To take on unpredictable territories during World War II, the US Armed Forces needed comfortable but strong footwear.
Enter the classic service boot.
Today, military style plays a big role in men’s fashion. And why not? Service boots, specifically, are versatile and meant to be durable.
But does the Golden Fox Boondocker stack up? In a market where this handsome style of shoe costs anywhere from $200-$600, it’s understandable that you might be wary.
No worries. From the leather to the fit, I’m going to go over every aspect of the Boondocker so you can decide if it’s right for you.
Golden Fox Boondocker Overview
The Boondocker is a heritage boot by Golden Fox. That is, they’re modeled after classic footwear—in this case—WWII service boots. Like its source material, the Boondocker is built with comfort and durability in mind.
It’s a plain toe boot, constructed with a Goodyear welt, and distressed crazy horse leather. For the most part, the boot is unlined which contributes to its below market price.
A standard six-incher, one of the Boondocker’s biggest strengths is its versatile style. I’ll dive deeper into this in the review section, but the design effectively balances rugged and clean aesthetics.
There are four colorways. I have the fudge variation, which is a warmer version of the brown variation. There’s also a black boot, which has a starker, less gradated shade, and a napped suede brown version.
Things to Consider Before Buying
If you’re seriously considering Golden Fox service boots, the two main things to think about are budget and what you’ll be using them for.
Off the bat, you should look elsewhere if you want a shoe to do long-term heavy-duty work in. The Boondocker is Goodyear welted, but resoling costs money too. You should definitely go a different route if you need deep lugs or a steel toe.
If you’re looking for a stylish military-style shoe or footwear you can do light work in (backyard duties, for example), read on.
If you’re taking on a temporary summer job, but don’t want to invest in something robust and expensive, the Boondocker can take the short-term beating and find new life as a casual shoe after your gig ends.
Or, if your job is half on-the-field, and half in-the-office, like an operations role, this boot is perfect for those days that you’re mostly at your desk. They’ll hold up better than regular fashion boots if you end up having to make an impromptu trip to the warehouse or the roof.
My Hands-On Review
The leather looks well-oiled and lush right out of the box, and has the organic hyde scent of full-grain leather. It does feel thin, especially at the tongue and at the sides of the upper.
Frankly, the insole looks flimsy and cheaply thrown together. If I wanted to, I could pull off the arch support material from its base since it’s just glued on, and there are several points of separation.
While not the best, this insole turns out to be more effective than it looks, which I’ll cover in the sole section.
This boot is fortified where it counts most though. I can immediately tell that the footbed is substantial. It makes a solid sound when tapped, and just the sheer weight of it assures me that Golden Fox delivers on their steel shank promise.
Between the solid footbed and the hard gum outsole, I was convinced that I’d need to break this boot in before it would give me any bend. To my surprise, it was comfortable and flexible enough upon first wear.
The metal eyelets give it an authentic service boot touch. However, having to perfectly and incrementally loosen the laces everytime I take them off is time-consuming. This isn’t a good rushing-out-the-door shoe.
Other impressive qualities I first noticed include the Goodyear welt stitching and the double stitching where the back piece of leather meets the front piece of leather. The rest of the shoe is single-stitched.
Leather Quality and Care
Rugged and supple-looking, the material on this boot has a lot of character to it. It’s built with crazy horse leather, which gets its name because it’s often used for horse riding saddles. It’s full-grain leather that’s been soaked in coal tar dye, which gives it a distressed look that takes to scuffs well.
It’s also this treatment that gives the surface a rich feel and look, despite how thin the actual material is.
Regardless, it isn’t just one of those affordable boots that looks strong and lithe, but will fall apart because of its budget construction.
If you look inside, you’ll see that the back of the eyelet area and the collar are lined with a heavier pigskin. This provides fortification and gives the otherwise thin leather extra sturdiness. When it comes to construction, Golden Fox definitely works smart within their cost constraints.
