Rancourt Read Boat Shoe: Are they still worth it?
- Price: $250
- Pros: Affordable long-term, Classic design
- Cons: Clicking issues, Overboard in material thickness
|Weight||441 g / .97 lbs (each)|
|Materials||Chromexcel / Self-Branded Rubber Outsole|
|Country of Origin||United States of America|
We first took a look at the Rancourt Read Boat Shoe back in November of 2020. Back then, we noted that this shoe was a classic design, but there were a few flaws that kept them from being perfect. Since then, these shoes have been worn 100 times and more than 100 miles. Let’s see if those concerns grew, or if they were blown out of proportion.
While I would encourage anyone interested to click through and read the original post if you’re interested, for this review we will be sure to mention anything important in case you didn’t have time.
Before we get into that, though, 2021 marks the 10-year anniversary of the current iteration of Rancourt. The brand started with this very shoe – a brown boat shoe. Sure, today the brand makes countless types of shoes using different types of constructions, buy this is the beginning. It’s Rancourt’s genesis.
If any one shoe represents the brand, it’s this one.
From a style perspective, the Rancourt Read Boat Shoe oozes classic boat shoe design. Leaning more heavily into it’s nautical theme than it’s competitors, the shoe feels like it is most at home near the water. Even if the closest this pair got was puddles.
In the first review of these shoes, we noted that the extra stitching and thick waxy thread were the standout features of the Rancourt Read Boat Shoe, and that hasn’t changed. From more than a few feet away, these are the details that separate this from something like a Sperry AO.
As you get closer, however, the difference becomes clearer. That waxed thread is really a star. Rancout uses a thick and heavily waxed thread on the front and back of the shoe, and it ages wonderfully. While maybe not the first thing people think of, it’s little details like this that make this $250 shoe feel different than a $50 one.
One item I didn’t expect to really appreciate is the eyelets. The eyelets all around the shoe have started to develop a bit of a patina. The nickel plating is starting to develop a bit of a matte finish. It’s the type of thing you’d see on quality outdoor furniture in a town that’s older than most states.
Importantly, the biggest complaint I had, the shape of the shoe, has gotten better with wear. When I first got these both shoes had a significant bowing to them. It was so bad that when I wore them the middle of the shoe didn’t touch my foot on either side. While there is still a bit, it’s improved to the point where I doubt anyone would notice except myself.
Speaking of patina and wear, the leather on these shoes certainly shows it. This is a double-edged sword. Like many, I think that boat shoes look better worn in. They are inherently casual by design, and a new pair is too formal – like a school boy wearing his sperrys with a suit. They just don’t look right without a few bumps and scrapes.
This pair has also darkened significantly. This addresses another of my concerns, ultimately matching the color of the stock photos much better than they did brand new.
All that being said, I don’t think I’ve had any shoes with creases this severe over the same time period.
While I understand the chromexcel lottery as much as anyone, most panels have some pretty ugly breaking. This has actually happened on 3 of the 4 pairs of Rancourts I’ve owned. Clicking is definitely an area I think that Rancourt could improve.
The other area where I see potential for improvement is in loose threads. Both shoes have developed multiple loose threads, both inside and out. I don’t believe any of these are cause for concern when it comes to the structure of the shoe, though.
The white brick outsole of the shoe is one area where I have no complaints at all. It is subject to staining, but I’m not sure anyone expects a white outsole to stay that way for very long. We’ll touch on durability a bit later, but visually it looks nearly new.
Fit & Comfort:
Unlike most other American handsewns, Rancourts definitely run on the narrow side. This is particularly true in the toebox. I measure an 11.75D on the brannock device, and ordered these in a size 12. While I still believe that they are slightly too long, after wearing them I am more confident than ever that this was the right choice. As the structure of the shoe broke down, the toe box stretched to where the leather is already wider than the sole. Any smaller and the shoes would likely have become unwearable.
For comparison, I wear an 11.5D in Quoddy and can do either an 11 or 11.5 in Oak Street Bootmakers. I wear a size 13 in most sneakers. For a full sizing comparison of all reviews we’ve done, click here.
The comfort in this pair is top notch for this style of shoe. Over the summer, I ended up getting hurt while running (according to the doctor, this pair is to blame). This meant that a lot of my handsewns had become unwearable – they just didn’t provide enough support or impact protection. The sole exception to this was this pair of Rancourts.
The Rancourt Read Boat Shoe features a bit of padding in the heel, as well as a small amount of arch support. You wouldn’t want to use these if you were working on your feet all day, but the difference between this and something like Quoddy’s Blucher significant. If you’ve tried other boat shoes and felt that your feet just couldn’t handle them, I’d seriously consider trying a pair of Rancourts.
As I noted in my last review, the leather on these shoes is stiffer than typical chromexcel. This is still true today. The one saving grace is that, as it’s stretched out, the stiffness has become much less noticable.
