When you reach the upper echelons of any market, the differences between each offering become markedly more subjective. What makes a pair of Samurai Jeans better or worse than a pair of Oni is almost all up to personal preference. At the lower tiers, however, manufacturers are much more likely to cut corners and deliver an objectively inferior product to their competitors.
Such is the case with Goodyear Welted boots. A Goodyear Welt is a method of attaching the upper of a shoe to the sole. It’s an old-world, labor intensive process, but ultimately makes for a more durable and waterproof piece of footwear that can be resoled several times and drastically extend the life of a shoe.
So, how did we narrow the field? First off, we only considered boots with a Goodyear Welt for this test, as they are easy to recraft, more weather-resistent, and there’s a good variety of workboots out there for purchase. Second, we also wanted something that was relatively affordable (sub $350). Welted boots are expensive, but their longevity often allays at least some of the cost. Third, we wanted something was was relatively accessible–available year-round, pretty much always in stock, and available to try on and return if not in person but easily through the mail.
We tested these boots on their fit, construction, materials, and aesthetics. Aesthetics is the design and overall look of the boot. And let’s be honest that these are boots you’re buying for appearances–if you wanted a boot for real work, you’d get something ugly with a safety toe. Fit entails how comfortable and supportive the boot is to wear and how intensive the break in period was (I wore each pair for a week straight). Construction encompasses not only the techniques used to put the boot together but also the quality control behind them. And finally, Materials covers the quality of the leather, sole, welt, thread, shank, and lining of the boot.
We last looked over the Chippewa Service Boot and found an attractive and easy to break in boot with a high quality leather, but it had many of the construction drawbacks of the L.L.Bean Engineer. Today, we take a look at a slightly downmarket option that has some high-end details.
2. Thorogood 6″ Soft Toe Boot
At well under $200 and with first rate construction, the Thorogood 6″ Soft Toe is the best bang for your buck in Goodyear Welted workboots, however, the workboot aesthetics may prove a bit too much for some.
- Name: Thorogood 6″ Soft Toe
- Materials: Full grain leather, white wedge sole
- Welt: 360 Goodyear Storm Welt
- Made in: USA
- Unique Features:
- Thorogood stamp on heel
- Contrast stitching
- Available for $175 at Amazon
If you’re looking to fit in at a construction site, the Thorogood is your boot. With contrast stitching, a thick wedge sole, and a heel pull tab, the Soft Toe screams workboot louder than anything else on this list.
It also has by far the most branding. There’s a Thorogood label stitched into the tongue, a Thorogood brand on the heel, and a “Made in USA” tab stitched into the quarter. This boot wants you to know where it came from! So if discretion is your thing, this might not be the boot for you.
The fit on the Thorogood is comfy right out of the box. Like the L.L.Bean, it also uses a synthetic insole, but accounts for volume much better. Also, the white wedge sole is lighter than the other offerings and has much more give, making for an easier, cushier ride.
This is a good thing, because that rubber insole won’t mold as well, so it’s a positive that they feel good from the start. These boots required virtually no break in, and like the Service Boots, I was able to wear them for a full day after the first lace up. Fit is true to size.
The leather on the upper is also not nearly as stiff and waxy as anything else on the list. This means they are less likely to develop a patina and mold to you, but that also greatly reduces break in.
Thorogood is the only maker on this list that uses a 360 degree Goodyear Storm welt on their boot, this means they stitched the midsole a second time into the upper to provide a greater deal of water and weather protection than your standard welt.
All of the stitching on the upper is clean enough. There are a couple places where the stitches per inch varies, but nothing egregious. It might also just be more noticeable as the boots have contrast white thread, where every other boot was tonal.
Ah, cork filling, my old friend, you finally make an appearance! Despite the significantly cheaper price tag, Thorogood sprung for cork on their midsole. But like every other boot so far, they use a synthetic insole.
This second layer is slightly rubbery, so I wonder how much you’ll be able to actually form that cork, but I’m happy to see it nonetheless.
They use a tiny, tiny fiberglass shank, which isn’t nearly as sturdy as the steel ones we’ve seen previously. But it should prove sufficient with a sole that thick.
The outsole isn’t a Vibram Christy, but rather a proprietary Thorogood version. It doesn’t have the same heft and shine as a Christy, but appears as though it will hold up nearly as well.
Next time, we reach the thrilling conclusion of our Entry Level Boot Showdown, tune in for the big reveal!