The Convenient Truths:
Product: Vegan Dr. Martens
Sizing: true to size
Wearability: trendy and waterproof
Value: so far, worth it
“Did you seriously buy shoes just because they’re called ‘vegan’?”
Last week, this incredulous question came from a friend upon his spying the box from my brand-new, not-a-surprise-at-all, Christmas present from my parents sticking out of my closet. I had asked my mom (because let’s face it, my dad is too computer illiterate to hunt down an extremely specific item on the internet, never mind enter a credit card number to make the purchase) months in advance of the holiday season for black, Dr. Martens 8-eye boots (the vegan ones, of course). Like many ‘specialty’ vegan things, the boots were not available for purchase in any store; they had to be ordered online. After much scanning through sold-out websites and returning a shipment of the wrong size- all the details of which my mother made me painfully aware after I had the gift- my Docs were neatly wrapped and under the tree by December 25.
Although the months of anticipation left me dying to get my hands on the soft, supple “felix rub off” (Dr. Martens’ own cruelty-free leather substitute), I also felt pangs of trepidation because I had never experienced the feel of the boots in real life. Actually receiving the box, unwrapping the protective tissue stamped with the “Dr. Martens” logo, and pushing the lace’s plastic nub through all 16 of those sets of eyes, brought feelings of self-doubt: Are they the right size? Do I really want the black ones? What if they don’t fit?
So laid out here, in order to erase any doubts about clicking the “finalize order” button on these $169.99 investments, is a guide to help you come to a final decision when buying your Docs.
The Dr. Martens website is extremely searchable for the vegan boot. Called “Vegan 1460” and marked with a bright green “V,” drmartenscanada.ca claims that the boot is “made with synthetic leather, 100% vegan friendly.” Your box, as my friend pointed out, will also clearly display this information as well. But, just to be triple sure that your boots are Vegan, check the pull-on tab attached to the back of the mouth of your boot. While leather Docs will have a yellow on black colour scheme, the vegan ones will be a creamy yellow colour with a brighter yellow displaying the name of the classic Dr. Martens soles “AirWair.”
Now to choose your colour. Vegan Dr. Martens boots are available in a lovely “Cherry Red,” a deep “Navy,” and a classic “Black.” There is a trick here though: the black vegan Docs come in the “felix rub off” material, which is a dull, non-shiny ,leather-like material, whereas the navy vegan Docs are made of a material called “Cambridge Brush” which is much more glossy and highlights the navy colour around the heel and toe area. The cherry red vegan Docs are available in both the “felix rub off” and “Cambridge Brush” finishes. I went for the black for their versatility, but all 3 colours are dark enough to go with whatever you are wearing. I do prefer the more muted “felix rub off” to the “Cambridge Brush” though, so I counted out the navy right away.
As for size, my roommate, who wears a pair of much-loved leather Docs, upon advising me on what size to buy, recommended that I go for the smaller of the two that I was waffling between. She found that the boots had a lot of room to give once they were broken in. She also took this time to emphasis the “once they were broken in” part and to warn me of the blisters that were sure to ensue.
While she was right in her estimations about size, something about the “felix rub off” gave way and formed to my feet painlessly. Could it be that the material comes fear-free, leaving the boots without the haunting screams of the dead echoing in their soles leading to the torturous wrath of leather? Probably not. There is, most likely, a more physically driven explanation for the ease with which I acclimatized to my Docs. Don’t ask me what it is though. Yes, the boots were stiff-feeling for a few days, especially around the ankles, but by no means did they cause the great discomfort I had feared.
If you’re in doubt of size, go with your gut and get the size that most of your shoes are. I am a solid size 9 shoe, but in boots I tend to go up to a 10. I didn’t do that for my Docs and I’m glad of it. They are, by nature, a large, wide boot, so you should find plenty of room in the smaller size. Usually wear a half size? Again, take it down to the nearest whole size, and you’ll be happier for it. The trick here is that the sizes are listed in UK measurements, so look for your US size, then minus 2 from that for ladies, or 1 for men, to find your correct size. For example, I wanted ladies size US 9, so I instructed my mom to order the size UK 7. The box comes with this all neatly displayed on the label, and the Canadian website has a size chart that makes this all wonderfully obvious. My Docs are labeled women’s US size 9, men’s US size 8, and non-gender specific UK size 7.
So now that you know HOW to buy the right Docs for you, here’s WHY you should buy: They are warm, they are waterproof, they are durable, they have great traction, and they are comfortable. This winter has been an especially trying time for boots, and my Docs are holding up great. I have chronically cold feet, but I can comfortably wear thick socks in my Docs without them feeling tight, and my toes are kept nice and toasty. The only time my feet have gotten wet since I got my Docs was when I stepped into a deceivingly deep slush puddle and cold water rushed right up over the top (yeah, it was a good half a foot of water). Although I have only been wearing them for about a month, they show little sign of wear. I was initially worried about how the yellow stitching around the sole would hold up, but it has stayed firmly in place. Although the inevitable “bend line” (the crease that appears on the top of most shoes where the ball of your foot bends when you walk) shows up after long periods of wear, it subsides when I let them rest. Salt and dirt wipe away easily with a damp cloth, so when I take the time to actually do it, my Docs look brand new every day. I haven’t lost my footing on an icy sidewalk (of which there are many), nor have I fallen flat on my face and/or butt (which is really saying something) while wearing my Docs, so stride confidently comrades!
To answer my friend’s question, no, I did not “just” buy these shoes because they’re vegan. These boots can definitely stand on their own two feet against critics who question if a vegan boot can be weatherproof enough for the Canadian winter. Dr. Marten’s vegan boots are awesome as far as vegan shoes go, and even more awesome than their leather counterparts comfort wise. Thus far, these kicks have kicked all my other kicks aside.
Around Christmas time, the Dr. Martens website was low on stock, but it appears that most sizes and colours have once again become available.