Second Wind

Second Wind
"Run With Purpose!"

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Russell Moccasin Thula Thula



Levi Dodd
June 2012






Today we have a special product review that I am very excited about.  


Russell Moccasin makes completely custom (and 100% by hand) shoes and boots to Your exact measurements - you measure your foot, heel, length, width, height, etc, send them in, and they build You your own perfect pair.


When I was first contacted about Russell Moccasins I admit that I was unfamiliar with the brand.  As I began to look into Russell, I knew there was no way I could pass on this review!  
Russell Moccasin is the company you can't help but love and cheer for.  Russell Moccasin has been in business in Wisconsin for over 108 years and today the boots are made in the very same little building that the company started in.  As if that isn't enough, what truly sets this family owned and operated business apart from the rest is their attention to detail and zealous commitment to quality in their completely custom built shoes.  
That's right, not only does Russell custom fit its boots and shoes, they actually hand last and hand sew every pair... and you can tell. 

My favorite quote, and a great synopsis from Russell Moccasin is this:

"Russell has never grown into a large multinational marketer of theme-type footwear...we prefer to remain small and turn out the finest handmade product possible for our unique group of outdoorsmen and women...those who recognize the quality of a handmade product. If we were larger in size and scope, we simply could not do the kinds of things we do. In order to respond to specialized demands, we must maintain a close knit group of highly skilled craftsmen. Mass production techniques are simply not possible."  


Those skilled craftsmen hone their skill day in and day out and remain loyal to the family owned business.



It's no wonder that their client list includes such people as Robert Redford, George W. Bush, Tucker Goodrich, Gayne Young, Larry Weishuhn, Mike Cassidy, Mike Rogers, and just about every big game hunter you see on TV.  Plus they've been featured in countless magazines ranging from Bow Hunting World and Field and Stream to S.W.A.T.


Forgive my doting - I really was just blown away with this company;  Ralph (the president) and his people are truly top notch.


On to the boots:


First impressions were great and the boots look good.  I am a minimalist shoe and barefoot runner and let’s be honest… the good shoes typically ARE going to get you all kinds of attention, but the not the attention a fashion minded individual may want…  
These boots look superb and the attention to detail and fine craftsmanship is undeniable.  Furthermore, these are truly minimalist boots that not only meet all of my minimalist requirements, but are also the toughest and best boots you will ever have the privilege of lacing up!

 The boots I received from Russell Moccasin were in their new line of MINIMALIST shoes and boots (including 4" boots, 7" boots, and dress and casual oxfords).  This particular model is the Thula Thula in 7" height and all leather.  They are truly a hand stitched work of art.  The boots are made with top of the line Ski Grain and waterproof WeatherTuff leather with a tough 10oz bullhide molded wrap around the outer sole.  These boots midsole is only 1/16th" thick and the boots sport the tried and true ultra thin Vibram Newporter sole.  Of course, the boots (and all their minimalist shoes and boots) feature a 0 drop heel, which is absolutely essential.


Again, what immediately struck me about the boots was the evidence of fine, hand craftsmanship.  Also, as any true master craftsman will tell you, all the skill in the world is largely lost without also utilizing the best materials - Russell Moccasins certainly adheres to that.  
The leather is the finest quality I've ever seen on a boot.  Thick, tough, 100% waterproof (I took a several mile stalk hike up a creek, never leaving the water, and my boots never leaked a drop), all while being as soft and supple as the finest handbag.  


The boots have virtually no break-in period at all.  Well, let me qualify that:  the first time you put the boots on they feel as if they are completely broken in, soft, and perfectly fitted to your foot.  However, the more you wear them, the softer and better they become yet. 

These boots are perfectly suited for hiking (or even running!), hunting, stalking, or even sitting below a pair of designer jeans while you conquer the concrete jungle.  My only problem now is that I was joking with my wife that as summer is upon us I'm continuing to wear jeans just so I can keep wearing these boots!


