The BootSpy YouTube channel has the best viewers.
It’s a community that loves boots as much as I do. And when I kept on seeing comments from subscribers telling me I needed to get a pair of Nicks, eventually the chorus became overwhelming.
So in October 2021, I bought a pair of Nicks Americana boots.
In February 2022, I got them.
Since then, I’ve been putting in a few hours each week breaking these boots in—no easy feat (or should I say feet?).
Now that they’re mostly broken in—seriously, it takes a lot longer than you’d think—I’ve come to a conclusion on whether or not I’m happy with my purchase.
Nicks Boots Overview
Nicks Handmade Boots is one of a few legendary Pacific Northwest boot-makers. Other mainstays are Whites Boots, Wesco, and Viberg (which is a Canadian brand, but still in the same region).
I’ve also had the chance to try Whites and Wesco, so I’ll be doing a little comparison between Nicks and those brands, as well as how these compare to more popular boots like the Red Wing Iron Ranger.
Nicks has a process for custom fitting made to order boots. I didn’t go through that process because my feet are pretty basic, but from what I’ve read and heard from subscribers, the fitting process is quite simple and Nicks does a great job making the process straight forward and easy to do.
This brand is at the high end of bootmaking. Yes, there are even more expensive brands out there, but if you’re looking for maximum quality combined with durability, then Nick’s is your brand.
You could spend more on a pair of YSL Chelsea boots, but there’s no way there’s more/better materials in that boot. Plus, I can’t imagine if you’re reading this, you’re flipping back and forth between a pair of Nicks and a pair of Yves St Laurent. But that’d be pretty funny.
Things to Consider Before Buying Nicks
Nicks boots take a long time to craft before they get to your doorstep. I waited a little over six months for mine, and I don’t think the waiting period is any shorter now.
That process is further extended when you opt for the customized fit and build. You could be buying and getting the right fit for your boots for the better part of a year until you actually get your boots and start to break them in.
That said, because they’re built to order, you get a wide range of customizability that almost no other brand offers. It definitely helps to have a basic knowledge of different leather types, because the more you know, the more you can get the ideal boot you’re looking for.
Nicks Americana Boot Review
The Nicks Americana is the first boot I got from the Pacific Northwest school of bootmaking. Which basically means that I had no idea a boot could be so robust.
For a casual boot, the Americana is an absolute tank. Heck, even compared to most work boots, the Americana is a tank.
It’s a cap toe service boot and I picked mine up in the Horween waxed flesh leather. It’s brown leather, but at first glance it almost looks black. As the wax starts to wear away, more of the brown roughout fibers will show through.
How heavy are Nicks boots?
My Nicks Americana (size 10D) weigh 2lbs 10oz per boot, or 5 1/4 pounds per pair. That’s heavy.
The toe box on the Americana is pretty stubby. It’s easier to show you compared to other popular cap-toe boots:
As you can see, the Nicks Americana has the widest toe box of the four boots pictured here. What you can’t see here is that the Red Wing Iron Ranger has the most height with its bump toe last. Still the Iron Ranger is more narrow at the “waist” of the boot.
The style is much more “vintage” looking—like it definitely feels like it’s from the 40’s or 50’s because of how wide the boot is.
I think it’s a really interesting look, and I don’t know another brand that does anything like it. Personally, it’s not my favorite style—I like the slightly slimmer look of the Red Wing Iron Ranger or the Truman 79 last boot.
But I also have to say that I love how beefy the Nicks Americana looks—part of its charm is that anyone can instantly recognize that this boot isn’t built like most others.
Leather Quality and Care
You can get a pair of Nicks in all sorts of different leathers. They seem to mostly get their leather from Horween—there are several Chromexcel options as well as some roughout and waxed roughout choices as well.
For an additional cost, I know they offer a few Wickett & Craig leathers, though I can’t say whether they’ll have those for a long time or not. This is where knowing your different leather companies comes in handy.
I opted for the brown waxed flesh leather, which is a 6.5oz Horween waxed roughout.
It’s quite stiff right out of the box. And if I’m being honest, it’s still quite stiff even after spending some time breaking the boots in. They’ve definitely become more comfortable, but the leather here is no joke.
While I haven’t worn away much (if any) of the wax on my boots yet, you can get a glimpse of how it will age on the false tongue:
I’m really excited to continue to break the boots in so that roughout texture starts to break through the wax.
As far as conditioning goes, I’m taking a hands-off approach with these boots. I might condition the leather a few years down the road if they start to look a little dry, and even then, I’ll use something light like Bick 4.
The Americana usually comes with the Vibram 430 mini lug sole, but since I ordered mine custom, I picked out the Vibram V-Bar sole (or Tygam 700). This wasn’t so much a purposeful move away from the Vibram 430—I’ve just tried that out on other boots and was curious what the V-Bar is like.
If you’re wondering what the big difference is, the V-Bar sole has a little less traction and is stiffer. But because it’s harder, it’s also more durable. So if you’re like me and scrape your feet across the ground somewhat often, you’ll get a little more life out of the V-Bar.
The 430 lug is a good choice because it’s softer and has decent grip while still maintaining the low profile.
Again, I don’t feel there’s that much difference—I just wanted to try the V-Bar out so I could learn their pros and cons firsthand.
The insole and midsole is what really separates Nicks boots from other brands. Besides the rubber in the sole and brass on the eyelets, this boot is entirely leather.
