Note: Select your US size. Please be advised, the product and box will display UK, US and Euro sizing. For US sizing, both men's and women's sizing is displayed. Men's sizing is represented by M and women's sizing is represented by F. Bring a splash of color to your look with the refined Hunter Original Play Boot Short Rain Boots. This product is certified vegan and is constructed with no animal parts for materials or bindings. Vulcanized natural rubber construction with matte finish. Fully waterproof. Pull-on construction. Classic, rounded toe. Signature brand logo accent at front. Polyester lining. Cushioned, non-removable footbed with multilayered sponge insole. Traditional calendared natural rubber outsole. Imported. Measurements: Heel Height: 1 1 2 in Weight: 1 lb 7 oz Shaft: 6 in Product measurements were taken using size 9, width M. Please note that measurements may vary by size. Weight of footwear is based on a single item, not a pair.
We’re currently testing boots by Sperry, UGG, Crocs, and Merry People. So far, we think some of these options may be comparable, but not better than, any of our current top picks.
February 18, 2021
Unlined, unpretentious, and fully waterproof—few pieces of footwear reward joyful, mud-stomping impulses as much as a pair of great rain boots.
Over the past three years we’ve tested 31 styles and researched hundreds of rain boots, trudging in them through miles of mud, puddles, slush, leaves, slippery rocks, and melting snow. Whether you’re walking city sidewalks, wading through runoff, or just trying to stay upright on slippery subway tile, we have recommendations for standout designs that have withstood years of testing and abuse from the Wirecutter team.
Who should get rain boots
A pair of fully waterproof shoes can be liberating. They let you move through the world unhindered, without any consideration for the mess around your feet.
Although they’re particularly useful if you live where wet weather is common, rain boots are practical for all types of places, almost regardless of how much annual rainfall there is. They remain useful long after the drops stop falling, such as when you have mud in place of dirt, slush instead of snow, standing puddles, or slick subway platforms.
And a rain boot can be useful if you don’t wear shoes in your house, because they’re easy to get on and off.
Rain boots are generally branded as either men's or women's, and we've kept this naming scheme to make it easier for people to find styles that match what they want to wear. But there's no inherent difference between boots labeled as "women's" or "men's," and as long as the boot fits, any boot will work for anyone.
Our pick: Xtratuf Ankle Deck Boot
Who this is for: People who want just one pair of highly versatile outdoor shoes that are easy to slip on and off. These boots function foremost as rain boots, but they also make for a comfortable pair of three-season outdoor shoes that can manage outdoor walks, grip slippery metal like grates and train tracks, and remain easy to drive in.
Why it’s great: The Xtratuf Ankle Deck Boot (in men's and women's sizes) is designed for staying upright on a wet fishing boat, but despite its utilitarian origins, it looks good enough for city wear. This boot has a versatile and comfortable shape as functional as the workwear it’s descended from, and it’s styled sort of like a Chuck Taylor.
Rubber doesn’t conform to a foot like leather does, so ankle-high, wide-mouthed, and round-toed rubber boots are among the most functional styles. They make walking and driving easy because they don’t restrict calf movement. The wider foot opening makes the boot easy to slip on and off, and that’s what rain boots are all about: a quick transition between indoor and outdoor worlds. This design even has a kick tab—a tiny nub of rubber at the back of the shoe that lets you easily, yep, kick off your shoes when you come inside. Finally, the rounded toe is important; it’s the reason why these Xtratufs are more comfortable to walk in for extended periods than other boots. A narrow, tapered, inflexible toe box rubs against your toes.
Photo: Rozette Rago
The kick tab makes it easier to take your boots off quickly. Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald
The Xtratuf Ankle Deck Boot’s soles are super grippy and should keep you upright in all situations. Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald
In our traction tests Xtratuf boots always outperform other models—and they should, as the flat-footed, soft rubber sole is built to cling to waterlogged boat decks. The tread on these boots is shallower than the tread on the Xtratuf Legacy boots, our previous pick. That’s an advantage for anyone not using them to fish crab out of the northern Pacific, because tiny gravel and rocks won’t get stuck in the Ankle Deck Boot's tread (a small issue we found with the Legacy model).
