Golden Fox is a California-based shoe brand that has, apparently, been around since the 1970s. I stumbled across the brand a few years ago when their suede Boondocker service boots were popular amongst the like-minded shoe nerds on the internet. At the time, the “seconds” quality boots were going for under $50 and, while I passed on the opportunity at the time, many took advantage of it and reported back that they weren’t so bad for the price. Fast forward a few years and they have released an updated version of that boot in a waxy brown leather. That’s what we’re looking at today.
For those not familiar, the Boondocker style of military service boots traces its origin back to the US Marine Corps Men’s Field Shoes, originally introduced way back in 1941. That model is an unlined, plain toe, high top blucher pattern with (typically) flesh-out leather uppers and a composition rubber sole and heel. Plenty of modern versions exist today with the majority being higher quality reproductions using better lasts, leathers, and construction techniques. Both Viberg and John Lofgren make super high quality versions but, those prices can be breathtaking and not budget friendly. Let’s take a look at the smoother, waxy brown leather, weirdly affordable Golden Fox version.
$100. Goodyear welted. “Crazy Horse” full grain leather.
- Brand: Golden Fox
- Style: Service Boot
- Size: 10 US (43 EU)
- Last: N/A
- Construction: Goodyear Welted
- Leather: “Crazy Horse” Full Grain Leather
- Sole: Crepe rubber molded sole
- Details: Pull tabs, leather/foam insole, and antique brass eyelets
- Extras: N/A
- Country of Origin: China
- Price: $140 via Golden Fox, $105 via Amazon
About Adam’s Scoring System: The Adam Shoe Scale of Justice (A.S.S.J.) is as follows: 5 – Excellent! No issues and highly recommended. 4 – Good. Above average, but not perfect. 3 – Average. Minor issues, might be good at the right price. 2 – Fair. Below average due to defects, flaws, or imperfections. 1 – Poor. Significant issues, not worth purchasing at any price.
Crepe rubber molded sole.
My pair of brown leather Boondockers was ordered through Amazon with Prime. They were given shipping orders and dispatched on a Wednesday and arrived at the Forward Operating Base (my house) that weekend. You really can’t beat Amazon’s Prime shipping service if you have a warehouse near you.
Golden Fox offers a 30-day return when you order direct through them, though you’re on the hook for return shipping unless you’re just exchanging for another size. Amazon mirrors this 30-day policy but you don’t pay for return shipping. Win = Amazon.
Score: 5/5 Stars – Easy ordering and fast shipping.
Don’t deny it. You love the box shot.
The two Expeditionary Units arrived in a nice Golden Fox branded shoe box, wrapped in plastic bags and branded tissue paper. No shoe bags or spare laces, but at this price point, you shouldn’t expect any extras in the box. Spare laces and insoles are available on the Golden Fox website, if you’re interested.
Score: 5/5 Stars – At this price point, no complaints.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if a Clark’s Desert Boot and a Red Wing boot got together for some Netflix and chill alone time? Well, you’d get this pair of Boondockers. Starting at the top, they’re made from decent cuts of a waxy “Crazy Horse” full-grain leather that’s very similar to the stuff used for Clarks, Chippewa, Thorogood, and Red Wing boots. This leather is allegedly full grain steer hide that has been “corrected” (aka sanded smooth) and then stuffed full of waxes and oils. It behaves a lot like other pull-up leathers, so when worn or stretched, the high stress areas lighten up. Scratches can be smoothed out by brushing vigorously, while regular wear and tear will earn you a rich patina over time. All of the panels line up well and are joined with either single or double needle rows of stitching. Of note, one panel on the right boot is noticeably lighter in color, but you wouldn’t notice it while wearing the boot. The flat 6mm cotton/poly laces loop through seven antiqued metal eyelets. My only complaint here is that the leather pull tabs are too small to actually fit a finger inside.
Full grain, sanded smooth hide which is then stuffed full of waxes and oils.