  • ·       The sole is Vibram, very thin, slip and oil resistant.  It's flat and does not take any mud at all while still providing excellent traction. 
  • ·       The leather is very nice, good looking, abrasion resistant, tough, waterproof, absolutely top of the line
  • ·       The bullhide mudguard around the edge (overlapping the sole to the leather upper) provides excellent protection against nicks, cuts, and scratches while also helping provide an added layer of protection from the elements (in water proofing).
  • ·       The tongue/collar is gusseted for water proofing and is so soft you won't believe it
  • ·       Speed lacing hooks provide stability and varied level of tension
  • ·       The 1/16" midsole provides good ground feel and superb flexibility while offering just the right amount of 'rock plate' protection and the sole is extremely flexible  - just what you would want and expect in a minimalist shoe of any kind.  The boot will roll up toe to heel and will also roll and torque side to side.  There are no stiff points, no stability webs or the like (perfect)
  • ·       There is, of course, no heel-to-toe drop (zero drop).  This is only the second ‘boot’ that I’m aware of that offers a zero drop (and the only one of this quality)
  • ·       The boots are very light weight, weighing in at only 1.5 pound!  For reference, my Vasque Sundowners weigh in at just under 3 ½ pounds (so the pair weights almost 1/2 pound less than a single standard hiking boot).
  • ·       One of the most important features of this boot to me is the fact that they are waterproof – and they really are, completely!  There are so many times where I require a waterproof platform but can’t stand my traditional (heavy, stabilized, and substantial heel drop) boots and these offer me a completely waterproof platform to fit my needs.

Final Thoughts:

I love minimalist shoes.  That’s all I use, no… really.  At work, while running, dress shoes, hiking, working out, around the house, mowing the lawn, every shoe I wear is a zero drop minimalist shoe.  That being said, I love to hike, I love to hunt, and I love to camp and there are times where I really miss my boots!  There are times where solid leather, a hi-top, and (most importantly for me) waterproof become extremely important.  I’ve long waited for a company to come out with true minimalist boot to fill this void and I am pleased to say that Russell Moccasin has done just that.  I am thrilled at their marriage of “minimalism” and “boot” and will thoroughly enjoy these new Thula Thulas.


Many thanks to Ralph and all the crew and please don't hesitate to give them a call.

http://secondwindbook.blogspot.com








http://www.russellmoccasin.com/        &          http://www.russellminimalistfootwear.com/

21 comments:

  1. You might've sold me on these. Nice to see them in all leather, no 80s hiking boot green cotton. I got a pair of Wolverine 1000 mile boots just because I think they look awesome, but they are super uncomfortable- narrow, raised heel. Not worth it- I'll repost if I get these.

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  2. How is the temperature control on these babies? I'm worried that they'll be too hot being all leather. What is your experience from using them on warm days?

    Thanks

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  3. Did these boots have the double vamp option?

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    1. They do Brian, just call them up and you can specify that you want that and they can make it happen -- since they are literally hand made for each order, you can pretty well design it however you like

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  5. Hi-

    How do you find the boots faring for waterproofness? I am considering getting a pair of the 7" Thula Thulas in all leather and with the waterproof leather, but I'm wondering if a double vamp for $60 extra is worthwhile. I'll be living in snowy Eastern Washington and I want something that can definitely handle lots of moisture.

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    1. (replying to both questions to make sure it notifies you of the response)
      Honestly, the boot comes with (if you specify the all leather version - which I highly recommend) "waterproof weathertuff" leather and an additional bull hide wrap around the sole. So, for me, this has been enough. I do not live in a snowy climate but these are my 'rain boots' that I wear all winter and I also wear them to hunt and hike in (wet conditions, rain, some snow, creek crossings, etc.) and they have always been waterproof for me.
      That said, if you are living somewhere where the boots will stay under snow at near terminal height for the 7" boot, it may be worth it ($60 is an expensive add on, I'm with you, but once That much money is being spent on the boot, if another $60 would take it from great to perfect for you, it would probably be worth it).

      So, again, for me though the single vamp was plenty - the single vamp is going to be a little lighter weight, a little more flexible/supple, and is still waterproof in all applications I've used them for. And that's without ever treating them with any waterproofer, no coatings, to sprays, nothing, just their 'waterproof weathertuff' leather on its own.

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  6. Yes, I want to know this, too. Would the double vamp be worthwhile?

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    1. (replying to both questions to make sure it notifies you of the response)
      Honestly, the boot comes with (if you specify the all leather version - which I highly recommend) "waterproof weathertuff" leather and an additional bull hide wrap around the sole. So, for me, this has been enough. I do not live in a snowy climate but these are my 'rain boots' that I wear all winter and I also wear them to hunt and hike in (wet conditions, rain, some snow, creek crossings, etc.) and they have always been waterproof for me.
      That said, if you are living somewhere where the boots will stay under snow at near terminal height for the 7" boot, it may be worth it ($60 is an expensive add on, I'm with you, but once That much money is being spent on the boot, if another $60 would take it from great to perfect for you, it would probably be worth it).

