Somewhere between $200 and $300 lies a sweet spot for boots. It’s a range that provides ample options for good-looking, well-made, comfortable boots that just about any buyer could be happy with—if navigated correctly. Which is why for Stitchdown’s initial By-Price Boot Guide, we’re tackling the $300-and-under category.
We decided to get specific on models instead of just selecting brands that make great products for a few reasons. For one, some of these brands have a fairly wide price band—or at least, one that extends to over $300, while still having other great products that come in under it. And two, for even the best makers, not all styles are created equal. The choices below represent a bootmaker at their best or most iconic, while also covering a nice wide range of styles throughout the story.
But in the end, the most important criteria is without a doubt: these are boots you can trust, and they’ll deliver a ton of value for your money.
This is a living story that will be updated over time, so definitely DM @stitchdown on Instagram with recommendations for boots to add to it—or to ask questions of any kind
- Alden Indy 403C
- Thorogood Moc-Toe
- Tricker’s x Division Road Bourton
- Red Wing Iron Ranger
- Tricker’s Stow
With Iron Rangers sitting just beyond the $300 price range at this point, the obvious Red Wing move is the Moc Toe—but this Helpful Affordable Boots Story isn’t here to be obvious. Plus, the Blacksmith is one of the rightly venerated, since-1905 Minnesota company’s most underrated boots, all slightly sprung toe, simple clean stitching patterns, and predictable Red Wing rough and toughness (even in the leathers not literally called “rough and tough”). It’s hard to find a more durably built boot at any price, but under $300, Red Wing boots are a true long-term value buy.
Meermin spends most of its time in the dress shoe category, and if you ever need oxfords or a brogue derby in the $200 range, this is 100% your brand. But they also make a simply beautiful Chelsea boot, the elegantly casual style that’s defined by its lack of laces (the pull tab and elastic gore on the ankle lets you slip right in) and total design cleanliness. Meermin also does a slightly lower non-wholecut Chelsea—e.g., it’s made from two separate pieces of leather instead of just one, creating a seam under the ankle—but the wholecut, in my mind, is the one.
Mark Albert Barbera is barnstorming the Goodyear welted boot space with his three-year-old brand based in Somerset, PA, offering very appealing prices largely by selling direct to customers. While his first boot was a Chelsea, Mark makes everything from derbies to loafers, and has dabbled in shell cordovan (not under $300, sorry!), but the Uptown six-inch boot is probably his namesake. Mark’s known for his kudu, and the Uptown wears the consistently interesting antelope leather well, but it also comes in just about every type of leather you could ever want in a boot, like the military-grade roughout above.
I’ve owned my pair for almost six years now, have taken them to hell and back, and they’re only more handsome for the journey (see the full review). They are definitely more work-boot-y than Red Wing moc toes, but I actually love that. While many boots in this price range (and certainly above) sport a full leather footbed, Wisconsin-based, worker-owned Thorogood opts for a cushiony, removable insole. At first I was worried that the immediate comfort it provided would wane over time; one resole, three major woodworking projects, and at least 1,000 three-mile dog walks later, they haven’t lost a touch of it. One of the best values in boots, anywhere.
Other sub-$300 options: Round Toe
Bogota, Colombia-based Beckett Simonon offers a strong value throughout their entire rage—including their oxfords, which they sent over for me to test, and which impressed me in various ways. Their pull-up leather Medina boots follow suit, built on a handsome last and featuring some appealing pinking details and very solid all-around finishing.
Other sub-$300 options: Nolan, Gallagher
Ok so Wesco’s Romeo is more of a shoe and less of a boot (mayyyybe you could call it a low-cut Chelsea?). And it’s a pretty specific one at that. But being able to score anything from Oregon-based stitchdown-specializing maker of some of the most hardcore, aggressively handsome work-based boots anywhere for under $200 is something that needs to be noted—and you’ll still have some scratch left to save up for some custom Jobmasters.
Thursday sells Goodyear welt boots at great prices. That’s just what they do. And while their Captain, President, and other boots clock in under $200, this particular shoe obsessed-website recommends the Vanguard, which nobly represents Thursday’s made-in-the-USA line. It’s especially fun in waxed cacao (safe word!) leather with a lugged Vibram outsole and tall, sculpted Cuban heel—but the burnt copper seen here is probably most people’s standard speed.
Almost all boots that Stitchdown recommends are built with high-quality, resoleable construction methods: Goodyear welting, hand-welting, stitchdown, etc, etc. But I’m making an exception here, because 1) I personally love Danner as a brand and have a ton of confidence in what they create, and 2) their stitchdown products are all well over $300 (if you want to go there, check out the Mountain Pass, Mountain Light, or my personally beloved Danner Lights). Which leaves us with the Jag: a lightweight lifestyle-y hiker with handsomely funky styling and a cemented outsole that you can’t really replace, but also isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Other sub-$300 options: Bull Run
I’ll be able to get into far deeper detail once my own custom Cordmaster monkey boots arrive in a few months from the Sagara workshop in Badung, Indonesia (Sagara is a small shop, and makes their boots largely by hand halfway around the world, so a little waiting can be involved). But again: I have a pair of Cordmasters coming—which means I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen and heard regarding Sagara.
