Alden Indy 405: Are They Really Worth $600?
The Alden Indy is a well made, comfortable, and stylish do-it-all boot. It’s the one everyone compares themselves to for a reason.
Alden has an extreme hesitancy to update the Indy, leaving it a bit staid in comparison to some of the wilder make ups coming out of their competitors.
|Model||Indy 405 x J. Crew|
|Materials||Chromexcel Upper / Nitrile Cork Outsole|
|Weight||943 g / 2 lb 1.3 oz|
|Country of Origin||United States|
The Alden Indy is a boot that needs no introduction. It’s been a staple in Alden’s line up for so long that nobody seems to be certain on exactly when they first released it. The only reference to its history on Alden’s website is in relation to the “Foot Balance” system introduced before the 1970s.
While it might be surprising today, the Alden Indy was originally designed to be a boot for the everyday working man. In fact, its original name was the Alden Work Boot. It was worn by guys doing manual labor. Things like construction.
By all accounts, the people who wore them for work loved the boot. The best-known example is from a construction worker named Harrison. He finally got his big break to star in a new movie. The prop department had a pair of Red Wings for him to wear, but he refused, saying the Indy boots he previously wore would be better fit for a true adventurer.
You may have heard of that movie – Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. That movie secured these boots their role as a movie star and gave them their name of “Indy.” If you want to read more about this story, click here.
Over time, however, the boot did change. The canvas lining was swapped for a luxurious leather. Alden moved from their old tannery to offering Horween leather. And, perhaps most notably, Alden adjusted the price to reflect these changes.
So, that begs the question. How does the current 405 stand up over time? Over the past year, I wore this pair more than 100 times covering more than 100 miles. Let’s find out if they are worth it, or if they belong back in Harrison’s closet.
Right up front, the upper on this pair of Alden Indys has aged like fine wine. The leather has evolved from a reddish brown “Heather Raisin” color to an incredibly deep medium brown. You can still find hints of red in the right lighting, but the change is clear. It’s been a real treat to watch it develop.
Continuing with the leather, this pair shows scratches as a badge of pride. The pigment on the top is paper thin – the slightest nick allows the pan color of the leather to show through. Personally, I like this look, but if you’re planning on using these as a dressier pair, I could see how it might create an issue.
The creasing on this pair is just about perfect. People on the forums throw around “chromexcel lottery” around quite a bit. This seems to imply that manufacturers have no control over the creasing of their chromexcel, but that’s not entirely true. With proper clicking, a brand can significantly reduce (though not eliminate) the chance of ugly creasing in this leather.
Of course, selective clicking often results in brands throwing away otherwise serviceable leather. Because of that, many choose not to. Alden, however, does a great job in their clicking. You can really see it in this pair.
Moving into the details, the stitching has held up incredibly well. There are a few threads starting to get loose where the quarter meets the moc stitching, but to such a minor degree I wasn’t able to get a great photo of it. The white toebox stitching remains perfect, along with everywhere else on the shoe.
The eyelets and speedhooks remain stuck in place – though they have done quite a number to the tongue. With how thin the pigment is on this leather that is unavoidable, but still very noticeable.
Really, the only major complaint I have with the upper is the laces. Alden uses laces that are notoriously cheap on the Indy, and these have been shredded by the speedhooks. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but laces are something you touch every time you put on or take off the boot and the cost difference between really cheap laces and really good laces is just a few dollars.
I will never understand why higher end shoe makers ever opt for cheap laces.
The only reason the laces are still in this pair in for the purpose of this review. I will be swapping them out for a pair from guarded goods as soon as this update goes live.
Mid- and Outsole:
Visually, there is nothing to complain about on these Alden Indys. The thick welt on this pair has held up incredibly well. Looking at the pictures, you can see just how scratched up the toes are, but the welt shows no damage at all.
Underneath it becomes a tale of two materials. The pinkish brown outsole has held up incredibly well. It’s extremely hard to clean, but excluding that and some wear on the threads, I’m not sure I could tell the difference between the first wear and the 100th.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the heel. The rubber used on the Foot Balance-labeled heel has already worn down significantly. In fact, many recommend replacing the heel when it’s worn down enough to impact how your foot strikes the ground – which these do. This review will go into ease and cost of care later, but in the 50+ shoes reviewed on this site, none have needed to go to a cobbler so soon.
How I Wear Them:
In my outfits, the Alden Indy does a great job filling the role of being a boot that is not over the top. As much as I love my White’s for their chunky look, they can be a bit much to wear to your kid’s back-to-school night. It’s these semi-casual environments where the Indy thrives.
