*I received this pair of boots for free to review. I still try to be as critical and objective as I usually am, though I know that this is impossible for any human to do. However, I received no money to write this review and I receive no compensation from Nicks. I do not ever use affiliate links, even when I link to websites unlike many other “reviewers.”*
Pacific Northwest boots are legendary around the world. Given the conditions that work boots face in such an environment, boots made by local companies naturally became extremely tough and durable. With boots having become more popular as casual footwear in the new millennium, some of these makers have started to take notice and begun offering more casual models in their line ups.
It has been smoother for some than others. Viberg has transitioned so far that you would be forgiven if you forgot that they are even based in the Pacific Northwest. They began making more casual designs and offering leathers that were less adept at withstanding fire and more at home being stared at by weirdos who enjoy beautiful vegetable tanned leather… people like me. However, some of the other brands in the area were a little slow on the uptake. For a while, Wesco only made interesting boots for Japan until the Standard and Strange collaboration engineers started coming out. Whites took forever to adapt, but now they’ve gone all in, hiring an Instagram influencer to run their social media and making an Instagram page so stereotypically PNW hipster that it probably drives a Subaru. Some of the smaller brands such as Dayton and Franks seem to have just completely ignored this new boot market for better or worse.
Then there is Nick’s. They have started making more casual models and promoting them on social media while not going as far as Viberg in making more sleek, modern boots. They’re finding a new audience, but keeping their roots a bit more and they took longer than other brands to adapt to this newer market. I really do not know which of these companies is taking the best approach, but they are all doing it a bit differently from what I can tell. Several months ago, they asked me if I would like to try a pair of their boots to review and of course I was interested. I was even more interested when they introduced vegetable tanned leather into their lineup. As a result, I now own the closest thing to a work boot that I have ever owned, but still with vegetable tanned leather. How do I like them?
Let’s talk about the design first. These are the Nicks Robert boot on the 55 last with a cuban/dogger heel with Wickett and Craig veg tanned English Bridle Leather and a natural edge finish. While Nicks say this is natural, it looks dark by natural standards so I would guess that whatever they finish it with darkens the leather a bit. Either way, the edge finish and upper leather look great together and I think the overall design of the boot looks excellent. It is clear that these are a packer-style boot. You can tell these were born from actual work boots. The toe is fairly round and is not shallow at all, with a celastic toe to keep the shape. It pairs nicely with the Cuban/dogger heel. This is my first pair of boots with such a heel and while I am generally a woodsman heel guy, these look great and will allow me to more directly show people that woodsman heels are NOT Cuban heels.
The next thing to point out is that leather itself. It is a medium brown, 6.5oz vegetable tanned English Bridle leather from Wickett and Craig tannery in Pennsylvania. With Nicks being a work boot company primarily, it makes sense that for their first vegetable tanned leather, they still went with something quite tough and stiff. In my experience, English Bridle leather is usually quite smooth and this is no exception. I personally prefer to have more grain than this, but it is not as if this leather is of poor quality. While not as deep and rich as some other vegetable tanned leathers that I have come across, it is not flat and lifeless either. The color is a great shade of reddish chestnut brown that I quite like. It is neither too dull nor too shiny, has a nice color, and is even tea core as I noticed from the marks left from the laces on the false tongue. I was quite happy to see this as it will certainly help the boots age nicely over time. This is neither my favorite nor my least favorite leather that I have come across, but it is high quality, it should age beautifully.
The other materials are good quality as well. The soles are from Vibram (700 sole with Quabaug heel to be specific), the midsole and the insoles are made from thick, high quality oak tanned leather, the laces are thick leather, the tongue gusset leather is thin and flexible, but does not feel brittle or weak, and the hardware seems to be solid as well. My only issue here is with how the speed hooks and laces work together. They are not low quality, but the laces do not fit well into them. Speed hooks are supposed to make lacing your boots quicker and easier, but these do not, at least not with these leather laces. It takes me quite some time to do them up. They are not bent in or anything, they just do not seem to be a great match for the laces. In fairness, this is probably more of an issue with the laces than with the speed hooks. Either way, it is annoying and it prevents me from grabbing these boots when I am in a rush.
In terms of sizing, these are what you would expect from most PNW boots. I am a 10.5 on a Brannock device, and I sized down .5 to a 10 in these and they fit well. These boots are fairly wide and comfortable without feeling overly loose. With super thin socks they feel slightly loose, but with my normal, thicker socks, they fit quite well. People always talk about how difficult the break in is with PNW boots, but that was not what I experienced with these boots overall.
