When it comes to quality shoes and boots, value is a 1) hugely important in making the right decision, and 2) something of a fungible concept. Value often depends as much on who you are, and how you’ll be deploying your shoes and boots, as what the price is.
If you’ll only wear them to three weddings a year for the next decade, a legitimately handsome and well-made pair of black oxfords for $200 can be a fantastic value. But if you wear black oxfords to work every day, it’s pretty easy to justify a $500 or $700 pair as a good value—to you, not the three-weddings guy. And hey it’s possible to find “value”—real, legitimate value—in a pair of $3,000 Japanese bespoke shoes! They’re one of a kind, and fit perfectly after all! That’s valuable! But believe it or not, we are not all that person.
So we’ve put together a roundup of men’s shoe and bootmakers that you can swear by, all chosen and underpinned by one question: do they punch above their price-weight? Every one of the makers below does. Some may be a touch more on the expensive side than you’re accustomed to; but there are very, very good reasons for that. Some may be even cheaper than you’d ever imagine! Well, go ahead and embrace that, as long as you don’t expect a $900 shoe for $150.
So dig in! And find that value you deserve.
Price Range: $150-$675
When anyone—serious footwear enthusiast, shoe-curious individual, the whole gamut—asks me how to get the best bang for their shoe-buck, Grant Stone is almost always my first response. Headquartered in Michigan but manufacturing in China in the most ethical and quality-forward way possible (this interview with founder Wyatt Gilmore gives great background on that), Grant Stone makes a product that really can’t be touched at a generally sub-$350 pricepoint.
Especially when you consider Grant Stone’s commitment to fitting just about every foot out there by stocking D, E, and EEE widths in a wide range of sizes, something most makers simply don’t invest in (but really should).
The brand’s once-tight lineup has expanded nicely from Diesel and Ottawa boots to the dressier Edward boot, oxfords, the classy crossover Brass moc toe (see my review here) and one of the cleanest penny loafer patterns in the game. You’ll find lots and lots of excellently clicked CXL, but also Badalassi veg-tan, Annonay calf, C.F. Stead suedes and kudu, and excellent unique shades of Horween shell cordovan in periodic pre-orders. Whether you’ve got 12 pairs of boots or two, it’s hard to see anyone being disappointed by Grant Stone.
Oh and Stitchdown Premium subscribers get another 10% off!
Why It’s a Great Value: The build is incredibly solid, the shoes and boots are very comfortable indeed, and it’s simply hard to imagine getting more for your money at around $300. That’s even more the case when it comes to Horween shell cordovan boots and shoes, which is still under $700 (an incredible price). And even even more the case in terms of their deeply discounted B-Grade seconds—which often seem to be confusingly without any flaws for $150+. And those widths! They’ll actually have shoes that fit you!
Price Range: $195-$450
The Mallorcan brand (who also does a good deal of their manufacturing ethically in China) is always right up there in the pure value/pricepoint conversation, especially on the dressier end of things, where oxfords, double-monks, longwings, Chelseas and more can be found for $200—astonishing, given the build quality and beauty of the patterns. Recently, the same can be said of Meermin’s more casual boots, which have been released in a dizzying array of leathers recently.
But the real value play here is around $300-$450, where you can get handwelted Linea Maestro oxfords, beautiful Norgevese construction split-toe bluchers, and boots and shoes in shell cordovan from Japan’s Shinki Hikaku and Chicago shell master Horween. All of which is absolutely crazy.
Why It’s a Great Value: Are Meermins the world’s absolute greatest shoes, and yet somehow only $200??? No, they are not. But at that price, especially in the dress category, they simply can’t be beat.
Price Range: $315-$1000
I once went black oxford shopping with my brother in Manhattan, and we hit all the usual suspects. He was in love with a pair that cost almost twice as much as the Carminas he looked at, and I told him: “Look, those are great. Probably even a little better in some ways. But if you realize that Carmina lasts fit you well, you just found a brand to love forever and save a ton of money doing it.” And they fit. And he found that brand.
