The W.C. Russell Moccasin Company

Russell Moccasin Thula Thula

Levi Dodd
June 2012


Today we have a special product review that I am very excited about.

Russell Moccasin makes completely custom (and 100% by hand) shoes and boots to Your exact measurements - you measure your foot, heel, length, width, height, etc, send them in, and they build You your own perfect pair.

When I was first contacted about Russell Moccasins I admit that I was unfamiliar with the brand. As I began to look into Russell, I knew there was no way I could pass on this review!
Russell Moccasin is the company you can't help but love and cheer for. Russell Moccasin has been in business in Wisconsin for over 108 years and today the boots are made in the very same little building that the company started in. As if that isn't enough, what truly sets this family owned and operated business apart from the rest is their attention to detail and zealous commitment to quality in their completely custom built shoes.
That's right, not only does Russell custom fit its boots and shoes, they actually hand last and hand sew every pair... and you can tell.

My favorite quote, and a great synopsis from Russell Moccasin is this:

"Russell has never grown into a large multinational marketer of theme-type footwear...we prefer to remain small and turn out the finest handmade product possible for our unique group of outdoorsmen and women...those who recognize the quality of a handmade product. If we were larger in size and scope, we simply could not do the kinds of things we do. In order to respond to specialized demands, we must maintain a close knit group of highly skilled craftsmen. Mass production techniques are simply not possible."

Those skilled craftsmen hone their skill day in and day out and remain loyal to the family owned business.

It's no wonder that their client list includes such people as Robert Redford, George W. Bush, Tucker Goodrich, Gayne Young, Larry Weishuhn, Mike Cassidy, Mike Rogers, and just about every big game hunter you see on TV. Plus they've been featured in countless magazines ranging from Bow Hunting World and Field and Stream to S.W.A.T.

Forgive my doting - I really was just blown away with this company; Ralph (the president) and his people are truly top notch.

On to the boots:

First impressions were great and the boots look good. I am a minimalist shoe and barefoot runner and let’s be honest… the good shoes typically ARE going to get you all kinds of attention, but the not the attention a fashion minded individual may want…
These boots look superb and the attention to detail and fine craftsmanship is undeniable. Furthermore, these are truly minimalist boots that not only meet all of my minimalist requirements, but are also the toughest and best boots you will ever have the privilege of lacing up!

The boots I received from Russell Moccasin were in their new line of MINIMALIST shoes and boots (including 4" boots, 7" boots, and dress and casual oxfords). This particular model is the Thula Thula in 7" height and all leather. They are truly a hand stitched work of art. The boots are made with top of the line Ski Grain and waterproof WeatherTuff leather with a tough 10oz bullhide molded wrap around the outer sole. These boots midsole is only 1/16th" thick and the boots sport the tried and true ultra thin Vibram Newporter sole. Of course, the boots (and all their minimalist shoes and boots) feature a 0 drop heel, which is absolutely essential.

Again, what immediately struck me about the boots was the evidence of fine, hand craftsmanship. Also, as any true master craftsman will tell you, all the skill in the world is largely lost without also utilizing the best materials - Russell Moccasins certainly adheres to that.
The leather is the finest quality I've ever seen on a boot. Thick, tough, 100% waterproof (I took a several mile stalk hike up a creek, never leaving the water, and my boots never leaked a drop), all while being as soft and supple as the finest handbag.

The boots have virtually no break-in period at all. Well, let me qualify that: the first time you put the boots on they feel as if they are completely broken in, soft, and perfectly fitted to your foot. However, the more you wear them, the softer and better they become yet.

These boots are perfectly suited for hiking (or even running!), hunting, stalking, or even sitting below a pair of designer jeans while you conquer the concrete jungle. My only problem now is that I was joking with my wife that as summer is upon us I'm continuing to wear jeans just so I can keep wearing these boots!

• The sole is Vibram, very thin, slip and oil resistant. It's flat and does not take any mud at all while still providing excellent traction.
• The leather is very nice, good looking, abrasion resistant, tough, waterproof, absolutely top of the line
• The bullhide mudguard around the edge (overlapping the sole to the leather upper) provides excellent protection against nicks, cuts, and scratches while also helping provide an added layer of protection from the elements (in water proofing).
• The tongue/collar is gusseted for water proofing and is so soft you won't believe it
• Speed lacing hooks provide stability and varied level of tension
• The 1/16" midsole provides good ground feel and superb flexibility while offering just the right amount of 'rock plate' protection and the sole is extremely flexible - just what you would want and expect in a minimalist shoe of any kind. The boot will roll up toe to heel and will also roll and torque side to side. There are no stiff points, no stability webs or the like (perfect)
• There is, of course, no heel-to-toe drop (zero drop). This is only the second ‘boot’ that I’m aware of that offers a zero drop (and the only one of this quality)
• The boots are very light weight, weighing in at only 1.5 pound! For reference, my Vasque Sundowners weigh in at just under 3 ½ pounds (so the pair weights almost 1/2 pound less than a single standard hiking boot).
• One of the most important features of this boot to me is the fact that they are waterproof – and they really are, completely! There are so many times where I require a waterproof platform but can’t stand my traditional (heavy, stabilized, and substantial heel drop) boots and these offer me a completely waterproof platform to fit my needs.

