A Brand To Avoid (At Full Price)
The long awaited moment of me blasting Allen Edmonds in a Review arrived today.
I had the displeasure of handling not one, but two Allen Edmonds shoes.
The Park Avenue and McAllister in black and burgundy calf respectively.
Join me as I try to wrap my head around what I witnessed today.
Who Is Allen Edmonds?
Allen Edmonds is probably the most iconic shoe brand in the USA.
Established in 1922 it is actually 100 years old and still going strong today.
A strong supplier of the USA Army during the war it remained a relatively family operation until 1980.
In 2006 a private company bought 90% of the shares and changed hands twice in 2013 and 2016.
Producing a million pairs a year, this makes them a colossal player in North America.
Such large numbers do come with a massive challenge of preserving the quality.
Heralded as one of the USA’s last “Made in the USA” Shoe brands, they have a lot to live up to.
Declining Quality Accusations
For the last 15 years, there have been multiple accusations about the declining quality of Allen Edmonds Shoes.
If you go and look at the recent Trustpilot reviews, the results are scathing.
When you produce so many shoes in an industrial scale, of course cannot be as high and consistent.
However, many people still don’t know that most of the shoes are partly assembled in the Dominican Republic.
I handled Allen Edmonds shoes before this review, but not to such an extensive scale as today.
For the MSRP Full Price I can safely say they are some of the worst shoes I’ve seen for the price besides designer shoes.
Why Should You Buy Allen Edmonds Shoes?
Before the actual Review, I want to talk about the positives first.
They are certainly solid shoes and a good place to start learning about welted footwear in the USA.
Outside of North America, it makes absolutely no sense to get them.
Virtually always on sale, they are also not bad for the $200-250 mark they are selling at.
However, for their $400-500 full asking price you should never consider them.
So why should you buy Allen Edmonds Shoes?
Because they are affordable (on sale), extremely easy to find and try on and presentable.
They also carry a massive range of styles, widths and small or large sizes which many other brands lack.
Lastly, they provide an excellent reference for future online purchases especially when compared to European Brands.
Today’s Review Pairs
In today’s Review I will be looking at two of their iconic shoes: The Allen Edmonds Park Avenue & McAllister.
A friend from the USA brought them with him just so I could take a look.
Unfortunately I had only my phone so the pictures might be a bit lower quality than usual.
Here are the specifications:
- Brand: Allen Edmonds
- Model: Park Avenue/McAllister
- Style: Cap-Toe Oxford/Wingtip Brogue
- Leather: Calfskin
- Color: Black/Burgundy
- Construction: 360° Goodyear Welt
- Sole: Leather Open Channel/Dainite Rubber Studded
- Made In: USA/Dominican Republic
- Price: $395/$425
There is a lot to unpack here so let’s begin analyzing each component.
As a coincidence, I was wearing my own (and only) pair of Black Oxfords today.
It served as a good comparison to the Park Avenue in both style, elegance and shape.
Styling can be subjective and the shape of a shoe and subsequently last is up to personal taste.
The Allen Edmonds shoes had a much rounder shape which is often popular in North America.
I was also not a fan of the 360° Goodyear Welt which runs all around the shoe since it makes appear more bulky at the back.
At first glance, the leather looked fine (which is a plus) but I noticed so many things I wanted to look closely.
Both shoes are about 5 years old however my friend only wears the McAllister as a beater and only tried once or twice the Park Avenue.
A pleasant surprise was that the balance of the shoe while standing was good.
Leather Quality & Aging
In one of the rare positives I found, the leather seemed quite good.
It creased nicely and in the right places and the burgundy pair even developed some nice patina over the years.
Supple, with what seems to be good clicking and visible grain.
Overall, it was a good experience and not bad at all.
Here is where things took a turn for the worse.
The stitching quality in both pairs was wildly inconsistent and a massive disappointment.
Not just on the uppers, but also the welt and outsole as you will read about later.
Uneven, not level and with questionable design decisions to say the least.
I didn’t understand the triple stitching around the Park Avenue’s throat and quarters but that’s a stylistic choice.
However it does mean that any mistake will be visible upon closer inspection.
The spacing between each line of stitching is extremely uneven and this is also the case at the top of the opening right next to the folded piping.
