Review: Blundstone 510 Boots for Biking? (UPDATED)

Boots aren’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when you think of cycling footwear. They seem awkward, clunky and a little stiff. However, riding through the last few weeks of Pacific Northwest Winter, I’ve really become tired of having cold wet feet. Looking for options on line, I saw more than a few references of riding in Blundstones (or Blunnies as aficionados like to say). Todd from Clever Cycles swears by them, Vik from the Lazy Randonneur loves his Chunks and BikeHugger has a pair to brave the wet Seattle weather. So why not?!

Blundstone

With some Christmas money burning a hole in my pocket, I went to a local dealer (Clogs and More in Portland) and tried on a pair. Blundstones are a working man/women’s boot. They are classy but have an understated utilitarian grace to them. You can dress them up or go tramping in the dirt with them. They have a bit of a cult following and are like the Brooks of the boot world. Blundstone diehards sing their praises about how they last for years under hard use. There has been some controversy of late if the new Blundstones are good as the old ones (another similarity with Brooks). They use to be made in Australia but have apparently moved production to Asia. I can’t really say if the old ones were better or not, since these are my first pair, but its a moot point since new ones are new ones unless you find a box of NOS Blunnies somewhere.

Anyway, I digress.

When I first picked them up in my hand I was surprised at their lightness. They look like they would weigh considerably more since the material rides above your ankle and the sole looks fairly thick, but they are surprisngly light. Compared to the Keen Finlays (430g) the Blundstone 510s are about 470 grams.

Another thing I wasn’t expecting was how comfortable they would be right off the bat. I usually associate boots with being some sort of foot corset, something that you have to contort your foot to get into and break in. Not so with the Blundstone 510s. My toes didn’t feel squished. They were free to wiggle around. But as I walked everything felt fairly well supported. The Blundstones don’t have laces so the fit is paramount, since you won’t be able to tighten them any further. I noticed that there was a little play at the heel, but nothing unbearable. Walking a couple dozen steps in the shoe shop, I was sold and left the store wearing the shoes on my feet.

The next test, of course, would be to see how they perform while riding. One thing I noticed immediately was how well the soles clung to my pedals. I had rated the Velo-Orange Sabot’s a 8/10 on PathLessPedaled wearing various Keen shoes. With the Blundies there was no slippage and the pedals immediately felt better ( 9/10!).

For a boot that goes over the ankle, there is enough give so it doesn’t restrict pedaling. Again, there is a little noticeable slack in the heel (which could be taken up with a bit thicker sock or orthotic) but nothing so terrible as to interfere. Todd from Clever Cycles says he likes the looseness, especially during the summer since it enhances the bellows effect when riding with thinner socks. Standing up and doing some spirited pedaling on a climb was a joy because of the really secure grip the soles had on the pedals. I took them out on a 25 mile ride in some coldish weather (low to mid 40s) with some wool socks that weren’t particularly thick. The weather was fairly dry so I can’t comment on their waterproofness yet, but my feet were fine. They were cool, but not to the extent they have been the last few weeks. Time and rain will tell if it will be the perfect shoe for winter. Another aspect that I really like about the Blundstone 510s is the lack of laces. You slip them on and off and that is it. Nothing to tie, AND nothing to get sucked into your drive train. Sometimes I’m pretty terrible with tying my shoelaces and they are always coming undone while walking or threaten to wrap themselves around my front chainring. No more!

So far, I’m pretty pleased with them and am a tentative convert to Blunnnies. Laura and I are going to go touring for a month in California down the central coast and into the desert and these will be the only shoe I will be taking. This is fairly huge, since for the last 4 years the only things I have worn are Keen sandals and shoes. Stay tuned for another update in a few weeks.

12/30/12 UPDATE:

Just came back from a nice day ride through hills, mud and gravel. The 510s remain super comfortable and are becoming my favorite shoe. The weather was in the upper 30s. My toes were not warm, but they didn’t feel like they were falling off either. Haven’t tried them in the rain yet, so I can’t report on the waterproofness.