The Xtratuf Ankle Deck Boot is our recommendation for wet-weather bike commuting, too. In our tests these boots clung to slippery platform pedals better than anything we tried, though they had some unwanted movement since rain boots don’t hug the foot very well. That perfect combination of flexible, waterproof, and not-horrible-looking bike footwear remains elusive.
After more than three years of use, these have confirmed themselves as the absolute best rain boot out there. Everybody comments on them, everyone wonders where I got them, I’ve even had a woman get off her bike in spin class and point to them, tossed in a pile with my workout bag, and ask me what they were and where I got them.
They have quiver-killed a number of other shoes I own, including almost every bad-weather shoe that had laces. I use them in spring for mud, summer for wet, and fall and early winter for snow, switching only to my winter boots when the snow starts piling up.
The slip on and off feature has been its biggest asset. These are what I wear for almost every single chore, walk, or errand I do.
Although these boots come in men’s and women’s sizes, the fit and shape are similar. I typically wear a women’s size 9, but I wear a men’s size 8 in the navy/red color of this shoe and have no problems with fit.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: One of the few downsides of the Xtratuf Ankle Deck Boot is that the styling is very casual. We do have a pick for women, the Madewell Chelsea, that looks less like a tennis shoe and more like a plain black boot. There aren’t many plain, rubberized Chelseas for men, so if you’d like something more basic, you may be happier shopping for a lined boot or a waterproof leather shoe.
Men’s sizes: 7 to 14
Men’s colors: navy/red, chocolate/tan, gray/yellow, black, yeti white, Pontus blue
Women’s sizes: 7 to 11
Women’s colors: navy/pink, seafoam, light blue/fish print, purple/jellyfish print, navy/whale print, yeti white, Pontus blue
Best calf-height boots (under $100): Kamik Lars and Joules Kelly
Who this is for: People who deal with a lot of wet weather and rain, and would like better protection from deep puddles and splashes.
Why it’s great: Finding a calf-height rubber boot for under $100 is hard. Most boots in this range are lower-quality PVC, which is less flexible and less durable than rubber. That’s one of the reasons we like the Kamik Lars and Joules Kelly boots—both offer a higher quality of construction than other boots we tested in the same price range. And although it may sound simple, you can walk comfortably in these boots, which often isn't the case for tall, rigid footwear.
If you’re concerned about getting a boot that will last, choose one made of rubber. Lower-quality boots are often made of PVC, a type of vinyl. Just like the vinyl siding on a house, PVC can deteriorate in outdoor conditions—crack, warp, even feel plasticky on your foot (although it’s cheaper, and sometimes lighter, than rubber).
Since rain boots are unlined, many of them have thin, strictly functional insoles. But both the Kamik Lars and the Joules Kelly earned some of the highest comfort ratings from our testers. The insoles had a bit more squish than those of the average boot, and the Kelly in particular hugged the ankle in exactly the right way, making it comfortable and wearable, without rubbing. Not all rain boots fit as snugly around the foot as these two styles.
The Lars and Kelly are also more ergonomic than most tall boots, which can thwap-thwap-thwap against the back of your calf if not shaped properly. Rain boots can also be hard to drive in because your ankle needs to flex. Both of these boots manage to stay out of the way while you’re walking, and they also have enough give at the ankle that you could drive in them. Senior staff writer Nick Guy has been using the Kamik Lars for six months, and says they’re “comfy and dry,” and that he “couldn't really ask for anything more!”
Flaws but not dealbreakers: On a high-end boot, such as a Hunter Shorty, the top of the shaft of the boot is fully finished to prevent the interior lining from detaching. But on both the Kamik Lars and the Joules Kelly, the top is unfinished, neither sealed nor sewn over; we were able to peel the lining from the interior just by picking at it. The lining may peel over time, but we don’t think this is unusual or compromising, just standard construction for something in this price range.
Both the Kamik Lars (shown here) and the Joules Kelly have an unfused top, which may separate over time. Photo: Rozette Rago
Both the Kamik Lars and the Joules Kelly (shown here) have an unfused top, which may separate over time. Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald
These boots are heavy, because rubber is heavy. One Kamik Lars boot (size 10) weighs 32 ounces, whereas one Joules Kelly (size 7) weighs 23 ounces. Many people don’t seem to mind, and in fact the heft lends a quality of sturdiness and surety in wet weather.