Another Mallorcan maker who manufactures on the Spanish island, Carmina is another “wait, how in the hell are they doing that, at that price???” brand, making some of the most beautiful and superbly finished dress shoes and more you can find at any price for $500, some damn classy boots for around $550. Especially if you prefer a more European-style last, the range is wide, from standard but beautiful oxfords, to wholecuts, to just-over $300 loafers, to one of my favorite plain toe bluchers (available in shell cordovan for under $800).
Why It’s a Great Value: Along with TLB below, Carmina is probably the best looking, best finished sub-$500 dress shoe, period. Pretty good reason.
Price Range: $370-$480
Despite being on the scene only for a few years now, TLB is yet another Mallorcan maker that is giving Carmina a run for its value-money in the dress category. The base line is beautiful and very nicely put together—but for really not that much more, TLB’s Artista line is doing honestly astonishing things.
TLB Artista shoes and boots are flush with details that you generally only find in bespoke footwear. Incredibly slim beveled waists. Leather heel stiffeners. Heels that beautifully hug the line of the upper, despite 360 degree Goodyear welt stitching—which get crazy-tight stitches per inch. Stunning lasts that span the range from chiseled to dressy-round. And they only use top-end leathers, which should be wholly unsurprising after everything you just read.
Why it’s a great value: This level of bespoke-type detail is essentially impossible to find at this price point. Or even triple this price point!
Price Range: $150-$395
Every single handsewn maker manufacturing in the US deserves a good long look, including Quoddy, Russell Moccasin, Yuketen. (And you should probably listen to this Stitchdown Shoecast about them, or this one). But to me, especially recently (see why below) Rancourt has the best price-to-happiness ratio of the bunch. Their Ranger Moc pattern is my personal favorite, but their Harrison boot is a killer, and the beefroll pennies are absolute classics.
There’s plenty more too—including a very nice Blake stitched line of casual shoes and boots, brogued oxfords, and some solid looking sneakers in addition to the handsewns Rancourt is most known for. And they’re all made right in Maine.
Why It’s a Great Value: Rancourt and Quoddy are pretty much neck and neck for the best price-point of the made-in-USA handsewn makers. But recently Rancourt has rolled out a “wholesale pricing” pre-sale model that cuts the retail cost to consumers on select models as low as $150, which is basically insane. Yes, you have to wait for them to announce the next round, but when they do…
Price Range: $250-$700ish
I just don’t get why more people in the US aren’t more deeply into Tricker’s. The Northampton, England maker has been making some of the world’s most seriously built Goodyear welted shoes and boots since 1829—1829!—and every pair I own appears to be wholly indestructible. Tricker’s basically invented the country boot, whose heritage continues today in its iconic Stow boot as well as its shoe brethren, the inimitable Bourton brogue shoe.
Yes, Tricker’s makes a line of “town” shoes, although outside their Robert plain-toe blucher (for me at least), that’s not quite the true soul of Tricker’s. The brand is about country boots and shoes, Burfords and Grassmeres and Daniel tramping shoes. And beyond their base line—which does get good and fun especially with Tricker’s quintessential acorn leather—Tricker’s turns retail shop collaborators around the globe basically completely loose to create some of the more unique and varied makeups you’ll see anywhere (Division Road is the Stitchdown favorite for US shops, and you’ll get better prices in the US—if you live there—without the conversion rate).
Why It’s a Great Value: Generally found starting under $500, there’s almost no way to get more shoe with more heritage squeezed into it for your money. And Tricker’s Outlet sells seconds and discontinued styles for often incredible prices, as cheap as $250.
Price Range: $195-$750+
Indonesia is the most interesting bootmaking scene in the world—dozens of makers of various lineages and skill levels all largely hand-welting a wide array of styles. So how do you make sense of it all? Well for one, listen to the first episode of the Stitchdown Shoecast. For two, keep reading.
