Lots of changes are afoot over at Guangzhou, China-based workshop Iron Boots. Since debuting their boots in North America last year, Iron Boots chief Kaishu Zhang (or Kai, as he tends to go by) has continued to shape and refine Iron’s already-meticulously designed lasts, while also exploring new patterns and materials.
Iron Boots has also been taking note of their customers’ preferences and feedback, leading to changes in their pricing models, standard sizing, and construction offerings. All of these updates are now being rolled out, and it sounds like it’s very much for the best. Here’s what you need to know.
A New Pattern: The Chosen One
There are more style additions in the works at Iron Boots—expect to see the likes of a balmoral boot, a Chelsea, and a chukka in the future—but first up is The Chosen One (hell of a name!). The service boot is built on the new, semi-eponymous TCO last, which offers a rounder shape similar to Iron’s 5515 last, but has a significantly less-funky appearance; there’s more of a uniform roundness to it, without a hard edge on the medial side.
The Chosen One is making its debut here in Seidel Burgundy Double Shot (more on Iron Boots’ new leathers below). It clocks in at around a 7 inch height, and because Iron Boots are made-to-order by default for now, there’s some customization options available as well: structured or unstructured toebox; plain toe or cap toe; brogue or not; and stitchdown or handwelted construction.
New Lasts And Updated Patterns
Aside from the development of the TCO last, Kai has spent a lot of time retooling the existing Iron Boots lasts and patterns. Kai takes a great deal of inspiration from high-end bespoke makers such as John Lobb, and wants his boots to have a sleek look in combination with a comfortable fit. Using a dress shoe last as his starting point, Kai has spent years fine-tuning his Iron Boots last designs, and with these new iterations, it seems he’s struck the balance he’s been looking for.
The OP8 last used on models like the Devil Dog and FLT is being phased out, and is replaced by a new almond-toe last known as the Zero. Meanwhile, the 5515 last is going away in favor of the new 5515Pro, a slightly less-funky last that still retains its vintage paratrooper boot aesthetic. On these new lasts, you’ll notice some subtle but meaningful changes to fit and feel compared to previous Iron Boots lasts.
On both, things have been snugged up around the heel curve to allow for a more secure fit there, and also at the toe and metatarsal area on the vamp, which aims to prevent excess leather creasing. The bottoms of the lasts have been designed for a more ergonomic shape, to better support the arches and distribute weight throughout the foot. Patterns have also been adjusted so that the shaft will conform better to the ankle. Finally, Kai has also regraded the sizing between D and E widths, so that there is a more substantial difference between them, though not to the point that the E widths will look too chunky.
Iron Boots has so far unveiled a refreshed Devil Dog and 5515, but expect to see more of their patterns get updated in the future as well. The previous versions of the Devil Dog and 5515 will still be available to order, but only through the end of this year.
Aside from their holdover selection of leathers like Weinheimer calf, Italian roughout, and French scotch grain leather, Iron Boots is adding more options to the mix. Most prominently, they’ve begun to work with various Seidel leathers—their pullup-heavy Double Shot, as well as bison and their classic Oil Tan. Iron’s also stocking their Italian waxed bullhide again after a long absence, in both black and dark brown. Plus, SB Foot’s Teak Featherstone—which you may recall was part of the Østmo x Iron Boots debut—is now part of the regular lineup as well.
Expect to see more leather options pop up in the future as well, and they’re always taking requests for what leathers to add next. Kai has always been cautious about which leathers Iron Boots uses; he wants to be certain that his work will age gracefully with the appropriate materials. Good news for you shell cordovan fans, though: Maryam shell is currently being tested in the Patina Thunderdome.
Even Better Build Quality
Iron Boots already hits an impressively high bar in their construction—their boots manage to not be nearly as heavy weight as other serious boots (think PNW) while still inspiring a ton of confidence in their hardiness and longevity. It’s a pretty neat trick. In their stitchdown models, they hand-sew their outsoles with seven stitches per inch (SPI); on the handwelted models, they aim for ten(!) SPI. In place of cork, they’ve been using wool as a filler material beneath the insole, as a comfortable and potentially even-more-sustainable material. They continue to use hardy veg-tan leather for the midsoles, the toes, the heels, and the shanks.
Going forward, handwelted boots will get a hand-fudged welt as a standard option, providing each boot with an elegant, refined appearance (though a slightly smaller SPI, between eight and nine). Iron Boots has also found that adding a horsehide lining to the vamp goes a long way towards reducing unsightly creases, and it’s available as a $50 add-on.
Good news for the big-footed folks: Iron Boots has expanded the upper bounds of their last library from size 11 to size 13. If you need a size beyond that, there will still be a 15% surcharge and a longer lead time, as Iron Boots will need to produce custom lasts for those even-bigger sizes.
Speaking of lead times, Iron Boots is now offering express air delivery as a standard option instead of a premium add-on.
Finally, Iron is changing up their standard sole options as well. Previously, the Dr. Sole 1220 Supergrip was available for an extra fee, but Iron Boots found that because so many people were ordering it, they decided to include it in the base cost of their boots.
MTO Drop One Available Now
In celebration of all these changes happening at Iron Boots, three of their new models are now currently available made-to-order: the aforementioned Chosen One in Seidel Burgundy Double Shot ($749), the new 5515 in SB Foot Teak Featherstone ($699), and the new Devil Dog in Italian black waxed bullhide ($749). As a bonus, Iron Boots is offering their horsehide liner upgrade free of charge through the end of October with any of these models. For questions or requests on customization and sizing options on these models (or on any custom styles), send a direct message to @ironboots_usa on Instagram, or email email@example.com.