I'm a big fan of Red Wing's Heritage line of boots and treated myself last week to a pair of their Beckman oxfords, style 9042 in Cigar Featherstone leather. They're still too new for a real review, but I like them quite a bit. My initial judgment is that they're probably too expensive to be a great value at full price (around $320), but I think the discounted $260 I paid for them was fair.

That's still a heck of a lot to spend on footwear, of course. I suscribe to what Terry Pratchett called the 'Boots' theory of socioeconomic unfairness: namely, if you can afford more durable shoes, you spend less on them over time. These are shoes I expect to last for quite a while. They're made from high-quality full-grain leather, triple-stitched, and the sole is easy to replace once it wears out.

But before I put down the money for them, I'd hoped in vain to find some comparisons to Red Wing's more popular Beckman and Iron Ranger work boots. Both of those use Red Wing's No. 8 last, which is relatively long and narrow with a prominently rounded toe. I have a pair of Beckman boots that fit perfectly, and I'd hoped to figure out how the No. 224 last that the Beckman oxfords are built on compares. I couldn't really find that many people talking about them though.

Now that I have the oxfords on hand, I can say they don't seem to run quite as large as Red Wing's No. 8 footwear. In other words, I wear a size 8.5 in the Beckman boots, and these size 9 Beckman oxfords fit about the same. That's probably about true to size for me. Like the boots, these are a bit snug along the sides, but I expect that to stretch as they break in. (My Beckman boots were just as snug at first, but now they fit like a glove.)

These definitely have a sleeker profile than the No. 8 has. My boots have flattened a bit over time but they still have a bit of a bulbed shape to them. Red Wing makes some chukkas in the No. 224 last, but I wish they made some Beckman-line work boots with it as well. The Featherstone leather they use for the Beckman models is gorgeous -- strong, richly colored, and very supple once broken in -- but I think a lot of people are turned off by the look of the No. 8 last.

I expect these to take a few more weeks to break in, and once they have I'll try to remember to add some more thoughts about their fit and comfort.

I bought mine on Amazon. At the moment, several of the reviews there mention rather serious issues that should have been caught in quality control. As I noted in my own review, mine don't show any of those problems. I've had really solid experiences with Red Wing products in the past and have heard good things about their customer service, so I was comfortable ordering these in spite of the reviews. I assume there was just a bad batch of these or something.

Amazon: Red Wing Beckman Oxfords ^