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Clinch Mast Trainer Review: Testing a Heritage-Inspired Boot

Buster is obsessed with fabrics, weaves, men’s heritage and vintage garments, particularly indigo denim and boots and how it all melds together in the culture we create. These are the things that keep him going, that keep him interested and inspired. When he isn't obsessing over clothing, he's taking care of a growing plant collection, working on a graphic design project or reading a good manga. Read full bio.


Last Updated: May 7, 2024
8 min read

If you’re looking for a unique boot to fit your heritage wardrobe and want something extremely well-made without destroying your bank balance, the Mast Trainer by Clinch will fit the bill. I’ll tell you why.

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Clinch Mast Trainer
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Bottom line: The Clinch Mast Trainer is an incredibly sleek, comfortable, and unique heritage-inspired boot. It has an affordable price for a boot that’s made entirely by artisans from start to finish in Japan.

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Pros:
  • Unique style of boot
  • Comfortable & breathable
  • Completely hand-made by artisans
  • Completely resoleable
Cons:
  • Sizing may be difficult
  • Narrow last
  • Sole isn’t non-slip

“Brass, like leather, is a material that never rusts and turns black over time and gives off a dull glow.” Shoemaker Minoru Matsuura provides this quote in reference to his authentic and simple love of materials. 

This led him to create Brass Tokyo to repair shoes, make custom lasts, and eventually, his own footwear under the name “Clinch.” With his love for raw materials and vintage shoes, he started making some of the most sought-after boots in the heritage market

Today I’m reviewing the Clinch Mast Trainer boot, a replica boot of the old-school early 20th century lace-to-toe sneaker boot, which was originally inspired by maritime boots worn by sailors. The lightweight but durable canvas construction and lacing design ensured a fully adjustable fit needed for climbing the rigging of ships, inspiring the name ‘Mast Trainer.’

Clinch Boots Overview

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A Clinch boot is a perfect example of the Clinch brand’s efforts to create a true-to-vintage boot. In doing so, they masterfully craft their boots by hand from start to finish with custom materials, all in the same workshop. When you buy a Clinch boot from Brass Tokyo, you’re going to get some of the highest quality and unique boots offered on the market. 

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Started in 2007 by Minoru Matsuura, ‘Brass’ shoe repair shop opened in Tokyo to revive the style of boots Matsuura personally obsessed over, but thought were long out of style and production.

With a large vintage collection of his own to reference, Matsuura started repairing customers’ boots and relasting them with his specialty lasts. After gaining success and a sizable following, Matsuura eventually made his own cap-toe boot, and thus ‘Clinch’ was born.

Things to Consider Before Buying 

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Any boot from Clinch is going to be a vintage-style boot. Sure, some are very versatile in the way that they look, their silhouette, etc. But you aren’t going to pick up the Mast Trainer to wear as an everyday boot unless you want to turn heads often.

Even their engineer boot, for example, has a very slim and narrow style to it, leaning almost towards sartorial to the average person. This, of course, is a major reason why Clinch is so sought-after for those who know.

The Clinch customer is somebody who wants a unique and early 20th-century style, artisanally-made boot that will outlive them and age beautifully with wear. This is definitely reflected in the price tag.

Clinch Mast Trainer 4

I would be lying if I told you I didn’t think their selections are worth every penny, but that’s for you to decide.  

When it comes to Clinch, the price matches the product you’re getting, so you probably won’t be wearing these as work boots. I don’t think any reasonable person would pay $1500 for something they’d wear on a construction site, but these aren’t meant to be work boots anyway. 

They’re more sophisticated, daily footwear that will definitely hold their own in construction, but aren’t meant to be dragged in the dirt and get paint splattered on them. 

All of these things considered, if you want a durable and wearable piece of art, then Clinch will, and should, be at the top of your list.

Clinch Mast Trainer

The Clinch Mast Trainer is an incredibly sleek, comfortable, and unique heritage-inspired boot. It has an affordable price for a boot that’s made entirely by artisans from start to finish in Japan.

Check Price

My Hands-On Review

First Impression

Clinch Mast Trainer 3

What you’ll immediately see with the Mast Trainer is the clean blake-stitching throughout the boot. It’s hard to miss as it covers most of the front of the boot and is incredibly articulate.

Next, there’s a beautiful combination of leather and canvas that combines incredibly well in a monkey-boot pattern. This almost jarring but totally rad combination of material adds to the unique style of this particular boot.

The lace-to-toe design is very early 20th century in style and adds support to the entire foot, which increases the comfort, even while the rubber and leather stacked soles are thinner than what you may be used to.

Combined with the mostly canvas upper, this makes the entire boot lightweight, like you’re wearing your favorite sneakers. Then, of course, you’ll notice there is a Goodyear Welt construction to top it off.

Leather Quality and Care

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The leather on the Mast Trainer almost takes a back seat in this design.

Almost. But not totally. It’s a horse-hide leather, hand-selected by Minoru himself to ensure the utmost quality. This leather construction running up the middle of the boot and capping the shaft definitely adds strength and durability.

I haven’t needed to polish or condition the leather so far, as it’s barely shown signs of wear after nine months. The paraffin-waxed canvas making up a majority of the boot is incredibly durable and somewhat water-resistant, as well. It can take a beating and get dirty quickly, like a sneaker, but not a single tear or hole yet.

Usually, if the canvas gets dirty, I take a shoe brush or dab it with a wet towel, which seems to do the trick. 

Sole

Clinch Mast Trainer 1

The sole is a rubber-crepe sole that has held up for me incredibly well. While its thinner construction may be off-putting to those who are used to a larger sole on a more rugged boot, this misses the point entirely. This boot style isn’t meant to be rugged— it has a more purposefully refined look to it. 

