October 3, 2022

When shopping for a new pair of boots, most folks emphasize durability — how they’ll stand up to constant wear, rough weather and even uncertain terrain. As anyone who’s suffered through a pair of bad boots would know, durability comes down to quality, both in construction, yes, but also the raw materials constructed made from. That means most well-made boots cost money — and often lots of it.

But not if you buy from Grant Stone, a brand that’s based in the US and founded by an American but manufactures its boots on Xiamen Island in China, not Milwaukee or Chicago. The brand has trusted the mid-scale factory since its inception in 2016, but the factory has a long-standing history working Goodyear-welt footwear.

“Without these makers, Grant Stone wouldn’t exist. Our director and co-founder Wyatt spent eight years in this factory, learning the craft and Chinese culture en route to creating Grant Stone in 2016,” Allison Vicenzi, a member of Grant Stone’s marketing team, writes. “His father, Randy, has worked alongside this team in Xiamen for nearly 20 years.”

Every single Grant Stone boot proves the technical skill of the brand’s chosen manufacturer. But, in my opinion, none are quite like the Ottawa Boot in natural kangaroo leather. The raw material itself is lightweight yet durable, making it the perfect choice for Grant Stone’s elevated daily driver, the lace-up Ottawa Boot with a split toe and lug rubber sole.

Grant Stone Ottawa Boot

How They Fit:

Grant Stone uses its own custom lasts. As such, you need to order a half size down from your usual size — aka what you wear in sneakers, for example. For my pair, I got an 11.5 D, a recommendation made by the brand based on what size I wear from Viberg (11 D), another boot maker.

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They fit perfectly. My toes have enough space to sit flat despite the slight point to the toe. My heel fits comfortably in the counter and doesn’t slide around, even if I’m wearing performance socks.

What’s Good About the Grant Stone Ottawa Boots:

They’re super durable.

Like I said before, Grant Stone’s boots are well-made, especially if they’re crafted from Chromexcel, which is undoubtedly the most popular shoe leather with consumers in the US. But while kangaroo might not have the same reputation, it offers much of the same in terms of comfortability and durability.

Kangaroo leather is notably strong, despite being fairly lightweight. The uppers on this boot are fairly thin, but they don’t feel flimsy or prone to folding. No, they don’t offer the same protection as a hefty work boot made from cow hide, but they can be worn through tougher conditions without worry.

They’re a great value.

Grant Stone offsets the cost of buying better raw materials by manufacturing its designs in China. Sure, that’s a no-go for some folks who’d prefer to circulate their hard-earned cash here in the US, but it’s a move that’s made Grant Stone the place for high-quality boots.

That being said, Kangaroo leather isn’t exactly expensive, at least not compared to more popular hides like cow. It’s just rarer, I think, despite there being plenty of it to use.

They’re comfortable, too.

Kangaroo leather is famously flexible, which means first time wearers won’t suffer through a harsh break-in period. That’s why lots of companies use the leather to make gloves or cleats. I found I could bend and step without pinching or the general discomfort that comes with a standard boot of a similar height.)

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It also helps that my feet fit this particular last, in a size 11.5 (not 12, my usual size), super well. I have space for my toes while the arch of my foot (or lack thereof — I’m flat-footed) sits right smack dab in the center of the leather insole. My heel hammers down into the leather heel counter, too, without slipping out or riding up the rear column.

The leather will develop a pronounced patina (see slide #5).

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This natural vegetable tan allows the boots to develop a pronounced patina over time. As evidenced by a reviewer above, they darken and show their dings. That might be a turnoff for folks who prefer to keep their boots looking fresh and scuff-free, especially since you’ll earn them fast with these.

I, for one, really like how they look after they’ve been beaten up a little bit. Mine haven’t earned many scuffs or scrapes (yet), but they surely will as I wear them deeper into fall.

What’s Not Ideal About the Grant Stone Ottawa Boots:

Kangaroo leather is controversial — but only in the U.S.A.

If Representatives Salud Carbajal, D-California, and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pennsylvania, get their bill passed as law, these Grant Stone boots would become illegal and those responsible for importing them would be punished with one year in prison. The pair hope to ban the trade of kangaroo products here in the U.S/., even though most Australians are totally okay with the practice. (California is the only U.S. state that currently enforces a kangaroo byproduct ban.)

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Carbajal and Fitzpatrick are specifically targeting Nike and Adidas, brands that use the leather for soccer cleats. They say there are other more readily available (and better) materials to use, even though the kangaroo hunting industry has existed for decades, often without issue.

“How ridiculous it is that two American [lawmakers] are trying to dictate to Australians what they should do with a natural resource. Every time I think about it, I just shake my head,” Luke Demmery, an Aboriginal Australian hunter, told the Wall Street Journal. If the ban did go into effect, it would collapse the industry, leaving many without jobs. (The U.S. is second largest market for kangaroo products in the world.)

They’ll look more worn-in after wear than darker boots.

Because of the boots natural hue, they’ll break in faster. Traditionally, split toe boots are considered dressier — something to wear with slacks, not jeans. These, however, because of their color and lug sole, look okay paired with denim and can even be worn with chinos.

But they will wear in, even if you dress them up, which could be a no-go for folks who want to keep their boots looking fresh, whether when they wear a suit or some sort of formal outerwear.

Grant Stone Ottawa Boot: The Verdict

The Ottawa Boot, especially in this leather, which is only available at certain times of the year, is a versatile style with quite a story to tell. Some may feel on the fence about boots made from kangaroo leather, but those that buy in will be impressed by how comfortable and non-constricting they are. Plus, they look super-unique.