Grant Stone Boots Review: Better Value Than Alden?

Grant Stone Boots Review: Better Value Than Alden?


Like many sons of the of the American Midwest, I appreciate well-made boots. There’s something uniquely satisfying about opening a hefty cardboard box and seeing, feeling, and (in many cases) smelling a pair of Goodyear-welted boots. And, whether you’re on a job site or you’re a smooth-pavement suburbanite, there’s something decidedly satisfying about breaking them in.

For decades, heavy hitters like Wolverine and Red Wing dominated this workwear market, while mainstays like Allen Edmonds offered more formal boot options. But, in partial thanks to social media and crowdfunding platforms, direct-to-consumer brands have started cutting out not only the middleman but into the bottom lines of these industry behemoths.

Indeed, there’s no shortage of these startups, many of which likely populate your various feeds. They claim to have the same quality levels as boots three and four times their price point, publishing the ‘traditional retail MSRP’ vs what they charge. “Influencers” hawk them in static posts and snappy #GRWM videos. Many of the boots are decent. Some aren’t.

But, what about a player like Grant Stone? They’re a direct-to-consumer company, but fall in the same price bracket as traditional mid-tier mainstays. They appeal to those seeking an upmarket experience with a twist rather than hunting for a ‘good deal.’

The Grant Stone Diesel Boot

So, let’s dive into this company. We’ll cover their origin story, where they manufacture, and how they stand out in a crowded field. We’ll then dig a little deeper into two of their models, the tank-like Brass boot and the bestselling Diesel, to cover fit, finishing, styling, and if a pair is worth considering.

Grant Stone at a Glance

Descendants of Alden

Wyatt Gilmore’s grandfather worked at Alden, the legendary Northeast shoemaker, for an astonishing 60 years. Gilmore’s father also made his career at the company as a salesman in the American Midwest. It’s safe to say shoemaking is in his blood.

But, that wasn’t quite Wyatt’s intention for himself. As a teen, he was an elite motocross racer with hopes of pursuing it professionally. However, a series of injuries, along with the prospects of making a living fighting for sponsorship dollars in a comparatively niche sport, cut hopes of this career short. Stuck in transition, but not in neutral, his father suggested he spend some in Xiamen, China, where he had lived and worked for a number of years. Gilmore went, and fell in love with the place.

He spent six months in a factory on Xiamen Island learning the shoemaking process. As time passed, he become more interested in Goodyear welting and the variations in patterns, lasting, and developing prototypes for global footwear brands.

Lingering in the background, though, was potential for a brand of his own. His father had registered ‘Grant Stone’ (named for a particularly loyal Alden customer) some years back with a concept in mind and had produced samples of suede bucks and a few oxfords. But, he’d never been able to properly scale the project.

However, market conditions began to change and opportunity came knocking.

Where are Grant Stone Shoes Made?

At the factory in Xiamen, Gilmore had access to extraordinary materials. Kudu suede from the esteemed CF Stead tannery in England. Linings and welts from America. And, full grain leather midsoles and linings. He started bringing samples to some other brands he was working with. But, there was a challenge. As he said in an excellent interview with Stitchdown, the feedback was encouraging-but selling a $300+ Chinese made shoe or boot was going to be a hurdle.

“A big shoe brand might say, well, if I’m going to sell something for $350, I’m going to make it in a Mexican factory. Or I’ll make it in a U.S. factory and sell it for $550, and it’ll still be easier to sell. So it never really had anything to do with quality, never had anything to do with the product. It’s just, this is what people think, and it’s not gonna fly because it’s made in China, regardless of how good it was. It didn’t matter.”

Photo via Grant Stone

Despite this, Gilmore and his father (who had since rejoined the venture) pushed ahead with the project, posting pictures of samples on Instagram under the name “Grant Stone.”

Distribution to the United States came, initially, through The Shoe Mart, a Connecticut-based retailer of Alden-among other brands. They offered to warehouse the initial production run of 635 pairs, and the company was off and running. Currently, though, Grant Stone shoes ship primarily from southwest Michigan, USA.

Shoe Models, Sizing, and Pricing

While the first run was a longwing derby and a plain toe, Grant Stone now offers a fully fleshed-out lineup of oxfords, derbies, loafers, boots, and sneakers. Pricing starts at $280 for a pair of sneakers, but can go north of $700 for some shell cordovan boots.

Flagship boot models retail for $380 and come in an array of colors-from black and tan to Horween’s famous ‘#8’ burgundy. However, sale prices can drop south of $300.

Grant Stone also offers a variety of unusual leathers, including ostrich, kudu, and even kangaroo. The kudu and kangaroo are priced the same as the cow leather options, but the ostrich commands an upcharge.

Unlike some D2C brands, though, manufacturing to hit a price wasn’t as much a consideration for Gilmore. To further reference his Stitchdown interview, it was simply building the best product possible-and wherever it landed cost-wise, it did.

So, what do you get for your money?

The Grant Stone Brass Boot

The ‘Brass’ boot is a classic moc-toe number with a bit of a twist. At first glance, it might be a ringer for the Alden (see . . . that Alden connection again) 403/405 “Indy” boot, just wearing a lug sole. Or, perhaps a take on a Red Wing Moc. This might be an unfair comparison, though.