Rizky of Onderhoud is legitimately one of the most talented bootmakers in the entire world, and I’d consider his boots to be an incredible value for his handmade product at whatever price he charged; due to everyone else knowing that, it’s also tough to weasel into his order queue.
Many others are quite worthy indeed—but I had to choose.
For this particular story, I’m going with Sagara (below) and Benzein (right here). Benzein makes some wonderful service boots, a very nice side zip, and even a Jodhpur boot. Their engineer boots really stand out—Benzein’s put in the work to source some of the best leathers anywhere in the world, most specifically Maryam horsebutt, and it works great on that engineer (including the shorter 8-inch model).
But Benzein may just make the world’s most dialed-in wholecut Chelsea boot—almost certainly the best for the price, around $400 for imported non-shell cordovan leather. Their Kujang last (my recommendation for a Chelsea from them) is sculpted just perfectly, hugging the foot in all the right places and providing a really darn appealing shape to gaze at when you’re wearing them. You can customize specs to your heart’s content, or just let Benzein’s Adi guide you. Either way it’s hard to imagine going wrong; I know literally hundreds of people who have ordered Benzein Chelseas and as long as they nail their size, I haven’t heard a single complaint yet. I certainly don’t have any with mine.
Why It’s a Great Value: Fit, finishing, and an exceptionally good wholecut Chelsea pattern are far more than it seems reasonable to get at this price.
Price Range: $225-$880
Sagara is absolutely my value pick of the Indonesian landscape for hand-welted lace-up boots. They’ve been at it for quite some time (relatively speaking; about a decade) and have funneled that experience and knowledge into an incredibly well-made, deeply beautiful product at a price that starts just over $200 (their best stuff, with the best non-shell cordovan leather, is closer to $450).
In addition to build-for-the-buck, Sagara’s range is another major part of its appeal. Their Marine Dress Boot is about as perfect as a plain toe derby boot pattern gets. Their Boondocker—with which they are unafraid to veer from tan roughout tradition in terms of leather—is wonderful. But then there’s the Liberty brogue wingtip boot, and the more subtle, still damn-classy Regent semi dress boot, swooptie and all. And don’t forget what I absolutely consider to be the best monkey boot pattern in the game: Sagara’s Cordmaster.
Like many Indonesian brands, made-to-order is Sagara’s current bread and butter, allowing customers to work with Sagara head man Bagus to pick every detail of a boot or shoe makeup—although I know they’re working with a top retailer to have a tidy range of ready-to-ship stock stuff available at all times. Stay tuned for that, but in the meantime, take a look at their Instagram account for ideas and DM away if you’re interested.
Why It’s a Great Value: Especially if you want to pick your own leather and specs, you’re getting a lifetime boot for the price of two rapidly disposable ones. Think about that.
Oh and Stitchdown Premium subscribers get another 10% off!
Price Range: $600-$1500ish
Bologna-based Enzo Bonafè is without question one of the best values in high-end, handwelted boots and shoes. Consistently finding the right balance between approachable and uniquely bold, Enzo’s models range from simple but distinctive oxfords to Norgevese-welted sharkskin service boots. None could possibly be considered boring. Many should be categorized as works of art.
Enzos don’t really qualify as “incredibly affordable” for most people, but when you consider that you’re getting a handmade piece of footwear for $100 more than Carmina, or often even less than a Goodyear welt maker like Alden, the value smacks you in the face. Now, do I personally prefer Alden styles (generally—although certain Enzos have floored me in the past), and am I happy to pay the extra money for them? Yes I do, and yes I am. But if you find yourself digging the Enzo look, this is absolutely a brand to explore.
Why It’s a Great Value: Enzos are the best-looking European-made handwelted boots you can buy at anything approaching this price, period.
Price Range: $115-$250
The definition of value, as you can see quite well throughout this story, is flexible, and necessarily so. But sometimes you just want something that’s darn good and doesn’t cost a ton of money. Enter Astorflex, the Italian brand that makes as good as boot as you’ll ever find under $150.
