Grant Stone: Premium Quality Men’s Shoes At An Incredibly Fair Price

by   |  in Smart Casual

You may be curious about Grant Stone but have never tried the brand before. So you’re here because you’re wondering if it’s worth it to invest in a classic staple shoe from their lineup, or if you should stick with a more mainstream brand.

I wore Grant Stone’s Traveler Penny Loafer for a few weeks before writing this article, so I could give you a firsthand account of my experiences, and frankly, if it’s worth it or not.

I’m going to break down everything you need to know, from the break-in period, to the material, style, to its pros and cons. (Most of these observations extend to all their models, in case you’re interested in another Grant Stone shoe.)

By the end of this, you’ll know if it’s the right shoe for you!

“Buy Nice, Or Buy Twice”: Especially True With Shoes

When it comes to classic leather shoes, they’re one of those closet staples always worth investing in. The better a shoe is designed and built, the more mileage you’ll get out of it. So from a purely cost-per-wear perspective, spending more (within your overall budget) is worth it.

And don’t you want to LOVE wearing the shoes you spend money on? When you spend a bit more for something you truly want, instead of settling for a subpar pair just because it’s more affordable, you have an incredible experience with each wear. And that’s something you can’t assign a monetary value to.

OK, so if you’re convinced to buy nice so you don’t have to buy twice, the next question is: How much should you actually invest?

That’s where Grant Stone comes in.

The Bottom Line

Grant Stone sits in a unique place in the market. It’s far above fast fashion prices, and (more importantly) even incomparably further above in quality. Yet, it’s more affordable than its counterparts from most designer and heritage brands.

They employ clever manufacturing know-how to serve up a Goodyear-welted, premium suede shoe that’s sturdy, with a slightly off-template look that few will notice. It’s classic, but distinct.

Read on to see how they manage to do this, and to get my hands-on insight!

About the Brand: Cost-cuts Minus the Shortcuts 

Grant Stone offers premium-built shoes and boots in timeless styles (think loafers, oxfords, chukkas, chelseas, etc.) They’ve narrowed that gap between cost and quality, building Goodyear-welted, full-grain leather footwear in these time-honored silhouettes.

Randy Gilmore and his son, Wyatt, founded Grant Stone in 2016. Previously, Randy started an orthopedic shoe business in the ‘70s and sold shoes for almost two decades before manufacturing his own Goodyear-welted shoes in China.

Here’s the thing: Most affordable and mid-level brands use Chinese manufacturing solely to keep costs low (and margins high).

But Grant Stone’s not taking shortcuts, which inevitably sacrifices quality, just to cut costs. Their approach to Chinese manufacturing is different. It’s thoughtful and intentional, and one of the main reasons they’re able to create premium-quality shoes at this price point. Wyatt even spent eight years in Xiamen learning all about the factory, their craft, and their approach to building high quality footwear.

closeup of brown suede loafers and navy pants on sidewalk

With Randy Gilmore’s storied experience in China’s shoemaking industry, plus the decades-long relationship he’s nurtured with his Xiamen factory—the same factory making their shoes today!—Grant Stone is able to create a high-quality, Goodyear welted shoe that can go toe to toe (pun intended) with high-end brands, but without charging as much as the others do.

In fact, all Grant Stone shoes and boots are Goodyear welted, and they source full-grain leather from boutiques worldwide (yes, including the famous Horween Leather Co). The original team of three still hand-picks and self-inspects every pair of shoes in the warehouse before sending it off.

First Impressions: All About the Details

I ordered the Grant Stone Traveler Penny Loafer in bourbon suede.

Grant Stone’s packaging game is on-point. Yes, this makes unboxing a satisfying experience, but it also protects the shoes during shipping. Individual branded drawstring dust bags envelope each shoe, each with a stylish wooden bead tightener to keep the bag closed.

grant stone shoebox with shoe bags and brown suede loafers

First Impressions In Hand and On Feet

Immediately, the shoe looked and felt very well-built. The suede smelled of subtle but solid tobacco, felt buttery, not overly napped, but still lightened ever-so-slightly when I ran my finger across the surface. 

When you hold the shoes in your hand or knock on the bottom of the outsole, it showcases both weight and substance (which made me worry that the break-in process might not be particularly forgiving—more on that later!)

Out of the box, I liked the style just fine. I thought the bourbon shade was beautiful, vivid but not too dark. The stacked heel looks undeniably sophisticated. Once I got them on my feet though, I realized I loved how they look. 

