Online Shoe Stores

Below is a list of major online shoe stores. If you know of any good online shoe stores that are not on the list please let me know the name and URL of the store by email at glen@oldleathershoe.com and I will add them to the list.


Specialty Online Shoe Stores

Adler Shoes
Alden Shoes of Carmel
Allen Edmonds
Bexley
Dons Footwear
GentlemensFootwear
Giovanni Marquez
Herring Shoes
J.L. Rocha
Leather Soul
Leffot
MenShoeNet
Mezlan
OneHugeStep
Pediwear
Sherman Brothers Shoes
ShoePassion
Sky Valet Shoes
VASS Shoes
Viberg
Wildsmith
Zelli


Large Online Shoe Stores

6pm.com
Bluefly
Edwards of Manchester
Famous Footwear
Nordstrom.com
Onlineshoes.com
Payless ShoeSource
Petes Shoes Online
ShoeMall
Shoebuy.com
Shoes.com
ShoeMetro.com
Overstock.com
Zappos.com

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Water Resistant Shoe Polish

Like most people with nice dress/business shoes I worry about water damage to my nice shoes in the late Fall, Winter and early Spring.

There are a number of water resistant solutions on the market, but most are for heavy leather like boots, or inverted leather like suede. These solutions typically include either heavy wax, heavy oil, or synthetic chemicals like silicone, or other toxic smelling chemicals.

I could not find an all-natural, non-toxic water resistant solution that was light enough not to smother my thinner dress/business shoe leather. I received recommendations to use mink oil and neatsfoot oil, but the amount I would have to use to make the leather water resistant would smother the leather, and potentially stain the leather.

I could have also went with galoshes, but I didn’t want to damage or hide the shine of my shoes.
swims-mens-rubber-galoshes

There has currently only been three ways to add water resistance to leather shoes:

  1. Seal the leather from the outside (heavy wax, silicone spray, goulashes and so on.)
  2. Fill the leather fiber with heavy oil (or other stuffing agents) so the water can’t penetrate the leather. This is done by stuffing the oils and other agents between the collagen fiber bundles (as you rub the oils in).
  3. A combination of one and two (usually silicone or other synthetic chemicals)

Water Proofing

Since I had already created the all-natural GlenKaren shoe polish line, I decided to see what I could do to make that polish more water resistant.

The beeswax and carnauba wax in the polish offer some minimal amount of water resistance (as most shoe polishes containing wax do), but I could not just increase the amount of wax because it would make the polish too thick and sticky and smother the leather from the outside.

I could increase the amount of coconut oil, but coconut oil is a highly saturated fat, and if not used in moderation could smother the leather from the inside.

I had to figure out a way to protect the individual collagen protein fibrils from water while still keeping them lubricated with oil, and not clogging the collagen fiber bundles.

Below is an illustration of a piece of leather, in orders of magnitude, down to the atomic makeup of a collagen protein fibril:
Leather Collagen Protein lines

To find a solution I had to extend my research further into how leather is made. I didn’t get into the animal husbandry aspect of how a baby calf is born, but I did do more extensive research on the steps of how leather is created in a tannery.

During a step called basification the pH levels of the leather are managed and the tannins are introduced which stabilize the leather and, along with the fatliquoring, keep it flexible and soft. In this process the tannins are bound to the collagen proteins through a process called protein binding.

A protective coating given to the collagen protein strands during the tanning process where the tannins and oils are hydrogen bonded to the collagen protein chains. Collagen’s high content of the amino acid hydroxyproline allows for significant cross-linking by hydrogen bonding within the helical structure. Tanning increases the spacing between protein chains in collagen from 10 to 17 angstroms, this additional space is filled with the hydrogen bonding the tannins (or chromium salts) and oils to the collagen. It is these bonded tannins and oils that increase the hydrothermal stability of the skin.

Binding

Using the idea of protein binding I decided to find a way to bind an all-natural, non-toxic solution to the individual protein fibrils. Borrowing from the tanning process where sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) is used to assist in protein binding, I just needed to find something with a similar chemical composition that would also be a water insulator for the collagen protein.

