How to Choose the Best Rain Boots

All models featured in our review. Back row (left to right): Bogs Ultra Mid  Hunter Original Short  Helly Hansen Midsund 2  The Original Muck Boot Company Chore Mid  Kamik Icebreaker  Bogs Classic High  Le Chameau  and The Original Muck Boot Company Arctic Sport. Front row: Bogs Urban Farmer Insulated  LaCrosse Hampton  and Tretorn Strala.
Article By:
Ross Robinson & Jared Dean

Last Updated:
Wednesday

Rain boots definitely have their place in your shoe closet, especially if you live in a climate with a high amount of rainfall. There are a handful factors to consider while shopping around for your next pair. The most important thing to keep in mind is what you're going to be doing with the boots. A boot designed for casual around-town use would be inappropriate if you find yourself working out in the elements. Likewise, if it's raining outside, that doesn't mean that you automatically need the most aggressive, heavy-duty, clunky, and cumbersome boots, especially if you're just heading into town to do some shopping or meeting up with some friends. In this article, we break down what factors you should consider before buying your next pair of wet weather boots.

Wet Weather Footwear Options


There are such a wide variety of rainy day footwear on the market - all with different uses — that navigating the different types out there may seem a little nightmarish. We want to briefly touch on the different types of products which may help specify your specific needs.

Winter Boots


Some of the boots we tested, such as the Bogs Classic High - Men's, The Original Muck Boot Company Arctic Sport — Men's, and the Editors' Choice-winning Kamik Icebreaker, are waterproof boots that are designed with winter conditions in mind: slushy sidewalks, knee high snow drifts, and shoveling driveways. Because these cold weather rain boots are insulated, they are appropriate to wear from the end of autumn through the beginning of spring. While we had some boots cross over from the Men's Winter Boots Review (the Bogs Ultra Mid), we mostly tested the products in this review for outdoor use in conditions related to rain, water, mud, and dirt. In general, cold weather rain boots are often easier to clean than winter boots with textile or leather uppers. They are a great option for dirty, cold weather conditions.

Our 2014 tested selection of winter boots. From L to R: Bogs  Baffin Arctic  Columbia  Kamik  Baffin Maple  Sorel  Keen.
Our 2014 tested selection of winter boots. From L to R: Bogs, Baffin Arctic, Columbia, Kamik, Baffin Maple, Sorel, Keen.

Sandals or Flip-Flops


Although rubber boots will keep your feet dry from precipitation, we do find that on super warm rainy days, our feet still feel damp inside a boot. This is due primarily to the lack of breathability that rubber boots have to offer. Although some boots have liners that will wick away moisture, it's only a matter of time before your feet max out the liner's ability to wick away sweat and you're stuck walking around in your own perspiration. Our testers concur with our women's review conclusion that sometimes it really is just better to roll up your pant cuffs and wear some flip-flops or Sandals

The top five flip flops reviewed.  Reef Fanning  Reef Phantom  Crocs Modi Flip  OluKai Ohana  Rainbow Single Layer
The top five flip flops reviewed. Reef Fanning, Reef Phantom, Crocs Modi Flip, OluKai Ohana, Rainbow Single Layer

Rain Boots


Typically, this type of footwear is made of rubber and/or neoprene; they slip on, feel a little loose, and are a poor choice for walking long distances. Since rain boots lack laces, they often have a less-than-perfect fit, and it can be a struggle to find one that feels the best. Some models have insulating liners; this makes them ideal for winter conditions, but is a detriment in summertime. The opposite is true for those that lack insulation; they are pleasant to use in the summer but not warm enough for the winter. We talk more about climate considerations below, but it's important to start thinking about how you hope to use your boots and what type of weather you usually experience when deciding between different wet weather footwear options.

Obviously, rain boots are the ideal footwear when dark skies begin to pour down on us, be it a sprinkle or a cloudburst. Throughout our testing period, however, our reviewers found themselves reaching for these products for a variety of activities, even when the weather wasn't threatening. They won us over for nearly any kind of yard work, from raking leaves, to tilling up the garden or picking out the fresh tomatoes, to shoveling holes to install Egress windows. Rain boots are also awesome to have while climbing or camping, as slipping these models on and off as we scrambled in and out of our tents was way easier than any laced shoes. Also, we loved that we didn't have to worry about getting them wet, dirty, or smoky around the campfire and on the muddy trails.