I think that since they take small liberties with a classic design, it made me wonder if something was off when I was just looking at it.

The saddle dips past the collar, the lip doesn’t stick up at all, and the top foot piece doesn’t have a hard-angled stitch where it meets the sides (no “beefroll” either).

The sides instead sweep up before they connect to the top, so that you can see them from a bird’s-eye view, which is how most people will see them.

When I was wearing them, this very combination of features amounted to a cleaner, sleeker look that’s a touch more subtle. I’ll soon learn that they go with all of my non-sweat pants.

The weight of them on my feet was considerable, and the pre-broken insole was pretty stiff. I actually like this, since it makes the shoe feel solid and high-end. It always feels too flimsy when a dress shoe sole is too flexible right out of the box.

In fact, I actually prefer when a dress shoe maintains this hardness to some extent even after the break-in period. It makes me stand a little taller.

Construction: Sturdy Materials and Composition

For the Traveler loafer, Grant Stone sourced suede from Charles F. Stead & Co, in Leeds, England. They’re an award-winning tannery, and it certainly shows, as I mentioned earlier.

It’s a Repello leather which is calfskin, processed to up its water resistance, while also highlighting the richness and softness.

The kip lining is leather instead of fabric, which adds tons of value. The fact it’s actually full-grain leather not only levels up that value, since it’ll last longer and conform to your foot, but it’s a testament to the fact Grant Stone doesn’t take shortcuts.

According to the product description, there’s a steel shank in there, which is obvious from the get-go because of its weight and stability. Another notable feature is the cork filler above the shank, which offers far more security than foam does.

Finally, the leather outsole is butyl-dipped for flexibility and water resistance, and the dovetail and brass nails at the bottom of the heel are nice touches that further prove how no stone was left unturned when designing this shoe.

Beyond first impressions, the Traveler penny loafer boasts a brawny build and durable materials.

Break-in

I mentioned that I thought the break-in would be long and painful. It actually wasn’t. 

For me, however, this shoe had that latent break-in pressure that some work boots have. The first time I wore it, it was comfortable enough that I took it to work, purposefully on a day I knew I’d be running around a lot. I was shocked to see my feet were perfectly comfortable during and after the day’s errands.

It wasn’t only a few days later that I started to feel some hotspots. I felt pressure on the balls of my feet, which would sometimes shoot over to smaller balls below my pinkie toes. There was also some rubbing on the tallest part of my foot, where the shoe’s saddle sits.

Fortunately, despite how snug the collar is, there wasn’t any rubbing on my back ankle, which I think is a unique issue with slip-ons.

It took me about four days of walking around the house, my neighborhood, and the office before I broke them in… or at least until I got used to them. Not too shabby.

If you look inside the shoe, the smooth heel cup is long enough that it covers half of your arch. They do this to help cut down on heel slip. I believe it’s the reason why the break-in was so moderate.

Comfort and Fit

I ordered a size 7.5, since I’m an 8 in sneakers. Grant Stone recommends going a half-size down from your Brannock, and boy were they right.

These had that perfect fit I love in a slip-on dress shoe, which is snug but not tight. I hate when your back heel slips out almost completely as you’re walking—none of that with these loafers.

After some research, I also found out that leather heel counters are used in the Traveler. Clearly, Grant Stone designed this shoe for utmost stability. Since these counters are full-grain, they’ll also mold to your feet, along with the cork.

Once broken in, I was able to walk all over town in these shoes, up and down escalators, and on my office building’s hard concrete floors. 

During hot summer days, I’d walk to work in these loafers without any socks on. Then, since my building is always overly air conditioned in the summer, I’d partner them with socks.

The shoes were a bit difficult to put on when I was sporting a pair of mid-weight socks, but they never felt too tight while I was wearing them.

I have a moderate arch, but I’ve heard that it’s even more comfortable for people with flatter feet.

Maintenance

We saw a video of Peter Zottolo (@urbancomposition on Instagram) fully high-pressure hosing his Grant Stone loafers to break them in. Supposedly that’s the best way to break them in (“Don’t baby your suede!”, he says in the caption).

Now, I didn’t have it in me to do that, but I did get caught out in some moderate rain for a good 20 minutes, with an umbrella, while I was wearing my loafers. They survived and didn’t show any signs of wear.