Rubber boots can also be more rigid than those with neoprene uppers—if you want maximum flexibility in the shaft, take a look at the Bogs boots.
One of the biggest requests we received from readers of our last guide was to find some cheaper calf-height options for men. We looked at some fieldwork styles such as the Baffin Enduro, but when men’s boots become less expensive they also tend to become more voluminous and wader-like. For an everyday calf-height boot, we believe the Kamik Lars and the Joules Kelly hit the sweet spot for price and quality in men's and women's styles, respectively.
Men’s sizes: 8 to 13
Men’s colors: black
Also available in an ankle-high version as the Kamik Lars Lo.
Women’s sizes: 5 to 10
Women’s colors: black, French navy, gloss black, gloss true black
Also available in more patterns as the Joules Molly and in an ankle-high version as the Joules Wellibob.
Best boots for mud: Bogs Classic High
Who this is for: People who spend a lot of time walking on dirt, whether gardening, traversing wet fields, or doing other outdoor activities in slippery, foot-sucking mud.
Why it’s great: The Bogs Classic High for men and the Bogs Classic High with Handles for women have been our favorite mud boots for several years in a row. The specialized tread sets mud boots apart, and these Bogs boots have a few other details that make them particularly effective.
The sole of a good mud boot should do two things: prevent debris from getting stuck in the bottom, and release your foot from the mud. You won’t see any narrow channels on the tread of the Bogs Classic; it can take hosing off and prevent detritus from getting stuck in the first place. And unlike rain boots that have flat, squared-off soles, a mud boot often has a rounded sole, which breaks surface tension and releases your foot from sticky stuff. It sounds like a tiny difference, but it works—in our tests we had several boots pull right off our feet while wading through mud, but not so with the Bogs.
The shaft of this boot is made of neoprene, which doesn’t have the rigidity issues of rubber, so it easily flexes while you’re walking and remains waterproof. The neoprene also makes this design a better fall work boot than our other picks: Neoprene is an insulating material, and the shaft and lining of this boot are a substantial 7 mm thick (for comparison, an average wetsuit is about 4 mm thick). It's rated to temperatures as low as -40 °F. We were not looking for insulated boots, so we didn’t compare many other cold-weather models; our favorite mud boot just happened to be insulated.
This boot fits closer to the foot than our other picks, which are wider around the foot to accommodate thick socks as well as to prevent rubbing. That’s why the handles on the shaft of the women's model are so ingenious: They make this snug-fitting boot easier to pull on and off. The Muck Boot Chore boot is designed in almost identical fashion but is missing those handles.
The men’s and women’s styles differ: The tread is slightly different on each, and whereas the women’s mud boot (what the company calls a farm boot on its site) comes with handles, the men’s version does not.
Bogs sells a men’s boot with handles, the Classic Ultra High, but the sole is different than on our pick—it's flattened out slightly, and the tread pattern is different, designed less for mud and more for keeping traction on solid surfaces. The difference in mud traction is minimal, and this version is still better for mud than our other picks, so if you really want a men's Bogs boot with handles the Classic Ultra High will still work.
You can find a lot of love for Bogs on the internet. The shorter version, the Classic Ultra Mid, is a GearLab favorite. The reviewer for Gear Junkie’s “Best Women’s Winter Boots” article vouches for them, stating, “I had one pair of boots while motorcycle camping across North America, and they were Bogs. I can attest to their long-term comfort and impressive durability.”
Flaws but not dealbreakers: One of the biggest conversations in the world of outdoor-gear design concerns the sustainability of neoprene. It requires petroleum to make, its production emits carbon dioxide, and it isn’t biodegradable. (Although plant-based materials have seen some advances, the solution hasn’t quite come into focus yet.)
If sustainability concerns you, the best advice we have to offer—after years of collective research on materials sustainability—is to wear your boots. Wear them for decades, beat them to death, keep them out of the landfill, and don’t replace them unless absolutely necessary. We take durability seriously when testing, exactly for this reason.