Looking to the interior, you’ll notice a trim strip of pigskin lining running around the opening for some reinforcement. This lining is glued down and only stitched around the top. I could foresee the bottom edge peeling up over time with frequent wear. The toe box and heel cup are lined with some sort of woven and matted or felted fabric for structure – not as strong as leather, but better than nothing. The removable insole is a sandwich of leather and foam layers. Some may not like the added foam arch support, but I find it pretty supportive without being annoying. Underneath the removable insole is a traditional layer of thin to medium weight Bontex fiberboard. A steel shank is hiding underneath for added stability.
Left: Inside with the insole & lining. Right: Outside, with the underside of the insole.
The upper and midsole are Goodyear welted together. The 360° stitched storm welt is plastic and very similar to the piece used on Doc Martens boots. Plastic welts typically don’t last for many years as it dries out and starts to crack. You could have it replaced when you have the boots resoled, but let’s be honest. It’s more economical to simply replace the boots after a few years than it would be to have them resoled. Speaking of the sole, it’s a firm, yet springy one-piece crepe rubber outsole that is glued onto the midsole. It has some screw-like patterns molded into it for traction, but I wouldn’t call it particularly grippy. Definitely better than leather or natural crepe rubber soles, though.
Score: 4/5 Stars – Great! Well made from above average materials and construction at this price point.
Pigskin lining around the opening of the interior.
Fit, Comfort, and Sizing
Service boots typically run a little roomy and these are no different. Sizing down a half-size from my Brannock size, a size 10 (43 EU) fit correct lengthwise and a little wider than expected. For my #AldenArmy friends out there, these fit similarly to the Indy boots on the standard TruBalance last. Of note, I normally wear medium weight Darn Tough socks with my boots, so the bit of extra roominess isn’t a huge deal for me personally. If you typically need a narrow last, I suggest sizing down another half-size or wearing thicker socks. If you typically need a slightly wider last, you should be good to go here.
Fit is similar to Alden Indy boots. Slightly wide.
Comfort is always subjective but, in my opinion, these Boondockers are surprisingly comfortable out of the box. The full grain leather uppers are soft and pliable, the insoles are leather lined and padded with foam, and the crepe rubber soles are firm, yet soft enough to give some bounce. I’ve been wearing the boots around the house for a few weeks now, and I have been very happy with the comfort. Honestly, these are more comfortable out of the box than many of my more expensive service boots. Whether or not that comfort can last for years is up for debate, but at this price point? Worth it.
For reference, I am a 10.5 D/E on a Brannock device and usually take a 10 D in most dress shoes, including Alden’s Barrie last and Grant Stone’s Leo last. I take a 10.5 E in Allen Edmonds 65 last, as that last runs too narrow for me. I also take a 10.5 in Vans and an 11 in most Adidas or Nike sneakers.
Score: 5/5 Stars – Fits a little roomy and comfort level is high.
I believe it’s pretty rare to find something “cheap” that truly exceeds your expectations these days. Most of the boots in this price tier are pretty bad – cheap materials, cheap construction, and usually just flat out uncomfortable to wear. I normally recommend budgeting at least $200 for a good pair of leather boots (Chippewa, Thorogood, or Wolverine/Red Wings on sale), but I can honestly say, the Golden Fox Boondockers are a real treat. At this price point, I’m not aware of any better value in Goodyear welted service boots. For that reason, I highly recommend these boots to anyone on a tight budget or to those who want something a bit cheaper, so they won’t feel terrible if the boots get scratched or scuffed up.
Need ideas on how to wear it? Someone put together an outfit inspiration album of boots, including lots of service boots. Thank you someone!
About the Author: Adam Terry is Dappered’s resident shoe expert. He’s a thirtysomething Technical Trainer in the heating and manufacturing industry. He enjoys bourbon, boots, sneakers, raw denim, and being a dad!