Don't limit your boots to use only on rainy days. Try them out in other situations where you don't want to dirty your other shoes, or you need to get in and out of your footwear quickly.

Reviewer Ross Robinson was happy to slip into the warm and cozy Kamik Icebreaker after taking off his climbing shoes during a late November climbing trip to Jackson Falls in southern Illinois.
Reviewer Ross Robinson was happy to slip into the warm and cozy Kamik Icebreaker after taking off his climbing shoes during a late November climbing trip to Jackson Falls in southern Illinois.

Types of Rain Boots


There are a few subcategories of rain boots, each intended for different usage. In our review, we found that a few of the products were designed for more casual use, while we found other boots to be a little more work-oriented. We break down the three main types of rain boots below.

Work Boot


The majority of the products we tested fall in this category. These models tend to have aggressive lugs, heavy weights, thick comfortable midsoles, and (usually) a very tall shaft. They also tended to be the heaviest, but we found that they perform better in off-road conditions like out on the trail, along streams, and trudging through the woods. These, we think, are great if you need footwear to battle your way through wet ground to get to your favorite fishing spot or hiking off-trail to get to a tree stand for hunting season. They also work great for general use around a farm, your backyard, or any other environment where rugged and comfortable footwear is required.

Models in this category include:
  • The Original Muck Boot Company Arctic Sport
  • Bogs Classic High
  • The Original Muck Boot Company Chore Mid
  • Kamik Icebreaker (Editors' Choice)

The Bogs Classic functions great as a work boot  especially during the colder months of the year.
The Bogs Classic functions great as a work boot, especially during the colder months of the year.

Casual Boot


These are meant to be used for your casual around-town excursions on days when the sky looks like it may open up. They tend to have smooth treads as opposed to deep and aggressive lugs, which makes them less-than-ideal for use in off-road conditions but solid on wet pavement. We also found that these models tended to have less support and cushioning than the work boots. However, what they do have going for them is a more stylish (or at least covert) look, which makes them great if you are a little more fashion conscious. Additionally, they tend to weigh less than the work boots. This is generally due to less material used in the construction: less cushioning in the sole, shorter shafts, and thinner rubber all around. These models aren't great for being abused on rugged terrain, but they are perfect for those times when you want a lightweight rubber boot that isn't an eyesore.

Models in this category include:
  • Hunter Original Short
  • Tretorn Stroll
  • Bogs Urban Farmer
  • LaCrosse Hampton (Top Pick for Mild Weather)

The Urban Farmer doesn't draw attention to itself under the cuffs of your pants for casual use around town.
The Urban Farmer doesn't draw attention to itself under the cuffs of your pants for casual use around town.

The Casual Work Boot


Although many products we tested had the feeling of a work boot, we did find that a few were a little less heavy duty than others, but still offered enough ruggedness to be used in similar conditions. They also seemed to be less bulky, which made them better for casual around-town use. These are great if you find yourself in need of footwear that can go from some modest yard work to running errands. The treads are also less aggressive; they perform better than casual boots on loose terrain and better than the work boots on hard slick surfaces. Overall, they offer some amount of versatility, making them great if for going back and forth between work and casual uses.

Models in this category include:
  • Bogs Ultra Mid Rain Boot
  • Le Chameau Vierzon
  • Helly Hansen Midsund 2

Reviewer Ross Robinson tests out the water resistance  warmth  and the traction of the Ultra Mid in the icy cold creeks of Minneapolis in December.
Reviewer Ross Robinson tests out the water resistance, warmth, and the traction of the Ultra Mid in the icy cold creeks of Minneapolis in December.

Climate


We absolutely recommend that you consider the climate in which you'll be using your wet weather boots, especially in terms of temperature and total rainfall. Consumers who endure several months per year of cold and cool temperatures with heavy amounts of precipitation will be better served by taller and more heavily insulated models, like the Kamik Icebreaker. However, if you live in a more temperate climate with less precipitation on average and mild temperatures, you'll probably find more use from a model like the LaCrosse Hampton.

If you live in a warmer climate, you'll want to seriously consider the products in this review that scored poorly in the warmth metric.

