Help my find my dream pair of brogues/oxfords
October 17, 2018 3:37 PM   Subscribe

It's a shoe question! I would love a pair of brown dress shoes that can also survive 2-5 miles of walking per day, are formal (i.e. no "chunky" heel), and are available in a women's 7/men's 5.5/EU 38.

I really like men's shoes and want my own pair, but very few are available to me in a small enough size, and I don't necessarily trust a lot of the no-name brands available on amazon to stand up to wear and tear. I know men who wear their dress shoes in the rain and snow and on long walks; that's the level of quality I need and I also need my feet to not be killing me at the end of the day. Usually they wear Clarks but most of Clarks' more formal men's shoes do not come in my size, and their women's brogues usually have tall heels that are not comfortable for longer walks.

Budget is up to $200 per pair, maybe $250 if you can convince me that these shoes really will last me multiple years of walking outdoors in mixed weather conditions with the right care. But if "what you want is impossible for under $500" is true, that's also useful information for me to have.

Here's an example of what I mean by a chunky heel. Something like this is the more formal look that I'd prefer.

I am looking for recommendations of either (preferably) specific pairs of shoes or brands of shoes that you personally know to be this level of quality. I do not need help searching on Amazon/Zappos/etc. and I have access to good quality shoe stores.
posted by capricorn to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (27 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Just some general tips: If you're going to do that much walking in dress shoes, you need two pairs -- you should alternate days with them. They need to air out if they're going to last. You also need to be sure the leather doesn't dry out, so keep the leather supple with proper treatment and care -- if it loses flexibility, they'll crack on top very fast with that much daily flexing. Shoes of that quality are generally intended to be resoled if the soles go before the uppers do, which means you can pay more for a shoe if it will be easier/cheaper to repair than replace. You could opt for a more durable compound than leather for the replacement, also (e.g. Vibram). Finally check in with a cobbler to get heel plates put on to reduce the wear on the heels.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:42 PM on October 17, 2018 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, that is helpful!
posted by capricorn at 4:04 PM on October 17, 2018

I have this pair of Bed Stu Lita's that I bought off of Zappos for just under your $200 price range. They're amazingly comfy and durable, and not in a "for women's shoes" kinda way. As sean notes, good leather shoes should really be worn every other day. I wore them multiple days on a recent trip for space, walking 5-10 miles per day, and am now reminded I really need to break out the leather conditioner to be sure they stay in good shape.

My only caveat is that 85% of the sole is leather, with only a small traction rubber cutout on the heel. I've mostly adapted to this, but recently ran to catch an elevator and slid in between the closing doors like I was bowling. Just FYI.
posted by deludingmyself at 4:04 PM on October 17, 2018

Samuel Hubbard? They have a few women's styles that are basically their men's shoe, resized for women's feet. Oddly they only currently seem to have wingtips in patent black and white and not in brown unfortunately.

I have a men's pair and they're pretty solid for walking.
posted by GuyZero at 4:10 PM on October 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Have you looked at Bass at all? Or Frye? Maybe Camper?

This design isn't right, but my Fluevogs are some of the most comfortable dressy shoe I've ever worn.

As for mixed conditions: those men might be doing a lot of regular maintenance on those shoes, including waterproofing, polishing, and re-heeling.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:17 PM on October 17, 2018

I’d consider Redwing for fit, quality, feel and durability, yes even in bad weather. They are currently a bit our of your listed price range, most styles in the brogue/oxford range seem to go for $280-350 these days.

But well cared for they should last for a decade, or two if you follow the advice above to have two pairs to alternate for daily wear.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:44 PM on October 17, 2018

I'm going to come at this from a different angle: it sounds like you want a pair of classic (stylistically) men's dress shoes that fits you. A rubber sole seems better suited to what you're after than leather, but as seanmpuckett points out, a good quality leather men's shoe can be resoled however you like. This kind of shoe, at least the well-made ones, are built to last a lifetime, and as such are the kind of thing I try to buy used. (I know, used shoes is a gross idea, but most people wear this type of shoe seldom, so you can find nice, lightly-used pairs for a song compared to buying new. It's how I've gotten all three of my pairs of dress shoes, and all are beautiful and were bargains.)