As far as caring for the boot goes, the Boondocker is low-maintenance. Age and scuffs are just part of the patinating process. They get absorbed into the antique look of the leather.
Just make sure it’s heavily oiled and conditioned. That greasy aesthetic goes well with the distressing, keeps the material pliant and comfortable, and it’s what crazy horse leather is naturally meant to look like.
As mentioned, the insole that the Boondocker comes with looks pretty flimsy. Upon walking in them though, they actually provide decent cushioning. It’s not perfect, but the tattered look definitely gave me low expectations. I walked a good hour in this boot on day one pretty comfortably.
Mainly, the soft padding on the middle inner part of the foot combined with that solid footboard, makes for a good balance of support and comfort, for casual wear.
If you’re taking hours-long walks or have foot pain issues, you’ll definitely want to replace them with something fancier. Fortunately, that stable footbed will partner well with any insole.
My research tells me that the footboard is Bontex, which is eco-friendly, so bonus points there.
According to Golden Fox, the outsole is crepe rubber, which initially surprised me because it looks like standard gum rubber. Typically, I associate crepe with the lighter porous version that gets dirty easily and is hard to clean.
However, it was bendy enough on day one and is even more flexible now that I’ve worn it for a good week. This also surprised me since I couldn’t even bend the sole with my hand when I took it out of the box.
It’s also effectively slip-resistant. I’ve worn this shoe up and down slippery marble stairs at work and outside in the rain, with zero trips to the ground.
On the aesthetic front, this thicker gummier crepe is a lot more versatile. It looks less stylized than the softer crepe, for a neutral look that goes well with khakis, jeans, and even trousers depending on how you style them.
Fit and Sizing
I ordered my regular size 8s before finding out that the Boondocker infamously runs large. Yet, I had no problem with my regular number size.
Upon further research, I found out that sizing is different for all people. This is the case for most boots, but it’s to a confusing extent with the Boondocker.
Here’s what I concluded. For the most part, the boot does run slightly large. However, even moderately thick socks can fix this problem easily, since the leather is so thin. I bought mine during autumn and didn’t even think to wear them with lightly-woven dress socks.
Moreover, the toe box is a bit slim. If you plan on wearing thick socks or have wider feet, you’re likely safe to order your actual size.
This confusing sizing also poses a problem if you wear a large size shoe, since Golden Fox doesn’t offer half sizes past size 11.
The sturdy lacing is an excellent resource for getting the fit you want.
The only thing I don’t like about this is that I often have to incrementally loosen the rows of laces to get it loose enough to take off. It’s not enough to untie and loosen just the top portion.
I sometimes even have to incrementally tighten the rows of laces when I’m putting them back on. Simply pulling at the laces won’t tighten the lower rows of laces. As mentioned, this isn’t a great boot if you’re late for something and racing out the door.
This boot was almost perfectly comfortable upon first wear.
The heel cup feels a little big at first, but that changed after just a week of wearing it.
The fortified collar is great for durability, but that combined with the thin lip is uncomfortable around my ankle. Wearing socks that are longer than the boot easily fixes this.
Regardless, none of these issues were terribly distracting during the break-in period.
What do Other Reviewers Say?
On average, this popular boots boasts very favorable reviews.
Many praise the versatile style, the immediate comfort, and quality of the leather.
There are some complaints about how thin the leather is, but I believe these reviewers are wearing the shoes for the wrong reasons. Many of these reviewers use the boot for heavy-duty work, which isn’t advisable. These are also the same people who see the sole fall apart in just a few months.
This boot can handle occasional high-impact activity, but shouldn’t be used as an everyday work boot.
On the other hand, those who work in hot weather love the material, even those who stand all day at their job.
Where the most confusion and grievances come from is with the sizing. Golden Fox recommends sizing down just a half. Some reviewers say they run extremely large, while others say they don’t run large enough to merit sizing down.