Water Resistance


When many people think of rain boots, they picture rubber boots designed to keep your feet dry while you march through puddles on the sidewalk, similar to the look of the Helly Hansen Midsund 2. However, the rubber boot industry also makes models designed for winter use, hunting, outdoor work, and recreation. We were fortunate enough not to experience any leaks in the boots we tested, and we found that the boots that performed the best in our water resistance metric were the ones that had tall shafts. But again, this is dependent on your intended use of the boot.

No product we tested (even the ankle cut models) had trouble keeping our feet dry as we walked through puddles on the sidewalk (although if you live in a city with poor infrastructure, those puddles may be deep pot-holes waiting for an unsuspecting pedestrian with a short-shaft boot). That said, remember that in a heavy rain, your shins can easily get wet, especially if you have a long stride and an umbrella with a smaller canopy diameter. If you detest getting the bottoms of your pants wet, you should consider at least a mid-height shaft. Likewise, if you plan to spend time wading streams and slogging through muddy fields, then the height of the shaft is even more important.

The all-but-holy trio of a large overhead canopy  a rain jacket  and rubber boots provides great protection from downpours  expected or not.
The all-but-holy trio of a large overhead canopy, a rain jacket, and rubber boots provides great protection from downpours, expected or not.

Warmth


Where you live and what climate you're in will help determine whether or not you need an insulated boot. If you think you're only going to need a boot to wear into town during spring or autumn showers, then you may not need an insulated boot, especially if you find yourself just running out to your car and then back inside.

We loved the Icebreaker for its warmth and coziness...and we think you'll like it too.
We loved the Icebreaker for its warmth and coziness...and we think you'll like it too.

However, if you're going to need a boot for winter or any substantially cold conditions then you should look into a boot with heavy insulation. Many of the boots we tested have insulating liners; for example, the Kamik Icebreaker has a removable liner and the Bogs Classic High is insulated with neoprene. These boots are great if you're going to be shoveling snow, or maybe trudging through knee-high powder to get to your tree stand. If you're going to be spending a lot of time outdoors without moving a whole lot, a warm and insulated boot will keep your toes from going numb, and make you all the happier and more comfortable.

Remember that you can somewhat control the internal temperature of your boots by choosing the right pair of socks for the situation, be it thick wool socks for cold weather or thin athletic socks for warmer temps.

Once you've thought through your average rainy season temperatures, take a look at our warmth scores, keeping in mind that a lower score might be beneficial for you. The Hampton — our Top Pick for Mild Weather - does a good job of walking the line between too hot and too cold as long as you don't mind an ankle-cut boot.

This boot has a very thin liner  which means it doesn't retain heat too well. Though some may think this is a drawback  it makes the boots an ideal choice for warm weather use.
This boot has a very thin liner, which means it doesn't retain heat too well. Though some may think this is a drawback, it makes the boots an ideal choice for warm weather use.

Comfort


Another one of the most important things to consider is how comfortable of a boot you need. The conditions in which you plan to use your footwear will partially affect this decision; however, it's also important to remember that each model fits differently and since everyone has a different shaped foot, you should be sure to consider how any given product fits your individual foot. Likewise, you may want to avoid boots that offer little in the way of cushioning or support if you have flat arches, or other foot problems.

Fit


Generally speaking, rain boots don't usually fit like your average sneaker or hiking boot and it's rare that they come in half sizes. If your foot measures half a size, it's important to check the company's advice for sizing, whether or not you should go up to the next whole size or down. Most models are meant to have some extra space inside of them so that you can wear them comfortably with thick socks or stuff your pants down inside. We also found that depending on your calf size, some boots will have more or less room between the top of the shaft and your leg, meaning there may be a gap where debris can enter. Some boots have gusseted shafts, laces, or other methods that allow you to cinch the boot's shaft down for a better fit.

As these two reviewers-in-training quickly learned  getting the right fit of boots for your feet significantly affects how your pair performs in every metric.
As these two reviewers-in-training quickly learned, getting the right fit of boots for your feet significantly affects how your pair performs in every metric.

In each individual product review, we make a recommendation for how you should size that boot. Be sure to check it out since the products in this review vary widely on fit.

Cushion & Support


The wide array of products in this review offer varying amounts of cushioning and support. Most of the cold weather products we tested have a significant amount of cushioning. If you're going to be using the boots for work, a model with an EVA cushioned midsole, or with an added shank would be a huge improvement over those without any support at all.