      So, again, for me though the single vamp was plenty - the single vamp is going to be a little lighter weight, a little more flexible/supple, and is still waterproof in all applications I've used them for. And that's without ever treating them with any waterproofer, no coatings, to sprays, nothing, just their 'waterproof weathertuff' leather on its own.

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    2. That sounds great, I'll probably go with the single vamp based on how well that's worked for you. I don't plan on getting calf-deep in snow in these boots, since that's what Muck boots are for! I'll probably call up Russell as well and see what they think.

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  7. Yeah, I wondered if the double vamp would make the boot stiffer.
    Russell treats the leather with silicone, so a person should probably stick to that for upkeep. I read that using Snow Seal wax makes it hard to re-sole the boot later.

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  8. Hi there, thanks for the great article. i just got a pair of russell's on the munson last and the fit seems great except there's a little bit of heel slip. They're a little shorter than yours (they're the Art Carter chukka), so I can't deal with it by tightening up the top of the boot above the ankle. Is that something that you had? And if so, did you find that it went away with break-in? Thanks, Matt

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    1. Hey Matt, for me there was a little heel slip in the beginning, not much, but enough that it kind of freaked me out for this level (price) of custom boot! But, when they broke in that all went away (for me) and they fit like a glove now

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    2. How are the boots doing for you Matt? Breaking in well?

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  9. Levi,

    I have owned a Pair of Russell's Bird Shooters for a number of years, but only logging no more than 100 days of wear, 20 or more of which became a huge disappointment. Unfortunately they have set on the shelf in my closet for a number of years as they are now totally unwearable. I initially enjoyed my Russell's as I am an avid birdhunter. Totally the most comfortable boot I have ever worn, until.......as time went by the boots, lacking the needed support in the inner heels, they deformed and gave way to pronation. They are now totally of no use. I called Russell and sent them back for repair. They worked on them charged me $75 and they are not any better than when they were mailed to them. There was absolutely no difference in the fit whatsoever. I am giving it one last shot in an email and see if they will do anything about it as I really think that for $500+ for a pair of boots would provide better service. If you have pull with Russell then maybe you can help. Any ideas?

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    1. Really sorry to hear that, and thanks for sharing, perspective is always good. Unfortunately, your comment is just under "Anonymous", but my suggestion would be to call (920-361-2252) and ask to speak to Ralph and explain your situation directly to him. While my dealing with Russell has been limited, from my experience (which obviously I'm aware they would go above and beyond for a reviewer) but also from all the stories I've ever heard, this sure doesn't seem to fit their reputation at all - I can certainly see why you'd be disappointed

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    2. Levi, what is the basis for your enthusiasm and insistence on 'no heel'? i am thinking of getting a pair and i want to get this right.
      steve, Maine

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    3. Steve, it stems from the fact that most of the stress placed on your body (knee, lower back, patella, foot fatigue) comes from having an elevated heel. Check these out:
      Here are some notes I put up several years ago on shoes:
      http://secondwindbook.blogspot.com/2011/08/shoes.html

      Here's an updated version with a little more focus on why:
      http://secondwindbook.blogspot.com/2012/08/training-tips-tuesday-shoes.html

      and here is a link to a 2014 shoe buying guide (which stresses the same things) from the American College of Sports Medicine:
      http://secondwindbook.blogspot.com/2014/04/acsm-says-minimalist-shoes-are-best-lol.html

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    4. maybe you couldn't at the time, but you can get heel counters now, which should help with your complaint.

      http://www.russellmoccasin.com/custom-options/

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    5. Levi,
      I recognize this is an old post, but I have a question if you are monitoring this. What color are those in the picture? Chocolate? reddish-brown? Just curious, as I am ordering a pair this week and really like the color you got.

      Thank!
      James

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    6. Hey, James, sorry I didn't get this. After a certain period of time I no longer get comment notifications and just saw your question today as I was going through some old files! Did you end up getting your boots? If so, how are you liking them? My color, which I really like as well, has a reddish tint to it, but barely. Think like a subdoed Redwing, if that makes sense.

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