This thread was helpful to me in sorting out the Russell Moccasin pluses and minuses, so I thought I would add my own experience to the mix.
Background - I am not a fashion guy. I do have a great appreciation for well made shoes and my closet now holds Red Wing, Alden, Allen Edmonds, an old - but little worn - pair of Florsheim Royal Imperial Kenmore long wing oxfords, an equally old pair of Dan Post anaconda skin boots, and a New Balance 993.
One reason I own this selection is that I am very, very hard to fit with impossibly narrow, flat feet and all the aches and pains that go with it. Many Allen Edmond styles and some Aldens fit nicely, but 98% of the time I need casual/work shoes. Red Wing's no longer fit due to changes in my feet (getting old - feet are now longer!). Allen Edmonds makes the Wilbert, but it is an oxford and is really not suitable for my needs. Alden has nothing at all.
I now own a pair of the Russell Art Carter Traveling Sportsman Chukka with a cream Vibram 2060 sole. This is the most comfortable shoe I have ever owned. But the reason is that it truly fits, supporting my foot from the heel all the way through the arch, on down to the ball. After eight, 10, 12 hours my feet are neither tired nor do my legs ache - something I have dealt with for 50 years. I've got them on now, here:
As you can see, I've already got them dirty. I have to live my life in these. But I have had several complements; they are an attractive style.
Getting fit: I went to the factory in Berlin, Wi. I arrived minutes before their lunch hours, but Gerald (the owner) insisted he could skip lunch. He went through all the tracings and tape measurements, but my feet have never conformed to measurement and we spent 45 minutes going through various sizes they had in stock - successfully! I found a perfect fit, but one substantially different from what I had measured. I strongly recommend going in person if it is at all an option. In spite of all the information that Russells fit 1/2 to a full size long, I ended up with the same length as my Allen Edmonds, but a full width narrower.
Selecting the style: I went there to order a pair of basic chukkas, but there was a pair of Art Carters on display and I fell in love. You need to understand that Russell basically only makes one shoe - a hand sewn moccasin. You can get different leathers, different soles, single double or triple vamps, oxfords to knee high boots, and a raft of other features, but when covered by your pants leg they are all going to look much alike.
Breaking in: First, I waited 13 weeks for delivery. Break in is largely a matter of getting the sole to loosen up a bit - the leather required very little. BUT!!! Even standing over three layers of leather, that midsole is hard!! Think old fashioned penny loafer. Mind you, even so they were the best fitting, most comfortable shoe I've ever had. I cut myself a pair of thin Poron insoles from sheet material and now they are little short of amazing. I thought about ordering them with the Poron insole built in, but I wanted to see if they would work without it - and they would for most people, I think.
What you should know: Russell is a custom maker, not a bespoke cordwainer. They will adjust and modify their existing lasts to your particular requirements; they do not make a custom last saved just for you. So extra room here or there, or mis-mates, or extra narrow heels, or an option of a shank or not, or heel counters or not - these are no problem. They have an extraordinary number of lasts, so the result is much the same as a truly bespoke fitting - for maybe 10% of the price. Construction is the opposite of a welted shoe - they are pulled up from the bottom over the last and the fitting is made by hand sewing the uppers while on the last. This creates something of a cradle effect for the bottom of your feet. The shoes with midsoles (almost all styles) are constructed much in the manner of a Blake stitch - the upper is sewn through the bottom directly to the midsole. This will not have the strength of a Goodyear or Norwegian welt, but unless you are a logger or doing something equally brutal, Russells will be more than strong enough. In all but a couple of styles the plug is folded over the toe piece and the craftsman who hand sews the upper must thread three layers of leather, making a powerfully strong seam that is also highly water resistant. If you want a Poron insole you have to get either a double or triple vamp - otherwise there is no place to hold it. If you do not know if you need a shank or not (and it may depend upon your choice of sole), ask for advise.
Finally, be aware that this is a very small factory. Everyone was amazingly kind and helpful to me, but you should keep in mind that these are very busy people.
Edited by oldfrump - 3/10/16 at 7:48pm