The midsole and insole are made up of thick pieces of oak tanned leather, which is known for its durability and ability to offer support.
The shank is also oak tanned leather. You might be thinking: leather shank? I thought steel was the best.
While steel shanks offer a lot of support, the reason Nicks uses a leather shank is because they expect you to be wearing these boots several years from now.
Because the leather shank will slowly compress and break in with the rest of the insole and midsole, it’ll continue to give the boot and your foot support throughout its lifetime. A steel shank might not flex at all, so when the leather breaks in around it, it may stick out and bother your foot more and more.
Of course, that whole process would take several years to play out, so not many people know about it or think of it.
But Nicks has.
Also, Nicks adds a wedge of leather at the arch of your foot that’s specifically there for arch support. The only boot that compares to Nicks on arch support is my Whites Packer boots.
At first, I wondered if they even fit right, because I’d never had that much arch support.
But as I kept walking around in them (breaking in that wedge of leather), I’ve come to love it.
Fit and Sizing
One of the beautiful things about ordering Nicks is that you can get a completely customized fit when you go through their fitting process.
A lot of guys have different sized feet, or have irregularly sized feet and find it difficult to get a pair of boots that’s comfortable on both sides.
Now this is an important note: if you choose to go with a customized size, it costs an extra $100 and can add another 12 weeks onto the ordering process to get your boots.
I’m a straight up 10D in boots and my feet are standard, so I was able to order their 10D and they fit well.
If you’re looking at a pair of Nicks boots, I’m assuming you’ve already devoted hours of your life to figuring out the exact right size of boot you should get (if you’ve ever said my right foot is between a D and E width, but my left is a solid D, then you definitely know too much about boots—my kind of person).
With the wider toe box, guys with slightly wide feet (but not wide enough to bump up to an E width) will get some relief. This is also true if your toes tend to spread out and are wider than the rest of your foot.
The break in period on the Nicks Americana is the most difficult I’ve ever went through. A few years ago, I made a video reviewing the Red Wing Iron Ranger and talked about how tough the break in there was.
I look back at that and shake my head—breaking in the Red Wing Iron Ranger was a piece of cake. You just walk in it for three days and it’s smooth sailing from there out.
The Nicks Americana has stages of breaking in, and it was just painful the first three or four times I wore it out.
I played through the pain and got to a stage where I can wear them for multiple hours and maybe even a few miles of walking without needing to take a break.
Watch the video above if you want to see my top tips on breaking in a pair of Nicks (as shown with this exact pair of boots I’m reviewing).
What do Other Reviewers Say?
Nicks Handmade Boots are legendary—for many people, they’re “grail” boots: the kind of thing people dream of buying when they hit certain milestones. Sort of like a Rolex, but made of leather.
Because they have such a dedicated following, I’ve had trouble finding anything but positive reviews. I guess I should add that almost every review discusses the difficult break in, which seems to be a negative for most brands, but is actually a positive for Nicks. Funny how that works.
My Thoughts Overall On the Nicks Americana
What I Like
I love the 6.5oz waxed flesh leather—it looks great, ages well, as is both water resistant and also some of the most durable leather I’ve tested.
The insole and midsole are entirely made of oak tanned leather, which is known to be sturdy, supportive, and comfortable as you break it in.
The leather shank will break in with the rest of your boot and still add support without becoming uncomfortable down the road.
Nicks offers made to measure sizing
What I Don’t Like
These have a shorter and wider look to them (they’re not actually shorter, but the look is “stubbier’). It’s a cool vintage style, but not my favorite when compared to other boots like the Red Wing Iron Ranger.
The break in period is notoriously tough, but you’re also rewarded with a customized feeling after you win the battle.
Who is the Nicks Americana for?
If you’re looking for a casual boot you can wear for the next 10 years, then the Nicks Americana might just be the boot for you. It helps if you know your leather and like to explore the various options available to you.
After reading so many comments from subscribers to the BootSpy YouTube channel urging me to check out Nicks Handmade Boots, I’m glad I listened.
The Nicks Americana is one of my favorite boots.
With 6.5oz waxed roughout leather, 5-6 layers of oak tanned leather as the midsole and insole, and a fat 3/4 inch toplift on the heel, I can’t imagine these wearing out any time soon.
It’s been six months since I’ve started wearing them and they’re still not even fully broken in. I feel like I haven’t even gotten into where the benefits of getting a boot this tough really start to show.
While I initially had some sticker-shock at the price—$500 isn’t cheap—it makes total sense. The quality of materials and craftsmanship here is going to take these boots much farther than others.
I’m confident in saying that a pair of Nicks Americana could outlast Red Wing Iron Rangers two times over if subjected to the same conditions.
Nicks is deserving of their cult status in the boot world—the Americana is an excellent example of their work.
Do Nicks boots run small?
No, Nicks boots run about a half size larger when compared with standard US sneaker and dress shoe sizing. They’re closer to other American heritage boot brands like Red Wing and Wolverine when it comes to sizing.
Are Nicks boots made in America?
Yes, all Nicks boots are made in Spokane, Washington.
How long does it take to build Nicks boots?
If you order a quick-ship boot, it can take 8-12 weeks. If you order a customized boot with standard sizing, the process can take anywhere between 4-6 months. If you go through the fitting process and then order a customized boot, the process can take 9-12 months. It likely takes a few days to build each pair of boots, but Nicks has a huge backlog of orders.