It’s hard to imagine getting hand-built boots with this level of finishing and overall quality for under $300, but Sagara and a handful of other Indonesian makers are able to do it. The order process isn’t always as easy as clicking on their site and buying, especially if you want something custom—although they’ll customize just about anything you want—which is fantastic. But my gut is they’ll be worth it in the end, and last 1000x longer than it took to get them.
As for ordering, Sagara has a website with a customization function, but I’d strongly recommend getting in touch with them through their Instagram, emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or chatting through Line at @sagarabootmaker.
Tied for the Indonesian Brand I’m Most Impressed and Fascinated By, Onderhoud is a truly tiny operation, with all boots hand lasted and hand welted by founder Rizky Afnan and his single craftsperson. Given the scale, the range of products is impressive—from beautiful six-inch lace-ups with perforated cap toes, to monkey boots (Indonesian makers love their monkey boots and I’m right there with them), to some engineer boots coming soon—and their patterns and finishing are consistently exceptional.
While I have a pair of roughout, low-cut, semi-lace-to-toe shoe-boots on order, the Onderhoud Boondocker is my pick for something that probably fits the most people’s style. Again, pretty much every facet of any Onderhoud boot can be customized, and everything is made to order.
One of the few remaining makers of handsewn moccasin construction shoes in what was once a state bursting with them (Maine), Rancourt makes a vast range of predictably fantastic boat shoes, ranger mocs, penny loafers, some very nice dress shoes—and of course boots. While their welted boots are quite handsome indeed, this is a handsewn company, and their new low-slung Acadia chukka is a fantastic example of one. It’s more than a shoe, slightly less than a standard boot, and, very, very cool in the flint kudu leather (which I couldn’t get a great photo of—the natural Chromexcel leather model is shown above).
Other sub-$300 options: Greenwood boot (on closeout sale, who knows for how long)
A newer made-in-the-USA company based outside Buffalo (see my interview with founder Andrew Svisco here), Parkhurst makes classic Goodyear welted boots with wonderfully straightforward patterns—but sometimes, contrastingly aggressive leathers, mainly the always-interesting kudu. I’m also a big fan of their Delaware cap-toe, but the plain-toe Allen, which just got an update featuring a few slick design tweaks, is available in more leathers.
Other sub-$300 options: Delaware
Mexican shoe factories can get a bad rap at times, but Unmarked is doing what it can to buzzsaw that perception by Goodyear welting an often bold and interesting range of very high-quality boots. Their Chelsea doesn’t fit into that “bold” category; it’s just really, really nice. Definitely a brand to keep an eye on as they expand across the border into the US, and beyond.
Other sub-$300 options: Burras
Speaking of bold and interesting! Utah-based Taft pretty much refuses to do anything but. Some of their boots are Goodyear welted, some are Blake stitched, and all pretty much define “going for it.” Which allows Taft to command a corner of the market stacked high with people looking for something totally different than they’ll find anywhere else.
That means leathers with insane grains and unique colors (and even a few woven-leather models), but also uppers made from plaid wool and floral jacquard fabrics. I personally love the Viking, their burly hiker, but the Jack boot with contrast toe caps—and sometimes heel counters—is their best seller for a reason.
I’ve never owned a pair of Astorflexes, or even picked one up (literally, with my hands)–but I’ve only ever heard fantastic things about the wares made by the Italian company whose shoemaking roots extend back to the 1800s. Their Greenflex desert boot is the signature model, a lightweight suede chukka that espouses Astorflex’s commitment to eco-friendly shoe production: vegetable-tanned leathers, natural rubber outsoles, and more.
Even if you’ve decided for whatever reason that you’re too cool for L.L. Bean clothing, nobody is too cool for Bean Boots. They’re waterproof, they’re comfortable, they can come in dozens of configurations, including being lined with (basically) the flannel blanket you’d curl up by the fireside with, and they’re bizarrely affordable. Do they have a pretty specific look? Yes! And nobody seems to be able to knock it off just right. Icons are icons for a reason—and for winter, rainy days, or just mucking around in bogs as most reasonable people do on weekends for enjoyment, Bean Boots are pretty tough to beat.
Other sub-$300 options: Katahdin Iron Works
They’re not Goodyear welted (or even Blake stitched), I’ve never owned a pair, the styling is often not elegant—but I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about Blundstone, the Tasmanian Chelsea boots maker. I’m going with their Ankle Boots here, since they’re a bit more refined, but if you’re looking to kick some excrement, the other 550s, their thicker-soled brethren built with more battle-ready leathers, may be for you.
Another old, old Italian company I admittedly don’t have a ton of experience with, this Fracap recommendation is based on what I’ve heard from trusted sources. But it’s also grounded in what I’ve seen with my own two boot-attuned eyes by just looking at their very impressive range of classically designed hiking boots—which often get turned loose with Vibram Gloxi-Cut and macro-ripple outsoles. And the price for what you get, honestly, is borderline insane.
Other sub-$300 options: Z525 Explorer
Jon Doe called Jon Doe John Doe because “We’re not pretending to be something we aren’t. We gave that name to our shoes because actually we don’t care about the name.” The company’s real commitment is to making a pretty damn solid Goodyear welted boot in Mexico, operating off a made-to-order approach that helps them keep costs down. I’ve been impressed with my pair they sent over to test, especially with comfort right out of the box.