Again, my quick and dirty rule is that if you have wide feet and plan on wearing thick socks, you can stick to your regular size. Otherwise, go down half a size if you can.
If you have extra wide feet, the toe box of the Boondocker might just be too slim for you.
Ultimately, check your seller’s return policy since it looks like sizing issues aren’t rare.
Golden Fox Boondocker Alternatives
Like the Boondocker, the Thursday Boots President is a stylish modern take on the classic service boot. It’s a plain toe shoe, built with a 360-degree Goodyear welt, and comes in a variety of leather options.
While the Boondocker is a general budget-buy, the President is an affordable “good” boot. The custom rubber stud sole looks sleeker than the ones on the Golden Fox, but still offers traction on wet ground without adding bulk.
The President’s comfort technology is worlds better, offering a cork midsole and an EVA-comfort footbed.
There are even versions with speed hooks, which solves my prior complaint about how long it takes to put on and take off the Boondocker.
The Thursday Boots President offers outstanding value for money considering the leather quality, Goodyear welt, and awesome slimmed down style. With options available in Thursday’s Rugged & Resilient leather, plus a durable rubber stud sole and plenty of cushion, the President marks an excellent balance between style, longevity, and comfort.
Red Wing Iron Ranger
Leveling up from both the Boondocker and the Thursday President, the Red Wing Iron Ranger boasts top-quality construction, full-grain leather that’s tanned inhouse, and the legacy and longevity of a true heritage brand.
The upper is thick, oil-tanned, and has a creamy and luxurious feel. Right out of the box, you can tell that this boot is sturdily built.
That being the case, expect a painful and testing break-in period.
Regardless, once you’ve survived Red Wing’s hazing period, you’ll have yourself a masculine service boot with a durable vibram sole. With little maintenance, the Iron Ranger will last you decades.
My Thoughts Overall
What I Like
The overall style is casual but versatile, thanks to the lush-looking leather and simple design.
Well-oiled and rugged, the crazy horse leather upper ages well and is easy to take care of.
While the material itself is thin, Golden Fox does a good job of adding durability where it’s most needed: Goodyear welt stitching, pig skin backed collar, and back piece double stitched to the front.
The footbed is sturdy, while the outsole is thick but bouncy, providing an effective balance of stability and agility.
What I Don’t Like
It takes too long to tighten and tie the laces when I’m putting the shoe on, and too long to loosen and untie when I’m taking it off.
The sizing is inconsistent and confusing. I recommend staying in close touch with your seller in case this causes a need for returns.
Who is the Golden fox Boondocker For?
The Golden Fox Boondocker is an excellent choice for budget buyers. Any cheaper, and you’ll be compromising foundational construction quality. At least with the Boondocker, there’s fortification where it matters. While the insole is just okay, at least the footbed is sturdy.
The Boondocker isn’t for heavy-duty workers, but perfect for light work, occasional high-impact situations, and anyone who wants a standard but versatile service boot fashion.
If you like that desert boot look, the napped suede version is a good option, and it comes with a stronger outsole than the more common porous crepe versions.
The Boondocker offers a great price-to-quality ratio.
Golden Fox is creative within their small budget, ensuring that any shortcuts taken don’t result in fatal flaws. If the insole is too flimsy for you, you can always replace it. If the sole falls off after a year, the shoe is resoleable.
The best demographic for this boot is those of you who are mainly looking for a fashionable service boot at an affordable price, but one that offers better quality, construction, and durability than a mere fashion boot can offer.
Is Golden Fox a good brand?
Yes, Golden Fox offers a range of styles at a range of prices. The price shortcuts they take for the budget lines aren’t fundamentally compromising, often employing Goodyear welted construction and strong footbeds with steel shanks.
What are Boondocker boots?
Boondocker boots are military style boots that the US Army used during World War II.
Where are Golden Fox boots made?
While Golden Fox Boots does have a premium US-made line, their budget boots are made in China. This includes the Boondockers.