My Wescos were a pain to break in, but I believe that is largely due to the double leather midsole they came with. These Nicks only have a single leather midsole and the Vibram 700 under that, so they are not quite as stiff. Certainly, they are not soft, but they have been easily manageable so far. By far my favorite part of the fit and comfort with these boots is the arch support and the massive amount of oak tanned leather inside of them. Boots from this area are famous for great arch support, and these boots do not disappoint in this department. Nicks said that the arch support on these Robert boots with the 55 last is just a slight step below the highest level of arch support they offer and it shows.
Comfort is subjective, but the literal amount of high quality leather inside of these boots is objective. Honestly, I feel like this is what you are paying for with these boots. The arch support and the amount of leather put into the bottom of these boots is everything. From the first day, they were able to support my feet and keep me fairly comfortable all day and I imagine this comfort will increase greatly once I can wear them more.
My only issues with the break in and comfort have been the stiffness of the leather at the top where my ankle is and the tongue gusset. The leather is fairly rigid as I mentioned before so breaking it in on the upper did take a little time and some discomfort did result, but that has happened with several of my other boots as well and I would gladly take this issue than pain in the sole of my foot. The issue with the tongue gusset is more than likely due to my lack of familiarity with a fully gusseted tongue with a full size false tongue. When I lace up the boots, the false tongue moves to the side sometimes and the gusset folds uncomfortable against my instep/ankle at times. However, this issue has gone down over time and I have figured out ways to make the tongue more comfortable. For many people, this issue will be more than outweighed by the practical benefits of a fully gusseted tongue which keeps water or anything else unwanted out of your boots.
Finally, we come to my favorite part of every review. It is time to discuss the construction and finishing quality of these boots. In terms of construction methods, Nicks does a good job. These boots are made with double row stitch down construction and the boots are made up of leather, leather, and more leather. Even the shank is a thick piece of leather. There are no synthetic materials that make your boots feel like sneakers. Instead, these boots feel like excellent, supportive boots and that is exactly what I like.
In terms of construction quality, I have to say that Nicks did OK. If you are used to Japanese boots, these will certainly be a downgrade in this department, but there are no major issues either. The two most impressive aspects of the construction/finishing on these boots are the stitchdown stitching and the edge finishing. While not at Japanese levels of neatness, the stitchdown stitching is pretty neat and even. It is not dense, but the stitching is even, the threads are beefy and nothing is wonky. The rapid stitching on these is superior to that of my Wescos in terms of cleanliness and miles ahead of the stitchdown Vibergs that I used to own. The finishing on the midsole and heels is also quite good, especially for a brand that is used to making actual work boots. The finish is seriously smooth and the Cuban/dogger heels are nicely shaped as well.
Stitching on the uppers is only fair. I have absolutely seen worse from other brands, but the stitch density is not consistent across the boot and there are several areas where the stitching lines are uneven. The areas where the quarter and the vamp meet definitely could be improved on both boots. Unlike my Vibergs on the other hand, there are no loose threads and no major finishing issues. However, the leather stack on one of the heels does not match up well with the rubber heel which is too bad as the other boot is perfect in this aspect.
Keeping in mind that these boots come in at $599, I would say that this level of construction quality and finishing is only so-so. Importantly, there is nothing as egregious as with some other boots that I have reviewed. If you don’t really care about finishing quality, you will have nothing to complain about with the construction on these. This is a work boot brand first and foremost, so you can forgive them if this is not their area of focus. For me, I just think it’s a slight shame that the uppers aren’t more nicely stitched, especially given how well executed the stitchdown and edge finishing are. These aspects are great and if they could clean up the upper stitching, then these boots would be even more killer at this price point.
What I notice with these boots more than anything else is the major step up that you get from buying boots like these over brands such as Red Wing, Wolverine, Thursday, Mark Albert, Urban Shepherd, and other lower priced boots. Sure, these are basically $600, but if you’re OK with chrome tanned or combination tanned leather, you can get this model for $519. That is still several hundred dollars more than the boots I mentioned above, but having owned all of those boots except Wolverine, I would say that it is absolutely worth it.
On my boots at least, the construction quality and finishing is better overall than all of those brands, but in some cases only a little better. What you are really paying for is the construction method and materials. The massive amount of arch support with these boots is quite nice and that combined with the sheer amount of oak tanned leather in between your foot and the floor is wonderful. I am someone who despises the trend of using synthetic materials such as poron in boots. It does not offer the same molding and support as leather does. On a full day and over many days of wear, boots like these will be more comfortable and much more supportive for your feet.
