X-post on Rancourt thread
After a year of wearing and collecting Rancourt and OSB handsewns, I thought I’d give my impressions of the various soles I’ve had a chance to try out (excluding the camp moc sole, as that one is pretty straightforward):
RLH Ranger sole (on Rancourt natural CXL ranger moc): These were the first non-camp sole I had on a handsewn. I was swayed by Kyle’s evangelical salesmanship on these via their blog. First impression out of the box was they felt a bit squishy and almost unsteady or wobbly when I walked. This was likely because, as I believe that Matt Bernier had pointed out, that they had not yet fully cured, both aesthetically and physically. Almost a year later, these are my favorite handsewns, despite a number of purchases since. The RLH sole is dynamite. It has firmed up considerably, doesn’t wear down appreciably despite it seeming very soft to the touch. And I can walk for days in these things. Also great for sneaking up on people since they virtually make no sound! One disadvantage, as has been pointed out by others, is that when walking on a low pile carpet, the toe of the sole can catch pretty easily, similar to crepe. But honestly, that happens less and less as the sole breaks in more. My appreciation for these soles is also helped by the fact that the natural CXL on the uppers is so awesome. I had asked Rancourt when making these up to use as light a color as possible, as I wanted them to darken on my watch. They have definitely done that, and are approaching the coveted caramel stage (all this is an aside from the sole discussion). My next Rancourt shoe will probably be on an RLH Aspen (note: OSB, as far as I know, does not offer RLH soles of any kind).
Vibram Christy sole (on Rancourt shearling-lined color 8 CXL chukkas): I’m only maybe a dozen wears into these, but they are clearly firmer than the RLH soles. And that may be what is desired. In this case, they are on a chukka that’s intended to be worn in cold and often inclement weather (hence the shearling). From my perspective, the Christy is firm but comfortable and provides decent traction. There’s been no ice or snow in DC since I received these, so I can't comment on how they would handle that. Although I will say the RLH’s performed admirably out in snow a couple times last spring.
Vibram 2060 (on OSB brown waxed flesh trail oxfords): My newest addition, I think I’m going to love these soles. Extremely lightweight given how thick they are. These are a pleasure to walk in because they are lighter than the RLH and yet more cushiony than the Christy. No idea how they’ll wear yet (only three or four wears in so far), but they seem pretty durable. My only concern was whether they veer aesthetically toward orthopedic shoes, but I think they stay just on the safe side of cool. There’s a good contrast to the waxed flesh, which I hope will wear down in spots to reveal the unwaxed nap with heavy use. These should look dramatically different over time. (note: Rancourt, I was told, does not offer either waxed flesh leather, or the Vibram 2060).
Plantation Crepe (on Rancourt x Hickoree’s blue suede sashiko chukkas): Not sure I need to go too in-depth on this, as everyone probably has a pretty good idea of crepe soles. These ones are thick and substantial and cushiony as you might imagine. I will say, however, that the midsole between the upper and the crepe is pretty stiff. Not uncomfortably stiff (and probably needed to balance out the softness of the crepe long-term) but definitely firm. Aesthetically, these things get dirty quick. As in, the first time you wear them. That’s part of the charm, I would say.
Hope this helps people in their decisions on soles.