For $395 it is unacceptable and many shoes at the $200 mark are much better.
In fact, shoes I had from Myrqvist, CNES and Bridlen all had far superior stitching.
Even Meermin, who I am not the biggest fan of did.
The fun part is that I haven’t even started talking about the welt and outsole yet.
Overall, both Allen Edmonds shoes were quite solid when it comes to build quality.
I watched other tear-downs so I know they use a wooden shank, type of cork spread and thermoplastic stiffeners, which is quite normal at this price.
In fact, in many cases you won’t feel any difference structurally.
There was a bit of a bulge right at the end of the toe stiffener which is not visible unless you really press it with your hands.
Holding it, it’s a solid shoe though I must admit the toe spring is over-exaggerated.
Welt & Outsole
Moving on, we are going to talk about the welt and outsole areas.
The welt joint is well done, but the stitching in the area varies a lot.
It would not be such a problem visually if the outsole wasn’t so terrible.
The edge and side is so rough, which makes me question if they properly sanded it.
Very bumpy and uneven especially at the top but also at the heel point.
So when they applied the edge dressing it has this coagulated, rough and textured look instead of a glossy, seamless finish.
Part of the outsole also warped and separated from the welt joint, which by the way is actually quite clean.
On the bottom, there’s not that much to say about the Park Avenue’s Leather Sole.
However, on the McAllister’s Dainite Sole the situation was bleak.
I looked at my friend with a very confused look as many of the stitches had ripped or frayed.
Owning quite a few shoes with rubber soles and studs with quite some wear, I never saw such an extensive damage.
Was that a single rare case?
I don’t know but it was certainly a disappointment.
Last & Fit
Unless I forgot, both shoes are on the classic 65 Last.
It is a great reference for me when I have clients from the USA that try to find their sizing.
While on a D fitting and a rather round profile, it seems to fit slightly narrow for me.
It’s not a last I would consider elegant, certainly not when comparing to the 325 from Crockett & Jones for example.
I didn’t try on these pairs, but I did in the past and my sizing was consistent with my other shoes.
A typical UK 8 (US 9D) with a bit of pinching on my little toes and slight pressure on my instep.
Do I Hate theM?
I do not hate Allen Edmonds shoes, even though it was a massive disappointment.
Unless you have certain criteria, you should actively avoid buying them.
Even more, you should never spend full price as they are virtually always on sale.
I feel bad for wasting precious shell cordovan when you can buy proper shoes from brands like Carmina.
Because this is the main issue, value and quality for the price point.
Anywhere between the $200 and $500 mark there are fantastic brands you can invest with higher quality and refinement.
Carmina, TLB Mallorca, J.FitzPatrick, Cobbler Union, Carlos Santos & Septieme Largeur are only just a few that will always pop up.
You will often see me praise the availability, widths, models and sizes that you can get in North America.
It is a blessing for people with difficult feet.
At the same time, I cannot actively endorse a company with such a low level of quality control or tolerance.
This brings me to the end of the Allen Edmonds Review Article.
I am still processing what I experienced.
If this is the standard, it is quite low and unfortunately if they still sell like hot cakes there is no incentive to improve.
While I do understand that I might upset some people and especially fans, nobody can deny the obvious lack in quality control here.
These pairs should qualify as seconds at best and not over $150-$200.
Regardless, I will close this shorter review with a reminder to buy quality over quantity or hype.
I am in London for a few weeks, so I hope you will enjoy the different kind of upcoming content.
Thank you for reading,
Damn right. I felt completely ripped off when I bought a pair a few years ago. I now know what to look for in a shoe, but I hate wasting money. Gave mine to charity
Still a great learning experience and hopefully someone gave them a good home now!
I’m still using Park avenue. I purchased it in minneapolis. I’m not satisfied with the quality. I contacted the company but they were not helpful. Its very hard in using. If compare with other brands. Expensive and not satisfactory.
Hi Joe, yes that is the point, you can get much better quality and service for the same money.
Interesting review! The quality does not look good, the stitching as you say looks not nice to say the least. But my biggest problem with the black oxford is that it is just plain super ugly! Can it be the most inelegant black oxford we have ever seen from a premium maker? If you enter a room with those you will look unsophisticated, reminds me a bit of Donald Duck.
