On the alternative shoe discussion, I think a plain snuff suede shoe would be great here as well. I have a pair, but they're bals, and you know how I feel about that! :P
A tan/snuff spec sounds interesing and would probably work well here also.
In regards to the walnut strand discussion, I don't really like that shoe and I'll say why. Everywhere you guys are advocating wearing it I think a walnut monk or derby (franciscan/delray) does better. Additionally it breaks less "rules". I don't think this is a coincidence. Additionally as you guys said, walnut strand feels too casual for a suit. So what good is it? I think it is the best shoe for casual suits that are lighter than navy or charcoal. Pretty much I think it works best in light gray suits and suits that are like Air Force blue. That's about it. I continues to baffle me why this shoe is so recommended and encouraged.
That said, I could see it being recommended to somebody who could only afford a few pairs of shoes. It can sort of masquerade a lot of roles decently and that has value for some people. I think it's rarely the BEST choice (those times listed above), but I do think that it is often a fair choice, which may speak to it's popularity.
A few thoughts:
1. You've got to get past the balmoral issue, especially when it comes to suede. If you follow the Rock Your Socks thread, you'll see an abundance of suede balmorals being paired with everything from suits to more casual ensembles. There is something about a suede cap toe or half brogue that looks outstanding when paired with more casual ensembles. At the same time, I'm not a fan of suede bluchers as something just looks off. You'll correspondingly notice there are not many suede bluchers posted in the shoe threads.
2. With regard to walnut Strands, I tend to only wear them in the Spring and Summer. I'm not a fan of double monks, so those are out. I'm likewise only a fan of a split toe blucher in a sleeker last like Carmina's Simpson last or the EG Dover. As for snuff suede, I've got a pair of Carmina half brogues in snuff suede on the way, so will soon be adding those to the rotation. At its core, the Strand is not a beautiful shoe, but it is incredibly versatile, which is a selling point for a Summer dress shoe. While I won't wear them with a suit, I'll pair them with pretty much anything else this Summer.