< Go to Winter Boots - Women's
Hands-on Gear Review
Cons: Heavy and clunky, not very comfortable
If you endure long winters, regularly slog through the snow, or just want a winter boot that is going to keep your feet warm and dry without making you look like you completely gave up on style for the entire winter season, then the Sorel Joan of Arctic boot is exactly what you need. Last year, we awarded this incredible boot our Best Buy Award, but with some different competition and some updated scores, we've decided that it deserves our Top Pick for Warmth instead!
The Sorel Joan of Arctic is the only product in this review that has a removable liner; this helps increase warmth and allow the shoe to dry more quickly if it somehow ends up getting wet inside. Additionally, these Sorels earned the highest scores in our water resistance and warmth metrics. We were thoroughly impressed with many aspects of this piece, but were disappointed that they weren't lighter weight or more comfortable. For an ultra comfortable tall boot, check out the techy Ahnu Northridge. Looking for a stylish tall boot and willing to sacrifice a little on warmth? Consider the Sorel Tofino.
RELATED: Our complete review of winter boots - women's
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
An amazing winter boot for cold cold days, the Sorel Joan of Arctic measures 13.5 inches from the base of the sole to the top of the shaft. With its faux fur cuff and removable felt liner, our Top Pick for Warmth will keep your toes toastier than any other boot in our review. Add affordability to the list of pros, and we can't help but fall head over heels for this incredible winter boot. Even though this product earned the highest scores in our metrics, keep in mind that this boot is super heavy and not the most comfortable for everyday wear, especially if you're walking long distances. This is the primary reason that it didn't beat out the UGG Adirondack II for our Editors' Choice Award.
We first tested the Sorel Joan of Arctic during the 2013 "arctic blast" that brought single digit temperatures to the entire country. Even during that super cold week, this boot kept our toes warm. We won't go so far as to say they were toasty, but we definitely weren't uncomfortable in the cold. In the last year, we also used this boot for a weekend-long dog sledding retreat in -15 degree temperatures in northern Minnesota. Again, not necessarily toasty, but warm enough that we weren't worried about being out in the cold.
This model comes fitted with a removable liner made of six-millimeter thick recycled felt. This is crucial if you plan to wear this boot multiple days in a row. Simply pull the felt liner out and place it near the fire, heater, or even in bed with you and it will dry out by morning. Additionally, the Joan of Arctic has a wide footbed that allows for increased air flow around the toes and foot, which allows the air in the boot to really warm up. At first we were a bit disappointed with the somewhat sloppy fit of this product; however, we later realized that we could slip an extra heat-reflective insole underneath the felt liner for even more warmth and a better fit.
Moreover, the boot's shaft was among the tallest of our review. Its tall shaft adds additional heat and the faux fur cuff create a cozy seal around the mid calf. The only other boots that came close to the Joan of Arctic in warmth were the Kamik Momentum and Tecnica Moon Boot.
Comfort & Coziness
The Sorel Joan of Arctic really fell short in the comfort and coziness category. In fact, it was one of the lowest scoring pieces in this category, along with the Baffin Loki. We tested a size 9.5 and the pair weighed in at a whopping 4.16 pounds, which is about a pound and a half more than most of its competitors. Moreover, this model has a very wide toe box and a wide footbed that doesn't offer much support. Add in the shoe's extra weight and you have a boot that is extremely clunky and uncomfortable; even though we hate to say it, wearing these boots felt a bit like wearing heavy clown shoes. It's important to note here that they were also quite uncomfortable to drive in.
Unfortunately, the Sorel Joan of Arctic doesn't have much to offer in the way of coziness either. The removable felt liner is not super soft and it started to ball up in the bottom of the boot where our feet were rubbing. If you are sold on Sorel's performance and like the look of the Joan of Arctic, but don't want the extra weight and clunkiness, be sure to read up on the Sorel Tofino Herringbone. On the other hand, if you want the ultimate in comfort and coziness, our Editors' Choice winner, the UGG Adirondack II is definitely the way to go.