Typically, I’ll pair these with a pair of cotton chinos and an OCBD.
Overall, I’m very impressed with how these boots have held up visually. The upper continues to get better with age, and should last many more soles.
Unfortunately, the overall package is let down slightly by the laces and the heel cap. Thankfully, these are probably the two easiest items to replace on a boot.
Fit & Comfort:
The Alden Indy is built on their TruBalance last. This last takes the idea of a combination last and pumps in steroids. If you’re not familiar with a combination last, it’s when a manufacturer uses a narrower size for the heel and a wider size for the forefoot. On this boot, it feels like they are two sizes different.
Many view this as a reason to size down, but that is actually against the recommendation given by Alden. The idea of this last is that it’s supposed to hold your ankle tight, while giving your toes room to move and expand. In other words, that toebox space is a feature, not a bug.
I am a size 11.75D on the Brannock, and got these in a size 12 D. They are my best fitting pair of stitched footwear. For reference, I wear a size 11.5 E in Viberg’s 2030 last, 11.5 E in White’s 55 last, 12 D in Allen Edmonds 5 last, and a size 12.5 in Adidas Stan Smiths.
I find the Alden Indy to be one of the most comfortable boots out there. First and foremost, you can’t ignore the last mentioned above. The heel counter runs almost half the length of the shoe and does a great job at stabilizing your foot. This, combined with the toe box that lets your foot move naturally, is a terrific combination.
While I understand it would take away some of the spice of collecting shoes, I do find myself occasionally wondering, “why doesn’t every manufacturer exclusively use this last?”
Additionally, Alden does a great job in shock protection. While wear of the heel is an obvious drawback, the other side of that coin is that the heel does a great job in protecting your foot from repeated impacts.
Finally, I mentioned in my previous review that the insole was flat out of the box. Over time, though, it has done a wonderful job of conforming to my foot. It really feels like a one-to-one at this point.
To summarize my feelings on comfort – as someone who reviews shoes, I’m in and out of different pairs all the time. This can really wear out your feet, and leave them sore. Imagine breaking in a new pair of shoes every couple weeks. For stitched footwear, there is one pair I come back to when my feet need a break. This pair of Alden Indys.
Materials & Construction:
Materials (everything but the midsole):
When it comes to the materials of this pair of Alden Indys, I’ll start with correcting myself. When I bought this pair, it felt and smelled like chromexcel, but Alden themselves told me it was Workboot calf. After wearing these in, I should have trusted my nose because this leather is definitely Horween’s chromexcel.
The leather comes in a medium thickness. This trades a bit of burly durability for comfort and ease of break in. While I typically prefer thicker cuts of chromexcel, since this boot is fully lined, I think this is a fair trade off. Speaking of the lining, the entire boot is lined in cowhide leather.
The only thing in between the exterior leather and the lining is a celastic (plastic) toe cap over the toe.
Below your foot, a leather insole is attached to a midsole (that we will get to later) with cork filling. Inside the cork, a thick steel shank keeps everything stable. I can feel the shank shifting a little bit – when it comes to a resole this will probably need to be tacked back down.
At the bottom, a nitrile cork outsole has proven to be extremely durable showing almost no wear at all. The rubber heel cap finishes off the main parts of the boot.
The Infamous Alden Indy Midsole:
When I posted my last article about the Alden Indy, I was accused of ignoring the debate over their midsole material. I thought it might deserve its own section here.
For those who were unaware, back in October of 2019, Bedo’s leather works posted this Instagram post where he labels the midsole of the Alden’s as “paper.” This has resulted in a lot of people believing that Alden is using what amounts to compressed cardboard in their boots, and raising concerns about durability.
Bedo’s is a great place – I may end up using him for the heel replacement – but in this instance the post was playing up a bit. The material used is actually leatherboard, a compressed sheet of shredded leather. The process of making paper is similar to the process of making leatherboard, but saying leatherboard is paper is like saying leather and solid wood are identical.
If you’re looking for pure long-term durability, leather is going to be better. However, I was not able to find a single example of a leatherboard midsole from Alden failing except when a major reconstruction was taking place. As anyone who follows Bedo’s would know, leather insoles are not imune from this problem. Bedo’s had similar complaints about White’s boots in several of his posts and videos.
Further, Alden is far from being the only brand to use leatherboard in their shoes. In fact, leatherboard is used by some of the biggest names in the industry. While Alden takes the heat, you can find it in Crockett & Jones, Carmina, Yanko, R.M. Williams, Cobbler Union, Vass, and others. There is a reason. In addition to being more affordable, it will conform more quickly to your foot, similar to why manufacturers use cork.
