The best litmus test for a pair of good shoes is a day spent on your feet. Poorly built shoes will leave your feet aching, freshly laden with hots spots and blisters and sore arches that throb for hours. A good pair provides arch support, cushioning, stability and comfort, so after a day of use, your feet don’t feel like they’ve been beaten up. On a recent trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, I decided to put a pair of handmade shoes from Massachusetts to the test while exploring the state’s eponymous capital city, known for mole, mezcal and some trying walking surfaces.
In Oaxaca, sun-bleached sidewalks collide in random with cobbled roads and small drainage channels. Vendors selling aguas frescas and roasted ears of corn set up shop in the shadows of buildings while stray dogs weave through stagnant traffic. Dodging moped drivers on the way to breakfast, I noticed how the brand new Speed Shu from Victory Sportswear fit like a custom product, providing support through the instep while retaining flexibility in the toe box. The minimally branded shoes feature a hand-lasted upper made of premium suede, and a Soletech EVA bottom that can be resoled after the pavement chews through.
Dodging moped drivers on the way to breakfast, I noticed how the brand new Speed Shu from Victory Sportswear fit like a custom product, providing support through the instep while retaining flexibility in the toe box.
Victory Sportswear’s shoes, which have recently gained steam by way of Steven Alan and Nepenthes collaborations, have a strong cult following in the menswear world. But the brand’s sturdy roots are set in a different era of shoe manufacturing: the 1980s. Bart Hersey started the Hersey Custom Shoe Company in a retrofitted barn in Maine in 1982. He combined expertise from years in the manufacturing sector of the footwear industry with time-tested lasting techniques — fully board, slip, or combination — to produce individually made running shoes. By 1985, the Hersey DPS was ranked as the top running shoe in the world by Runner’s World Magazine. The completely custom shoes featured double-reverse flare foxing, a hand-lasting technique that adds strength and stability to the shoe while reducing changes of pronation or supination, and they caught on with everyone from weekend joggers to ultramarathoners.
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Twenty-five years later, Stephen Keoseian — a third-generation shoe repairman from Fitchburg, Massachusetts — purchased the company after apprenticing under Hersey. Keoseian wanted to expose his shoes to a wider audience, but didn’t want to alienate Hersey’s loyal customers, so he started Victory Sportswear, offering the same individual construction, while leaving the customizable options to the Hersey label. Victory sneakers are available in a range of models (and collaborations) ranging from $250 to $300, and can be resoled by Hersey for $80 (on average, customers can resole their shoes four times).
After long days on quiet streets and bustling markets in Oaxaca, my feet felt neither fatigued nor sore. On top of that, the classic styling of the Speed Shu effortlessly integrated into my warm-weather outfits, transitioning between street-taco consumption and the more refined atmosphere of the city’s hip mezcalerias. In either setting, the sneaks weren’t out of place. Turns out Victory Sportswear offers a good-looking, great-feeling athletic shoe with an outstanding track record to boot, and it’s a shoe that’ll be ready for many city traverses (and replaceable soles) to come.