When we dunked this product into our testing puddle (read: bathtub), we kept dipping them deeper and deeper, expecting water to start seeping in. We were totally shocked when we made it to nine inches before water flooded in. This was more than two inches deeper than any other boot that we tested. Additionally, this piece provides superior protection from snow, slush, and all the other wintery precip that mother nature might try to throw at you this winter. The sole of this shoe is made of vulcanized rubber, while the upper consists of waterproof suede and full-grain leather. Finally, the faux fur cuff helps keep out unwanted wetness.
Interestingly, one of the next best performing boots in our water resistance tests was the Vasque Pow Pow which is one of the shortest models we testec.
Style & Fit
First of all, we want to note that the Sorel Joan of Arctic seems to run almost a half size too big. If you are one of those women who is between an 8 and an 8.5, go for the 8 unless you're hoping to put an extra insole in the bottom of the boot, in which case your normal size will probably be just about perfect. Amazingly, even though these boots feel a bit like wearing clown shoes, they do not actually make your feet look absolutely enormous, which is a huge plus in the style category.
This boot actually scored very highly in our style category. It isn't as chic as the Sorel Conquest Carly or as cute as The North Face Nuptse Purna, but it does have a very attractive winter look. With the faux fur cuff and the leather detailing around the laces and up the back of the calf, this boot will certainly earn you compliments. Although you may have to sacrifice comfort, you can still be warm and stylish in these Sorels.
The vulcanized rubber sole on the Sorel Joan of Arctic did not provide very impressive traction. Other competitors like the Vasque Pow Pow, which is designed specifically with winter hiking in mind, offered notably better traction. Some models featured Vibram soles with deep treads, but even the Vibram soles with shallow treads – like those on the UGG Adirondack II – were more grippy than the Joan of Arctic. This boot performed fine while walking slowly on slick surfaces in wintry conditions, but we certainly wouldn't take them hiking and expect to cruise over rocky surfaces.
Ease to Take On & Off
Due in part to the rougher felt liner, this boot was particularly difficult to take off. We found that when taking this boot off, we often had to loosen the laces so much that they came unlaced from the top eyes. This made putting the boots back on more difficult since we always had to re-lace the top eyes. Finally, the Sorel Joan of Arctic's felt liner snaps onto the upper with pull tab looking straps; however, we discovered that these do not double as pull tabs. When we tried to use them as finger holds, they usually came unsnapped and one eventually broke after six months of use.
Interestingly, the Baffin Loki and the Tecnica Moon Boot were quite easy to take on and off despite their tall shafts. Their structured walls and slick liners makes them easy to slip in and out of.
Our Top Pick for Warmth Award winner will keep you toasty, but at the price of weight and comfort. Since this boot is so heavy and uncomfortable, it is not suitable for activities like winter hiking. We loved it for outdoor chores like shoveling snow and for around town use (although driving in them took some serious getting used to). This boot will keep your feet warm and happy during non-technical pursuits all winter long.
Throughout our testing process, we were impressed at how well the Sorel Joan of Arctic performed and then we found that it only costs $150. If you are looking for a warm, stylish winter boot, look no further than the Joan of Arctic. On the other hand, the stylish Sorel Tofino Herringbone also costs a mere $170. If you are willing to sacrifice a bit on warmth for increased comfort and coziness, then definitely consider these top performing, affordably priced boots.
An all-around winter crusher, the Sorel Joan of Arctic is hands down the best choice for women enduring long, cold, snowy winters. Although our Top Pick Award winner sacrifices on comfort and traction, it makes up for its shortcomings by outperforming its competitors in warmth, water resistance, and style. Plus, at only $170, it's hard to say no to such an amazing deal.
Sorel Tivoli High II
Joan of Arctic Wedge Ankle
— Amanda Fenn
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: January 14, 2015
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