Men’s sizes: 7 to 21
Men’s colors: black, mossy oak camo
Women’s sizes: 6 to 12
Women’s colors: black, black shiny
Best lightweight boots: Crocs AllCast and Totes Cirrus
Who this is for: People who despise clunky footwear or who easily get fatigued in the ankles or knees from heavier shoes.
Why it’s great: Although rubber is durable, it can also be heavy. If your main concern is having something light on your foot, we recommend the Crocs AllCast men’s rain boot and the Totes Cirrus women’s Chelsea boot. Both are made of EVA foam, the same thing found in the soles of athletic shoes.
|Boot||Weight per boot (ounces)||Size|
|Xtratuf Ankle Deck Boot||17||Men’s 8|
|Bogs Classic High||38||Men’s 10|
|Crocs Men’s AllCast||17||Men’s 10|
|Totes Cirrus Women’s||7||Women’s 9|
EVA boots are lighter than those made of rubber or PVC: Although the men’s Crocs are the same overall weight as the Xtratuf boots, they’re also two sizes larger and designed with a much taller shaft.
This style of boot is uncommon, and you won’t find many that compare. We weighed all 31 pairs of boots we tested, and the next-lightest shoe in the hierarchy was our top pick, the Xtratuf Ankle Deck Boot.
The AllCast and Cirrus boots are also easy to get on and off, and we’ve had no problem with waterproofing after a year of testing. Both are user-friendly options for taking multiple trips out the door.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: We chose different men’s and women’s styles because of what our testers seemed to prefer, shape wise. Our male testers in general didn’t mind the large rounded toe box of the AllCast, but the women who looked at it said that it seemed a little “clown shoe.”
Similarly, while women liked the casual Chelsea style of the Totes Cirrus, several of our male testers didn’t care for it, however it is available in a men’s version.
The light weight is the main advantage of this type of footwear, but the trade-off is in durability. We haven’t had any issues yet, but this type of boot won’t enjoy the longevity of rubber construction. These foam boots also feel less substantial than rubber or PVC boots.
Senior editor Grant Clauser also cautions about sizing with the Crocs AllCast after using them for a while. He had issues with the ankle bend being tight, saying “The foot part fits fine, and is the same size I have in a separate pair of crocs, but the ankle is so tight I can barely get my heel through it. Forget thick socks.” So definitely try a pair on before going mucking in them, and don’t be afraid to size up.
They’re less expensive than our other picks, too, though not exactly cheap. And when they’re in your hand, that lack of weight creates a sort of dissonance between what you get and what you feel like you should get based on the price. They don’t feel like they should cost so much. If price is a major concern for you, the least expensive women's rain boots that feel like they have some substance are the Kamik Heidi. For men, the Kamik Ranger is a good option.
Men’s sizes: 7 to 13
Men’s colors: black
Women’s sizes: 5 to 11
Women’s colors: black, gray, navy, purple, loden (army green)
Best duck boots: L.L.Bean Bean Boots
Who this is for: People who are less concerned about slipping a shoe on and off quickly and more concerned about having a shoe that can take more intense abuse in a variety of wet and muddy conditions. These are also the de facto “stylish boot” for men.
Why it’s great: Duck boots are a style of outdoor footwear pioneered by L.L.Bean. They feature the rubber soles and lower half of a rain boot along with a leather upper that laces tight as on a traditional boot. Our favorite duck boot is the 8-inch unlined Bean Boot for men and women. L.L.Bean is quick to point out that its design is the original duck boot, but that’s not why it’s our pick. If you want a shoe styled like a duck boot, you can find dozens of options. If you want a boot that’s one of the most thoughtfully designed pieces of gear for being outdoors, this is the boot to choose.
Outdoor professionals often say that you should never carry anything with you that can’t perform at least two different tasks (ideally three). This shoe handles three things well: walking, dealing with mud, and tolerating wet weather. Our other picks can handle all that stuff in varying degrees but typically have a single condition they perform best in. This shoe was designed to handle all three of those problems equally and simultaneously.
The laced leather around the calf is responsible for a lot of that functionality. The leather lets your ankle move freely for walking (and driving), while the laces hug it close to your leg so you can pull your foot out of sucking mud without leaving your boot behind.