Now a lot of the following is personal, so don’t let it taint your outlook too much. BUT…I don’t love some of Astorflex’s line. Their lace-up boots and derby shoes feel unfinished to me, almost primitive. Some other models similarly just don’t hit the personal mark.
But now for the good stuff! their Greenflex chukka/desert boot is about as solid a pattern as you can find, and for around $150, offers better style and comfort than a similarly priced Clark’s desert boot. And while there are certainly more refined Chelsea patterns out there, Astorflex’s Bitflex, for $175, is pretty untouchable. The price is higher at $250, but I also really like their Nuvoflex (yes all the names have “flex” in them) moc-toe short boot.
Why It’s a Great Value: Excellent comfort with just enough style for around $100? Cmon!
Price Range: $89-$139
More extreme value comes from South Africa’s Jim Green, which somehow manages to make incredibly hardy, legitimately well-made boots for under $140—and often under $100. Which is basically insane. Jim Green’s Razorback hiker is also vouched for by Dear Friend of Stitchdown Carl Murawski (who puts his boots through more than most) as a certifiable work boot, and their Stockman chukka is similarly ready for everything, perched atop a heavy lug sole.
Do I wish the Razorback in specific was a little lighter on the branding, with its giant stamp? Would I love to see a sleeker, more conventional last last used? I do, and I would! I also am possibly overusing rhetorical questions in this story! But Jim Green doesn’t make boardroom boots—and I put my two pairs to work constantly and they’re capable and comfortable as all hell while I do it. So who really cares! (But anyway yes I’m talking to them about making a non-stamped model…).
Why It’s a Great Value: You will pretty much never find a more beat-up-able boot this well made at this low price anywhere else, ever.
Price Range: $180-$250
My Thorogood moc-toes are my personal favorite work boots of all time—mine have been absolutely thrashed over the half-decade plus I’ve worn them, going through multiple resoles with aplomb (read the review here). But they started out as around-town boots, albeit rugged, chonky ones, and I loved them for that purpose before they turned some wear-corners (and…my collection swelled just a touch).
Their plain toes are similarly impressive, I love their Roofer monkey boots, and with the ability to go with a higher height, steel toe, etc, Thorogood makes the right boot for pretty much any work-y need. I wish their 1892 line of upscale, more heritage-style boots was still kicking, but you may be able to find some floating around. They’re still mostly made in America, and are one of the most comfortable boots I’ve ever owned to this day. Hard to go wrong.
Why It’s a Great Value: The price couldn’t be more right if the looks are there for you.
Price Range: $199-$265
If you’re looking to get into sleeker Goodyear welted boots but aren’t quite ready to break the bank, Thursday is an excellent place to start. Their trademark Captain service boot is somehow still $199, their Diplomat moc-toe provides a classier silhouette than most similar work boots, and they’ve expanded their lineup to include everything from Chelsea boots to Jodhpurs, a style very difficult to find in this price range if you’re looking for anything remotely of quality.
There’s also the $265, made-in-USA Vanguard, so if buying something made in the USA is important to you, well…here it is.
Why It’s a Great Value: It’s almost certainly the best price you’ll find on a quality, sleeker service-type boot, and the overall range doesn’t leave many boot styles out.
Read Stitchown’s Thursday Captain Boots Comfort Diary before checking out the lineup that keeps getting deeper at ThursdayBoots.com
Price Range: $318-$348
Completely manufactured just outside Buffalo, New York, Parkhurst is a newer brand that has already made a serious mark with its Goodyear welted boots backboned by a very nicely proportioned pattern. And while they used to be able to claim the hallowed sub-$300 pricepoint, a recent beefing up of the overall build quality has nudged them a bit north—and to me, is more than worth the extra $20-$30.
Chromexcel and Horween’s veg-tan Dublin leather are available for a more straightforward look, but Parkhurst has also spent significant time in the kudu realm, leveraging the incredibly soft, always-funky leather from the African antelope to fantastic effect.
Oh and Stitchdown Premium subscribers get another 10% off!
Why It’s a Great Value: You simply can’t get a made-in-USA boot that looks this handsome for this price anywhere else.