If you're only going to be wearing your boots for casual around-town excursions, then finding a pair with even a slightly cushioned sole will make a noticeable difference in how comfortable your experience will be. The Hunter Original Short is a great example of a casual boot that has some cushioning but doesn't sacrifice on style. If you love the look and fit of a boot, but find it lacking in cushion or support, remember that you can always purchase an after-market insole.

For casual use throughout the neighborhood  the Tretorn Strala provides plenty of comfort  without adding unnecessary bulk.
For casual use throughout the neighborhood, the Tretorn Strala provides plenty of comfort, without adding unnecessary bulk.

Insoles


Most of the products we tested had relatively thin insoles. On a few occasions, we found ourselves wondering why the company even bothered to include anything at all. Some models, like the Le Chameau Vierzon, have such thin insoles that their cushioning and support are negligible at best. There are some great after-market insoles that can offer additional arch support and cushioning that the factory insoles can't provide. Moreover, adding an insole to a slightly-too-large boot can improve its overall fit.

The Ultra Mid has one of the thickest  most supportive insoles of all the boots we tested  which makes for a more comfortable experience.
The Ultra Mid has one of the thickest, most supportive insoles of all the boots we tested, which makes for a more comfortable experience.

Other Considerations



Style


Determining if you need a boot more for more aesthetic reasons or more practical reasons will likely prompt you to choose between around-town rubber boots and heavy-duty work boots with tall shafts and plenty of cushion of uneven ground. Some of the products in this review offer more of a fashionable pop and are significantly less practical for someone who needs rugged, performance footwear. If you gravitate to fashionable boots, a few minute differences like a raised heel, or the type of finish used on the rubber (whether or not it has a glossy look) are good things to consider. In the end, personal taste and expression of individuality will determine which boots you find most attractive and appropriate for you.

The Hampton has a such a casual look that it's sometimes hard to even notice it's a rain boot at all.
The Hampton has a such a casual look that it's sometimes hard to even notice it's a rain boot at all.

Traction


The biggest differentiation between models that are ideal for use around town and those that are best suited to off-road situations can be visibly seen in the aggressiveness of the tread. Some of the least aggressive boots we tested are designed for use on pavement, not loose dirt and vegetation. These boots have smooth treads which give more surface contact and better traction on smooth surfaces like wet pavement. On the other hand, some boots have deep grooves, aggressive lugs, or a combination of both. These types of treads are ideal for use on ground that has insecure footing or is loose. The Bogs Classic High provides a great mix of aggressive lugs and high surface area contact to increase its versatility in traction.

The design of the tread of the Urban Farmer gave us pretty good purchase on a variety of surfaces. However  the rigid steel shank insert dulled the sensitivity of our feet  which made it less effective on uneven terrain.
The design of the tread of the Urban Farmer gave us pretty good purchase on a variety of surfaces. However, the rigid steel shank insert dulled the sensitivity of our feet, which made it less effective on uneven terrain.

Ease of Use


Although most wet weather boots work the same - you put your foot through the shaft and into the booty and you're in business - some models have added bells and whistles that help getting them on easy. Several products, like The Original Muck Boot Company Chore Mid have pull tabs, and others have full handles punched into their uppers, like the Bogs Ultra Mid. For some consumers, features like these are a huge draw; for example, if you constantly find yourself running late, a model that's easy to pull on may be a life-saver.

The rubber stubs at the back of the heels helped make it a little easier to pull these clunky boots off our feet.
The rubber stubs at the back of the heels helped make it a little easier to pull these clunky boots off our feet.

As with any gear purchase, be sure to consider which factors you want to prioritize. Is comfort more important than style? Vice versa? Think about how you plan to use your new rain boots and then consider which of our metrics are most critical for your needs.

At the end of our testing period  we realized that there isn't a perfect rain boot for every situation. However  knowing how and where you will use your product will help you to choose on the right model for you.
At the end of our testing period, we realized that there isn't a perfect rain boot for every situation. However, knowing how and where you will use your product will help you to choose on the right model for you.

Ask an Expert: Dave Young


Dave Young is a Cape Cod native. He grew up enthralled in the fishing scene and has been fishing for over thirty years. He currently guides fishing charters with Reel Deal Fishing Charters- the best in the area! New England weather can be rowdy but in rain, shine, storms, and snow, Dave is out there casting a line. Whether for work or personal recreation, his passion for fishing and his extensive time spent on and around the ocean lends to expert advice on rain boots, or rubber boots as he refers to them.

