Where do I buy dress shoes that won't wear out in 6 months?
November 23, 2016 11:30 AM   Subscribe

I wear dress shoes most days to work (current pair is this nice looking brown one from Cole Haan) and I find my shoes are wearing out every six months if I'm not super vigilant about putting taps on.

I bought my last pair in July and got lazy about taps and now the front and back of both soles are worn out and I need to get them re-soled which will be expensive, no doubt. Is this just to be expected? If I move up to a $300 pair of shoes will it be any different? $500? Any brands, ideas for maintenance, etc... would be greatly appreciated.

Side note, I do live in NYC and tend to do a lot of walking, even during a workday (avg about 11k steps a day according to my iphone) so that is no doubt a factor too.
posted by jourman2 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
For a pair of shoes worn five times a week for six months, that's about what I'd expect. If you have multiple pairs and rotate (say, every other day) you'll see a little more total life out of each. Also, Resoling better-quality shoes (Allen Edmonds, Alden...) is usually the more cost-effective path in the long run, and those shoes are usually 'built' to be re-soled over and over and over. But to be clear, you're getting a perfectly normal lifespan per-shoe, especially for shoes worn in NYC every workday.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:37 AM on November 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Girl here. Girl shoes last a lot longer if you resole them, put taps on, and change shoes for walking on city streets.
posted by bearwife at 11:39 AM on November 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Please don't pay to resole a $70 pair of shoes! In fact, they may not be able to be resoled given their construction.

$500 is a good price point for dress shoes, but that's mainly to get uppers that will last you (and look good for) the term of your natural life.

Better shoes' better engineering is going to be a little helpful for the life of your soles ... but if you are walking 10 miles a week in them, you are going to be resoling at least once a year -- cost of business.
posted by MattD at 11:44 AM on November 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Cole Haans will probably wear out faster because the leather for the soles is cheaper - something better and thicker-soled, like the McAllister (IIRC) from Allen Edmonds would probably last longer.

But leather soles just aren't designed to take that kind of a beating, especially if you're ever walking in the rain or damp. (The leather gets wet and then more fragile and wears down more quickly.)

You're probably better off with a rubber/vibram-soled dress shoe. Allen Edmonds has some.

Your best strategy will be to buy two pairs of dress shoes and alternate - this will give them a chance to dry out and spring back from the compression of being worn. However, you really must take care of the soles - I usually prefer a topy/sole cover to toe taps, myself.

Shoes that I know personally to be monsters: Allen Edmonds Leeds and Macallister; almost anything from Alden; Trickers (English maker) country shoes; the Redwing postman chukka boot; anything from White's boots/Baker Boots. In general, English bench-made "country" or tramping shoes are extremely resilient, but they are not sleek. Trickers in particular could probably hold up to a year or so of walking without too much damage - but they will set you back ~350 - 400 new (mine are used) and as I say, they are not sleek.

Honestly, Cole Haans are way overpriced for their quality - every time I handle them I'm struck by this. (It's not that no one should wear CHs - I have a very nice pair of albert slippers from them that I got used - but they cost too damn much for what you get.) If you like those and are comfortable spending hundreds per pair, check out Fiorentini Baker or stop by Barney's and look at their Italian shoes.
posted by Frowner at 11:46 AM on November 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

Yes, I'm an NYCer and I think this is a walking rapidly on hard concrete for miles every single day rain or shine thing.

I recently upgraded to "good shoes" (shoes by reputable quality shoe designers in widths that fit me, not just expensive clothing designers with a stupid-expensive fashion shoe line, because those wear out like Payless, I discovered.) Even with the better shoes, the soles wear out.

-I rotate the selection and try not to wear the same shoes twice in a row.

-I don't walk more than a few blocks in anything thin-soled like most dress shoes. If I'm walking miles, I'll wear sneakers or sturdy boots.

-I get them repaired by a neighborhood cobbler as soon as they show wear.

-I buy stuff with lifetime guarantees (like LL Bean) because if you tell your tale correctly to a nice rep, they will seriously replace 10 year old boots you don't have any proof of buying.