Price Range: ~$170-$239
Shoemakers deploy various methods to keep costs down. One of Beckett Simonon’s is doing everything made-to-order, aka, you tell them what you want, they make it while you wait, they send you the shoes, reducing the costs of making a ton of shoes nobody ever buys.
So there’s a wait, but it works! Beckett Simonon makes everything in Columbia with Argentinian and Italian leather, using Blake construction on everything. Now, there are certainly more refined patterns you can find from other makers (although really only Meermin at this price range) but to me, their cap-toe Durant oxfords and Sutton plain toe derbies are the best bets on the shoe side of things, while the Gallagher apron-front and Preston Chelsea boots also tick some boxes.
Why It’s a Great Value: If you have the patience and dig the patterns—and around $200 is the top of your budget—you can end up quite happy with some Beckett Simonons. And there’s also almost always a 20% discount opportunity if you sign up for their newsletter (that $170 price above includes the 20% off).
Price Range: $400-$550
I can’t help but feel that Paraboot is one of the great under-appreciated shoe brands out there—kind of a Tricker’s with even less visibility outside their home country of France. Much like Tricker’s, Paraboot has history (been around since 1908) and a dressier component to their lineup. But Paraboot—to me at least—is about some funk and some chunk, all wrapped into a classy package. My Avignons (see the review here) are some of my favorite shoes to pair with dressier pants and tops; I’m not going to wear them with a suit to a wedding, but anything short of that: let’s go.
And man they are COMFORTABLE. I had zero break-in period on mine and the lasts are nicely accommodating, especially for a European shoe. That comfort is certainly aided by Paraboot’s proprietary chonky rubber soles that dance the delicate dance of cushion-to-durability; there’s nothing quite like them out there. Construction is top-notch, even if sometimes finishing can be a little, um, “glass of wine at lunch,” as one shoe-friend of mine once put it—but hey, it’s all all character, right??
Why It’s a Great Value: Anything this well made and comfortable for around $500 is a very tidy little value play. Throwing in Paraboot’s signature style pushes it over the top.
Price Range: $472+
One could easily make the case that any of the Pacific Northwest makers—White’s, Nick’s, Viberg, Frank’s, etc—offer a great value. Hell, they make great looking boots that are virtually indestructible…what could be more cost-effective than indestructibility?? So please, I urge you, give them all a good long look. And listen to this Stitchdown Shoecast about them. I promise it’s quite fun.
But for today, we’re going to talk about Wesco, and specifically their engineer boots. Wesco is almost single handedly responsible for popularizing the style, at first for welders in the port of Portland, then with the motorcycle crew in the 50s with their Boss Boots, right on to today. And that experience and history really shows—my natural CXL Mister Lou engineers from Standard & Strange have immediately become one of my most fun boots to wear and have washed away all traces of the foolish, shortsighted engineerbootphobia I suffered from for years and years.
Why They’re a Great Value: Are there more purely beautiful engineers out there? I think that’s probably fair to say, yes. Is there a more time-tested engineer boot? No way. And at the price that Wesco charges—just over $470, although that ticks up with Wesco’s endless customization or with special makeups from retailers—you are simply not going to find a better value anywhere.
Alden Shell Cordovan (for now, at least)
Price Range: $758+
Yes, Grant Stone Horween shell cordovan boots and shoes are more affordable (and very excellent). Yes, you can get Shinki shell cordovan from Meermin for around $450 (which is, by the way, completely insane). But Alden has made more shell cordovan shoes and boots than anyone ever, and Horween is still (in my opinion that is shared by many) the ultimate shell cordovan available. On the low end, you can score tassel loafers for $758. But Alden’s plain toe blucher in color 8 or black shell is also under $800, as are many other models.
Why It’s a Great Value: The most long-lasting (and what many consider to be the most beautiful) leather from one of the most respected makers in the game, in a nearly infinite range of styles, for a price that’s almost half as much as some other top makers? I mean, c’mon.