Home Brands Helm Kicking around with Helm Boots

Kicking around with Helm Boots

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Just as with watches, when you start diving into the world of shoes and boots, you get to discover all sorts of interesting brands that are out there, just doing their thing at the top of their game.  What I’ve found interesting is that, looking across the boot reviews we’ve been doing, they’ve been quite different styles, and a variety of price points.  Today, we’re moving into something a bit dressier with the Helm Boots Zind.

 

Since this is the first time we’re showing you Helm Boots on our pages, it’s worth it to dive into their history a bit.  The Austin, TX-based brand started up in 2009, and has being going since then with a commitment to creating quality, versatile boots that will go for the long haul and work just as well in the workshop as they do in the office.  And, with 14 master bookmakers at the benches, they’re hitting that mission.  One of their visual identifiers is the white rubber midsole component, which provides a bright white line running around the sole (and something I rather dig). That’s the thumbnail sketch of what they’re about, and you can explore more about the brand on their site.  Now, let’s move on to the boot.

While I did initially find myself drawn to the style of the Helm Boots Zind, it was when I began digging into the materials used that I found myself hooked.  For starters, they use Horween Chromexcel leather which, along with being made in my hometown, is a leather that’s widely known to be high quality and long lasting.  With the natural finish that our review pair came in, this is a leather that should pick up a lovely patina and just look great as it ages and wears.  Past that, the construction of the boot is key.  Here, they’re using a Blake Rapid Stitch construction.  While not quite as well-known (or -used) as the Goodyear welt, it still makes for a boot that is able to be resoled.  This is important in a quality part of boots (or shoes) as that means once you’ve got the leather broken in, you can wear them for decades with simply getting a new sole popped on.  Another nice thing is that, with Helm’s resoling program, you don’t have to use the same sole the boot came with.  Want to change it up, say, to a lugged sole?  They can do that for you.  You can also get just a basic resole (which will also replace the sock liner) or get into a full refurbishment of the boot.  It’s a great commitment to your investment, and shows you the brand is definitely intending to be around.  You can find more details on the resoling program here.

Before you need to worry about resoling anything, though, you first need to start wearing the boots.  For this part, I did have a bit of trepidation when I first slipped on the Helm Boots Zind.  It’s been quite some time since I’ve had to break in a pair of boots with robust leather, but I clearly remember how it’s gone in the past.  Now, I’m not going to sugar coat it – you will be dealing with some aches and soreness as the leather breaks in and learns how to bend and crease to how your feet move.  That’s actually a good thing with a quality, thicker leather as it will be formed to your feet, and be ready to last over the years.  For my test, the two boots actually broke in a little differently.

A brief note on quality leather shoes – they are something you should really try to only wear every other day, at most, with shoe trees in them when not being worn.  This helps the leather (inside) to air out from having your feet in them, and should help them last longer.  When breaking in new shoes (or boots) that, of course, gives your feet a welcome break as well.  For the first day out, I wore a thicker pair of wool socks, and then went to normal thickness after that.  The left boot was feeling pretty comfortable by the third day of wearing it.  For the right boot, though, I kept having this pinpoint of pain over my right arch.  I tried adjusting the lacing, tighter, looser, and so on.  Finally, I broke out the flashlight and felt around, and found a hard bit of adhesive near the base of the tongue that was the culprit (likely from attaching the liner).  Took that out, and it was so much better.  So, another two or so days, and I had a pretty comfortable pair of Zinds to stroll around in.  One other quick “quality” note – I did notice a few lose threads on the double stitching.  Nothing that made it seem like the boot was coming apart, but still some cleanup necessary.

The Helm Boots Zind are definitely a dressier profile than many boots, as a lot of boots these days seem to pull more from the workboot side of things.  With the Zinds, you’ve got a narrower profile with the last, and that, combined with the smooth toe and slimmer soles just makes it feel a bit dressier.  I’ve not tried these with a suit, but I think they could easily pull it off.  What this means is that these boots are perfect for me for the office.  They’re dressier to wear with a pair of khakis or slacks, but not totally out of the question to wear with jeans.  You definitely have the dress shoe sound when you walk with them as well, given the fact that the heel is only half rubber (the other portion is leather), and it resonates through to heel into the floor.