I have seen worse ? they are not lookers for sure but still some of the quality issues on both pairs are incomprehensible.
Hello Kostas, thank you for a comprehensive and detailed review of 2 AE shoes. I used to own more than 150 pairs of Allen Edmonds shoes! And I am not a rare entity-there are several individuals who post constantly and share their collections on the Allen Edmonds Facebook group page. However, I have sold more than 60 pairs of my collection up until this point, while I have bought Carlos Santos, Tricker’s, TLB Mallorca, Carmina, Yanko, Patine, Cheaney, Alfred Sargent, Meermin, Barker, Berwick 1707 to replace the pairs of shoes I have sold, and I wholeheartedly agree with your assessments in this review.
However, I should add that I have never paid more than 160 usd (before taxes) for a pair of Allen Edmonds for my entire collection, and I typically paid close to 150 usd predominantly for my boots. I was a graduate student when I started and completed my collection, and with a modest budget, I was able to purchase brand new GYW shoes for 99 usd or sometimes even less! The McAllister model that you reviewed, I was able to purchase a brand new pair of shoes in dark brown for around 77 usd! Granted, they were “seconds”, but they were close to first quality and I did not find many flaws in them other than the usual AE low QC you highlighted in your review. For such low prices, AE provides a great value, unsurpassed across the globe. Their leather quality is good, their shoes are comfortable if you have the right fit, and they have a decent recrafting/resoling program. Up until recently, you can resole shell cordovan shoes for $125 with JR soles, and that includes shipping both ways to the factory and to your home! If they mess up your shoes, they will replace your shell cordovan shoes! Recently, the price for recrafting went up to $150-but that price is still pretty decent.
My point is: I will never pay full retail or even more than $160 for a pair of Allen Edmonds. And I can and will get decent models of them on the website, or on ebay, or on Amazon around that price range. And at that price range, I would much rather buy 2-3 pairs of Allen Edmonds shoes for the price of 1 pair of Carlos Santos or Crockett Jones-who make amazing shoes.
I am now in the process of slowly selling my AE collection, but they offer great value for us here in America. Granted, nowadays a lot of the shoes are now made in Dominican Republic or India even (cemented models), and I am no longer tempted to buy their shoes. But I would state that they do not have the issues that you have mentioned people have had with Meermin, where the heel stiffener breaks and customer service is poor. With Allen Edmonds you have a poorly finished shoe which is made of quality materials and is comfortable, and most important, affordable and resole-able. That is the market niche AE occupies at this point of time in the marketplace.
Thanks for the comment! I agree about what you say and the whole pricing thing.
I partly agree with the i would buy 2-3 pairs of AE instead of 1 X brand. If you are starting and you need some decent shoes to start a collection and wear often and rotate, then that’s great. But after you hehe 5-10 then you have all the shoes you really need for a minimalist wardrobe. So I would upgrade the quality and finishing.
I personally wouldn’t buy any AE ever because the aesthetics are not attractive to me at all.
But you have seen I praise them often about their availability and range or models and sizes and widths!
One thing you might not have considered. AE is one of the few companies to make narrow shoes. Those of us who wear narrow shoes (A, AA) are severely limited since most shoe companies do not make shoes more narrow than a C. Several of the European companies you mention do not make narrow shoes.
If you read the beginning of the article or search for “width” you will see that I mention that positives include that they are readily available, have many styles and widths.
Unfortunately if you are an A or B or even C width you are very limited and AE is a definite consideration there.
Never had any problems with Allen Edmonds shoes ….. I need xxx width which is hard too find
There are many brands that offer larger widths now in custom shoes. I recommend looking at my friend Kenwin of Cru Nonpareil who specializes in bigger feet.
Nobody denied that AE are accessible and one of the few producing multiple widths.
I have two pairs of Allen Edmonds and while the quality is top notch, they are at least 20 years old. I just bought a pair of Edmonds boots on sale and after reading your article, I’m dreading their arrival. I’m hoping my new purchase lives up to my expectations.
They will not be bad. But I do believe they are nowhere near the quality and QC of those times. Do not worry!