The bottom of the boot is cross-functional, too. It has a thicker heel than on most other boot types, so it will take longer to wear through, and the shallow, rounded tread is built for releasing debris; you can easily rinse it off, as well. And in the base of the shoe, these boots have a steel shank, a piece of metal that runs from the ball to the heel of the sole. This is a feature sometimes found in work boots, and it protects the foot from below and keeps the shoe from wearing out quickly.
The rubberized base of the boot shaft gives extra inches of waterproofing for walking through deep, curbside puddles, and the leather tongue is gusseted—attached on the inside of the boot on both sides—so the shoe remains waterproof for the entire height of the boot.
Style-wise, it’s difficult to design a duck boot that laces flat, but this one does. Something about how the separate rubber and leather pieces are sewn together often creates funny leather protrusions around the eyelets and causes the tongue to bunch up. Every other duck boot we looked at failed to master the flat lacing. Even when the problem was small, as on the Eddie Bauer Hunt Pac, once we saw it we couldn’t unsee it.
Using these over the course of half a year, I don’t use these as much as the Xtratufs because of the laces, but I have noticed I tend to wear these as part of an outfit. If I’m going to be out all day in the rain, I’ll wear these as my shoes. They fit well with my aesthetic so there’s that, but practically speaking they’ve been waterproof and comfortable. It’s another favorite pair of boots, even if they don’t get as much use as the Xtratuf slip-ons.
It’s hard to overstate the popularity of these shoes. The biggest publications in the world have pondered that exact phenomenon, and Popular Mechanics neatly sums it up in the title of its article, “The Never-Ending Greatness of L.L. Bean’s Boots.” The Atlantic does the same, explaining “Why L.L. Bean’s Boots Keep Selling Out.” Current fashion trends aside, anyone who owns a pair will likely tell you it’s because the boots last for decades, and because they’re happy to be able to support a company that still makes its boots in the USA (in Maine).
Flaws but not dealbreakers: The original Bean Boot is unlined, and we like that, since it keeps the shoe true to its nature as a multiseasonal, versatile piece of outdoor kit. You can decide what kind of weather you want to use it in and choose the thickness of your socks accordingly. But if that’s not your thing, many other styles are available: You can get the boot flannel lined, shearling lined, or Gore-Tex lined. You can get it padded around the ankle, or stuffed with Thinsulate for cold weather.
The leather upper on this boot requires some breaking in, and so do the laces, which are coated and slippery to start out. But they do break in eventually.
Also, when you lace the upper tightly, sometimes it can create a sensation of your foot floating around slightly in the rubber bottom part. So depending on variables such as how your foot fits and how thick your socks are, you may experience a small amount of movement inside the boot, but we haven’t found the effect to be a nuisance.
Men’s sizes: 7 to 14
Men’s widths: narrow B, medium D, wide EE
Men’s colors: tan/brown
Women’s sizes: 5 to 11
Women’s widths: narrow A, medium BB, wide D
Women’s colors: tan/brown, tan/navy
Best luxury boot: Hunter Original Short Rain Boots
Who is this for: People who want to wear something well-made and fashionable. Hunter got its start making footwear for the British army in World War I and World War II but is more known today as the creator of the de facto “stylish boot” for women.
Why it’s great: We think the men’s and women’s Hunter Original Short Rain Boots are the best choice for a high-end boot. Many readers have asked us if Hunters are worth the price, and we can confirm that the quality lines up with the higher premium. These boots are also more widely available than any other luxury option.
Everything about the design is thoughtful. First, it’s built entirely of rubber. To reduce some of the weight of that rubber, Hunter removes small chunks of it from the inside of the heel. The tread pattern doesn’t trap debris, and it channels water away like a wet-weather tire, making these boots some of the stickiest in our traction tests. These are the only boots we looked at that had a fully sealed and finished upper rim, enclosing the lining underneath, and after four years of hard use that lining hasn’t peeled.
Over that extended period of use, though they’re a bit scuffed I haven’t noticed any other significant wear. I haven’t even worn through the heel which seems miraculous considering how crooked I walk. When I lived in Guerneville, where it rained constantly, I wore these as part of my outfit (just like the duck boots) and they probably got more love than any other shoe I wore in the rainy season. They just strike that nice chord of practical and normal looking. I did notice however that I wore them much less once the Xtratufs came along, because I got tired of how heavy they were on my feet.
