quite chunky and somewhat heavy and I think there's some potential for ankle rolling.

I'd lean towards something like these boots. They're like the perfect cross between a sneaker and a boot!
posted by kinddieserzeit at 5:15 AM on October 15, 2016

To address your final parting words, don't get the Skechers Go Walks. While they are comfortable at first, mine left me with plantar fasciitis that I've struggled for months to get rid of after daily wear. We weren't meant to walk on spongy clouds all the time. Plus those spongy soles wear away fast - they wouldn't last a year. Keens have saved my feet since, though not as quirky looking as a Dr. Marten Mary Jane.
posted by cecic at 5:44 AM on October 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I had (and loved) those shoes once. If I recall, I stopped wearing them when the buckles on one came apart where they were attached to the shoe. There was still a lot of life in the soles. I am sure I could have taken them to a cobbler or something to see if they could be repaired, but I never did.
posted by cabingirl at 5:44 AM on October 15, 2016

I switched to Skechers Go-Walk from Toms (ok so not the best all-weather shoes) as my everyday shoe earlier this year and they've been great so far. I wear them in a lot of fields and they've got decent grip, and they can get a bit wet on top without soaking through to the feet. But they're obviously not a walking boot. Really good cushioning and support for such a light shoe, though. They do let a fair amount of small particles in when walking on gravel/dusty surfaces though so maybe not the best for sand?

If you want something that will stand up better to wet and sand, a boot is probably the way to go. That said, I generally wear the Go-Walks rather than my hiking boots on most borderline-is-this-a-boot-or-a-shoe-occasion walks because the boots are super heavy but the Go-Walk are incredibly light.
posted by terretu at 5:49 AM on October 15, 2016

I had those Docs (and loved them) and I have wobbly ankles. My biggest problem with them -- one that's never been a problem with Converse high tops (or even low tops, so far) -- is that the thick sole meant sometimes I'd essentially fall off them. My ankle would turn under and the thicker sole meant a bigger wrench to the joint. That said, I loved the Mary Janes and wore the hell out of them, so I certainly don't disrecommend them.
With the Converse, have you tried Scotchgarding or other protective treatment to make them a bit more water resistant and longer-lasting? OH! Or have you looked at their new non-canvas styles? There's the Woolrich flannel ones, which are really cozy and warm (and adorable), and several different weather-proof styles including these rubber ones that I recently got. Which brings me to another point -- if you wear average or smaller women's size shoes, you should check out the offerings in the big kids' sections of Docs, Converse, and other shoe manufacturers. I normally wear a women's 7.5-8 US, Converse 5.5/7.5 (men's/women's US) and can wear their kids sizes 5 and 6, which opens a whole different set of options. Plus I think sometimes kids' shoes are wider relative to women's shoes?, so if you're finding the toe box to be too narrow you might have better luck looking there.
posted by katemonster at 6:59 AM on October 15, 2016

Seconding Keens. I bought a pair of Mary Janes that I could walk in all day. They wore out after several years and I was lucky enough to find two pairs my size on ebay. I think if your ankles tend to roll you might be better off with a low boot, maybe something like these.
posted by mareli at 7:53 AM on October 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thirding Keens! And suggesting women's Merrel's...

Hey. Uh, you do know there will be 3 seasons in a day + you WILL get water inside those mary jane's via the holes on top, right??

Have at least 2 pairs so one can dry out and you can wear the dry pair. Count on your feet getting wet so have something in a boot, along with a mary jane type.

Try Campers shoes, too.
posted by jbenben at 8:15 AM on October 15, 2016

Nthing the recommendations for trying a pair of Keens. They're pretty much indestructible, and meet all of your requirements (as stillmoving pointed out so well). I keep a pair in my car for impromptu walkabouts, and they've been going strong for probably a good ten years at this point.
posted by the thought-fox at 8:56 AM on October 15, 2016

I have a pair (regular boot-style) Dr Martens for exactly this sort of thing. That said, they really do not make ideal hiking shoes, and at this point I really just keep them around for fashion. In my opinion, a pair of Dr Martens is inferior to an old pair of running shoes/trainers for hiking.

The main problem with them, in my opinion, is that they're heavy and inflexible. They might be good for a more "going on a walk" type hike on flat terrain, but they are really not at all suited for the kinds of hikes one tends to go on in the Western US, where I live.

I find the boots completely fine in wet weather, though. Obviously YMMV because of the permeability of a mary jane style shoe.
posted by Sara C. at 9:07 AM on October 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

FWIW, I stopped wearing Docs regularly when I had a job where I had to walk a lot. They are surprisingly unsupportive. Though I had the same problem with chucks (the Converse you love), so maybe you have more resilient feet than me!
posted by lunasol at 10:24 AM on October 15, 2016

My SO wears Docs pretty much all the time, and the Mary Janes are great when it's too hot for the high ones.
I've had a pair of Skechers once and they basically fell apart after 8 or 10 months or so, and that's with me having a few pairs of shoes that I tend to change every other day.

Oh, and I have wobbly ankles too, and it boggles the mind that anyone considers shoes not wrapping the ankle “walking shoes”.
posted by farlukar at 12:07 PM on October 15, 2016

I am wearing those Mary Janes in the dark red/black colour right now & I love them. However, they aren't really for rambling. Water would get in the top and they get heavy when you wear them for hours. Merrels might be a good choice--people wear those with jeans all the time.
posted by betweenthebars at 12:09 PM on October 15, 2016

I love Keen too, but my Bjorn MJ's lasted longer (more of a classic, rather than sporty, look as well). Currently eyeing off Duckfeet or Birkenstock. All these companies make boots and shoes as well.
posted by jrobin276 at 12:43 PM on October 15, 2016

Oh, when other shoes get muddy or sandy: if they're fabric just wash. If leather get some good shoe polish and if you take care of the leather everything will wipe off, dry by stuffing full of newspaper and leaving by the heater over night.

I also cover all our shoes with waterproofing ScotchGuard, which is an absolute game changer!
posted by jrobin276 at 12:47 PM on October 15, 2016

Response by poster: Thank you! I tried on a bunch of the brands recommended that I could find here and sadly, many of them have too narrow toe-boxes for my feet. I love the Docs but they are indeed much heavier than I remembered, and I ended up falling in love with a pair of men's leather boat shoes from Timberland that I can get resoled.

After another big hike in "proper" running shoes that ended with vicious blisters, I'm going to invest in waterproofed hiking boots that actually fit. And socks. I'm eyeing the LLBean ones, but that's another internet research hole to fall down into.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 2:11 AM on November 7, 2016

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