About to Make a Boot Investment? Start with Our Definitive List of the Best Heritage Boots!
We may place denim at the centre of rebel style, but it’s got company. No matter how great your jeans, the look just isn’t complete without the footwear to match. For this reason, the first logical step after upgrading your jeans is a quick trip to the nearest shop that stocks well-made heritage boots.
The boot market is crowded, and it doesn’t thin out much when you get into well-made territory. With so many boots to choose from, we want to help you both narrow it down and broaden your boot horizons. With the help of some of the world’s foremost boot experts, we’ve prepared this list of the best heritage boots on the market.
All of these boots represent an investment. Quality doesn’t come cheap, and custom builds from some of the makers on this list will cost you as much as a diamond engagement ring, but they’re worth every penny. Like a great mate, a great pair of boots will be in it for the long haul. Like the perfect partner, you’ll fall deeper in love with them with each passing year.
We’ve divided this list into two categories: Work Boots and Engineer Boots. There’s considerable crossover, as many of the makers we’ve highlighted make boots in both styles. We’ve chosen what we feel is the most iconic boot from each maker, but this is more about introducing you to makers than particular boots.
For instance, if you are looking for an engineer boot, you should include makers like Viberg and Kreosote in your search. If it’s a lace-up you’re after, Wesco and Role Club (both listed in the Engineer Boots section below) have extremely popular work boots that you should consider.
We lead off with some of the most popular boots in the scene from makers like Red Wing and Wolverine, falling deeper down the rabbit hole as we go, with work boots from Alden, White’s, Crockett & Jones, Grant Stone, and White Kloud making prominent appearances. We close with a look at some of the best engineer boots from makers like Clinch, Addict, and newcomers Skoob.
There’s something for every taste–no matter how discerning. For best results, before you commit to a pair, make sure to check all the makers in this guide.
Our guides are reader-supported. We earn a small commission when you make a purchase, but it doesn’t cost you anything. Prices include local VAT and are subject to change.
In this broad category, we include a wide range of lace-up boots. From jobsite standards to street-ready styles, the boots in this category have a massive footprint in the scene. The most popular style will be the 6” boot, but, if you want a taller boot, you’ll find plenty to suit your tastes below.
Red Wing Iron Ranger
The only maker to get a double feature on this list, Red Wing Heritage are the gatekeepers at the entrance to the well-made space. There are few cheaper boots that can fight on the same ground with the Minnesota boot legends, and you’re looking at a jump in price to get into a better-quality boot.
For so many of us, the Iron Ranger was our first well-made boot, and its popularity isn’t limited to newcomers. Even seasoned bootheads know: few boots combine performance and value as well as this one. Its reputation is well founded.
Red Wing Moc Toe
One of the true classic outdoorsmen boots, Red Wing Heritage’s 877 Moc Toe kicked off the heritage revolution in Japan in the ‘70s. The boot first appeared in Red Wing’s catalogue in the ‘50s. The flat-bottomed crepe sole (designed to keep farmers from tracking mud and manure into the house) and the spacious toe box made it an easy sell. Simply put, it’s hard to find a more comfortable boot.
Added to this are the boot’s rugged good looks. While it looks as big as a canoe on large feet, it seems to shrink as it breaks in. The leather wraps around the foot, making the boot look smaller than it does when brand new. Keep this in mind when trying them on.
Wolverine 1000 Mile
Sadly, Wolverine boots are not what they once were. The 1000 Mile debuted in Rockford, Michigan in 1912. Two years later, Wolverine became the first bootmaker to use shell cordovan (then considered a waste product). At the time, the cordovan 1000 Mile was arguably the best work boot in the world.
Named for the amount of wear you could expect out of a pair, the boot disappeared around the middle of the century, but it was resurrected in 2009. A decade ago, the revived boot could go head to head with boots like the Iron Ranger, but quality has slipped a little since then. Stil, the boot is an icon, and this list wouldn’t be complete without it.
The 1000 Mile is also available in Black.
Viberg Service Boot
In the first year of the Stitchdown Patina Thunderdome, Viberg boots took four of the top ten slots, including first. No other bootmaker scoops up enthusiasts quite like the Canadian brand founded by Edwin Viberg in 1931.
Their Service Boot, first made for Saskatchewan farmers and prairie labourers, is their longest-lasting model. In the midst of the heritage revival, the Service Boot was re-imagined as a long-lifecycle lifestyle boot. Available in a wide range of lasts and leathers, you can never take a wrong step if it’s into a Service Boot.
White’s Semi Dress
America’s oldest surviving bootmaker, White’s can point to an unbroken line of craftsmanship stretching all the way back to 1853, when Edward White established his one-man shop in Connecticut. The brand eventually settled in Washington, where they helped put the Pacific Northwest on the map for boot lovers.
