Allen Edmonds Strandmok: Actually Worth Buying?
Price: $395 [regularly on sale for less]
The Allen Edmonds Strandmok, on sale, is an affordable option that is a great workhorse shoe.
The Allen Edmonds Strandmok carries the baggage from the brand, and won’t wow you in the way some of the higher priced competitors will.
|Materials||Leather / Rubber|
|Weight||665 g / 1 lb 7.45 oz|
|Country of Origin||Dominican Republic / United States Finishing|
The long history of Allen Edmonds is long and storied, but has been covered here before. Check out the review of the Park Avenue if you’d like to see it.
No, today I want to talk about recent history.
The past five years has not been kind to Allen Edmond’s reputation. Especially around QC. In fact, when a recent sale was posted to Reddit, they were described as “great, as long as you’re OK returning 2 or 3 pairs until you get one that is made correctly.”
Allen Edmonds themselves don’t even try to hide this. On the investor website for Brentwood Associates – who bought Allen Edmonds in 2013 – they say they have “commenced a lean manufacturing initiative.” To compensate, they instead are targeting “psychographic data overlays.” In other words, they are spending less money on construction, and more on marketing.
I had personally almost given up on the brand. The tipping point was walking into a store that carried them and seeing every single model they had were low-quality, made-in-India models. Not that India can’t make quality shoes, but when the company’s home page has multiple references to being made in Wisconsin on their home page, it’s hard to take their marketing seriously.
However, something happened over the past year or so. With inflation going crazy and demand for high quality footwear soaring, Allen Edmonds did something you might not expect. As competitors raised their price, Allen Edmonds started to run more sales. The actual transaction price of their shoes dropped.
Paying $400 for a pair of Allen Edmonds in 2019 when Carmina was $350 is foolish. But paying $180 for a pair of Allen Edmonds in 2022 when Carmina is $500? Well, let’s find out if it makes sense.
The Upper of the Allen Edmonds Strandmok is made up entirely of brown, tumbled leather. It’s probably a bit shinier than you may want, but overall, the leather is perfectly serviceable. The tumbling is real, which is a bonus. Often on more affordable pairs of footwear the tumbled design is simply pressed in. Though, it should be noted this is heavily corrected leather.
The Strandmok – like its Strand namesake – is a semi-brogue style. This means it has broguing, or those little holes, throughout, but features a traditional cap toe rather than a wingtip. I have to say, the broguing is done really well. They are centered, cut through, etc. As anyone with several pairs can tell you, having a shoe’s broguing done this well is rare. Even my $800 Alden Longwings had a few minor issues.
Unfortunately, the broguing isn’t entirely without issue. Where most shoes in this style will have some sort of leather backing so that as you look through the holes the color will be consistent, on these pairs they don’t. When looking at the design on the cap toe you look through to something like black felt. It is surprisingly noticeable, even from several feet away.
Inside, the entire shoe is lined in surprisingly high-quality leather. That lining is thick, smooth, and more aniline than the leather on the exterior of the upper. This actually really surprised me. For a shoe that is squarely in the “affordable” line up, it was great to see.
Mid- and Outsole
The first thing you’ll notice about the bottom half of the Allen Edmonds Strandmok is the 360-degree storm welt. And just how well-done it is. The stitching is even, the staining is pretty good, and the joint is about the best I’ve seen on a storm welt.
As the storm welt is really what is supposed to differentiate the Strandmok from the Strand, it’s nice to see they took some time on it.
Taking a look at the bottom of the shoe, you’ll find the most obvious area of cost cutting. The Dainite sole has a lot of things worth talking about.
First, unlike the last several pairs of Dainite-branded Allen Edmonds I’ve had, these have lost all their custom branding. Previous pairs have had the Allen Edmonds logo somewhere – either on the heel or the midfoot. These are just the basic generic Dainite outsoles. I know that nobody but you will ever see it, but they do feel less special.
Second, both shoes have parts of their soles installed off center. The left shoe has the forefoot sewn on slightly askew, and the right having its heel pattern rotated. While, again, not the end of the world, this is actually slightly noticeable when you walk. It’s also the only time I’ve ever seen a pair of Dainite soles so far off directly from the factory.
