Hope your holidays are going well! I know we've had some intense discussions for the last couple emails, so we'll take a higher-level view on this one with just some photos and a bit about the things we've been trying and noting in our boot prototypes.
Since the last 2 issues addressed one specific feature each, the timeline jumped around. Today's issue follows a chronology of our boot development, so you can see their evolution across all features.
Prototype 1: Black Trek Leather, Cement Construction, Hollow-Heel Outsole
Trial: What would the Primal Professional Fer be like, if it were a Service Boot?
Better fit and performance. In a shoe, a roomy front must be balanced with a snug back. If it's just roomy all around, it flops. A boot that laces up your instep does this better than low-top oxfords can.
Super versatile. I wore these to Coachella and put them through a good amount of stress, dancing in the desert for 3 days. Then I leave them for a day at the local cobbler ,and they're ready for a wedding the next weekend.
Unisex! My wife and my mom are both stylish ladies who work in apparel and don't sugarcoat things when they talk to me. They both like the boots. Score.
Prototype 2: Black Trek Leather Upper, Goodyear Welt Construction, Leather Outsole
Trial: What would Goodyear Welt construction with a Leather Sole be like?
More Rugged, in Fact. Prototype 2 was made with Goodyear Welt construction, which is sturdier than the Cement construction used on Prototype 1. Prototype 2 will outlive Prototype 1 by at least twofold.
More Rugged, in Appearance. With the welt, the shoe has a slightly wider base that makes it look more rugged. And without the fake heel, it looks more athletic and aggressive.
Less Comfortable. Fresh out the box, these boots were uncomfortable. After a week though, averaging about a mile a day of combined walking and running, these boots broke in.
Leather Outsoles look nice. The color is more vivid and the texture is more natural.
Leather Outsoles may not be optimal. They are slippery, vulnerable to water damage, heavy, stiff, less cushioned, and provide less groundfeel.
Trial: What would Goodyear Welt construction with a Synthetic Sole be like?
Synthetic Outsoles win. Compared with the leather outsole of Prototype 2, Prototype 3's synthetic outsole was less slippery, less vulnerable to water, lighter, more flexible, more cushioned, and provides greater groundfeel.
Even More Rugged. The tread of the synthetic outsole, a bit visible from the side, adds to the ruggedness, both in fact and in appearance. I think it may be too luggy though, so I try casual outsoles with flatter treads in the next prototype.
Trial: What if we used Chromexcel leather, Poron in the footbed, a boot last, and casual Vibram outsoles?
Chromexcel feels great! It's thick, yet soft and supple.
The color might not be the best. No. 8, an oxblood color specific to Horween Leather Company, looks great in their glossy and dressy Shell Cordovan leather. I would go so far to say that it's legendary. But color No. 8 on the oily cowhide of Chromexcel? More contentious. We'll be discussing leather in a later issue of our newsletter.
There's less groundfeel. And I'm not sure why. We added a 1-2mm layer of Poron cushioning under the leather footbed, so it could be that. But we also used a different outsole, so that could be responsible too. We'll have to find out by asking for no Poron in the next prototype I request.
They look more bulky. A "last" is a plastic foot around which shoes are shaped and crafted. Prototype 4 uses a last made for boots, whereas everything before used our dress shoe last. After Prototype 5, I think I prefer using our dress shoe last.
We also used the above outsoles on Prototype 4. They wore well, but I wasn't a fan of either aesthetic.
Trial: What if we used Natural Color Chromexcel, a pull tab, and more aggressive outsoles?
Natural Chromexcel looks awesome! Natural means that other than the colors that come naturally from Chromexcel's tanning recipe, no additional dyes are added. You can really see and appreciate the beauty of a natural product here.
Pull tabs definitely help! They give you something to pull on, when you're putting on and taking off your shoes.
These outsoles look better. They just match the boots more.
As for performance, I'll be in the Sierra Nevada for a couple days. I'll be able to test out the above soles, Vibram's Newflex and Newporter, in ice and snow! The former is used by many huarache companies for their trail running editions, and the latter is used by Russell Moccasin for their Minimalist line. I will report back!
Is that a Narrow width? Go one size down for our shoes.
Is that a Medium width? Depending on how roomy you like the toebox, go one size down OR order the same size.
Is that a Wide width? Order the same size for our shoes.
Don’t know the width of your shoes? They’re most likely Medium.
II. Fit & Feel
This image shows roughly how/where your feet should sit inside Chronology, at right.
At left is a typical dress shoe, same size and same Wide width. You can see that it is still 1 or 2 cm longer than ours. Most sleeker dress shoes have a fair amount of unoccupied space in the front. We took advantage of that and used it to give you a wide toebox without looking like it. Dress shoes get even longer if we start looking at chisel-toe and pointy-toe styles. But even though these conventional dress shoes are longer, you still feel cramped because of the heel lift and the fact that their shoes are widest at the ball of the foot. Ours are widest at the toes, as a foot naturally is.
If the widest part of your feet (i.e. your toes) occupies the widest part of our shoes, then you are wearing the right size.
Regarding groundfeel, Chronology's outsole is 4mm thick, with another 4mm of leather and cork between that and your feet. The polyurethane we use for the outsole was selected for durability, which is more important than groundfeel in a shoe like this. The 2-part (polyurethane + leather/cork) design allows for the shoes to be resoled like good dress shoes and unlike most minimalist shoes.
Expect Chronology to feel less like FiveFingers and more like flat-bottomed skate shoes with the insoles removed.