Many boots happen to look like other ones. Take J. Crew’s Kenton, for instance. And, those who try to ‘disrupt’ the boot industry tend to feature outlandish designs and mashups of some funky uppers and soles. The reality is, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Materials and Styling

These are substantial pieces of footwear. The Chromexcel leather in Horween’s distinctive #8 colorway is thick and quite stiff at first, but begins to soften after a few wears. It’s worth noting this is waxed aniline leather, a type of pull-up leather with limited (if any) finishing. This means it’s more difficult to conceal blemishes, pock marks, or other imperfections in the hide. Each Brass boot, however, arrived beautifully smooth with a rich, uniform color that’s held up so far. I’ve not really beat them up yet, so how it performs in longer, less suburban, excursions it remains to be seen. The materials, though, are nothing short of exceptional.

The 1.5-inch lug sole is chunky, yes, but perhaps visually less so once on the foot. The ride on the rubber compound sole is far softer than some of my Dainite boots. This should be welcome for some, who gladly pay a premium for the British standard.

In this upper and sole combination, I don’t think it a stretch to call this a hybrid boot. In my opinion, while it clearly leans casual, I think it straddles the line between decidedly dress and decidedly casual quite well. You, however, may disagree. While I wouldn’t try these with a suit, a pair of wool trousers, Shetland sweater over an OCBD, and a waxed jacket would be a perfectly acceptable styling option. Or, as I have here, in probably the most casual setting – a checked overshirt, selvedge denim, and a quilted vest.

Fit and Sizing

Grant Stone offers sizing in 6-13, with half sizes as well. Widths come in D (standard US), Wide (E in the US), and extra wide. The company recommends your normal Brannock size in sneakers, but to take half a size down in boots, loafers, and more formal options. While that’s standard fare for many brands, it’s definitely worth repeating for the Brass boot. It sits on the “Floyd” last, which has the most volume through the toe box.

I measure between a 10 and 10.5 on a Brannock device, but have a pretty narrow and low volume foot. As I’ve written about previously, this usually means I need to take a full size down on many dress shoes and boots.

That’s definitely the case here. I ordered both a 10 and a 9.5, and the 9.5 is definitely the better of the two. It’s still not perfect for my preference, though. The toe box is still too full, and I need to wear my heaviest Irish wool socks to feel snug enough for me.

I briefly considered sizing down even more. But, their customer service staff was kind enough to get on a call with me and convince me otherwise. Because of the generous toe box, it can be misleading, making you think the boot is too big.

If you do find yourself in this situation, Grant Stone recommends Pedag inserts to give a little more volume.

Overall Considerations

The Brass model is an excellently made boot. The materials are first rate, even for boots at a much higher price point. The construction is also excellent. The welting and stitching are both even and precise, without loose threads. The hardware is also of excellent quality, with speed hooks and eyelets punched cleanly through the Chromexcel.

I think a note on quality bears repeating, as Grant Stone is still addressing the stigma — let’s call it what it is — of being ‘Made in China.’ That phrase, for any number of reasons, seems to turn people off. But, I’ve found no reason to judge the boots from Grant Stone to be of lesser make than those from Spain, Portugal, Mexico, or even Italy.

I would, though, make some suggestions. Even with what is probably my correct size, I found the toe box oddly long, making my feet appear more outsized for my 5’, 7.5” frame than they already are. A shorter toe box and a less aggressive slope would make a more balanced, elegant boot. Second, the laces don’t match the quality of the rest of the boot. While they are waxed cotton, they are a little thin and seem to come untied easily.

But these are minor gripes. Overall, I’d be happy to recommend the Brass boot, especially if you’ve got a higher instep or a wider foot.

The Grant Stone Diesel Boot

After further conversation, Grant Stone offered to send a sample of the Diesel boot as well. Even though it was a little out of scope for this review, I obliged to tack it on, as it might give you, dear reader, a chance to learn about this one too.

Materials and Styling

This is a boot in its most basic form. Six-inch shaft height. Four eyelets. Three brass speed hooks. Plain toe. Goodyear welt. Rubber compound sole with micro-studded traction. This boot doesn’t shout. But, that’s kind of the point and the inspiration for the name “Diesel.” It just . . . works.

Like the Brass boot, my model is an aniline Chromexcel from Horween. The brand calls this particular colorway ‘Crimson’, but I see far more brown tones than red. I suppose, though, calling something ‘Crimson’ is more interesting.

Names aside, this boot is just as well made as the Brass. The stitching is clean and even, with no loose threads or seams. The hide is free from obvious signs of sanding or correction, which, in my mind, is what one should expect from a $380 boot.

Like the Brass, the leather is thick and dense. The boots are quite stiff out of the box, but are softening up well after a few wears.

In this colorway, the boot is quite easy to style. The more casual among us will wear with a t-shirt, jeans, and a workshirt at the weekend. I certainly have. But, I thought trying to style with a more elevated look would be a fun challenge as well.

Fit and Sizing

Like the Brass, I took a 9.5D in these. The Leo last they sit on is definitely the better choice for my my low-volume foot. While I do still need to wear thick boot socks, they’re quite comfortable and sit much more securely.

A Few Additional Notes

Speaking of lasts, I think there is a little room for improvement here. While materials and execution are excellent and the fit on the Diesel is quite good, it can still look a little . . . clunky. Even on a boot like this, I’d prefer a little more definition in the waist and toe box.

The Bottom Line: Is Grant Stone Worth It?

All in, Grant Stone has been a positive experience. I’ve found the boots to be quite well made, with excellent materials and finishing. The fit has been good, but not perfect, on my narrow foot and ankle, and thick wool socks have largely mitigated any real concerns. I’d like to see a slightly shorter, more balanced, toe box on the Brass boot and more defined waist on the Diesel. But, I understand the reasons for the stylistic choices.

If anything, this review should serve to combat the notion ‘Made in China’ equates to an inferior product. That’s been far from the case, and I’d be happy to recommend Grant Stone.

What do you think? Have you tried a pair?