Hi all. First post, though I regularly consult the site, particularly regarding shoes. I have a bit of a unique situation and I'd like the get the input of anyone with relevant knowledge/experience.
I'm currently New York based but I'm going to be spending several years in Kosovo starting next summer, and I want to buy a single pair of boots for my stay that will meet several different criteria. First, they need to be on the formal side, something that I can wear with slacks--though they need not be suit-worthy. Second, they need to be durable enough to endure a lot of walking on different surfaces, anything from cement and cobblestones to dirt roads and fields. Lastly, they need to be sturdy enough that when I inevitably step in mud or trek through the snow with them, they won't become so warped and tarnished as to be unsightly or unwearable. Style-wise, I prefer the cap-toe, minimal extra stitching, and a dark brown color.
I recognize that you can't have all these things, but I'd like to get some ideas on what the best options are for ticking as many boxes as possible. I have no problem spending $400-500 on boots that are going to hold up decently under these conditions.
I've been considering several options:
The ludlow from J. Crew looks nice, and the price is OK at $368, but I'm wary of being suckered into buying knock off Aldens. From what I've read, the leather is a little cheaper than the Aldens, and the construction is done in China rather than the US. Is this the whole difference? If anyone has owned these or any like it, how does the leather look after a few years? And I'd prefer to get lug soles or dainite soles, but it doesn't seem to be an option here.
Likewise, the Kenton boots from J. Crew seem like a bargain if they're construction is decent, but that's a big "if". I'd be a happy camper at that price though. And the lug soles make it preferable to the Ludlows.
I stopped in an Allen Edmonds store in NYC recently, and tried the First Avenue Dress boots, to which dainite soles can be added for an extra $40. The sales team was a little swamped there and they seemed skeptical of wearing these in anything like the conditions I mentioned. But I suspect they're averse to anything that sounds like it might damage the boot.
These oak street trench boots look good and are right in my range at $426. Perhaps I'm being taken in by the name or the coloration (which I'm not crazy about), but these look like they can take a beating, and they're pretty elegant for that.
And of course, I've looked at the Alden Cap Toe Cordovans, but I'd be scared to walk out of the house with these things. I think I'd cry if I stepped in a puddle.
Additionally, if anyone has any opinions on dainite vs leather vs lug soles for mountainous/rural terrain, I'd happily accept it. Thanks in advance. Happy tramping.