The Allen Edmonds Strandmok isn’t perfect, but it is a perfectly serviceable oxford. The tumbled leather and storm welt don’t make it ideal for a suit, but you could get away with it if you wanted. Those same features allow the Strandmok to play in more casual outfits that a typical oxford can’t.
If you’re researching this model more generally, you should know that there are actually two “styles” of Strandmok. There is this one, and similar colors, that look like more classic oxfords with small detail changes. There are also lines with contrast welts, blue outsoles, etc. These are going to be much harder to style – but if you nail it they can look great.
Fit & Comfort
The Allen Edmonds 65 (or just 5) last, which is what the Strandmok is built on, is notoriously long and narrow. That being said, the soft tumbled leather used on this pair make these the most accommodating version of the last I’ve ever worn.
I’ve previously found that I never could really get super comfortable in this last, but that isn’t the case here. If you’ve found that the 5 last didn’t work for you, giving a pair in this leather could be worth it if you like the design. All that being said, it’s still a fairly long and narrow last. If you’re a wide footer, consider going up half a size and down a length.
I take the Allen Edmonds Strandmok in a 12 D and find them very comfortable. This is similar to most other dress shoe lasts. For comparison, I take a size 12 in the Alden Barrie last (loose fit) and a size 13 in most sneakers. For a full list of sizing for every shoe reviewed on this website, click here.
One recent change that Allen Edmonds has made to the Strandmok is the inclusion of a bit of foam padding underfoot. This used to be exclusive to the Allen Edmonds x Brooks Brother’s line, but since Brooks Brothers cancelled that contract, it has started to roll out to more models.
While I’m typically not a fan of synthetic materials in my leather shoes, this foam padding is done really well. It’s extremely thin – maybe one or two millimeters. With it’s thin feeling, it really just feels like the leather insole is a bit more broken in than it really is. I’m not saying I would want it on every pair of shoes I own, but I’m glad to have one pair with it.
Elsewhere, the upper’s extremely soft leather does a great job of forming around your foot. Even on day one.
Really, other than the wobble created by the off-centered Dainite outsole, I would say these are among the most comfortable formal-ish shoes I own. I bought them because I often find myself walking long distances through less-than-ideal conditions in business attire and these are perfect for the role.
If you need something for similar conditions, these are an outstanding option from a comfort perspective.
Materials & Construction
Allen Edmonds does a great job of saying a lot while not really saying anything on their website when it comes to the leathers. On their materials website for the Strandmok they say use high quality leathers in this line “including” Chromexcel and suedes from C.F. Stead. I can tell you this leather isn’t from either of those tanneries. Though, for this price, using no name leather is acceptable.
They also don’t say where they get the leather for the liners but, as I mentioned previously, it feels great.
Inside the shoe itself, a bit of foam covers a cork footbed. Interestingly, Allen Edmonds does not use a shank. They are the only major footwear company I know of that doesn’t – even a lot of sneakers do. I’ve never found it to be an issue. Allen Edmonds themselves say that their 360-degree construction provides the support they need. However, if you are ever climbing a ladder or digging a ditch you might have some issues.
Underneath, a Dainite rubber sole finishes off the package. I should note that others find Dainite quite hard for a rubber outsole, but personally I’ve never had any issues with it. This outsole is extremely durable, but is really intended for more formal wear. If it gets icy or wet, they can lose grip fairly easily.
Allen Edmonds uses goodyear welt construction for the Strandmok. If you want an in-depth explanation of what that means, click here. The short version is that a piece of material (known as gemming) is connected to the upper, then a strip of leather (known as a welt) is sewn to it. The welt is then sewn onto the outsole.
Goodyear welting is considered by most as the go-to for high end footwear. The pros are that it’s durable, easily resoleable, and water resistant. The cons are that it can cost more to produce, and takes a bit more time to break in.