Final Thoughts:

I love minimalist shoes. That’s all I use, no… really. At work, while running, dress shoes, hiking, working out, around the house, mowing the lawn, every shoe I wear is a zero drop minimalist shoe. That being said, I love to hike, I love to hunt, and I love to camp and there are times where I really miss my boots! There are times where solid leather, a hi-top, and (most importantly for me) waterproof become extremely important. I’ve long waited for a company to come out with true minimalist boot to fill this void and I am pleased to say that Russell Moccasin has done just that. I am thrilled at their marriage of “minimalism” and “boot” and will thoroughly enjoy these new Thula Thulas.

Many thanks to Ralph and all the crew and please don't hesitate to give them a call.

Tucker Goodrich, The Man Who Inspired Russell To Design Minimalist Footwear

“Ralph had some ideas about what would be ideal for a barefoot experience, and made up the shoe I'm writing about.

“I called Russell with a bunch of ideas about making a minimalist shoe, but not a lot of practical experience in shoemaking. Fortunately for me, Russell has plenty, and I’ll take full credit for realizing that I should stop talking and let Russell make me some shoes. I learned more about this whole minimalist shoe movement from a short conversation with Ralph Fabricius than from almost anyone else. I figured I would need to make a sales pitch to convince Russell to make these shoes for me, but Ralph got the whole concept before I’d finished explaining it.

“The two prototype minimalist shoes Russell made for me, a low shoe and a boot, have become two of my favorite shoes. I’m wearing one pair as I type this. The boots (which, among other things, I use for running in cold, snowy conditions) perfectly match what I’d hoped for. I’m sorry to say I can’t think of a bad thing to say about them. If you’re looking for a shoe that will fit comfortably and allow your foot to work the way it was designed to, you couldn’t do better, IMHO, and I’ve tried a lot of the alternatives. Plus there’s something very cool about a shoe I can wear running up the side of a mountain in VT in the snow, and then wear to the office the next day. They’re wonderful.”

Mike Rogers, Host and Field Producer, SCI Expedition Safari TV Show

“The Thula Thula is THE answer for getting close to dangerous game. They are the ultimate in comfort and offer the perfect blend of of form and function...they are the most comfortable footwear I have ever worn. The Thula Thula provides a feeling of absolute connection with the ground. When Russell developed this new style boot they went to great length to make my feel feel unresticted.”

Michael Cassidy, Senior Director of Sales, ESPN Outdoors

"I wanted to say just how pleased I am with my Thula Thula PH boots and my Minimalist shoes! I’ve gone on many of fishing and hunting excursions all around the globe and have tried many types of footwear on these trips but none provided me with the support AND comfort that your shoes have. Thank you from the bottom of my soles for such great products!"

Diana Rupp, Editor In Chief, Sports Afield (has optional Vibram Grip Rock Sole)

"Many companies might rest on their laurels after creating such an ideal stalking boot, but Russell has gone ahead and created an even better one. My new pair of Thula Thulas does what my old Safari PHs do but in spades. Each boot is a full half-pound lighter, weighing in at just shy of a pound each, as light as my running shoes. They are as comfortable as slippers, built in a moccasin style that cradles the feet in leather but keeps them free of extraneous lift and padding...nothing extra anywhere, not even in the heel. But it's the soles of these boots that really set them apart. When I first saw the thin, flat sole of rubber, with no visible tread, I was skeptical. They looked, slippery.

"I laced them up and headed out to a wilderness park near where I live in southern California and hiked off-trail at the first opportunity. Right away I was impressed. Not only were these boots even quieter than the PH’s which wasn’t surprising considering the sole design but they weren’t slippery. In fact, the soles have a stickiness to them, similar to rock-climbing shoes. I was able to hop boulders and dry logs with ease, and the boots were nearly noiseless on the gravel-strewn ground. I was concerned that the minimalist construction might not be supportive enough when I hiked briskly back down the hard-packed, rocky trail on the way home but I got involved in the scenery and forgot all about my feet, which is one of the best things you can say for a boot. Unlike most of the boots I own, the Thula Thulas have plenty of room in them for my toes to move and spread out, which helps me walk more naturally and adjust for the ground as if barefoot. Yet, as I discovered on the hike down the trail, my ankles were held firmly in place, so my toes never slide forward or contacted the front of the boot."

Up-North Outdoors
This site was created by: Up North Outdoors Inc. Copyright®
Interested in:
Advertising with