I’ve been dying for a pair of Stuart Weitzman Lowlands for years now, but an $800 price tag is not easy to swallow (or even reasonable to consider if you ask my husband). I did take the dive and order them once before, only to find, much to my disappointment, that they were too baggy around the ankles and had a horrible habit of falling down. I didn’t think my legs were that chicken like, but apparently they are. When I saw that Unisa came out with an (extremely) knocked off version of the Lowlands, I jumped at the chance to try them out (They also have a very similar version of the 5050 called Gillean). At $70 a pair the Carena is less than a 10th the cost of the Lowland, so buying is kind of a no brainer–if they measured up.
First Impressions: The first time I tried on the Carenas I knew right off the bat that I would have the same problem I did with the Lowlands. Luckily the boots fit fantastic at my ankles, but there was just no way they would stay up on my thighs. I’m not even sure the tie at the back is functionally realistic. However, with age comes wisdom.. or something like that.. and over the months I’ve realized that my problem could be solved with socks. So I wore my favorite pair of thigh highs from Target, shimmied the boots on and walked around my house for an hour. The boots only fell down a little, mostly due to my knees bending while sitting or walking. Sock solution success!
The overall quality of the boots is decent. The fabric is soft, more faux microsuede than actual faux suede, and thin. This is good and bad. It makes layering over jeans and socks very easy and comfortable, but won’t do much to keep you warm. There’s no cushioning in the inner sole, so I can see these potentially being hard on the feet, but they’re roomy enough to stick in insoles comfortably. The outer soles have a nice grip and don’t look horribly cheap. They also look and photograph fantastically. I felt quite happy taking them home and even considered getting them in all three colors.
Unisa Careana in Navy
But I couldn’t help but wonder if my sock success could be applied to the Lowlands.. and I also figured it be a great opportunity to compare the two in person.
Comparison: I will say that it is incredibly unfair to compare $800 boots to $70 boots. The difference in quality is so noticeable that I had to take time away from the Lowlands to reevaluate my feelings towards the Careanas. I really don’t recommend doing this, ever.
I’m wearing a size 5.5 in both the Lowlands and the Careanas. While layering socks under the Lowlands made the ankles less baggy, the Careanas still fit better in that area. The fabric and lining of the Lowlands is much thicker, and as you can see from the photo above, there’s an actual shape to the shaft. I felt like this made my legs look leaner. The Lowlands also have a slimmer toe box and is almond shape vs round. Thats probably my biggest pain point with the Careanas. A rounded toe just looks less elegant than an almond one.
I also liked how the fabric extended to the top edge of the outer sole in the Lowlands. Its little details like that that make items look more expensive. Because the Careana uses a faux micro suede instead of just faux suede the seaming is lot more obvious as well, but only up close in person. In photographs or within normal social interaction distance, I don’t think you can tell.
Both are horrible without a sock layered underneath, but in different areas. The Lowlands fit much better on my thighs, but bag around the ankles. The Careana bags around the knees and thighs, but fit almost perfectly around the ankles. Neither will stay up while walking without socks.
I prefer the questionable tie on the back in the Careanas than the Lowlands. The tie in the Careanas is the same faux micro suede where as the Lowlands is a stiff leather. The ties tend to not stay tied in the leather and also stick out awkwardly.
In the end, I do prefer the Lowlands over the Careanas just based off of overall feel and looks. However, when I showed the mister both boots on (Careana on one leg, Lowland on the other) he thought the Careana was the $800 boot. I questioned whether he needed to see an eye doctor after that, but he justified his response by saying that the Careana looked more expensive because they fit better. Despite wearing the Lowlands with jeans and socks, he still saw the bagginess in the ankles.
Further proof that a perfect fit is more important than anything else.
I am currently keeping the Careanas in Navy. I do like the boots a lot, wishful affair with Lowlands aside. It also helps that the Navy color is on clearance 30% off in-store and I was able to stack the extra 25% off promo from a week ago on top. At some point I plan on picking up the black ones, but decided to return the gray for the time being. Height wise, they are the same as my Vince Camuto Baldwin boots. The same is true in the Lowlands, so if I ever do decide to go down that route again, I’ll be prioritize another color first. I do think the shades of gray are different enough (both the Careana and Lowland have more blue) that you could justify having both, but its obviously not a must have.
Now if only Unisa would come out with a version of the All Legs Boot, I’d be pretty darn happy. 😉