I road tested Blundstone’s new vegan boots to see if they lived up to the beloved original leather version. Here is what I found.
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When I travel, I walk everywhere, so I always look for the holy grail of shoes: comfortable, robust and ideally more stylish than what my grandmother would wear. Then I found Blundstone boots, the iconic Tasmanian brand that has fitted soldiers, farmers, musicians, chefs and more for 150 years – and me since 2017. I’ve worn the same pair because I’ve traveled all over the world and at home. These beloved stomps are on their last legs at this point, but I was hesitant to replace them because, well, as a lifelong vegetarian, I still feel bad about buying shoes. leather first. In fact, these are the only leather items I own.
Then recently, Blundstone released their very first vegan boots. I was thrilled, but cautious: Could they really live up to the originals? So for the past two months, I’ve been road testing (and muddy trail testing, and sleet testing on day two in New York) the new Blundstone vegan boots and compared them to the original leather version. Here is what I found:
Kudos for the design
First of all, they look great. The design is the same as the original Chelsea boots, right down to the signature stitching, soles and pull tabs. They come in two colors, brown and black, for men and women (I had the opportunity to test the brown ones when the company sent me a pair to review); a dark gray in this style and a women’s heeled boot in black and brown will be added Fall/Winter 22-23.
“They’re the exact same thing,” Blundstone lead designer Joe Carfora told me over the phone. “When we defined the project a few years ago, [customers] didn’t want anything different. They loved the Blundstone boot and just wanted a vegan option.
Carfora explained that they actually started thinking about a vegan boot in 2016, but were unhappy with the alternatives available at the time. Finally, about 18 months ago, they moved forward with a water-resistant vegan microfiber upper called onMicro®; a breathable, antibacterial and antimicrobial microfiber lining called onSteam®; and a removable vegan footbed.
These are not the only vegan components of these boots. Every material – and every treatment of those materials in production – has been studied through the vegan verification process by an independent testing laboratory Eurofin Chem-MAP.
Kudos to innovation
Interestingly, a leather replacement wasn’t the sticking point. “Eurofin tested everything and said there were animal traces in the dye we used in the yarn,” Carfora said. “It wasn’t the upper, it wasn’t the construction process, it wasn’t even the glue – the glue was good. It was the dye! So we had to look for a new supplier. Not only they’ve found one, but the company will work with its long-term supply partners to make all of its yarn vegan with vegan dyes.
The cruelty-free push perfectly matches the brand Every step is better efforts to improve its ethical, sustainable and business practices. And since microfiber has its own environmental issues, it’s good to know that Blundstone is thinking about it. (Quick recap: Microfibers are typically made from plastic, which can be harmful to the environment. Yet, it’s generally believed to cause less damage than leather, although there are also eco-friendly improvements being made in (Harper’s Bazaar has a great article on this.) As Carfora explained, “Obviously we’re looking at sustainability. We now have a whole department that helps us research these materials.
And while Blundstone’s leather boots aren’t going anywhere, the broader thinking about vegan materials is having a wider impact on the company: “I hope what we see from the vegan boot is that ‘There might be other options available to us,’ Carfora said. . “Some of the new projects we have in the works right now are looking at using fully recycled materials, plant-based materials, colors, because in terms of sourcing, more and more options are now available. “
Bravo for the look
All of this product research has resulted in a boot that looks a lot like leather. Microfiber is soft and supple, and has a subtle texture that mimics organic material. I was initially concerned that the boots would have a sheen of patent leather, like so many faux leather shoes I’ve worn over the years, but they don’t. I opted for the brown boots and they have a soft sheen to them, but it’s not laminated – and the coloring has a warm depth that looks very natural.
That said, microfiber won’t break like leather does. “This feature will be a little different,” Carfora told me. “It will wear, but it won’t look like a leather finish. Everyone’s leather boots wear differently. . . the microfiber will probably be more consistent.
I admit I’m a little sad about this, Blundstone nerd that I am. There’s just an unspoken connection and earned credibility when you catch the eye of another Blunnies fan on the subway and see how well worn and loved their boots are. God forbid they think I’m a rookie. But I guess that’s a compromise I’m willing to make. Saving animals, making the world a better place, and all that.
Great for comfort
The boots slipped on easily and were immediately comfortable right out of the box. I’ve been wearing them all day, every day for about eight weeks, and my feet stay happy. The synthetic uppers didn’t pinch or develop sharp creases like I’ve had other synthetic shoes.
They also perform well in a variety of weather conditions: the uppers are considered water resistant (just like their leather counterparts), and my feet stayed warm and dry in the rain, mud, and multiple puddles of NYC sleet that was much deeper than I expected. I usually wore mid-weight wool socks with my leather Blundstones in the winter, and I expected that combination to make my feet sweat in the vegan pair, because the “breathable” microfiber isn’t always so airy than it looks. But even when I wore cheap polyester socks, my feet didn’t overheat, and the insoles (which are removable) are more breathable and shock-absorbing than those of my old leather pair.
Mixed feelings about sustainability
My only complaint is with the coating of the upper material. The Blundstone website, the press release they sent me, and Carfora itself all insisted that the vegan boots live up to the durability (their word) that the Blundstone brand is known for. . For example, the website said: “Built to last: durable and very resistant to abrasion.” However, my boots had abrasions after a day. Just from walking around town, the microfiber had scratched slightly near the big toe area, leaving a collection of chalky lines.
I asked Carfora about this when we spoke and he suggested a polish called Nugget. I couldn’t find this brand, but I spoke to three cobblers in my neighborhood who all recommended similar products. After a few easy minutes of dabbing and buffing, the white lines were stained and therefore less visible, but the micro tears are still there, so there is room for improvement with this material.
Other than that, these boots seem true to Blundstone’s promise of strength. I had no water infiltration; no cracks, holes or even loose threads after two months of daily use; the sole is the same sturdy, heel-protective material used in standard Blundstones, so I expect to travel the world with these kicks for several years to come. Unfortunately, like all Blundstone boots, the soles of these new vegan boots are not replaceable. “The sole is injected into a mold and onto the boot itself, so it’s very difficult to rip that part out and replace it with a new one without damaging it,” Carfora explained when I pressed him about it. . In my experience, that means your soles are more likely to wear out before the rest of the boots – although it took five years with my pair of leather ones, and Carfora says some customers say they lasted 18 to 20 years.
Blundstone did it! It’s exciting to see a brand so committed to leather put so much attention and care into alternative materials and to see this innovation influence the company in the future. It looks like a win not just for Blundstone, but for fashion conscious in general. And while I’m very impressed with the look and feel of these boots and am relieved to be able to wear such quality and cruelty-free boots, it’s almost a second thought that they’re vegan, this which is perhaps the biggest victory. In reality, they are only Blundstones. And they are awesome.
Buy now: Blundstone vegan boots for men, $200, blundstone.com; rei.com; zappos.com
Buy now: Women’s Blundstone Vegan Boots, $200, blundstone.com; rei.com; zappos.com
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