That is when I came across sodium bentonite (Bentonite is also known as Montmorillonite). A natural clay used in beauty face masks, wine purification, health food additive, pet food additive, kitty litter, and pond liners. It has a lot of uses, and come in a food grade powder form.
woman with facial mask

Sodium Bentonite has some very interesting characteristics:

Similar to sodium bicarbonate, sodium bentonite has a strong ionic charge that assists in the protein bonding.

Due to the platelet structure of sodium bicarbonate and its atomic pattern at the molecular level it actually attracts water molecules and binds them to the outer layer of the sodium bentonite molecules, while the inner layer is bonded to the protein molecule, thus creating a protective sheaf for the collagen protein fibril.

Clay Stucture Sleeve

The platelet structure of the sodium bentonite actually expands to a degree as it is exposed to more water to create a tighter seal. Once the water evaporates the sodium bentonite contract back to its normal size. This is done at the molecular level so you wouldn’t see it happening, unless you poured a cup of sodium bentonite into a beaker and then added some water.

It is important to note that the sodium bentonite in the shoe polish will penetrate the leather with the oils, as well as stay on the surface with the wax, this allows for a double water barrier of sorts.

The amazing thing about sodium bentonite is that it only acts like a water repellant when exposed to water (even just one molecule of water), unlike wax or oils that must thoroughly coat or saturate the leather all the time to be effective. And, unlike oil, sodium bentonite cannot be flushed out by water (it can be removed with a cleaner like orange oil [GlenKaren Cleaner/Conditioner] or Saphir RenoMat).

If you have been looking for a water resistant shoe polish for your dress/business shoes and don’t want to use heavy waxes, oils, or toxic smelling chemicals please give the GlenKaren water repellant shoe polish a try. It is still made of the same all natural, non-toxic, ingredients, but with the inclusion of sodium bentonite.

The images below show a black Allen Edmond wholecut being sprayed with water, let sit for a period of time, then wiped off with a dry cotton cloth:
WR Black

For more information on ordering please go to the GlenKaren Care Products web site.

As a side note: GlenKaren Care Products still produce the standard polish line without sodium bentonite as well.

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Mailorder Bespoke Shoes

The idea of having bespoke shoes produced through a mail order process would have never crossed my mind. Having gone through the multiple fittings, fitter’s model, and fine tuning of the Last, there is no way I could see this being done through a mail order process. That was until I was introduced to the concept of sending my feet to the shoe maker.

I was contacted by a representative of Adler Shoes a while ago to see if I would be interested in writing an article about their shoes, and their bespoke process. After doing a little research I thought it would be quite interesting to try their process out.

The package containing the casting socks and other materials arrived a couple weeks later. And, I have to admit, that at first I had a little trepidation about trying to make the casts. The kit came with latex gloves and plastic sleeve socks, along with the casting socks.
AdlerKit

I put off making the casts until the following weekend.

It wasn’t as hard as I had feared, but it wasn’t as simple as putting on a sock either. Once the casting sock is soaked in a bowl of water it becomes progressively sticker before it dries. The plastic sleeve socks and the latex gloves keep it from sticking to your hands and leg hair, but not from sticking to itself to some degree and making the process a little more challenging.

From this experience I derived a number of suggestions to make the process less challenging.

First, make sure to use very cold water, this slows down the curing process while you are putting on the casting sock so it is a little less sticky, and it gives you have a little more time to get it on. Also make sure to use the plastic sleeves as they are absolutely necessary.

PlasticSleeve

Second, you have to roll the sock on. In the US the typical men’s dress sock comes in crew length, so it is common for men to stick their thumbs inside the sock and pull it up around their foot and ankle in one motion. Over the calf (OTC) socks must be rolled (or compressed) so that you start at the toe and roll the sock up around the foot and leg. You must roll the casting sock up around your foot and ankle.

Third, even though it looks like there might be a heel in the sock because of the way it is folded, there is not. Find the seam across the end of the toe of the sock and use that as your guideline.

Fourth, have a comfortable place to sit while putting on the sock, and be sure to use something to protect your floor from the sock, and your sock from the floor.

Actually, I think the best advice would be to have your spouse or a friend put the sock on for you. It will actually be much easier, but make sure they know how to roll a sock on to someone else’s foot (perhaps practice with a real sock first). My wife opted out on this suggestion, so I put the socks on myself.

