Lace Up Shoes item created by Epaulet, Jul 16, 2011
Pros - Classic style, high quality, long lasting, form fitting and easy maintenance
Cons - Possible fit issues and possible break in period
The Alden long wing blucher is a classic design that remains unchanged since the 1940. Made on the Barrie last, it is a sturdy double oak soled shoe that typically comes in black (style 9751) and burgundy (#8) shell cordovan (style 975). The black version comes with a leather sole that has been colored black, whereas the burgundy comes with the natural color leather sole. This shoe is a stock model that is usually available in C, D and E widths, but some retailers, such as The Shoe Mart, will order a production run in EEE width. Be sure to check for available sizes from multiple dealers before electing to order a pair. Delivery time of special orders can take 4-6 months or longer. Some dealers will also create special orders in Ravello or other colors, but these are exceedingly rare.
The Barrie last is usually said to run 1/2 size long and retailers advise to size down accordingly. This variation in size is the chief reason to try on the store if at all possible. The quality of the shoe is superb. Excellent Horween shell cordovan is used in the construction and it also contains a full leather lining and a wheeled welt. Some people find a break in period for this double oak sole shoe, but my personal experience was very good. The shoe was comfortable out of the box and seemed to fit better with each passing hour as the cork bed adapted to my foot.
Shoe upkeep is very simple. After wearing, wipe the shoe down with a slightly damp cloth and brush them well with a horsehair brush. Polish is NOT needed and most scratches will brush out and vanish within 5 minutes or so. Most shell shoe owners will strongly advise against using any product on the shoes, other than a very slight amount of cordovan cream 1-2 times per year at most. Store with shoe trees and keep them in their bags. Current retail price at the time of this review was $710. The price is certainly not insignificant, but the quality is immediately evident and the shoes, well maintained, will outlive me and will go to my son. Literally. I am VERY pleased with this shoe and happy with my purchase.
Allen Edmonds also offers a long wing blucher in Horween cordovan, the Macneil, in both black and burgundy. Available sizes are 6-16 and widths of B through EEE. Retail price at this time for the Macneil is $650. Although very similar in price, I found the same sized Macneil is tighter across the vamp and less comfortable for my feet than the Alden. The Macneil is also double oak and leather lined, but does not include some of the subtle upgrades such as the wheeling on the welt. I have tried both shoes and I personally found the Alden to be a far better fit, and a higher quality. The price difference between the two was inconsequential when buying this type of shoe.
Pros - low maintenance, form fitting, pairs well with jeans or dark pants
Cons - best way to fit is in the store (not online), long break in period
I took my wife to visit my brother in the bay area recently. I specifically set aside part of a day to visit the Alden Shop in San Francisco. When I went in the store, they measured my feet and gave me a few different sizes to try on in a plain black oxford style lace up shoe. After they figured out my size in that last (not sure what last it was?), I had them take out the Alden LWB (#8) in a size 6E (6 C/E). The shoes literally fit my feet like a glove! In the store, I didn't notice that the shoe box pinched my pinky toes a little while walking. I started breaking them in the first day I got them and I wore them for most of the second day as well. When I returned home, both of my pinky toes had blisters on them (not the kind you can pop). I should have wore them at home for a few hours at a time (as is recommended on this forum) instead of taking them out for an entire day the second day after purchasing them. Thankfully, I found something at Walgreens specifically for blisters on toes (it's called Advanced Healing Blister for Fingers & Toes by Band-Aid) which works so well you put them on and don't have to change them for days. It literally melds to your skin. They are a little pricey for bandages, but well worth it.
I bought some really thin dress socks, but I could still feel the toe box rubbing on my pinky toes. My next step (which ended up working) was a combination of the wet sock trick (only for an hour or two) followed by wrapping two socks over the top of my shoe trees and jamming them into the shoe for 1.5 days (pull one sock over the top of the shoe tree, then fold it over itself and do it again with the other sock). At first, it hurt just to stand in these shoes as the foot bed wasn't broken in. Once the foot bed molded to my feet (as so many people who buy Alden shoes say) along with the sock method, I am able to wear my regular thickness dress socks. The shoes feel amazing to walk and stand in now. Who knew dress shoes could be so comfortable? The break in period for these shoes does require some patience. I almost went to the shoe cobbler and thought about buying a wooden (with metal) shoe stretcher, but I'm glad I didn't do either of those things. I think next time I will try to tough it out (and put the bandages on early during the break in process to prevent blisters) to see how they naturally mold to my feet (okay, maybe half a day of the sock method for 2 days). My only concern is the purchase of future Alden shoes. Since I'm a 6E in a Barrie last, I'm not sure what that means for other lasts (especially for their non-boot suede lace up shoes).
For anyone out there with pinky toe rubbing issues, just bear with it until they break in. Take care. I have some photos in my profile of the shoes.
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