The soles don’t have much traction on them in wet environments, so that may be a downside for potential buyers. But it is completely resoleable if you really want to switch them to something different. 

I can say I’ve never had any issues while wearing these in the rain, but the winter months might be a different story. After 9-10 months of wear, the soles barely show any serious deterioration, but when the time comes, it’s guaranteed to be an easy replacement. 

Clinch Mast Trainer

The Clinch Mast Trainer is an incredibly sleek, comfortable, and unique heritage-inspired boot. It has an affordable price for a boot that’s made entirely by artisans from start to finish in Japan.

Check Price

Fit and Sizing

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The Mast Trainer boots are on the CN last, which stands for ‘Classic Narrow’. The name gives away what you need to know about it. The style of boot was meant to be an expandable ‘sporty’ style boot and was originally worn by sailors and, eventually, similar boots by boxers in the ring.

The boot’s canvas construction actually allows for a bit of stretch with the foot and adds to the immense comfort. That being said, if you have a wide, or double wide foot, then I wouldn’t go for these. Actually, most Clinch boots tend to run narrow.

A lot of online reviewers say that “sizing with Clinch can be a bit of a leap of faith.”

However, I have seen many people with wide feet recommend sizing up one size. Personally, I mostly have Wesco’s (Mister Lou Engineer in size 11) and John Lofgrens (sizes 9.5 – 10.5), but for my pair, I went with the size 11 similar to my Wesco’s, and they fit perfectly. Snug, but not too snug, and there’s no heel slip at all. 

I have longer, narrow feet, so that definitely makes things more comfortable for me, but if you’re a bigger human I would reach out to Clinch directly for more accurate sizing. They are extremely accommodating and knowledgeable about their products and can help you figure out what size would be best for you.

Break-in Period

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What you’ll find with the Clinch Master Trainers right off the bat is that there is little to no break-in period. I put these bad boys on right out of the box, and they felt like a pair of Converse.

Personally, I have no issues with the comfort even over 9 months later. If I had to nitpick, I’d point out that the leather lining around the shaft of the boot can be a pain if you don’t unlace them quite a bit before putting your feet in.

I think over time, the leather will continue to soften with wear and have some more give to it.

What Do Other Reviewers Say?

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One of the major things I see when people talk about Clinch is the immaculate stitching, details, and craftsmanship that goes into each pair of boots. 

While Clinch almost has a somewhat “dress shoe mentality,” they’re still hard-wearing and damn sturdy boots. One gentleman that comes to mind wears his almost exclusively while riding his vintage Harley Davidson and kicks the hell out of them. In his words, Brass Tokyo is the “king of boots.”

My Thoughts Overall

Clinch Mast Trainer 2

What I Like

  • As I’ve fawned over a few times; the stitching is immaculate. You aren’t going to see this kind of clean work on a Red Wing boot or even something from Viberg, Wesco, etc. 

  • The style is incredibly unique. A lot of people think I’m wearing old bowling shoes or boxing shoes. I definitely catch a lot of peoples’ attention when I’m wearing these.

  • Incredibly comfortable. Over the span of a day, I don’t find my feet hurting or settling oddly.

  • The price point on these aren’t bad, even at retail. For a unique vintage-style boot completely handmade in Japan, you’re looking at less than $600.

What I Don’t Like

  • I don’t think I’d wear these over a span of a few days back-to-back, as I don’t see the insole being supportive enough for this.

  • They can be a pain in the rear to lace up and lace down when taking them off and putting them on. You really have to lace them completely halfway to fit your foot in them due to the construction of the boot.

  • The canvas, while it’s waxed, probably won’t hold up over a few winters without an annual cleaning and re-waxing. 

Who is the Clinch Mast Trainer For?

If you’re looking for a unique and vintage-style boot, then the Clinch Mast Trainer is the boot for you. The Mast Trainer is for the everyday person who wants to get into heritage menswear or perhaps the heritage veteran looking to add something interesting to their footwear collection.

The Verdict

If you’re considering the Mast Trainer from Clinch – I’d tell you to go for it. If you want something unique to throw into the mix of your rotation of boots without having to commit to the long wait or higher price tag that comes with custom-made footwear, the Mast Trainer is perfect.

The Mast Trainers, like all Clinch boots, are made from the best by some of the best. Matsuura, the mastermind behind Brass Tokyo and Clinch, hand-checks the leather (and, in this case, canvas) used in crafting the boots and checks all the finished products, too. You’re paying for the quality that Clinch stands behind.

If you live somewhere with harsh winters, you won’t get much wear out of these in the wet months, unless you’re in an office most of the time. I truly consider these to be a warmer weather boot, due to the construction, soles, and fabric base.

Ultimately, this model from Clinch is one of their most affordable and eye-catching, in my opinion, so you won’t go wrong if you’re looking for a unique aesthetic at an affordable price.

Clinch Mast Trainer

The Clinch Mast Trainer is an incredibly sleek, comfortable, and unique heritage-inspired boot. It has an affordable price for a boot that’s made entirely by artisans from start to finish in Japan.

Check Price

FAQs

Where are Clinch boots made?

All Clinch boots are made in Tokyo, Japan. They carry out the entire process in their own workshop. From designing the lasts to sewing the uppers, as well as hand-sewn welting, to sole finishing, they do it all.

How would you size a Clinch boot?

Clinch boots sizing is typically made for a Japanese customer base but they carry and produce a CN WIDE last, which is recommended for Westerners.

Most shops that carry Clinch would recommend the CN WIDE lasts and to size down one from your Brannock size if you have a D-width foot.

For an E-width foot, you should typically go half a size smaller than your Brannock. With the Mast Trainer boot, the shoe is mostly unstructured canvas, so you’ll find it has a little more ‘give.’

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