Helm Finn “Sienna”: What Took Them So Long?
The Helm Finn offers great materials and good build quality at a crazy price.
The Helm Finn is too casual for formal wear, and may have less arch support than you want.
|Weight||776 g / 1 lb 11.4 oz|
|Materails||Waxed Suede / Leather / Rubber|
|Country of Origin||Brazil|
For a long time, Helm Boots – the Austin, Texas based company – hasn’t had a Chelsea boot. That always struck me as a bit strange. A lot of their recent offerings have leaned heavily into the more urban-feel. When I looked at the Helm Zind a few months back, I noted that the design made it perfect for an office or a bar. Turns out I wasn’t the only one. Helm recently leaned into this look and launched this new model – The Helm Finn.
It doesn’t seem like the delay in launching was for lack of trying. According to the CEO, it took him exactly 62 months and 7 days to get something they felt comfortable selling. Of course, everything in that post is clearly written by someone who has a financial interest in you buying the boot. When Helm reached out and asked if I was interested in taking a look at their new product, I knew I had to see for myself.
So – does the marketing line up with reality? Or did this boot need a few more months before it came out? Let’s dive in and find out.
Disclaimer: Helm provided these boots for the purpose of review. However, Helm had no input on anything included in this article and did not see what was written until this was publicly posted. All thoughts below are my true opinions.
Starting with the obvious, the upper on this pair of Helm Finns is made up of waxed suede which the brand calls “Sienna.” The boot is primarily a slightly waxy medium-to-light brown, but the toes themselves carry a much heavier wax coat. This extra wax gives these parts a darker look. I’ll admit, in the pictures the heel and toe look a bit TOO brown. Though, I can promise you that in reality it looks great.
I’m really looking forward to seeing the wax scuff and a patina to develop.
While I think the waxed suede is definitely fits the overall look of the boot best of the three available options, if this isn’t your speed you can also find it in smooth leather reddish-brown and a black for the same price.
What makes this different than any other Chelsea boot on the market? Well, Helm definitely leaned into the casual aesthetic on this pair. The stitching on the upper is made from a thick thread, and the elastic sections cut low and get much wider near the bottom.
It is a bit weird, but one of my favorite parts of the boots is the pull tab. For whatever reason, every other Chelsea I’ve ever worn – including pairs that cost multiples of this one – always include horrible feeling pull tabs. They have great graphics on them, sure, but they feel gross to use. This tab feels great – thick enough to grab, but not enough to mess up your pants.
Inside, the entire boot is lined with a black leather. You’ll find the classic Helm signature of the quote under your heel, too.
Mid- and Outsole
Taking a look at the bottom half of the Helm Finn, you’ll see where Helm really leaned into the casual vibe.
First, there is the light colored leather layer on top of their signature white rubber midsole. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve seen a lot of people say they’ve seen others who hate the white stripe, but I can’t say I’ve seen too many people say that they don’t like the white stripe.
I think it works well on this pair, though set next to the all-black outsole it does stand out a bit more than usual.
Taking a look at the bottom of the boot, this is the first time Helm has used their all-rubber lugged outsole. When designing it, they clearly took inspiration from the Isthide Commando. The lugs on this outsole are set in around a half-inch or so. This means that when you’re looking at the boots from eye level, you can’t tell they are on a chunky lugged sole at all.
Again, no complaints from me here. These are some pretty beefy lugs. They should provide great traction, but you really can’t tell from 5 feet away looking down.
The heel uses natural toned leather stacks, and a rubber lugged heel cap.
When making a Chelsea boot, you need to know what you’re aiming for. It can either be dressy or casual, but trying to do both never works. When it came to making the Finn, it was clear that Helm knew they needed to pick one route, and go down it. Overall, I think it worked out really well. Especially in this waxed suede make-up.
I could nitpick things – the rapid stitch is slightly loose on one stitch for instance – but for reasons we’ll get into later, this doesn’t bother me.
As for styling them, you need to understand the same thing. These work best when worn alongside denim or thick cotton chinos. This one isn’t the Chelsea for a suit.
Fit & Comfort
Helm builds their Finn on their new 416 last. This last is noticeably narrower throughout compared to their much more common 415 last. When I got my first few pairs of Helm I got my typical size 12, but could see how someone might want to go down to an 11.5. With these, I was a bit worried the 12 might be too tight.
Thankfully, after just a few steps, they loosened up noticeably. I should flag, though, that this was on the suede. The leather options might not be as forgiving. My common size 12 is definitely the right size for me, but if you were just on the limit of sizing in other Helm boots, you might want to consider going up.
This narrowness isn’t a knock on Helm. It’s required when making a lace-less boot like a Chelsea to keep your foot in place. Just something to be aware of.
One thing I do want to point out is the staggering number of sizes these boots are available in. In standard width they go all the way from size 6 to size 16. On top of that, they also have wide sizes ranging from 7 to 13. That is an absolutely insane number of sizes available for a relatively small brand, especially on a brand new last.
As mentioned above, I wear this in my typical boot size of 12. For comparison, I wear a size 12 in most Aldens and Allen Edmonds, and a size 11.5 in Viberg. For a full list of sizing for every shoe reviewed on this site, click here.