Put This On is a menswear blog that often discusses thrifting fine clothing, and has some saved eBay searches for things. One is their Good Shoes saved search. I'd consider adding a filter for your shoe size and trolling that to see if you can find two pairs in a style you really like. If they fit well, resoling them with rubber should still be a good bit cheaper than buying new.

The other direction you might want to consider is Made To Order shoes. Ed Et Al (about whom I found via Put This On also) is a company in Singapore that does made to order quality leather shoes for under $300 per, and might be an easier way to find a shoe that fits your foot than off the rack.
posted by lhputtgrass at 4:51 PM on October 17, 2018

Sadly no one is resoling Clarks, because Clarks are almost universally not resolable. Their soles are mostly molded and glued, which means that once they're worn down they're done. It is likely that no one is waterproofing Clarks either, because Clarks are made of corrected-grain leather, ie leather that has a plastic coating on the surface. When you're dealing with corrected grain leather, waterproofing is of very limited use because very little of it can get through to the leather. It's just that men's Clarks are made of more robust materials than most women's shoes.

Yoox, an online retailer that sells a lot of closeouts from small Italian producers, is a great bet for shoes. (They have plenty of junk, but TBH Italian-made cheap shoes are better quality than other cheap shoes.) I've only bought men's Doucal's from Yoox, but the quality is good. Women's Doucal's are here. Moma is another brand I've had good luck with, and their women's shoes look almost identical to their men's. My experience of random shoes from Yoox is that while I would never ever pay full price (Moma is simply not a $350 shoe brand, I'm sorry) I've been happy with shoes I've gotten from $100 - $200 on sale. Yoox returns are not seamless like Zappos or something, but I've never had any issues beyond the "I hate packing things up and mailing them" part.

In general, I have found men's Doucal's and Moma to be true to European sizes - if you consistently take a 38, you shouldn't have trouble.

Yoox has a limited amount of men's shoes in men's 5-7, so you might want to look at those too.
posted by Frowner at 4:59 PM on October 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

You probably want something with dainite rather than leather soles given the much walking
posted by JPD at 5:15 PM on October 17, 2018

Best answer: Have you tried looking in the boys’ section? These Florsheims at Nordstrom are similar to what you’re looking for and in your size.
posted by stefnet at 5:17 PM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would also very much like what you’re looking for. The closest I’ve found is a pair of oxfords from Freda Salvador . They’re outside your price range normally, but its possible to snag a pair for <$200 at their sample sale. They’re also pretty popular on eBay too.
posted by tinymegalo at 5:24 PM on October 17, 2018

Best answer: Nthing boys shoes if you're a women's 7. I'm also a 7, and it works out to a Big Kid 5 or 6 usually. Many dress shoes will be the same level of construction from the same brands, and SO much cheaper. Sometimes I find the soles to be a little thin, so getting an insole helps.
posted by Caravantea at 6:57 PM on October 17, 2018

Sadly these Doc Martens only come in black or I'd recommend them wholeheartedly.
posted by bendy at 7:07 PM on October 17, 2018

Best answer: I wear a 6.5/37 and I have leather-soled Frye oxfords like the ones linked upthread, but a couple years older. I got mine on, which I recommend -- there's no need to pay full price unless you really like the newest style best. Like these, if that shade of brown works for you. I get them resoled and reheeled regularly. You might want to pre-emptively get Vibram put on the soles; I have a pair of Frye flats that I bought secondhand like that and it helps a ton.
posted by clavicle at 7:17 PM on October 17, 2018

I haven't tried these but want to. The fit your size and color question, but I can't speak to how well they wear.
posted by kbuxton at 9:44 PM on October 17, 2018