Materials & Construction:
When looking at the materials of the Rancourt Read Boat Shoe, the first thing you notice is the leather. This pair is still one of the thickest cuts of chromexcel I’ve seen – and that includes boots made by companies like Alden and Viberg. Measuring at nearly 4 millimeters in some areas, this leather is thick and hearty. Ugly creasing may take points away from the looks, but there is no doubt that this material will last as long as you need it to.
Honestly, I think I might have preferred if they went with something a little bit less robust. The leather still doesn’t feel completely broken in and comfortable after nearly a full year of wear. That is charming in a pair of rough and tumble work boots, but not so much in a pair of shoes meant to be worn without socks.
The laces are another area where I think Rancourt could probably save some money without compromising the end result. These laces are thick, and even now mostly stick straight out. Having a bit of flop to them would have better matched the rest of the patina on the shoe.
One area that has really impressed me is the outsole. Rancourt’s self-branded outsole is both softer than most of the competition and seemingly longer lasting. After more than 100 miles of wear, primarily on concrete and asphalt, the outsole still has the majority of its life left. I could easily see this going 400 or more miles.
The outsole itself is held on with a Blake Stitch. We go more in depth on what that means here, but in short, the Blake Stitch is one of the most basic ways to make a shoe. Essentially, the outsole is stitched directly to the upper.
Ease of Care:
The care regimen on these shoes has been fairly basic. Since buying them last year, I’ve conditioned them twice, both times using Bick 4. There are other brands that people swear by, including Venetian Shoe Cream and Saphir Renovator, but I’ve found that Bick 4 does just as good a job on chromexcel, and costs less.
Keeping shoe trees in unstructured shoes like this is a bit of an ongoing debate. Some avoid it as they worry about stretching out the shoes, while others prefer to keep them in as a way to prevent creasing. Personally, I do use shoe trees but opt for smaller trees than I would use in more structured shoes. Just be sure they are large enough to keep the leather taut.
As always with Rancourt, I think it’s important to highlight that they offer the best deal in resoling of any shoe brand out there. If all you are looking for is a resole, they will do it for just $60. That price even includes shipping both ways! This is half the price their competitors charge. If you’re looking for a full rebuild, they offer that as well. Though, at $135 dollars, that is much more in line with the industry standard.
Pricing & Value:
Priced at $250, the Rancourt Read Boat Shoe is on the more affordable end of the American-made boat shoe line up. Comparing MSRPs, the Quoddy “Classic Boat Shoe” ranges from $275 to $325, depending on the options you pick. Oak Street Bootmaker’s “Boat Shoe” is $286.
Other options include Sperry’s Made-in-Maine line – which is actually made by Rancourt but costs an eyewatering $375 – or their Gold Cup line. The Gold Cups are definitely a step down, but cost around half of what the Rancourts do.
It should be noted that every other brand goes on sale far more often than Rancourt. Two years ago it was easy to find Rancourts on sale with a quick google search, but today it’s much harder. They run a deal around black Friday for 10% off and did a series of crowd funded deals during the peak of the COVID pandemic, but otherwise you’ll likely be paying full price. This may mean that you’ll pay more for the Rancourt than the others if you can wait a few weeks for a sale on the other two.
Of course, with their non-typical sizing, pairs often end up on ebay as new.
While the price you pay for these shoes may or may not be better than pairs of equivalent quality, the Rancourts offer a really appealing value proposition. Maybe most importantly, Rancourt’s affordable resoling means that in the long run, these will end up costing you a lot less than other pairs.
This is even more important when you realize the consistency of Rancourt’s post-purchase care. Oak Street Bootmakers only started to officially offer resoles a year or so ago. Quoddy’s resole cost has skyrocketed – going from $15 to $30 to $75 to $99 to $135 in less than a decade. While I adore both of these brands, neither of these inspire confidence that years from now you’ll be able to get the shoes resoled for an affordable price.
Just be aware that, even though Rancourt makes shoes for a number of other brands, they will only resole shoes that say Rancourt on the insole.
It should also be noted that, unlike goodyear welted shoes, resoling a Blake stitched shoe is much more difficult. Unless you live in a major metropolitan area, it’s unlike you’ll be able to find anyone willing to do so. Having a brand support their Blake Stitched shoes is especially important.
The Rancourt Read Boat Shoe is undoubtably a classic. Designed to be worn, repaired, and worn again, these shoes have proven that they will stand the test of time. They are also much more comfortable than comparable options.
While not perfect – the clicking of the leather in particular doesn’t match that of their competitors – the shoes offer a really appealing value proposition. Indeed, if you’re the type of person who buys a new pair of Sperrys every summer, you might actually save money by moving up to Rancourt.
Buying a pair of Rancourt Read Boat Shoes is a pretty easy call, assuming they fit your feet.
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