I spilled a small, shallow spot of red wine on the side at one point. Some baking soda and a soft brush got it right out, though the stain must have spent no more than 30 seconds on the suede upper before I went into damage control.

With bigger stains or scuff or markings that have been there for a long time, I’d likely take it to a professional cleaner.

Style: My Most Versatile Shoe

I can confirm that the Traveler Penny Loafers are excellent for traveling, particularly if you’re going for a lean packing approach.

This is because you can wear them with tapered jeans and a button-up shirt, or shorts and a T-shirt, in addition to professional outfits. I packed these as my only shoes on three trips: One casual holiday, one business trip, and one meticulously-scheduled family visit.

Not only do these loafers suit a wide range of situations in the casual-formal spectrum, but they’re year-rounders too. They pair well with summery combinations if you go sockless, and formal winter outfits when you pair them with black socks.

Since their shape is so neutral (not too rounded, not too aerodynamic), you can also wear these shoes with literally any color chinos.

I wore the Travelers on two potentially controversial occasions. Style risks should be extra calculated so I don’t necessarily recommend this for everyone. However, I’m going to tell you about them because they’re testaments to just how far you can push their versatility.

First, I sported them during a beach party, with seersucker shorts and a button-down. Visually, they surprisingly looked perfectly appropriate on the beach.

I stayed mostly on the boardwalk, removing my shoes and going barefoot anytime I walked through sand.

Second, I wore them with a dark navy tuxedo to the opera. Slip-ons with formalwear is a pretty current combo, but I wouldn’t have done this if the tuxedo was a true black. Still, with dark dress socks, they blended in okay.

A Few Pros and Cons of the Grant Stone Traveler Penny Loafer

Pros

  • A truly versatile design, classic but distinct, that can be worn in casual settings, professional settings, and everything in between.
  • Each shoe is Goodyear-welted, ensuring sturdiness (along with the steel shank and leather kip), durability, and a long life.
  • Grant Stone is selective with their material sourcing, and the Repello suede on my loafers are buttery, beautifully colored, and so far, pretty durable.
  • The break-in was straight-forward and predictable, and the shoes maintained their solid build and feel even after the process.
  • Grant Stone’s customer service is attentive and knowledgeable. I was asked what my sneaker size was (8), and the associate immediately knew to order me a 7.5, long before my research told me to have done so. If you have any doubts or questions, you’d do well to simply reach out using their contact form.

Cons

  • Though the shoe fits comfortably especially after a few wears, the fitted collar makes it a bit difficult to put on when wearing midweight socks.
  • The substantial, solid leather sole is quite loud on hardwood floors (this may be a con to some).

FAQs about Grant Stone

Is Grant Stone high quality?

Especially when it comes to craftsmanship, yes, Grant Stone shoes are high-quality. They source beautiful leather and their shoes are traditionally handcrafted and Goodyear-welted by shoemakers in Xiamen, China, with which the cofounder has a decades-long relationship. They even design their own lasts.

What size of Grant Stone shoes should I order?

Most Grant Stone shoes run a half size larger than your sneaker size. If you have any questions about sizing nuances (maybe you wear two shoe sizes per foot, etc), their customer service is a good resource, especially when it comes to sizing.

Where can I buy Grant Stone shoes?

You can get these direct-to-consumer shoes straight from their website. They’re HQ and warehouse is located in Southeast Michigan, making shipping in the US super easy, but they aren’t available at retail shops.

Final Thoughts About Grant Stone and Their Traveler Penny Loafer

As we’ve been conditioned in recent years, the fact that these were manufactured in China made me hesitant at first. Their promise of a quality, handcrafted, Goodyear-welt shoe drew me back.

Once you learn about the brand and actually handle the products, it’s clear that Grant Stone works smart where they can, and hard where they should.

The Traveler Penny Loafer is fairly priced, stylish and classic, and incredibly adaptable. It certainly makes me curious about their other models.

Considering how sturdy this loafer is, I’d likely look into their boots next, since that’s a market flooded with poorly cobbled-together fashion pieces.

Was this helpful? What Grant Stone models are you curious about?

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While this review is NOT sponsored, a sample product was provided to EG free of charge. We were not obligated to review it on the site, let alone leave a positive review, in exchange for a sample. Our opinions are honest and based off actual experiences with the product. We may be using affiliate links. If you purchase using our links, we do earn a small percentage (at no extra cost to you). Your purchase helps support Effortless Gent, so thank you 🙂