I have yet to come across a fellow who doesn’t appreciate the monk-strap dress shoe. Classic, elegant yet versatile, the monk- strap can be worn up or worn down, it can be worn across settings and is, by dint, a well-worn shoe of the modern gent. No shoe laces required, thank you. So when I got my hands on a pair of the double monk-strap Tungsten's by Bared Footwear, I was keen to buckle up and step out.
Bared Footwear is a shoe label from Melbourne (Armadale, CBD and online) that was founded by Podiatrist Anna Baird. Bared Footwear has brought to market a range of stylish shoes, loafers and boots, with all the benefits a podiatrist founder with an eye for design can bring to, well, bear.
Design and MaterialsThe Tungsten retails for $289 AUD. At this price point you generally find that a shoe's design, construction and materials are produced for scale while quality takes a back seat. As you'll discover, the Tungsten gives more than bang-for-buck.
Photo @Bared Footwear
The Tungsten is designed in the double monk-strap shoe style, which means its leather strap is fastened by two buckles, and comes with a toe cap (which set my Shoe Shine Nerd off). Bared Footwear has not let us down with the design, with its classic last, round toebox and a low profile heel. The design and last are such that the shoe can be worn across many occasions and with many outfits.
The Tungsten comes in three colours, black, burgundy and tan. I chose tan out of personal preference but all varieties looked the part.
Importantly, the sole of the Tungsten is attached to the upper portion of the shoe using the Blake Welt construction method. With this method, the upper is wrapped around the insole and, traditionally, everything is held in place by a single line of stitching. The Blake welt is a very good choice for this shoe. The thinner sole (as compared to the Goodyear Welt) gives the Tungsten a slimmer profile, yet offers greater depth. Therefore, it comfortably accommodates different feet widths or personal orthotics without compromising on its sleek design.
The double monk-strap buckles appear to be made from a sturdy bronze alloy metal. The buckles are attached by elastic straps, which, while convenient, may not be the most durable over time.
At the back of the shoe, there is a reinforced heel counter. Together with the shoe's steel shank, it makes for a firm shoe, which gives the wearer greater support than more bendy-jobs. This firmness is well-countered by the supple leather upper.
Here I was most surprised. I expected the upper to be a (less expensive) top grain leather and a perfectly reasonable trade-off given the price-point and construction. But I was advised by Bared that it is indeed a (more expensive) full grain leather. The advantage here is that the leather is light-weight, flexible and there is no break-in period at all. But unlike stiffer full grain leathers (which you'll find is used by many British shoe-makers), it may be a bit more susceptible to wrinkles and wear over time.
The Tungsten also comes with a leather sole, leather lining and a leather lined footbed. All these features are normally found in quality high-end shoes. These inclusions allow for greater breathability and comfort (if you suffer from sweaty feet, leather lining is a must).
Fit and Feel
So how did they fit and feel over time? Two things you should know about my feet. One, they are wide. Two, if I’m standing too long or wearing new shoes, I will inevitably experience discomfort in the forward part of my foot (a result of an old metatarsal injury).
A Bared staff member measured my feet prior to the fitting. Brownie points right there. Most of us know our shoe size, but most of us aren’t aware that our feet change shape as we age. I warned the staff member of my wide feet and she accepted the challenge with nonchalant grace. You see, all Bared Shoes are set a little more deeply than comparable shoes, and all Bared shoes come with a choice of standard and wide (feet) footbeds. Evidently, Bared get that a well fitted shoe supports good healthy feet.
All I had to do was replace the standard width footbed with the wide jobby and vola. The shoes firmly enclosed the middle of my feet and did not allow my feet to slip forward. My toes felt comfortable and did not touch the toe cap. I had full control over how much pressure was distributed onto my instep, thanks to the Double Monk leather strap and buckles. Last but definitely not least, my shrek-like feet weren’t bulging over the side like an Ugly Sister trying on Cinderella’s glass slipper. Full marks here.
I’ve worn them about nine times now. I wouldn’t say they feel like sneakers, nor would I want them to, but they are certainly a very comfortable pair of dress shoes. If I was breaking in a pair of stiff new shoes, or simply had sore feet, these would most definitely be my go to, on rotation. A major reason for the comfort lies in Bared’s Biochemical Footbed, which is designed by a podiatrist to support good foot health and help prevent common ailments such as heel pain or forefoot discomfort.
For my own ailment, that old foot injury, I was particularly interested in the metatarsal dome, described as “prevent[ing] forefoot discomfort by separating and offloading your metatarsal bones” (which you can see in the pics above). It certainly did offload some of the pressure around the affected area and notably slowed down the onset of discomfort – although I didn’t expect it to be, nor was it, a shot of morphine. But in saying that, Bared Footwear have nailed it in terms of comfort.
Trying to find a quality shoe under $300 can be tricky. So it’s good to see a shoe by an Australian company at this price point with a quality construction and an uncompromising approach to comfort and foot health. Simply put, good bang for buck.
Given the shoes' versatility in design and wearability, I'd expect the owner of these shoes to get good mileage of between three and five years and achieve a good ‘cost per wear’. The Tungsten would be a welcome addition to any gent looking for a versatile and stylish shoe, with the added value that your feet will be very well taken care of.