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October 27, 2023

Trust Us, You Need These Boots

Filed under: Fitness — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 7:41 pm

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Moc toe boots have been essential equipment for sportsmen, tradesmen, loggers, and factory workers since the 1950s. Then, somewhere along the line, these heritage boots also became prized purely for their rugged aesthetics. They’re named for the Native American moccasins that inspired their style of construction, and recognizable by their separate U-shaped piece of leather on the top that is sewn to the walls of the toe. 

Related: The Cowboy Boots Guide: 16 Pairs to Add Some Twang to Your Wardrobe

While the design is ancient, Red Wing was the first company to create a moc toe boot, in 1952. The original version had a rubber sole that made them particularly useful for sportsmen, and the moccasin design left more room for toe movement while the stitching made them more flexible for walking. The higher toe walls also made them more protective than traditional boots, so they soon became popular with factory workers who preferred to keep all of their toes. Not coincidently, the was the overall best moc toe boot out of our test—because they’re the perfect combination of value, heritage, and versatility. 

Why Should You Have a Pair of Moc Toe Boots?

Originating in the timberlands of Minnesota, moc toe boots are a uniquely American invention born out of the necessities of American industry and terrain. Borrowing in their construction something tried and true for Native Americans for thousands of years, they’re rugged, sporting, and suitable for everything from hunting to welding to barhopping. Every man needs a pair of moc toe boots in his closet. 

What are Moc Toe Boots Good For?

Depending on the design and construction, moc toe boots can be rugged enough for hunting, or factory work and construction (with reinforced toes for added protection). Some use modern materials to be ultra-light and as comfortable as a sneaker, while others are made of the finest leathers in the world and are better suited for wearing with a sport coat. When choosing a moc toe boot, you should decide first if it’s for function, fashion, or a mix of both. 

Related: Get Steve McQueen’s effortlessly cool style

Rugged options can require much more break-in before they’re comfortable, but will hold up to serious abuse for years to come. If you don’t need that kind of durability, you may want an option that will be instantly comfortable without any break-in period. Work-focused moc toe boots can be quite heavy, while others are designed for nimble hiking and travel that doesn’t involve chopping down trees. 

Many are even recraftable, meaning that they can be fixed up to look near-new after many years of use. There are weatherproof options, value options, and hand-made investment-grade boots that will require some care but will last you a lifetime. In short, there’s a moc toe boot for everyone.

How We Tested Them

I started with the best moc toe boots available, and then narrowed them down even further to the ones that would cover the greatest range of wearers, uses, and budgets. Then I tested them all out. I took one pair across Scotland. Another pair joined me on a Montana dude ranch. Breaking them in, walking and hiking in them, obsessing over their details, and talking to some of the people who produce them were all part of the process. 

Related: Complete Guide to Buying a Vintage Watch for Burgeoning Collectors

Why You Should Trust Me

I’ve been covering gear and style from a home base in Los Angeles and now Charleston since 2006, for outlets including The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Maxim, Gear Patrol, Fatherly, and Men’s Journal. Whether it’s testing out gear, bags, clothing, and accessories on my own adventures, or profiling designers and craftspeople who make them, it’s been one continuous process of discovery, and an ongoing search for the essentials that bring joy, serve a purpose, and add value to our experiences.

Boots are my most beloved and obsessed over clothing item of all. They’re not just footwear, functionality, or fashion, but a combination of all three that also makes a statement of intent. They tell strangers how hard you work—or play. They can convey your sense of style, your attitude, and even your priorities. I can look back and remember big trips I’ve taken and entire phases of my life based on the boots I was wearing at the time. 

Over the course of my continued education about the materials and craft that make for truly great boots, I’ve visited tanneries, met cutters and sewers on factory floors, and been schooled by second and third-generation shoe makers on the ins and outs of Goodyear welts and gusset tongues, of lug soles and wedges, of heel stacks and steel shanks. What we love the most, we learn about with both joy and a purpose to share that knowledge.

Related: The Best Men’s Pull-on Boots of 2023

The Best Moc Toe Boots of 2023

Red Wing Heritage Classic Moc

Stinson Carter

Best Overall Boot: The Red Wing Heritage Classic Moc

While other boots on the list surpass it in comfort, style, and features, the Red Wing Heritage Classic Moc is the perfect combination of value, heritage, and versatility. Therefore, it’s the boot with which most people should begin their search. We tested it out in the new Alpine Portage color—a warm grey that works well with any jeans or trousers. 

