We asked our online editor to review a pair of Blundstone boots. Rather than simply walk around town, he tested them on the trails: 4 sports, 1 day, 1 pair of Blundstones. This is his review.
Blundstone boots are the de facto footwear for the mountain town I live in. They’re so ubiquitous, the entrance way to house parties resemble a Blundstone factory floor. I remember one New Year’s Eve bash in particular where there were about 20 pairs of the boots by the front door and at the end of the party, CBC Journalist Bob Keating was dismayed to learn a particularly exuberant reveller had taken home his size 12s, and left him her size sevens. Despite their popularity, I had never owned a pair of Blundstones, preferring my Chuck Taylors even in the soppiest of weather. So when I was given a pair of black, leather-lined, round toe #558 boots to review I admit it took me a long time to leave the Chucks behind and start stomping around in them. In fact, my first few goes with the Blundstones were a bit uncomfortable: there was a particular spot that pinched around my ankle but very quickly the leather moulded to my foot and they were good to go.
At that point I looked into the company and learned it was started by John and Eliza Blundstone in Hobart, Australia, way back in 1870. It’s since changed hands a few times and is now owned by the Cuthbertson family who continue to operate the headquarters out of Tasmania, but most of the boots have been made overseas since 2007. (As of this writing the company makes 37 different kinds and colours including steel-toed work boots, kids boots and winter-specific boots with Thinsulate insulation.)
Snapshot: Blundstone Original – Leather-Lined Round Toe #558
- Pros: The boot for everything from mountain biking to nights out on the town.
- Cons: Some are dismayed the company’s main manufacturing is done overseas now. Then again, so are most brands because we don’t want to pay $2,000 for a pair of boots.
- Price: $219.95 Cdn
- Who Should Buy: Practical people looking for a pair of one-size-fits-all-activities boots.
- Who Shouldn’t Buy: Fashionistas who want a different set of footwear for each hour of the day.
- Helpful Hack: A mixture of one part vinegar to three parts water is a perfect natural cleaner for your boots, and is especially effective for salt stains.
- Author’s overall rating: 9/10
As mentioned above I wasn’t satisfied simply walking around town in these Blundstones. When a friend told me he had forgotten his bike shoes and did a lap in his Blundstones anyway, I decided to test them on the local mountain trails as well. First I used them on a hike, then a mountain bike ride, then during a bouldering session and finally on a trail run. At the end of the day, I wiped off the dirt and wore them to a business meeting downtown. Here are my thoughts about whether the Blundstones leather-lined round toe #558 boots held up.
The Hike – I started the day by going for a casual hike on the trails behind my house. Nothing too steep or long. It was a mellow sojourn on well-maintained dirt trails and I have to say the Blundstones were super comfortable. The high ankle provided lots of support, the thick treads were grippy and the foot bed was well-cushioned. In fact, Blundstone has an acronym for its cushioning technology: SPS, which stands for “Shock Protection System.” According to the company literature, SPS “disperses shock at heel strike and reduces skeletal stress. Revolutionary tests indicate that an average of 33% less shock is transmitted to the bones and joints at a walking pace.” I can’t attest to the exact percentage of shock absorption but I can say that if you’re going on a casual, five-kilometre hike on mellow trails, your Blundstones will definitely suffice. Even if the trail is wet. When I first received the boots, I took the advice of Vince DeVito, our local cobbler, and treated them with Max Leather Care Aqua Seal to improve their resistance to water while still allowing the leather to breath. On my hike I traipsed through a stream and stayed comfortably dry.
The Mountain Bike Ride – This was the big surprise of the day: Blundstones make decent mountain biking shoes! I made sure to have flats for this short ride as clipless pedals would’ve been way more difficult, and the boots performed really well both on the up and the down. I stuck to an intermediate blue trail that didn’t have a lot of technical riding on it and was amazed at how comfortable I felt. The chunky sole adhered well to the pedal, there aren’t any laces to get caught up in twigs and rocks, and the high ankle and thick toe gave me a sense of protection. They were a little bit hotter than my usual mtb shoes but in a pinch I would definitely ride in Blundstones again.
The Bouldering Session – Not surprisingly, Blundstones are a terrible rock climbing shoe alternative. The leather is soft and bends too much, the round toes of the #558s don’t allow purchase on dime edges and the rubber soles aren’t sticky enough to adhere to even the tackiest of granite. I went to a beginner rock climbing area where there are a few low-angle V0 problems and scared myself soloing up the most mellow of routes. That all said, rock climbing shoes are a unique breed and I don’t think any type of footwear is a good alternative to sticky rubber soles and stiff rands.
The Trail Run – To be fair, I’m not much of a runner so this wasn’t a great test of the Blundstone’s capabilities. I probably jogged about a kilometre on a flat trail and had to stop. Without laces, the Blundstones don’t allow you to cinch the leather tighter so after only a few minutes I felt like my foot was moving around inside the boot. A few more minutes and I started feeling a hot spot on my left heel. The Blundstones are excellent shoes for walking around town and decent on mellow hikes, but the minute you pick up the pace, they feel sloppy.
The Business Meeting – After a half day spent traipsing around in the woods I went home, showered, used a damp cloth to wipe the dirt and mud off the Blundstones and then grabbed my briefcase and headed into town. The boots are definitely dapper enough to fit in at a business meeting, especially with a bit of polish. Yet they’re casual enough to wear to the local pub, which is where I finished up the day.
This particular review of the Blundstone leather-lined, round toe #558 boots was all about testing the limits of what you can do in them. And the verdict is: a lot! And that’s why they’re so popular: you can wear them to business meetings and keg parties. They’re great in the rain, slush and sun and they’re easy to maintain. Now we know they can also be used in a pinch to go mountain biking or hiking if you happen to leave your trail-specific shoes behind. Just don’t attempt any hard multi-pitch rock climbing in them. I’m happy I put the Chuck Taylors aside to give these a try and I can honestly say I am a Blundstone boots convert. I highly recommend them.
Blundstone Original – Leather-Lined Round Toe #558
- Premium leather
- Thermo-urethane outsole resistant to hydrolysis and microbial attack
- Polyurethane midsole for comfort
- PORON® XRD™ in the heel strike zone to dissipate heel strike shock
- Comfort EVA removable footbed with PORON®XRD™ in the heel pad
- Extra set of footbeds for fit adjustment
- Leather lined
- MSRP $219.95 Cdn
- Men’s sizes: 6-14
- Women’s sizes: 6-11.5