You won’t find a single loser in White’s lineup, but there are a few standouts. We’re big fans of the seven-inch version of their Semi Dress, a boot originally designed for working men during the Depression that could (and still can) be worn for almost any occasion. It’s a ditch-digger at heart, but it cleans up real nice.
Alden is now the last surviving shoemaker from what was once a thriving community of cobblers in New England that, at its peak, employed nearly 40,000 men. Founded in 1884, Alden has seen America through wars and depressions, outfitting soldiers, labourers, and adventurers–including the boot’s namesake.
The Indy is an elegant take on the moc toe that doesn’t need to be put through the wringer to reach its stylish potential. Like the professor and part-time Nazi-puncher who wore Alden boots on the big screen, the Indy can transition between adventure and ivy without ever losing its cool.
John Lofgren Combat
John Lofgren might not have shoemaking in his blood like some of the other makers on this list. As a buyer and seller of vintage Americana first in California and then in Japan, Lofgren learned how to spot talent. Lofgren’s team of Japanese craftsmen are second to none, and his Sendai Speedway shop is a shangri-la for leather lovers.
Lofgren has a deep catalogue of serious boots, but it’s his take on the vintage combat boot that rises to the top. Based on an American-issued boot with its heyday at the peak of WWII, the combat boot, complete with broguing across the toe, is handsome enough for a parade but serious enough for dirty work.
The Combat Boot is also available in Black Shinki Horsebutt, and there’s a plain toe version of the M-43 Service Boot if you’re not a fan of broguing. If you’re in the market for engineers, Lofgren’s Engineer Boots are among the best.
Crockett & Jones Coniston
If you don’t regularly find yourself walking through a minefield of rusty nails and broken glass, a boot crafted particularly for more gentle use might be just the ticket. Using the country derby boot and its military predecessors as inspiration, Crockett & Jones have created this sleek and elegant urban boot that will turn heads wherever it goes.
Worn by the likes of James Bond, Crockett & Jones are best known for their elegant footwear aimed at the upper crust. They’ve leveraged their nearly 150 years of shoemaking experience to produce some truly stand-out boots, with the Coniston being our favourite among them.
Most of the boots above feature smooth toes, perhaps with a touch of broguing at the toe cap stitch. For Tricker’s, who have been making shoes in Northamptonshire for nearly two centuries, perforated toes are something of a trademark. If you’ve been scrolling down this list looking for some proper broguing, you can give your fingers a rest.
Tricker’s is the oldest established shoemaker in England, and this unrivalled heritage gives their claim to make the world’s best country shoes some heft. Still made entirely in the UK, Tricker’s Stow is a true original for those who enjoy the finer (and more delicate) things.
The Stow Country Boot is available in a wide range of colours and leathers.
Grant Stone Diesel
According to our boot expert, Grant Stones are the best thing going at their price point (slightly higher than comparable Red Wings). The company, which combines a New England pedigree and Chinese manufacturing, may still be in their first decade, but they’ve wedged themselves into the conversation with their elegant and well-made boots.
Their Diesel features full cork filling and a steel shank, and they continue to impress with their selection of character-rich full grain leathers. It’s a simple boot done to an exceptionally high standard. Bang for buck, it’s tough to beat.
We can also recommend Grant Stone’s Brass Moc Toe, which consistently beats out the Red Wing 875 in head-to-head showdowns.
Kreosote Nail Shank
After a stint with one of Texas’ premier cowboy cobblers, Missouri bootmaker J.D. Gabbard started MYG Handmade in 2015. Since rebranding as Kreosote, he has belched fire and brimstone, blazing an entirely new path in a scene that offers very little in the way of surprises.
Kreosote boots, each one hand built by Gabbard himself, are shock and awe pieces. His Nail Shank takes its name from the railroad nail that Gabbard has hammered flat for use as an arch-supporting shank. Forged in fire and quenched in brine, they have a bad attitude. Grin at them if you like, just don’t expect them to smile back.
Kreosote’s line-up, which changes frequently as limited boots get scooped up, has no second-place finishers. It’s a deck full of black aces.
Rolling Dub Trio Roots
Tokyo’s Rolling Dub Trio utilise old-world construction techniques to produce stitch-perfect versions of both classic and modern styles. They boast some of the cleanest finishing in the game, and they make their mark in every nook and cranny with meticulous attention to the all-important details that separate good boots from great ones.
Made from stiff horsebutt, you can expect these boots to put up a fight for some time, and you can expect to wait a while before getting into a pair. The small-batch bootmaker is only available at a few retailers, and you’ll need to join pre-order lists to get your hands on a pair of their most popular models.
White Kloud Customs
White Kloud take bootmaking artistry above the clouds and into the stratosphere. Goto-san, who trained as a reflexologist and masseur, understands the mechanics of the foot better than just about anybody. He uses extremely expensive Badalassi Carlo leather for the insoles, he polishes the edges and heels by hand, and he even manufactures his own thread.