They have recraftable rubber soles, the interior is unlined and decidedly utilitarian, and they have a gusseted tongue—meaning a tongue sewn to the sides of the upper to prevent water or dirt from getting in. The leather is durable, but also very rigid on first wear, so these will take some serious breaking in. They’re rugged enough for manual labor or hunting, but in terms of style, they could also be worn with a nice pair of jeans, to work in an office, or even out to dinner.

Pros Cons

👍 Recraftable

👎 Require significant break-in

👍 Solid value

👎 No lining

👍 The original moc toe boot

👎 No extra padding


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Alden 403

Stinson Carter

Best Splurge Boot: Alden 403

Because the toe isn’t made of two separate pieces of leather, the Alden 403 isn’t technically a true moc toe—but it’s certainly the most iconic. Beloved film character Indiana Jones famously wore these because actor Harrison Ford loved them so much that he nixed the script-suggested Red Wings and insisted on the Aldens.

The 403 is the same style as Indy’s boot, but uses a dark brown Horween Chromexcel leather. We found the 403 to be instantly comfortable with zero break-in needed—more comfortable on the first wear than every other boot on the list. They do fit wide, so Alden suggests ordering a half-size down. They don’t have a gusseted tongue, so there’s not as much protection from the elements. But for the price, they’re unlikely to be your go-to boots for getting dirty.

They are the most expensive boots on the list at $655, but through our conversations with both Alden and Horween, it’s clear that they’re still not overpriced considering the workmanship and materials that go into them. It’s worth signing up for notices on for a chance to score factory rejects at a solid discount. Seconds inventory is limited, so you’d have to luck out on sizing.

Pros Cons

👍 No break-in needed

👎 Leather creases faster than calfskin version

👍 Recraftable

👎 Pricey

👍 Indiana Jones wore them


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Nick’s Boots Moc Toe Lug

Stinson Carter

Best Rugged Boot: Nick’s Boots Moc Toe Lug

is based in Spokane, WA—the heart of logging country, where they’ve been making boots since the 1960s. They’re the most durable handmade moc toe boots you can buy. With thick leather, a beefy heel stack, lug sole with steel screws, and serious stitching, they’re an extremely heavy duty work boot made with an incredible attention to detail. Included in the box is a carbon slip from the factory floor, where every step of the process is signed by the craftsperson who handled it. 

Nick’s Boots owner, Shuyler Mowe, says that they sell “a ton of these as work boots to tradespeople and those who appreciate that chunkier aesthetic.” They are heavy and need some serious breaking in, but these are lifetime boots. The toe box is pretty rigid out of the box, so order a wider size if there’s any concern for width. They have a gusseted tongue, and they also come with false tongues, which are additional pieces of leather that help prevent any pinching from the laces. The soles, with their gleaming steel screwheads in the treads, are a standout detail. They have quick ship options, but if you have time to wait, they can be fully made-to-order, customized by color, sole type, height, and more.

Pros Cons

👍 Handmade

👎 Heavy

👍 Made-to-order and quick-ship options

👎 Require breaking in

👍 Recraftable

👎 Longer wait for made-to-order


Rancourt Harrison Redux

Stinson Carter

Best Boots for Travel: Rancourt Harrison Redux

After testing these on a trip to Scotland, we can say that as an everyday (and night) travel boot, Rancourt’s Harrison boots strike the perfect balance between durability, comfort, and dress code versatility. They’re handmade in Maine out of Horween Chromexcel leather, which naturally has some water resistance and will develop an aesthetically pleasing patina over time. They don’t need much breaking in and the rubber sole is soft enough to stand on for hours. You can wear them tromping across the cobblestones of Edinburgh with a backpack or out to dinner with a sportscoat. 

Another bonus is that they’re flexible enough to drive in comfortably over long distances, unlike the Harrison’s rugged competitors. It’s a camp moc style of boot, meaning it bears more moccasin DNA than any other boot on the list. With more stitching comes more chance for the threads to fray over time, but Rancourt can resole or restitch your boots if needed.

Pros Cons

👍 Comfortable straight out of the box

👎 Not as durable as other options

👍 Versatile

👍 Recraftable


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Danner Logger Moc 917 GTX

Stinson Carter

Best Boots for Hiking: Danner Logger Moc 917 GTX

Danner’s new is a modern interpretation of a moc toe boot, optimized for lightness, comfort, and all-weather/terrain use. Not only are they lightweight, they’re waterproof and breathable, thanks to the Gore-Tex lining and durable nubuck leather. Because they have the multi-layer cushioning of a sneaker—including a removable OrthoLite footbed, a Vibram midsole, and a Vibram outsole—these boots are perfect for hiking or travel. But unlike a sneaker, they can be resoled after years of wear-and-tear through Danner’s Recrafting Center.