The leather portions of the soles on the Helm Boots Zind do get scuffed up, but that’s to be expected.  That will actually give you a little better grip, though there are good bits of rubber on there to help in that regard as well.  Perhaps not for trail hiking, but for walking around the city, it’s perfect.  And with the natural finish of our review pair, these are boots that should pick up a lovely patina over time (for those wanting a brighter color, there’s an orangey Teak color).  This is a much different shade of brown than I’d normally go for (I tend towards chocolate browns) but I was surprised by how much I liked the natural tone.  And of course, if you wanted to darken it some, that could be accomplished with some shoe polish, or even just some winterizing protectant (I find myself partial to Obenauf’s LP which has a lovely honey smell), or even just leather conditioning products.  Other than basic clean and care, though, I’m curious to see how the leather colors and ages.

Speaking of color – it’s a good rule of thumb to match your shoes and belt, in terms of color.  Well, you can pick a belt that’s the exact same as your boots, as Helm offers belts made from the same leather and finishing.  I did notice that the belt was a touch darker than the boots, but given the separation between the two, it’s close enough for me.  And, like the Helm Boots Zind, the belt should darken up over time a bit as well.

Thinking about the long-term longevity of leather products like this is something you need to do.  Or, at least, you should want to.  Why is that?  While I think the pricing of the boots and belts are quite reasonable for what you’re getting, they’re not what you would call an impulse buy.  The Helm Boots Zind carries a price tag of $399, while the belt (either wide or slim; we went with a wide) is $98.  Now, if you sign up for their mailing list, you’ll get a quick $50-off code, so that’s a nice pickup there.  If you’re used to picking up a pair of $40 boots from your local department store, the Helm Boots Zind are going to feel expensive.  And they’re not inexpensive, but with the quality of leather and construction, along with the ability to resole them, means you’ll have a pair of boots that’s with you for the long haul (be sure to check out the gallery at the end of the article for a closer look at some of the detailing).  It’s not unreasonable to expect that you’d get an easy 10-20 years (or more) out of them if you care for the leather.  Which means, over time, a pair of boots like the Helm Boots Zind will actually be more affordable than buying a new cheap-o pair every year.  Counter-intuitive, but it’s the basis of why you should look to buy the best quality you can afford at the time.

I’ve got other pairs of shoes that can be resoled, and one other pair of boots.  So far, the boots (a pair of Red Wing workboots that I had from my time in glass plants) are the only ones I’ve had to resole, but it’s an interesting experience.  You send your worn out boots off, and you get back ones that you recognize all the creases and scuffs in, but have had the leather reconditioned and the new soles in place.  It’s a great way to really maintain your investment, and have a pair of shoes that are identifiably you, as they’ll reflect all the adventures you’ve taken them on.  I can’t wait to see what these Helm Boots Zind look like a few years down the road.  And with the slimmer, almost dressy profile to them, these are boots that will fit in across a wide variety of situations – suited or casual, warm weather or cool.  In other words, a great go-anywhere, do-anything sort of a boot.  Color me a fan of what I see coming out of Austin with Helm Boots.  If you agree (or, if for some reason you don’t) let us know in the comments below, or over in our Slack channel.  I’m just a sample size of one, so I am curious to see what others have thought as well.  helmboots.com

Review Summary
  • Brand & Model: Helm Boots Zind (in Natural) and wide belt
  • Price:  $399 ($98 for the belt)
  • Who’s it for? You are looking for solid everyday, all-around boot that will go the long-haul
  • Would I wear them? Undoubtedly!
  • The best thing about the boots:  Along with the slimmer profile, I like the visual pop that you get from the white midsole
  • Watch they pair best with:  The Helm Watches Vanuatu, naturally
Specifications from Helm Boots
  • SHELL:  Full-grain Natural Horween Chromexcel® leather
  • LINER:  Fully lined with black leather
  • STITCHING:
    • Blake Rapid Stitch welt construction
    • Black double stitch throughout
  • MIDSOLE:  HELM signature white midsole
  • SOLE:  Fineline sole for added grip and durability through all seasons
  • EYELETS:  Antique brass eyelets
  • LACES:  46 in Brown waxed cotton laces
  • LAST:  415 lasted
  • SHAFT:  6 1/2 in.
  • WEIGHT:  2 lbs.
  • FEATURES
    • Handcrafted in the U.S.A.
    • Resoleable
    • Seasonally updated sock liner quote and tongue stamp
    • Reinforced leather pull tab

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