When it comes to comfort on the Helm Finn, the thick rubber outsole is doing a lot of work. This outsole provides excellent shock protection, and makes these no problem to stand on for long days.
The Finn also features Helm’s memory-foam like insole. The insole adds to padding in other boots, but isn’t really needed here. That being said, it probably doesn’t make sense to create an entirely new insole for one model, and it doesn’t hurt, so I can see why they kept it in.
One major drawback of the way these boots are constructed can be seen here, though. Simply due to the way the stitching is done, building up an arch in Blake-Rapid construction isn’t really possible. That’s fine for casual wear. However, if you’re looking for a pair of boots to wear on a jobsite or similar, you might want something with more arch support.
Materials & Construction
Starting with the primary material on the upper, this particular make up of the Helm Finn uses waxed suede from the Rusan tannery. The suede feels great, though admittedly you feel the wax more than the suede.
If you’re not familiar with waxed suede, it’s exactly what the name describes. The idea is to take suede – a naturally durable material to pretty much everything but water – and to combine it with wax – a naturally water resistant material that is otherwise entirely mailable. It’s very similar to a waxed cotton jacket.
Inside, the boot is lined with a glove leather, and the upper is finished off with elastic bands and a polyester pull tab. In between the lining and the outer leather are clastic heel and toe caps.
Underfoot, Helm uses the foam insole they use on all of their boots. I’m not typically a fan of man-made materials for the insole, but this feels good and is replaced as part of their resole package. Underneath that you’ll find a layer of leather, then a layer of rubber, then the rubber outsole.
The rubber outsole is Helm’s own blend, but feels incredibly soft. That might raise durability concerns, but it’s so thick that you’ll get plenty of life out of it. The heel stack is topped off with more lugged rubber.
The Helm Finn is made using their Blake Rapid construction style at their factory in Brazil. It does look a bit different than their previous models – from underneath it looks like a more traditional Blake construction – but I was able to confirm with the brand that this is still made with Blake Rapid.
Blake Rapid is a really interesting way of making footwear. Simple Blake construction has the benefit of being easy to make and very flexible, but it has one major drawback – the exterior stitching runs straight into the inside. It’s just about the least water-resistant way to make a shoe. There is a direct path from the ground to your sock. Makers will use waxes to try and hold back water as much as possible, but ultimately the water resistance of that style is quite poor.
Blake Rapid changes this by taking what would be the outsole of a Blake shoe, and stitching another layer to it with a Rapid stitch. Similar to how you connect an outsole to the welt on a goodyear welted shoe.
The benefits of Blake Rapid is that this offers the slimmer design of Blake, without the drawbacks of weather resistance. It’s also a bit easier to resole – though a lot of cobblers may not be familiar with it. As for drawbacks, due to the location of the internal stitching, it’s hard to get arch support without using a drop in insole.
Ease of Care
Waxed suede, like what is used in this Helm Finn, is incredibly easy to take care of. Suede basically needs no conditioning, and because of the wax, you don’t even need to worry about waterproofing spray or suede brushes. With time, the wax on your boots will come off with wear and scrapes. Once that happens you can either rewax it, or just treat it like normal suede.
Of course, you’ll still want to keep shoe trees in them when not in use.
When it comes time to replace the outsole, the Blake Rapid means that almost any cobbler could do it – though a lot probably won’t. The good news is that Helm offers their own resole program through NuShoe. Priced at $135ish ($110 per pair + $25 total shipping no matter the number of pairs), they will replace the outsole, midsole, insole, and repair any loose stitching. That’s about the same price (or less) you’ll pay for a resole in a major city, so it’s a great option to have.
Currently, this thick lugged outsole is not available in the resole program, but it only just launched with this boot. I expect that it will be by the time your outsole is worth through. And, if it isn’t, you can get the Vibram Miniripple (which you might want to do anyway).
Pricing & Value
Earlier I said I wasn’t going to nitpick little things on the Helm Finn, and here’s why – the price on this boot comes in at just $265. Don’t get me wrong, $265 isn’t nothing, but for a boot made with stitched construction, good materials, an almost unbelievable number of sizes, and free returns/exchanges, that price is about as good as you can get.
While there might be one I’m missing, the only boot that comes in at a lower price is the Thursday Cavalier. Though, while you’re saving a bit in MSRP, the materials on the Thursdays won’t be quite up to snuff and Thursday can have some questionable QC. Beckett Simonon and Meermin are about the same price, but both of them have potential ordering hiccups and are much more limited in sizing.
Other than those, most brands are going to be at least $100 more.
As you can probably guess, I think the Helm Finn offers a really great value.
Helm offering a Chelsea boot is one of those things that seems obvious now. The slimmer designs they’ve been releasing over the past few years match perfectly with the Chelsea aesthetic.
What’s really impressive, though, is how Helm can offer it at this price point. The Finn comes in at a price that undercuts almost everyone, and doesn’t really give up much for it. Sure, I’d have love to have seen more arch support, but arch support is a subjective thing so I can’t say it’s better or worse.
If you’ve been considering a Chelsea with a few more casual hits on them, it’s hard to not recommend the Helm Finn.