A guide showcasing a number of brands who offer welted quality footwear for women. There are quite a few of these, although basically all these manufacturers have the men’s shoe side as their main focus, there’s lots of great options for women as well.
That’s probably also the reason why it’s much harder to find information about different manufacturers’ women’s models, it’s simply not a prioritised area, but something you tinker with a bit on the side. It’s a pity, because I’m convinced that traditionally built quality shoes could find a much larger market among women as well. The number of models from the various manufacturers varies, but there are almost always fewer than on the men’s side, and in some cases only a few. I will focus here only on traditionally constructed shoes, mainly Goodyear welted, as this is the area this blog is about and which I know well. There are of course plenty of manufacturers who make high quality pumps, ballerina shoes and similar, but that is something others are far better at and write about elsewhere. Besides, this post will be pretty long anyway.
We’ll start by going through various Ready to Wear manufacturers, in alphabetical order. Obviously I won’t have included everyone, so feel free to highlight others in the comments section.
British budget manufacturer Barker has a rather nice range of women’s models. For example, they have a couple of different chelsea boots, some loafers and a bunch of brogues. Prices are between €250-350. I’ve seen some of the models in real life, and they’re decent shoes for the money, but notice that they’re budget shoes so the craftsmanship is a bit rushed. You can buy them from their own website linked above or for example Robinson’s Shoes or Bradshaw & Llyod.
French manufacturers are generally quite good at offering models for women as well, one such brand is Bowen. Similar to Barker they have the usual stuff, chelseas, derby, a chukka and then also a pretty stylish spectators. Sold from Bowen’s own website, and priced between €250-350.
Spanish Carmina has one of the widest range of Goodyear welted women’s shoes in the world. Lots of different styles and types of shoes, from high heels to heavy boots. The shoes are made to the same standard as the men’s shoes, and the price level is basically the same, so around €400 for the low shoes, a bit more for boots. A bunch available on their own site, some different make-ups can sometimes be found at some of their retailers.
For many years, Church’s has been making shoes for women as well. In the past, they were pretty much on a par with men’s shoes, and were really nice. Since several years, however, the women’s side has been degraded considerably, first with the introduction of almost exclusively corrected grain leather, then with shoes that are no longer made in England but in Italy, and where they tried to fake a Goodyear welted shoe, nowadays they are open about the fact that they are Blake stitched though, even if they are still done with a bond welt (where the sole stitch on top of the welt is just decorative). With the new pricing of Church’s, there’s surely better options at this price, but include them here as consumer information. Also most new stuff that are introduced are more regular fashion women’s shoes.
Crockett & Jones
A big player on quality footwear, Crockett & Jones, has quite a few women’s models too. No outright extremes design-wise, but classic lace-up models, boots and loafers. A few years ago the women’s shoeswere of a slightly simpler make than the men’s benchgrade range, at slightly lower price, where they’ve skimped on things like textile linings instead of full leather linings. Nowadays though, I believe they are made to the same standard as Benchgrade on the men’s side. Prices are similar, around €500.
French midrange manufacturer Heschung, which focuses on a a more casual style, has some really cool boots and shoes for women that don’t just have the traditional designs. The price range is between 3500 and 4000 SEK. They can be ordered directly from Heschung’s website.
Like Crockett & Jones, Loake has a range of shoes for the UK and international markets that are of a certain standard, in this case similar to the Loake Shoemakers range of full grain models, if you compare to the men’s side. These are shoes of a slightly lower standard than Loake’s 1880 series. Price is about €250, available from their own shop if you’re UK-based, unfortunately not for international customers but then you can get some models from for example Lester and Skomaker Dagestad.
Spanish Meermin, whose shoes are made in China, whose women’s shoes are made to the same standard as their Classic range on the men’s side, which is good footwear for the money of around €200 they cost. There’s mainly a few loafers models available, as well as some boots.
Belgian N.D.C is a manufacturer that produces very fashion-oriented shoes, but where the quality is still relatively good, using traditional construction methods such as Blake stitching in particular, but also some Goodyear and Bologna-stitched shoes. A lot of it is quite grotesque in my opinion, other things can be really interesting, and this applies to both the men’s and women’s side. Prices range from €200 up to €400 depending on model and construction method. Can be purchased from their own webshop and, for example, Upper Shoes.
Purdey is a British big player in the hunting field, with everything from guns to clothing and accessories. They also have some footwear, some sturdy hunting boots, but also more casual boots for both men and women. They are made by Crockett & Jones to benchgrade standards, and have a couple of different derby boots, for example, that are really nice. Costs about €500.
Australian RM Williams is the manufacturer of welted footwear that is among the easiest to find. Chelsea boot specialist RM Williams makes durable and stylish boots that work in many occasions. The women’s shoes are of the same quality and almost the same price as on the men’s side, that is, around €450.
Another Italian with women’s shoes in its range is the country’s quality shoe giant Santoni. They make everything from stiletto heels to sneakers, but I’m focusing exclusively on their classic shoe range. Santoni updates their collections quite frequently and many models come and go quite quickly, but it’s about really neat and dainty loafers, boots and some more traditional low shoes in Blake/Rapid, Blake or cemented construction. They had more well-made stuff a few years ago, unfortunately these seem to disappear more and more. The price range is from €400 and up.
Septieme Largeur is one of the nice French brands also keeping women’s welted shoes, quite affordable with a price tag around €300-400. On the website, the women’s range is currently quite limited, with a few boots and a pair of loafers, but it usually varies a lot. The most interesting thing about SL is that they offer shoes in “crust” leather that you can have painted in a patina of your choice.
Definitely one of the better options today for women looking for Goodyear welted footwear, is German brand Shoepassion, whose shoes are made in Spain. Lots of different styles and types of shoes, both conservative “small men’s shoes” and very playful fashion oriented stuff, still in a lot of cases welted though, which is nice to see. Prices range from €250 for welted shoes up to €450 for some of the lovely knee high boots.
At the company I work for, Skolyx, we have a range of boots for women, chelseas and jodphurs, Goodyear welted on Mallorca and made with leathers from Annonay and Sciarada, with heel stiffeners in leather board and equipped with city thin rubber soles. Price is €280.
Hungarian Vass makes very affordable shoes, hand welted in great materials, where the women’s shoes are even better priced than on the men’s side. €400, MTO about €500. Vass offers two diminutive versions of men’s lasts, the New Peter (P2) which is a classic round last, and the slightly beefier 3636 last which has a higher toe box. In addition, they have a special women’s last for higher heeled shoes called Petra (the boots cost a bit more). Vass women’s shoes are definitely among the finest you can get when it comes to traditionally built RTW shoes for women. Unfortunately though, they haven’t (yet at least) included them in their online shop, but they still have them in store in Budapest so can be ordered via mail.
Bespoke shoemakers making women’s shoes
Leaving the RTW shoes, we conclude with a short piece on bespoke. Because a lot of bespoke makers also make women’s shoes, both different versions of pumps, but of course also classic types of handmade shoes. And this if anything shows that women, just like men, are happy to pay large sums for really comfortable and high quality shoes. The difference here is that women have always been able to buy bespoke shoes, so there is a demand, but when RTW shoes in the premium segment hardly exist, it’s natural that there is not much demand there. The cost and possibilities when it comes to bespoke shoes is difficult to just briefly summarise, so I was mostly going to show a few examples of some models from a few different bespoke makers.