-Dr. Marten's soles will outlast your children's children. Or at least the pair I bought in the mid-90s is still kicking. (It's certainly a look, though.)

Germans tend to walk a ton and a lot of German shoes are designed to really take a beating. Maybe look at Euro brands?
posted by kapers at 11:52 AM on November 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Came in to suggest Allen Edmonds shoes also but one with a rubber sole. I got a couple of leather sole shoes from them and wore through one pretty quickly. When I called to set up re-soling (?) the woman on the phone practically yelled at me to say that you're not supposed to wear them every day and to let them breath in between wearings. Not sure how true that is but I ended up not getting them re-soled.

Anyway...I then bought a pair of Allen Edmonds with rubber soles (on sale for about $140 or so) and could not have been happier. I still wear them and it's been over 3 years.

For the other 2 I paid between $200 and $250 each on sale on Amazon.
If you have a store near you I would recommend you go down and get fitted that way you know which last/shoe to buy in the future.

Also, it looks like they're having a 50% off some selected styles Black Friday sale now so maybe it's a good time to check them out.
posted by eatcake at 12:04 PM on November 23, 2016

I've been wearing Allen Edmonds for years in manufacturing environments on concrete (indoor) floors. I have had pairs last through at least three "recraftings", and now that I finally have two pair that I'm alternating (and using show trees!) believe there is truth in longevity-through-letting-them-rest.
posted by achrise at 1:09 PM on November 23, 2016

Came to recommend Loake Bros. shoes, which are sold in the US by Robinson's. I have a pair that are now 3-4 years old and will likely need resoling soon. I can get Loake to do it, but that requires sending them back to the UK, but they're really excellent shoes and it's worth it. I could alternately find an excellent cobbler (which would be relatively easy in NYC) and do it locally.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 3:25 PM on November 23, 2016

I recommend looking at ECCO shoes. Most of them use a polyurethane sole that wears very well. This pair is on sale at Nordstrom currently. I actually own 2 pair myself.
These are also on sale.
posted by nickthetourist at 4:57 PM on November 23, 2016

I've done rubber-soled shoes for a while (including Ecco and one other brand I can't remember, it has been too long a time) and it was very frustrating to see the rubber Vibram soles not being able to be replaced.

I splurged during graduate school (many decades ago) and I still have the Allen Edmonds wingtips I bought for $216 on sale way back then, and went through the factory re-furbishing about 10 years in. Learned that two things made a huge difference - not wearing the same shoes everyday, and using shoe trees (you know, those spring-loaded cedar wood things).

Since then I've purchased several more pair of Allen Edmonds, keep them polished with heeltaps and replace the taps regularly (I tend to drag my heels).

There are other brands out there, I bought a 'To Boot New York' brand shoes several years ago at Nordstrom (they look and feel great) in the same price-range as Allen Edmonds ($200-350 on-sale, $300-500 list price). IMHO you do get what you pay for, as long as you take good care of them...
posted by scooterdog at 7:52 PM on November 23, 2016

You can replace vibram soles. The other (better) sole to look out for are dainite. But yes increase your price point and but two or three pairs and you are set for life.

I wear my dainite soles shoes on wet days and leather on dry days.
posted by JPD at 4:15 AM on November 24, 2016

Dr. Martens does oxfords and brogues and they outlast normal dress shoes by a million years and are $100-$250. The only issue is they might not be quite sleek enough, but that rubber sole is why they last so long. I've worn them for years for this reason but speaking specifically to men's dress shoes: My boyfriend kept buying dress shoes similar to the ones you linked at around $75, subjected them to loads of everyday city walking and they kept wearing out completely every 6-12 months. His current pair of DM oxfords are 1.5 years old and still look good.
posted by Polychrome at 4:17 AM on November 24, 2016

To clarify on the "can you replace vibram/rubber/dainite soles" question: it depends on the shoe. Most sub-$200 shoes have soles that are glued on as a single piece. These are not resolable and relatively little can be done to repair them because the sole is this big chunk. Some of these shoes will have fake stitch tracks around the top of the sole to try to look like they are not glued - be careful of this. Not all shoes without visible stitch marks are glued, though - there are various stitching techniques, like Blake welting, that keep it invisible. If you look at a lot of shoes online and in the flesh, you will eventually be able to tell - although price point is a big part of it, since you'll rarely see non-glued shoes below $200. There's beginning to be some, as what people expect in shoes changes, but those will have very obvious real stitching, as it's a sales point.