A couple of people have recommended Frye oxfords, but their Customer Care FAQ says "Please note that due to the nature of our fine quality leathers, our footwear and handbags are not waterproof." I bought a pair a few years ago, and they're nice, but they have water stains on them now even though I've only been caught in the rain with them a handful of times.
posted by catabananza at 11:37 PM on October 17, 2018

If you can pony up more cash, these look like Grensons to me. I recently splurged on a pair of Grenson boots and they are insanely comfortable and really handsome. It really helps that their womens' range is basically identical to their mens - I'm a puny UK size 4 and they fit perfectly. Mine have a leather sole that was a bit slippery at first, but quickly keyed up. I like that they can be easily resoled.
posted by nerdfish at 3:30 AM on October 18, 2018

Camper shoes. I have two pairs from them that have held up to frequent wear, including being my primary pair on at least one trip to Europe.

I haven't checked the men's sizes to see if they carry small enough sizes but they have a lot of women's dress shoes beyond the ones I linked. Some even have gore-tex, which adds some confidence to wearing them in the rain, although I've worn mine in downpours with no issues.

Remember to polish your dress shoes to make them last longer. This seems obvious, but a lot of women don't think of it because many of our shoe styles don't call for it.
posted by ersatzhuman at 5:56 AM on October 18, 2018

Best answer: I've had a pair of Wolverine (the boots) for years now. The soles do have to be replaced about once every 18 months, but I've put way more than 1000 miles on these boots. They have women's shoes, and they're quite affordable: Like this oxford.

I've found that despite a lot of the warnings, you really don't have to worry about quality leather shoes that much. I've never followed the advice about wearing pairs on alternate days, and generally just oil my shoes once or twice a season with neatsfoot and then leave them be, and my Wolverines are still in great shape. I walk about 3 miles a day minimum, and I'm a big guy who generally destroys his shoes (in the summer I wear Tom's and can't get a pair to last me more than 2 months).
posted by dis_integration at 6:56 AM on October 18, 2018

Response by poster: Have you tried looking in the boys’ section? These Florsheims at Nordstrom are similar to what you’re looking for and in your size.

This is such a genius idea and I can't believe I didn't think of it!
posted by capricorn at 7:45 AM on October 18, 2018

Response by poster: Also yeah, kbuxton, that Tomboy Toes site has been on my radar for a while and their stuff looks right up my alley, but there are a lot of reviews complaining about the returns experience, and since I'm between a 37 and 38 I'd be worried about having to make an exchange.
posted by capricorn at 7:49 AM on October 18, 2018

I really love Bally oxfords. I'm a women's size 10/10.5 and have a black patent pair in men's 8. They fit like a glove and look fantastic! The only thing with men's shoes is they tend to run wider. Since I buy secondhand I have to be careful about D and E.
posted by orrnyereg at 2:42 PM on October 18, 2018

Response by poster: Gah, make that "between a 36 and a 37". I'm apparently very provincial in my shoe-buying! Anyway, thanks again for all the ideas.
posted by capricorn at 10:15 AM on October 19, 2018

Response by poster: I ended up ordering a pair of the boys' Florsheims that stefnet linked and, since I was well under my $200 budget, added a pair of the women's Wolverines dis_integration linked in the black and metallic gold. They both look gorgeous from the links, it sounds like I can expect great quality, and I can't wait to try them on when they arrive next week. Thanks, AskMe!
posted by capricorn at 12:48 PM on October 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

Damn, I need to get me some kids dress shoes. That was not sufficiently on my radar.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:45 AM on October 22, 2018

Response by poster: Update #2: I LOVE the Wolverines. They are sharp looking and very comfortable. Unfortunately the Florsheims arrived damaged; someone had clearly bought them for their kid and returned them after the kid wore them to an event. But I know what to look for in-store in the future!
posted by capricorn at 2:48 PM on October 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: It's the FINAL UPDATE: I also did buy Tomboy Toes! The 37s are a little big but work great with socks on.
posted by capricorn at 7:27 PM on June 10, 2019

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