We looked into testing other heritage brands such as Aigle and Le Chameau, but the inventory changed rapidly during our research period. For this reason we decided to pass on testing them for now, because we didn’t want to recommend something that would be hard to find later. However, we’ve heard good things about both brands, and if we get the chance we’ll give them a look.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: Reviewers often mention that Hunters, specifically the tall boots, don’t fit their calves—and that’s why we’d choose the shorty version, which is short enough that this problem doesn’t crop up. The calf buckle is not functional, a surprise considering that every other feature has a design purpose.
Also, the insole is flat-footed and one of the least comfortable we tried, and these boots—especially the tall boots—can be on the heavy side. These are not the boots to buy if you prize ankle flexibility or comfort above style.
Men’s sizes: 7 to 13
Men’s colors: black, dark olive, dark slate, hunter green, navy
Women’s sizes: 5 to 11
Women’s colors: black matte, dark olive, gull grey, hunter green, military red, navy matte, ocean blue, silver, “Thundercloud 2” (lavender), “Yellow 1”
The best galoshes for men: Tingley Storm Stretch Overshoe
Who this is for: People who want light protection for a pair of leather dress shoes. This is also an option if you’re frequently on a bike, since it fits more snugly than a rain boot while you’re riding.
Why it’s great: Sometimes you want to look nice and it’s not feasible to carry extra shoes to change into. If you often wear leather dress shoes you’d like to protect, we recommend the Tingley Storm Stretch Overshoe.
Our tester, menswear Instagrammer Tony Gorga (aka @thegentnextdoor), took these for a spin and thought they outperformed Swims galoshes, which are usually three times the price. “They have a more defined heel,” making them easier to get on and off, and they “have a more pronounced ‘lip’ that goes over your laces,” Gorga said. He added that the latter feature was “a really nice touch” because it prevented water from entering through the tongue of the shoe.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: Galoshes don’t seem to be a thing for women (just as budget-friendly boots for men are somewhat of a rarity), and we didn’t find any to test.
On this Tingley pair, the material is thin, and it’s likely less durable than that of an option such as Swims galoshes. But the more protective and slip-resistant design is a big pro, and as Gorga noted, “How often are you really going to wear galoshes? For me, I'm not wearing full-grain calf leather shoes out in the pouring rain, even with overshoes. So, you get something that's almost as good, at a quarter of the cost.”
Sizes: shoe size 9 to 11, 11 to 13, or 13 to 14
Best plain black boot for women: Madewell The Chelsea Rain Boot
Who this is for: Someone who wants a plain black rain boot that looks as much like a “regular” leather Chelsea boot as possible. Unlike the black Totes Cirrus we recommend above (for people who specifically want lightweight footwear), the Madewells are more durable, with styling that makes them look like a pair of classic leather boots.
Why it’s great: If you don’t regularly go wading through ankle-deep puddles or high snowdrifts, this basic black boot in a timeless shape could be the only bad-weather boot you need. With multiple uses through multiple seasons, it could also be one of the most versatile yet affordable pairs of shoes in your closet.
These boots have a rubber sole and a rubber upper, and that’s one of the most important things for longevity. Every other boot we looked at that was made with the same materials was more expensive.
The shape of this boot is extremely thoughtful. The ankle opening is slightly wider than that of other Chelseas we’ve tried, so you can actually pull the shoe on. The toe is a little rounder, so a foot can fit comfortably, since the rubber won’t stretch like leather. And the stretchy elastic panel, the most recognizable feature of a Chelsea boot, is designed in two ways to keep out as much water as possible. It has a rubber backing behind it, and the opening itself is quite small.
Sometimes we see reviews from customers who say they don’t like this style, complaining that it feels wide or loose around the foot. But there’s really no such thing as a narrower, taller version of this kind of rubber boot that fits closer around the foot. Rubber doesn’t function in footwear the way leather does, and it doesn’t conform to feet the same way.
Aside from being made from inferior materials, cheaper boots in this style have universally bad design. They’re impossible to pull on, their toe box is narrow, and their elastic occupies such a huge space that they couldn’t keep a foot dry on a cloudless day in the desert. We had these problems with both the Sam Edelman Tinsley and the Asgard boot on Amazon.
