I was in a panic. My wedding was a week away and the boots I thought I would be wearing had a production delay and would not be arriving in time. I pondered getting some cheap boots or dress shoes but that is wasteful as I would never wear them again (being a boot snob and all). Haven't had any luck at Nordstrom Rack in the past but being desperate, I stopped by there just to see if by chance, I could find a somewhat decent pair of brown dress boots. On sale/factory seconds To Boot New York, Cole Haan, and Gordon Rush were my targets. If I was lucky, maybe I'd find some Allen Edmonds!
Fortunately, I did get lucky and happened to find the perfect boots for my wedding. A pair of boots (in my size no less!) that I would not only wear for dress up occasions, but that also go well with my usual raw denim attire: the Red Wing 9435 Williston Boots in Teak Featherstone Leather (Factory seconds, only "issue" is that the welt stitching isn't even) for $199.99. I was so excited! The wedding went great (it would have with or without the boots... I just love boots) and was one of the best days of my life! Also, this happened:
When Red Wing came out with the Williston Boots, I thought they were quite the lookers. They seem to be Red Wing's answer to the dress/work boot hybrid models that have become so popular lately. If you want a pair of Red Wings but don't want the bulbous toe, the Willistons are the boot for you. The only issue is that $429.99 price tag. That seems a little steep, especially with how crowded the boot market has become in recent years. So are the Willistons worth a full $110 up-charge from their most famous boot, the Iron Ranger?
Comfort is also more prevalent in the Williston's than other Red Wings when it comes to shock absorption. My Iron Rangers fall flat in this area, as do my Blacksmiths, so it was a nice surprise to own a pair of Red Wings that excels with shock absorption! I wouldn't rank them as high as my Thorogood Boots, especially my Indigo Beloits, but the Willistons do beat out half of my other boots in this arena. I contribute the better shock absorption to the inclusion of the heel pad and the fiberglass shank over a steel shank (makes the boots lighter as well).
The standard lacing style also helps with getting the boots on and off, which can be a chore. A shoe horn is definitely necessary! Often, I find myself unlacing half the boot in order to slide my foot in (even with the use of a shoe horn). This little annoyance takes nothing away from the quality or wear of the boots. However, it is something worth noting because if you get your usual Red Wing size, getting the boots on and off will be even more of a hassle. These boots are meant to run true-to-size (9.5) as opposed to a half to full size down like other Red Wings.
I would recommend shoe trees for the Willistons as the Teak Featherstone does seem to crease easier (for me) than other Red Wing leathers. My 8085s and 3345s (also "Smooth Finished") didn't really crease for a solid month of every other day wear. Of course, there are a variety of reasons for this creasing and it is important to remember that creased leather does not necessarily mean bad leather. One of the more likely variables is how the 220 Last fits my foot so it'll be different for everyone on an individual basis.
Overall, I would recommend the Williston's if you can get factory seconds or on sale. They are great dress boots that seem a lot "hardier" than other brands but the retail of $429.99 is steep for most people. I am glad Red Wing decided to experiment with a different design and add a style with such a slim toe. Even the Sheldon and Merchant look bulbous next to the Willistons. The little things, like a heel pad, are nice touches. However, do they really push the margins of the boots that high? Don't get me wrong, I am over the moon that I found them at the Rack and got to wear a boot brand I love at my wedding. If the retail price was closer to the Iron Rangers, I would say these are a must for Red Wing lovers. So if you see these for a deal, grab them! Or wait for Red Wing to (hopefully) lower the price.