Cole Haan makes both glued and stitched shoes at a variety of price/quality points.

Stitched shoes have soles that are....stitched on! And those soles are generally made of layers - layers of leather or leather and rubber/vibram/dainite. If you have stitched shoes with a rubber sole, what will happen when you get that sole replaced is that your cobbler will pry it off the leather part that is stitched to the upper and glue a new cut-to-fit sole on.

This is different from a comprehensive re-stitching of the sole, a more expensive process that require taking the shoe apart and redoing it over a last, and which can usually only be done if you have the original last the shoe was made on. Alden and AE do this in the US; most English makers do it. But it costs about half as much as a new pair from those makers.

Should you buy expensive shoes? It depends on what you want your shoes to do and what kind of labor concerns you have. If you want constant change and to be able to subject your shoes to all kinds of wear, cheaper shoes that you wear out are a better bet. But IMO, don't buy "cheap expensive" shoes like mid-range Cole Haans. They don't last better than cheaper shoes but they're still expensive. If you like Cole Haans, shell out for their nicest ones, looking carefully at them for construction, and handle them first - also consider looking at Barney's or another on-trend store for Italian ones. Current CHs look to me a lot like bog-standard italian oxfords, and actual Italian oxfords from Italy aren't always gold standard, but they will definitely be better.

Take note that there's a whole bunch of stitched shoes now made outside Europe in factories with unknown labor standards. A few years ago, stitched shoes were virtually always a sign that shoes were made in Europe, a specialized factory in Mexico, the US, maybe Japan, by skilled laborers making a living wage. Now this is not the case. If this is important to you, consider the brand and its track record before you buy. I recognize that a lot of the time, none of us can afford to consider that - it's not a moral failing to be unable to spend $300 on a pair of shoes.
posted by Frowner at 5:32 AM on November 24, 2016

Man, NYC is hard on shoes.

In re price:

Frowner (as usual) is right; it's not so much about price as quality. "Cheap expensive" is ubiquitous now, although men's dress shoes are an area where certain brands are still pretty consistent. As implied above: Spend the money or learn to recognize the good stuff. NYC is full of rich folks with not much space; unless you're squeamish about that sort of thing you can usually find practically new dress shoes at vintage/consignment shops.

Under $80 or so you may get an occasional deal, but men's shoes that fall in that range are usually going to be about the same quality as what you'd find at H&M in terms of stitching/glue. I'd buy a pair of H&M dress shoes for half the price over those Cole Haans, honestly; they'll last about as long. Unless you're buying serious all-weather boots, over about $300-$350 you're just paying for the brand.

Allen Edmonds with Dainite soles are great and last for ages, and there are a number of English brands in that range that are similarly high quality.

In re maintenance/longevity:

Anything with a Goodyear Welt can be resoled at least once. In NYC this is something you can get a recommendation on; there are tons of options and it is definitely worth resoling vs. buying a new pair. Taps are fine, but you also want to maintain the upper leather with regular conditioning. Pecard is great. You very much should be rotating shoes daily; they will last much longer if they get a rest every other day. As mentioned, use a shoe-horn.

But soles wear out, so this will keep being an issue.

Soooo, your best bet: Carry the dress shoes in your bag, and invest in a pair of decent-looking waterproof boots. This has been a staple of heel-wearers for years, and it just makes sense. There's a reason you see those lace-up Packer boots all over the city; I've had the same pair for ten years across two re-soles.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:40 AM on November 26, 2016

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