Flaws but not dealbreakers: We haven’t found anything wrong with these boots so far. They check all the boxes for functionality and comfort for a shoe of this type. One consistent complaint among the one-star reviews on Madewell’s own site is that the Chelsea boots fall apart quickly, within a month or two of use. We asked Madewell about this, and we were told via email that it has since switched factories, and the fall 2020 boot will reflect this change. (We’ll also keep an eye on our test pair, but so far, so good.)
Sizes: 5 to 11
How we picked and tested
After three years of testing, our research list of boots is now more than 100 models long. We always consider online reviews, and we’ve consulted editorial sources such as Travel + Leisure, Buzzfeed, GearLab, Refinery 29, Esquire, and Outside Online. And this year, we had a long conversation with D’Wayne Edwards, the founder of the Pensole Footwear Design Academy, who had endless knowledge to share about the construction and durability of rain footwear.
A few things make for a bad rain boot. Leaks are an obvious dealbreaker, but beware styles that don’t fit your feet comfortably right out of the box, because the rubber won’t stretch.
Aside from those two points, most rain boots fall somewhere on a spectrum of functionality, and there are things you can look for that will indicate what level of quality you’re getting.
Some pieces of advice from Edwards:
- Look for boots that have a hearty seam seal between the sole and upper; this is one of the major features that make the boots waterproof. And “a really good rain boot is fully injected as one whole unit, which means that there is no room for water to seep in because there's no seams, there's no cement, there's no separation of one in two pieces, it's all one piece,” said Edwards. “Hunter does their boots that way.”
- For increased durability, choose a boot made from latex or rubber. Lower-quality boots are often made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which can crack and warp over time and use, though it’s often cheaper and lighter than rubber or latex.
- A weighty boot is an indication of quality, because the maker has likely poured a thicker rubber to create it. “By making it thicker, it adds a bit more weight and body to it so it ultimately will last you a whole lot longer than if you had just the super-cheap, thin, polyurethane kind of a rain boot,” said Edwards.
- In addition, Edwards said, “With some of the higher-quality boots you'll find more of a traditional cloth lining on the inside.”
- Later, we discovered in our own testing that ergonomics play a big role in what makes a rain boot wearable, and certain shapes and styles perform much better than others. For example, a boot with a rounded toe is much more comfortable to walk in than a boot with a narrow, tapered toe.
- Traction matters, too—on a regular sunny day, of course, but even more when it’s raining, because metal and wood surfaces become dangerously slick.
We skipped testing waterproof shoes, waterproof leather, and lined boots, because they’re slightly different kinds of shoes for slightly different purposes. We did include duck boots; although they have leather uppers, they're uniquely designed for wet weather.
This year we added 14 models to our test pool and took them all out walking in torrential rains and wet weather.
We hit the streets and urban trails in:
- Guerneville, California: In 2017, this Northern California town evacuated more than 3,000 people after severe flooding in January and February. We tested boots in those conditions, and again in 2019 during an even more extreme flooding event.
- Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve: This temperate rainforest in California receives 55 inches of rain per year and offered us plenty of muddy trails.
- Goat Rock Beach, California: Here we found lots of cold-water surf and wet, rocky coastline for traction testing.
- Claremont, California: The locals of this Southern California college town have little tolerance for inclement weather, and the streets and drainage systems weren’t designed to take much precipitation. With those conditions, when drops hit the pavement, rain boots are a popular item among students.
- Denver, Colorado: Here, urban commuters are as likely to find spring snow in the streets as they are to sweat through 80-degree days.
- Mount Evans, Colorado: The slopes of this mountain, which rises over 14,000 feet in elevation, are a great place to find snow when city streets have already thawed.
- Astoria, New York: The puddles on the sidewalks here rival the size of the potholes in the streets.
- Ithaca, New York: As the saying goes, “Ithaca is indeed gorges”—which means it has plenty of hills and crags and waterfalls to explore, in addition to the lake at the center of it all.
What to look forward to
Every spring we’re inundated with new boot styles, so we always have something new to consider. We’re also keeping our eyes peeled for a model from Aigle or Le Chameau that may become reliably available.
