Review: Nisolo Chelsea Boots

 Nisolo chelsea boot in black/brown

Nisolo chelsea boot in black/brown

When did ankle boots become the in-style boot? The look used to be all about knee-high boots over skinny jeans. I still have my beloved knee-high riding boots from many seasons ago but rarely reach for them. They are pretty worse for wear at this point after a good six or seven years of heavy rotation, so I don't wear them because I don't want to wear them out even more. 

Obviously there have always been ankle boots, but I think with the gradual move away from all-skinny-jeans-all-the-time, the lowly ankle boot was positioned to take a bigger share of the footwear arena. 

I love a good no-fuss pull-on ankle boot, and what's a chelsea boot if not a low-fuss pull-on ankle boot? Many of the very basic, traditionally styled chelsea boots look really frumpy to me though. Very awkwardly proportioned with a big slab of elastic on each side and a big fat round toe.

What I like about the style of the Nisolo chelsea boots is that they have a nice almond toe (not too pointy, not too round) and a sensible heel (not too flat, not too tall). I think they'd be nice with another half inch of height, but I appreciate they are not towering 3" heels, because I don't have the patience to wear a shoe like that on a daily basis. 

After a year of loving my camel color Veronique Branquinho boots, I decided I wanted to add a black corollary for when camel wouldn't do. A couple months ago, blinded by Black Friday sale hype, I ordered the limited edition Nisolo black-on-black chelsea boot, size 9. 

The 9 was preeeetty snug and to be honest I wasn't a huge fan of the all-black sole and upper — looked too monolithic. I sent them back with the knowledge that I'd like to try again in a 9.5 in the black/brown colorway, but I didn't exchange at the time.

Well, I got lucky last month trolling Poshmark when a gently worn black/brown pair of Nisolo chelsea boots in 9.5 became available. With the credits in my account I only spent $35. Win! Win win win. I did spend another $45 to have my cobbler put on a rubber sole, but it sure beats the almost $300 they would have cost new + rubber sole.

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So without further ado, how are they?

When I first put the boots on, the toe felt a smidge snug, like it runs a tiny bit narrow — but then again maybe my feet are just a tiny bit wide? It's hard to tell sometimes. The rest of the boot is a perfect fit. I wouldn't go a size larger because my heel would be flopping out of the boot. I considered asking my cobbler to stretch them a little in the toe, but the snugness is so negligible I figured I'd chance it with just wearing them, and so far that's worked out. I wear a light sock with these, but when they first arrived I wore them around the house a bit with thick wool socks. The thick socks made the shoes uncomfortably snug, but maybe helped the toes stretch a little.

I want to be clear: there is no discomfort, chafing, or blisters, and since I've been wearing the boots almost daily, I can tell the leather around the toes has gently molded more to my foot. There's probably five seconds of "snug" feel when I first put the boots on in the morning, and then I don't feel anything the rest of the day (perhaps this is a sign of my foot nerves slowly dying? IDK).

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I also like the triangle panel of elastic on each side. It really sets the boot apart from other iterations of the chelsea boot and dovetails nicely with the geometric, boxy look in fashion right now. The contrasting color sole kind of makes the boot for me — I'm so glad I have this colorway instead of the first one I bought. An all-black shoe can be very harsh, especially in a boot form. Here the brown sole adds a little pep to the styling and highlights the other beautiful details of the boot, like a frame around a picture.

The workmanship and quality of the boot are very nice. The leather is soft but structured. They pull on and off easily and don't pinch at my ankles like the Everlane heel boots did (tried those in a 9, sent them back). Whenever I have brought Nisolo shoes to my cobbler he always seems very impressed, and if he's impressed there must be something there. And speaking of the cobbler — I make a habit of having rubber added to all my leather-soled shoes before I start wearing them, and this pair was no exception. It adds durability and function (non-slip) so that I can count on the shoe lasting more seasons.

As someone who finds a thing and then wants to keep it forever, care and maintenance of my garments and shoes is a top priority. You know that feeling when the thing you love has worn out but now you can't find a suitable replacement? Been there waaay too many times. So now when I find something I love I want to take steps to ensure it lasts a long time. I have heard that adding rubber soles to a leather soled shoe is blasphemy and that now the leather can't "breath," but I'm like, whatever. I don't see any real substance to this argument.

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The boots have been easy to style. I find myself wearing them mostly with skinny jeans but I have also worn them successfully with my wide leg jeans and even the Elizabeth Suzann bel skirt.

My one complaint about these boots is that the pull-tab on the back could be like an eighth of an inch bigger. I'm so used to being able to easily slide my whole finger through the loop to pull on my other pair of ankle boots, but with the Nisolo pair, my finger like just barely fits in the loop. It's almost easier to just grab the whole tab instead of using it like a pull. So that's a minor quibble. 

I will wholeheartedly recommend these boots if you are in the market for an ankle boot. I wore them over to a friend's super bowl party and someone complimented them and asked if they were from Madewell. They do look like something Madewell would sell! So if you're looking to move away from fast fashion, these could be a great option for dipping your toe into more ethically produced shoes.

Nisolo generally has a great modern-classic-but-with-a-twist aesthetic that seems to work really well with a lot of personal styles. I'm looking forward to a number of the shoes they've teased so far this year, and after my lusting after floral tapestry mules it is a good reminder that I do really love a nice neutral shoe. 

Does anyone else wear the Nisolo chelsea boot? How has your experience been?