This isn’t to say that leatherboard itself is a better material than leather. It isn’t. However, the drawbacks for everyday wear are essentially zero.
If your experience with the midsole is different, please reach out and let me know or drop a comment.
The Alden Indy is made with a classic goodyear welt construction, in 270 degree style. If you want a more in-depth dive on what that means, click here. In short, however, the goodyear welt is generally considered the best trade off in durability, resoleability, cost, and style for all stitched footwear.
Essentially, a goodyear welted is is made by sewing a piece of leather (known as a welt) to the upper (or a canvas piece glued to the upper known as gemming). The cobbler then sews the welt onto the outsole. Since the outsole isn’t sewn directly to the upper, a goodyear welted shoe can be easily resoled without creating strain on the upper leather – and when the welt is worn out it too can be replaced.
Ease of Care:
These are a fairly easy pair of boots to care for.
Over the approximately 1 year that I’ve owned them, they were conditioned twice with Bick 4 – once about 6 months in, and once for this review. I included pictures both before and after throughout.
I recommend Bick 4 for most types of leather, including chromexcel. It does a great job at hydrating the leather, and was specifically designed to prevent the leather from changing color. There are other options out there – Horween themselves recommend Venetian Shoe Cream – but these will generally cost more, and in my experience don’t work any better.
Other than that, I gave the boots a brush down every few weeks using a horsehair brush, and made sure cedar shoe trees were kept in them when not worn. I prefer my boots to have a natural look, so these have never seen shoe polish.
When it comes time to replace the sole, thanks to the Alden Indy’s goodyear welt construction, you have a lot of options. First, you can go back to Alden directly. For $189 (every review I write this price goes up!), Alden will take the boots back and rebuild them on their original lasts. One thing to be aware of, though, is Alden will not change anything. If your boots came in with nitrile cork soles, they are not leaving their factory with commando or leather.
Alternatively, you should be able to go to any cobbler to get work done. Pricing will likely range from around $100 to around $200, depending on who you go to and which options you pick. If you’re just doing the heel – which you will be doing – expect to pay $30 to $50.
Pricing & Value:
This version of the Alden Indy, the J. Crew collaboration, is currently listed for $595 dollars. You can find similar boots with the traditional quarter stitching for $579 at The Shoe Mart, Sid Mashburn, and Todd Snyder.
At nearly $600 for a base pair, and going up from there if you want anything different, the Alden Indy is not cheap. However, there are not many competitors. Sure, there are comparable boots in price, but most boots that are similar in style are clearly designed to mimic the Indy rather than be a competitor.
Really, the only alternative that I can think of comes from Grant Stone. While not identical, their Ottawa Boot in chromexcel for $360 offers a similar “dressy workboot” vibe. Of course, the Grant Stones are not made in the United States, which may or may not matter to you, but does explain much of the price difference.
Thankfully, you can find Alden Indys on sale every now and then. While many of the places that had regular sales on Alden went out of business, finding them for 10 or 20% off around the holidays isn’t unheard of. There is also the elusive J. Crew mistake sale, which is where this pair came from.
Another alternative is to check out the Shoe Mart’s seconds page. You can find pairs there for as low as $399, and they run a Black Friday sale for an additional $25 off as well. Just be aware these are seconds, so they might have some problems and return shipping is not free. I can’t link there directly as you need an account and approval, but it only takes a couple of minutes to set up.
At first blush, it’s hard to give a value judgement on the Alden Indy.
Are they durable? Everywhere but the heel and laces. Then again, a $300 pair of Red Wings are too.
Are they stylish? Absolutely. Then again, so are the $360 Grant Stones.
However, I think that picking just one aspect of these boots misses the point. The reason to reach for an Alden Indy in a store isn’t because they do one thing the best. Rather, they are really good at everything. They manage to be comfortable, stylish, well made, durable(ish), and versatile – all in one boot.
While the Indy costs $600, it fills the role of multiple $300 boots. And they manage to do it while taking up less valuable closet space.
In the NFL, a QB’s favorite receiver is often called their security blanket. That receiver might not be the flashiest, fastest, or most skilled person on the team. Most weeks they don’t end up on the highlight reels Monday morning. However, when the QB needs to make a play, they know that the security blanket will be there to make it happen.
In a world where there are new and crazy make ups of boots every week, sometimes it feels nice to come home to a classic. The work boot that has been around for as long as you’ve been alive. My personal security blanket.
The Alden Indy.
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