The 15-inch Xtratuf Legacy Boot for men and women is an all-around great boot that we’d still recommend. It’s high quality, it’s flexible at the ankle, it offers super-sticky soles, and it has stood the test of time. But it looks like a work boot, which may not be what you’re looking for, and we found that a lot of tiny rocks and debris could get stuck in the tread and require picking out by hand.
Many of the women’s boots we tried fit and performed well but couldn’t unseat our top picks for small reasons, such as styling that not all testers could agree on or small upticks in price. Those include the Bogs Amanda, the Kamik Jennifer, and the Kamik Heidi. If you like the styling of any of these boots, we think you’ll be happy with your purchase.
The Everlane Chelsea is a top performer in every way, but it’s slightly more expensive than the Madewell Chelsea. However, if you like the brand or the styling, this is a well-designed boot we think you’ll be happy with. The same can be said for the Tretorn Lina, which has a good fit and feel but costs more than our top pick without offering any additional features.
Hunter Women’s Original Tall: This is an all-around great boot, worth buying if you like the look. We favored the short boot for this roundup because it can accomodate a wider range of calf sizes.
Original Muck Boot Company Women's Hale: As one commenter mentioned, Muck Boots are a favorite among winery and brewery staff and horseback riders. If you love them, get them. But we still think the handled shaft on the women’s-model Bogs boots is an inspired design touch.
Joules Tall Welly Print: We found these easy to walk in, but they bunched unattractively at the ankles. Pebbles also became lodged in the outside, requiring hand removal.
L.L.Bean Wellies: This pair felt loose around the ankles and didn’t have very good traction.
Hunter Women’s Original Chelsea and Sam Edelman Tinsley: Both of these had the same problem as many other rain boots styled like dress shoes. In our tests, we found the shape of the toe and ankle to be slightly restrictive and uncomfortable when walking for extended periods of time.
The J.Crew Chelsea Rain Boots are the exact same price and have nearly identical styling as our top pick from Madewell (the brands are owned by the same company). But the J.Crew shoe is made from PVC, so you’re paying the same amount for a lower-quality plastic boot instead of rubber.
The Asgard Chelsea boots on Amazon are so popular it’s head-spinning, garnering an average of 4.6 stars with almost 12,000 reviews. Regardless, these are PVC boots with a narrow toe box and a wide, unprotected elastic panel that can let water in. We can confidently say that we don’t recommend them in any way as functional rain boots.
Native Jimmy Citylite: A lightweight duck boot, this model is expensive for what you get, and in our tests the tongue bunched under the laces.
Kamik Icebreaker: These are more like winter boots, as they’re heavy and hot. They performed similar to the Bogs pair in the mud, and they’re a decent alternative for half the price.
Eddie Bauer Men’s Hunt Pac: Our testers liked the comfort of this duck boot with a plush lining, but the lacing didn’t lie as flush as on the Bean Boot. Similarly, the Kamik Yukon 5 may be best considered as a shoe that looks like a duck boot. It’s waterproof, but it rubbed our testers at the ankle.
Baffin Enduro Plain Toe: If you want a big wader boot, this model may be what you’re looking for. We originally anticipated this would be our budget-pick men’s boot, but we believe you’ll be happier spending a little more for the fit and quality of the Kamik Lars.
Hunter Men’s Original Tall: Our male testers found the style of this boot too feminine, despite the boots’ history as a men’s military and hunting shoe. This model performed among the best in the mud and landed in the midrange on traction tests.
Hunter Men’s Original Chelsea: This version has the same issues as the women’s Chelsea from Hunter. As on all rain boots styled like dress shoes, the shape of the toe and ankle on this model was restrictive, and walking became uncomfortable for our testers. And unlike on the short and tall Hunter boots, the top of the shaft on the Chelsea is unfinished. In this case, you can find better alternatives for the price.
Swims Classic Galosh: These galoshes have high-quality materials, hence the price. But they didn’t have the same traction, or protective lace cover, as the Tingley pair.
D’Wayne Edwards, founder, Pensole Footwear Design Academy, phone interview, September 20, 2018
Wellington boot, Wikipedia
Recycled Outdoor Gear, 1% for the Planet, July 11, 2018
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