While Danner says they run true to size, we found them to be slightly on the narrow side—and as of now, they don’t come in wide sizes. But if comfort for hiking or travel to more casual destinations is your priority, these are hard to beat for the price and features. In short, for moc toe looks with a trail sneaker feel, these are the ones for you.

Pros Cons

👍 Weatherproof

👎 Casual style is less versatile

👍 Comfortable straight out of the box

👎 No wide sizes

👍 Lightweight

👍 Recraftable


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Grant Stone Brass

Stinson Carter

Best Dressy Boot: Grant Stone Brass

Made of Horween Chromexcel leather, the black version of Grant Stone’s Brass boot are bestsellers for the company. In this rich black, they are a perfect choice for anyone who wants to dress up their moc toe, whether for the office or out on the town. That said, there are a dozen different colors of the Brass boot—and it can also be also ordered with a wedge sole—so there’s a style to fit anyone’s mood, taste, or use case. 

Grant Stone CEO Wyatt Gilmore has boot pedigree in his blood: his grandfather worked at Alden for 60 years and his father worked there for 15 years. The attention to detail is evident in the meticulous hand sewing of the moc toe itself, which Gilmore says is difficult to produce because only the best craftspeople are skilled enough to do the prominent hand sewing required. We found them to be comfortable without a break-in period, though they are on the heavier side. Grant Stone is known to carry a wide range of sizes and widths in stock for most of their boots, so even if you have an odd size, chances are they’ve got it ready to ship.

Pros Cons

👍 Exceptional quality

👎 Heavy

👍 Good value

👍 Comfortable straight out of the box


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Thursday Boot Co. Diplomat

Stinson Carter

Best Value Boot: Thursday Boot Co. Diplomat

At just under $200, the Thursday Boot Co. Diplomat boots offer a lot for the price. They look great and don’t feel the least bit budget-minded in construction. They have a Vibram wedge outsole, a steel shank for stability, corkbed midsoles for comfort that adapts to your foot over time, antimicrobial insoles, and the laces are Kevlar-infused for durability. They are lined with glove leather, and they’re built on a Goodyear welt sole, so they can be resoled. Thursday says that they’re handmade in small batches, though the hand-finishes are not as apparent here as they are on the likes of Alden and Nick’s—nor would we expect it for the price. 

While the leather isn’t as nice as some options on this list, these boots punch above their weight in every category. We found them to be comfortable without much break-in, and they fit true to size. They don’t show up with a fancy box, felt shoe bags, and extra laces, but they deliver on the features that are important. They would be a great entry-level Goodyear welt boot to begin a collection, or to add to your stable as knock-around boots.


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Allen Edmonds Carter

Stinson Carter

Best All-Weather Boot: Allen Edmonds Carter

The Allen Edmonds Carter weatherproof boots were a favorite from testing. They’re extremely comfortable with zero breaking in, and despite the commando soles, they’re also surprisingly light. The Horween Chromexcel leather will only get better with age and feels as good to touch as it does on your feet. The leather lining is supple, and the padding on the tongue and insole are surprisingly plush. 

Weather-wise, these could go on in early fall and stay on until spring. Style-wise, they’re just as versatile. You could travel with them, commute with them, or wear them with a suit. Aesthetically, the Carter strikes the balance between dressy and rugged better than any other boot we tested. They fit true to size, and while they’re pricey, they do go on sale for significantly less than MSRP. The same cannot be said for the other top-tier moc toe boots on this list.

Pros Cons

 👍 Weatherproof

👎 Expensive when not on sale

👍 Comfortable right out of the box

👍 Recraftable


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Lucchese Ranger II

Stinson Carter

Best Boot for Comfort: Lucchese Ranger II 

You probably know Lucchese for their cowboy boots, and they do make some of the best. As such, their Ranger II boots bring a Western vibe to the moc toe boot. Handmade like Lucchese’s cowboy boots and ropers, the Ranger II combines the moc-toe style with a beefy rubber sole offering excellent traction and cushion, and the tread is spaced to not hold on to mud and muck. Testing these out on a ranch in Montana was no problem. The soles gripped the terrain like hiking boots, and you could still wear these to dinner or a honky-tonk with a nice pair of pants and a button-down. 

The suede upper on the version we tested looks rugged but is deceptively soft, so no breaking in was needed. The glove leather lining is smooth as butter—no other boot lining comes close to its suppleness. An amply padded interior and velvety glove-leather lining make these the most instantly comfortable moc toe boots we tested.

Pros Cons

👍 Very comfortable

👎 Non-uniform stitching, since they’re handmade

👍 Rugged soles

👎 Pricey


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