As I said before, comfort is subjective, but what goes into these boots is not. Nick’s really pushes the interior quality of their boots more than any other brand that I have seen and even in the relatively short time that I have spent with these boots, I can see why. Despite the heft of these boots it is amazing to me how easy they are on my feet throughout the day. Others may tell a different story, but if I’m going to have a long day of standing around, these would be right after my White Klouds on my list, and these cost around 1/4th the price and do not require a trip to Japan to purchase.
In terms of styling, these boots are interesting. They certainly do not feel too large or bulky while on my feet. Despite their substantial size and weight, they do not feel cumbersome or uncomfortable. With that said, they do look quite large when worn, especially compared to my other boots. The toe is not too large or bulbous. In fact, I think it looks quite good. The boots just look wider than anything else I have. I think it has something to do with the full gusset and false tongue combination. This added bulk in the instep means that the boots are not laced as tightly as others and therefore, the boots appear much wider than other boots I own, and the overall generous last does add to this even though I do not believe it is the main cause.
From the side, they look great. They are large, but well proportioned. The tall, substantial dogger heel and the fairly chunky, but not bulbous toe balance each other out well. From some front views, the boots look a little big on me. This is not a bad thing, though. I am just pointing this out because none of my other lace up boots look like this. If you are used to PNW boots, then this will be something you are already used to. Because these Robert boots from Nicks are fairly similar in design to my White Klouds, I thought they would look more like them in person. That is not the case. They are much bigger and have a much larger presence when worn. Some may not like that, but some may absolutely love that. It also doesn’t help that despite only being 5’7”, I have size 10.5US feet so most boots end up looking a little big on me.
Again, this is not a bad thing. Rather, it offers a fairly new and different look for me that I am still getting used to, but starting to like. If you like or are interested in getting some substantial looking boots that are still nicely proportioned, I think the Robert fits that bill nicely. In my opinion, these would look awful with slim cut jeans and trousers. This is great for me though because pretty much all of the jeans and trousers that I wear are pretty classic in cut. Therefore, my wardrobe works quite well with these boots.
The leather is also worth noting when talking about actually wearing these boots. The red-hued, mid brown color is quite nice and versatile. It means that these boots basically look good with everything that I wear aside from anything black of course. They are also the boots that I would choose to do any manual labor in. They have the tough build quality and materials and the arch support to make them the right choice for that even if they are not literal work boots.
Overall, I am pleased to have these boots in my collection. Despite having so many pairs of boots, I haven’t experienced anything quite like these before. I do have my Wescos and those were much more difficult to break in, but attributed that to the double midsole on them. These Nicks Roberts have a different look and feel to them than any other boots I have thanks to the work-inspired design, substantial leather, and fully gusseted tongue with false tongue.
These boots are taking some getting used to for me, but what I can say is that if you are someone who only wants to own one or two solid pairs of boots and wants solid value for money, then these are a good bet. Especially if you are not a psycho about exact finishing standards like I am, these are a solid value. $599 is not cheap, but it’s $519 if you go for a chrome tanned leather and in my opinion, having owned so many boots below this price, I would say these are worth the extra price if you want durable, long lasting boots that will actually keep your feet supported.
If you want really well finished boots for a low price, you’ll probably be better off with something like Grant Stone, though those do not have the support, material quality, or durability that these do and they are not made in the USA. If you want the best boots overall, you’ll have to pay a lot more money. Time will tell just how much I love them, but I think they’re a good option for a lot of people.
I am hoping that Nick’s continues this trend of making work inspired, heavy duty boots with beautiful vegetable tanned leathers. Introducing more colors of this Wickett and Craig leather and maybe even bringing in some horsehide would be great in my opinion. They may not go that far though because I feel that Nick’s seems to have found a sweet spot of making not only actual work boots, but also casual boots for people who want something as close as they can get to an actual work boot. This would be fine as well because my experience with these boots tells me that they are quite good at this.
Even compared to other work boot makers such as Whites, Wesco, and Viberg, Nicks seems to make their casual boots more like their work boots. These are probably closer to work boots than they are to being casual boots. If you think Red Wings are tough, you haven’t seen anything yet. My conclusion was also recently backed up by Carl Murawski on Youtube. Carl does actually need to wear work boots for a living and he has several pairs of Whites and Nicks. He tore apart his Whites and Nicks casual boots and concluded that even compared to another work boot brand, Nicks builds their casual boots more like work boots. This helps prove my point that if you want casual boots that are as close to a work boot as possible, Nicks are probably your best option.