SockOn

Fifth, once both socks are on be sure to stand up, and stand still, for about 6 minutes (instructions on timeframe and process are included with the kit). Have your cell phone close by in case someone calls. This gave me a chance to catch up on some current event news on my smart phone while I waited.

Sixth, after the casting socks have cured you will need to cut them off your feet. You may want to use safety scissors (with the blunt rounded tip). I used regular pointed scissors, but I was careful not to poke myself. Be sure to have your scissors within reach because you will not want to (and should not) walk with the casting socks on.

You will want to cut the socks from the top down to your heel, next to your ankle. Pull the cast away from your leg gently while wiggling your foot. Try to keep from cracking the cast across the heel. The more intact the cast the better.

CastSide

Once the casts were off I used the rubber bands, I had used on the plastic sleeves, to hold each cast together. I then boxed them up and shipped to back to Adler Shoes. Since I live in the United States I was able to send them to their Chicago processing center.

CastsComplete

Now I just had to be patient and wait the 3 months it takes for Adler Shoes to create a set of lasts based on my foot shape, and hand build a pair of shoes around them. This timeframe is much shorter that a typical bespoke build time that takes around 9 to 12 months (sometimes longer).

Once Adler Shoes has the foot shaped casts, forms are made, trimmed and modified as needed with the result being a set of lasts that represent the shape and size of each of my feet. It is important to note that no two feet are alike (not even your own two feet). It is typical for one foot to be almost a half-size larger than the other, and the other being thicker than the longer one. This issue is addressed with bespoke shoes. My shoes will not be my typical US 11.5 D, but rather fit specifically for each foot in size Glen.

Adler Last Large

The shoes are 100% handmade from the template production for each individual shoe to the leather cutting to the upper stitching (where they do use Singer) but then, their master cobblers do their magic with old fashioned hand tools. Even the Brogue holes are punched by hand with precision hand tools made in Germany. The finishing is also done by hand by their experienced finishers.

There are a number of shoe styles to choose from, as well as an array of colors and skins, from calf to crocodile and a number of animals in-between.

Adler Collection Small

This is just a sample of what is available. For more detailed information, and to get your own bespoke shoes, please visit Adler Shoes

The average price of a pair of Adler shoes is around $500 to $600 USD with the exotic leather getting up into the $1.5K range.

After waiting for what seemed like forever, I finally received my bespoke Adler shoes. And, although it seemed like forever, the shoes actually arrived within 3 month (almost to the day) from when I sent in the casts. Given the quality and craftsmanship that goes into the shoes, 3 months is actually a pretty quick turnaround.

The shoes are beautiful.

New Shoes

The fit was great, the shoes were comfortable, and after a day’s wear they were just as comfortable as when I first put them on. I suspect they will continue to be comfortable as the years go by.

I wanted to compare the Adler shoes to similar shoes I own to give you an idea where the shoes fit into my collection. I put them between an Allen Edmonds shoe and an RTW (Ready To Wear) Berluti shoe, which is quite a range. And, even this is not a direct comparison since the Allen Edmonds and this Berluti are machine built shoes.

Compare

I felt that the Adler Shoes were a great value for the price because you get truly hand built shoes, constructed from quality material by master cobblers and craftsmen, built on lasts created from your own feet. And, while I would have to admit that a bespoke Berluti would be a superior shoe, it would also cost around 10 times what an Adler shoe would cost.

I love my Adler Shoes!
MyAdlerShoes

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Shoeshine Box

I recently received a really cool shoe shine box from GOLD-N-RULE (www.gold-n-rule.com). They were kind enough to send the box (and optional kit) to me to review (with no obligation, or stated expectation).

The box is a decent size (big enough to hold a number of shoe polish tins/jars and shoe care equipment, but small enough to set out of the way), however you may want to show it off.

The box is designed structurally and graphically to replicate the old 5cent a shine shoe box of long ago. The shoe stand is made of a solid brushed gold tone metal, and the box graphics are bold, professional and retro.
shoebox

The shoe shine kit included the following:
• 1x black 4oz Angelus polish
• 1x brown 4oz Angelus polish
• 1x Flannel Buffer
• 1x 100% Horse Hair Shine Brush
• 1x 100% Horse Hair Circular Dauber Brush.
kit contents

I think this shoe shine box and care kit will be a great addition to my shoe care collection, and be something I can show off to my friends.

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