I also want to talk a bit about Allen Edmond’s “handcrafted in Wisconsin” badging. This is unfortunately marketing speak for “not made in the USA enough to actually use the words ‘made in the USA’.” If you want more information, here is a good thread on Reddit discussing it. The short version is that they make the majority of the shoe in the Dominican Republic, do a bit of finishing in Port Washington, and use “handcrafted” instead of “made” to get around regulations.
Again, simply making a shoe outside of the U.S. doesn’t mean its poor quality. However, if you are making outside of the U.S., own it. Or, at least don’t have pictures of American flags on your homepage next to where shoes are made.
Grant Stone is the perfect example here – high quality, not Made-in-America shoes with clear advertising. Simple, easy, and correct.
Ease of Care
Coming from Allen Edmonds’ “Water Proof” line, the Strandmok should be extremely easy to maintain.
The corrected grain leather will only need conditioning fairly infrequently – likely only 2 or so times year. Maybe 3 if you’re wearing them in really foul weather. I’ve used the old version of Allen Edmonds’ conditioner and found it great, but have been less impressed with the new spray version. Instead, I’d stick with the tried-and-true Bick 4.
You’ll also want to keep shoe trees in these. I wore them once and didn’t have shoe trees with me. In the morning, there were already deep and ugly creases starting to set. A few days in trees were able to sort that out, but long term it could get ugly. Allen Edmonds actually owns Woodlore, so you can get them and still be “on brand,” but cheap Amazon ones will likely work just as well.
When it comes time to resole, Allen Edmonds themselves offer a lot of options. You can go as simple as a set of heels for $50 all the way up to a “prestige” package for $155 that replaces everything and gives you a pair of shoe trees and polish. Most people will opt for the standard package for $125. I’ve done it before, and found it easier than taking it to the local cobbler, though you have that option as well.
Pricing & Value
Here is where things get interesting. While the Allen Edmonds Strandmok technically retails at $395, it has been on sale constantly for at least 2 years. At time of writing, it’s going for $249, and Allen Edmonds runs additional 30% off sales every few weeks.
In other words, if you’re even slightly patient, you can get this pair for well under $200. And that price is for firsts, seconds can be a few dollars less (though, with their QC issues and charge to return seconds, I’d stay away from them).
At that price there really isn’t that much that competes with them. Meermin falls in the same price range, coming in at $195, but can be a hassle to get sizing right and they have their own QC issues. You might be able to find some Grant Stone seconds, but sizing availability will be hit or miss.
There are certainly a lot of issues to complain about with these, but from a value perspective they are pretty hard to knock. If you’re the type of guy who doesn’t have $400, $500, etc. sitting around for a single pair of shoes, these could be the answer.
They probably are not a pair you’ll be able to pass down to your son, but they will likely save you money over getting several cheap, fast wearing Johnston and Murphy pairs from Nordstrom Rack.
Up at the top, the question was asked – is Allen Edmonds worth looking into again. I think we need to split this into two sides.
On one hand, there is a company that has a lot of issues. First are foremost among them is Allen Edmonds’ infuriating habit of twisting words to get the customer to believe something that isn’t true. Saying that shoes are “handcrafted in Wisconsin” because they legally can’t say “made in the USA” shows a disrespect to someone trying to support American workers. Saying that the line “includes Chromexcel … [and] C.F. Stead” when the majority do not is actively designed to trick people just starting out. The same people who probably have the least disposable income to spare.
This sort of marketing shouldn’t be acceptable, and I call on Allen Edmonds to be better. As their own marketer said in the post I mentioned above – they found that they can offer a better priced product at similar quality by using non-US construction and materials. Customers are not dumb. We understand that tradeoff, it happens with everything we own. Further, looking at the majority of the market, most customers prefer the lower cost option.
On the other hand, there is the shoe itself. Sure, it also has its issues, but not every pair of shoes needs to be a pair of Edward Greens. Sometimes a shoe with solid construction, good enough materials, and a price that the average guy can afford is exactly what fits the bill.
Ultimately, I do think if you’re looking for a sub-$200 pair of shoes that will be durable, it’s hard to do better than this. I kept this pair for myself, even in a a closet with several $500+ pairs of shoes. It simply does the rainy-weather job too well to ignore.
I just wish I didn’t feel a bit guilty about liking them.