I recently spent way too much time researching my first "nice" boot. I considered the Wolverine 1ks, the Red Wing Beckman and Iron Rangers, etc. I started looking into Chippewa after reading some good reviews by people who had also owned these other brands. I would have bought the 1k but I wanted something more equipped for wet weather (ie. no leather sole). I was pretty settled on the Chippewa service boot / homestead boot style so I went to the LL Bean store near me to nail down sizing. Here I found the Khatadin in cordovan (http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/78205?page=katahdin-iron-work-engineer-boots-plain-toe-mens) and that was it. The leather is amazing (very similar to the 1k) and it seems like an overall good quality boot. The welt looks very tight and sealed. I wish it had speed hooks but that's not a huge issue for me. I also like how the rapid stitching of the welt goes all the way around the back. The fit is quite good out of the box and actually doesn't seem like it will need a ton of breaking in. It comes with a cloth-topped rubber insole which is fairly comfortable (although I may replace with a leather-topped insole). Waxed laces feel pretty sturdy -- although they are round and I like the look of the flat waxed laces.
My one concern is around the connection of the heel block to the sole. On the inside edge of the heel block (towards to toe of the boot), if you pull down with some force, you can see a hairline separation between the heel and sole. Without pulling on it, no separation is visible. This is the case on both shoes. I'm almost positive I noticed the same thing on the Iron Ranger (same cork nitrile sole) when I tried it on in the Red Wing store. So I'm wondering if this is a normal reality of that type of sole or if that's a defect. It doesn't feel loose at all, but I'm wondering if moisture, etc could get in there and cause problems. It seems like a layer of glue would resolve it, but maybe that type of sole doesn't glue/adhere well to itself in that type of rubber-on-rubber seam? Would love to hear if anyone else has noticed this and whether it's a problem or not?
Also I'm thinking about replacing the removable insoles. Anyone have any recommendations for a leather-topped (I like the feel of a patina leather insole), breathable boot insole?
Heel block seam normally (no separation visible):
Heel block seam when pulling down:
Fresh from the box:
Top view after one wear:
Side view after one wear:
Insole of boot (without removable insole):