A pair of custom White Klouds will run you well into four figures. At this price point, you can expect nothing short of perfection, and, according to one very satisfied owner who has dozens of pairs from the world’s best makers, the White Klouds are worth every penny. They’re not just his favourite pair. They are, he says, the “best boots in the world.” If you won’t take our word for it, take his.
Moto Leather Plain Toe
The hassle of ordering a pair of Moto Leather boots from Japan is more than worthwhile. They might be the boot world’s best-kept secret, and they’re almost certainly the best bang-for-buck boots on the market. They have more conservative options, but these Plain Toe boots are a great example of what makes Moto special.
The style is distinctly Japanese and will not work for everybody. The combination of the flat and wide toe box and the sprung toe can give these boots a somewhat clownish character in larger sizes. This becomes far less noticeable when the boots are paired with wide-legged vintage cuts–as they almost always are in Japan.
We’re closing out the work boots list with an entry from Indonesia. For boot fans, Indonesian brands like Benzein and Onderhoud can go toe to toe with some of the world’s best makers. We’re giving the last slot to Sagara, though. Their lace-to-toe Cordmaster is a fitting finale for our boot roundup.
It’s a love-it-or-leave-it style that has its origins in the Czech military. For some, it’s the absolute ultimate in style and comfort and a cornerstone in their collection; for others, it’s a never-in-a-million-years style. The fact that this boot sells out far faster than they can be re-stocked suggests that there are more of the former than the latter.
The slip-on engineer boot, with origins in the horse-mounted military, is today mostly enjoyed by motorcycle enthusiasts or those who aspire to high-octane style. While the boots below will be perfectly at home on highway pegs, their style potential extends well beyond motorcycle-adjacent scenes.
Wesco Mister Lou
Our first engineer boot on this list is also the most popular slip-on in the denim scene–and for very good reason. With its streamlined shaft, you’ll be hard pressed to find a boot that pairs better with slim straights or wide-legged vintage cuts. Like Kobe beef, there’s simply no fat to cut off this boot.
Built on a Motor Patrol last, the Mister Lou looks most in its element when it’s perched on highway pegs, but it will go anywhere that denim goes without a struggle. Ease them through their break-in period with daily wear and scuff them up a bit. They’ll start to show their true colours and kick your rebel style into overdrive.
Skoob Wander Engineers
A newcomer to the scene, Skoob has caught the eye of boot lovers with their combination of timeless style and an attractive price point. Their engineer boots, featuring cat’s paw half-soles and heavy-as-hell leather have all the makings of a serious contender.
This is one of the few boots on this list that we haven’t had the chance to examine in person. They’ve been around for a few years in Japan, but they’ve only recently made their debut in Europe. Their size range is extremely limited, but that may change if their footprint grows in the West.
We’re also impressed by Skoob’s simple yet striking M-43 Service Shoe.
Role Club Engineers
Proving year after year that the best things are worth waiting for, Brian the Bootmaker has been making custom boots out of his small shop in Los Angeles. No single maker has done as much to elevate the conversation surrounding heritage boots as Brian, and his prices (and long wait list) reflect this.
His engineer boots are grail pieces for many in the scene. They’re so beautiful out of the box that you might be tempted to put them on a pedestal or behind glass, but well-worn pairs will produce gasps of admiration from those in the know–or from anybody that can appreciate fine footwear.
If engineers aren’t your bag, Brian’s ankle-height boot, The Underdog, can go toe to toe with any lace-up boot on the market.
What began as a repair shop specialising in early-twentieth-century boots turned, for its owner, into a master’s class in the lost art of hand-crafted footwear. Proprietor Minoru Matsuura fused the old ways with the new to create what are arguably the best ready-to-wear boots in Japan.
Shaped around hand-carved wooden lasts, Clinch’s boots are built with the same level of craftsmanship as you find in bespoke shoes from the world’s finest makers. The overdyed horsebutt engineers will start out black but, with regular wear, they will fade to a rich dark brown. A boot fit for the connoisseur, they won’t come cheap or easy.
If you can never have enough eyelets, the Clinch Highliner should be on the top of your list.
Addict Steerhide Boots
An early lover of British motorcycle style, Addict founder Satoshi Ishijima was staggered by the differences between vintage and contemporary pieces. After years of collecting, he set out to create leather jackets in the British style (more toned down and refined than their American counterparts) that could bridge classic and contemporary.
His shop has since become a beacon for Japan’s intensely passionate community of motorcycle enthusiasts. Ishijima-san’s road-ready engineers, with their round toe, are built for cruising speed. They’re as impossible to ignore as a full-throttled V-twin.
Need an Excuse to Stack Up Wear Days?
Like so many of the pieces we cover in The Rebel Essentials, the boots on this list look great straight out of the box, but they only get better with daily wear.
Our good friends at Stitchdown, who helped us put a spit shine on this list, run a competition for boot lovers that will help you haul the absolute best out of your boots. You can learn more about the competition here.