How many days per week do you wear them?
Honestly, I am in mine, 5-7 days every week. I work in them 3-4 days per week. They excel on the fishing boats but I love my rubber boots while doing yard work, walking the dogs along the flats (the beach), and of course while working near the ocean. They live in my truck so I have them for any and every opportunity.

For working outside, constantly around water, and on the boat, is it ever optimal to wear something else?
There are times when I find Crocs to be comfortable and convenient but rubber boots are always best. With crocs or other similar footwear, your feet aren't very supported and they are definitely unprotected from the elements, especially water. Even in summer heat, the overall protection, function, and purpose of rubber boots is unsurpassed. On a hot day, my feet will be warm, but I feel better protected.

What are the most important features to look for in order to keep your feet dry, comfortable, and gripped on wet ground?
Good soles with no-slip grip are important; its like having glue on your feet, in a good way. When standing on wet boat decks and walking on slippery docks, stability is essential to safety. Comfort is key. Having a boot that is flexible enhances the comfort and protection.

During commercial fishing season, fish are flying across the deck; it's chaotic. I recently had a finned bass bar stab into my boot but the boot showed no sign of puncture. Because of the flexibility of the rubber outsole/upper, the sharp fin was able to push into my foot without tearing or puncturing the boot itself. Imagine if I had boots with less flexible rubber construction? It would have cost me a great deal of discomfort and injury. Its important to protect your feet. Whether you find yourself on a fishing boat or walking along a wet trail, good footwear will keep your feet dry, protected, and comfortable in any condition.

What kind of socks or liners do you recommend?
Rain boots aren't very breathable so I recommend seeking breathable socks. I prefer hiking socks or thin running socks, depending on the time of year. To minimize sweat, use socks that are intended for aerobic activity and that match your objectives in regards to weather and temperature. Some people wear their boots barefoot but I prefer to use socks- its more comfortable and the boots will stay cleaner.

Do you have different pairs of boots for different conditions?
I have my go-to pair that I wear almost always. Unless it is really cold out, like New England mid-winter cold, I wear uninsulated rubber boots. I will adjust my sock style and layering system before I wear insulated boots, but in very cold temperatures, they are necessary. I even find myself shoveling snow in my insulated rubber boots, I love them so much. A good pair should be like your favorite slippers: comfortable all the time, in any condition, and they endure.

How long should a pair last?
Again, like your favorite slippers, they should last a long time. I've had my current pair for 5 years and they are still very comfortable, if not more comfortable each day, and they are still going strong.

What advice do you offer to someone new to wearing rain boots on a regular basis?
Soft material is ideal. You don't want stiff boots; they will be uncomfortable to wear for extended periods of time and will also limit your movement. Flexible materials with good insoles that are suitable for the arch of your foot will lend to comfort. I replace the liners of some of my boots with running shoe inserts for increased comfort. Be picky about fit- while some people opt for cheap rubber boots, it will pay off to invest in a comfortable pair that fit well.

How do you care for your boots?
Keep them dry. After every single use, I rinse them off or wash them thoroughly to remove dirt, sand, and grit. Then I allow them to dry between uses. Rain boots are durable and will last many years if you care for them properly.

Any last thoughts?
Don't skimp on quality. It pays off in the long run to get top of the line rubber boots (as opposed to that $20 pair at a local box store). They will last longer, be more comfortable, and above all, protect your feet better. Good boots make a difference in your enjoyment and security while out in the elements.

Ross Robinson & Jared Dean
About the Author
Hailing from a small town in Indiana, Ross loves spending his time surrounded by a few good friends in the great outdoors, especially hiking, climbing, and camping. He also enjoys keeping things fresh by traveling as much as possible. He's lived a few years in Germany (Sprechen Sie Deutsch?), and spent the last four years teaching science in Thailand. On weekends and school breaks, he explored and rock climbed in countries like Laos, Vietnam, and China. Having recently moved to Minnesota, Ross now likes cold things, like ice climbing and ice hockey. Here in the "North," he's also trying to learn Spanish while maintaining first place in his community kickball league.

 
 

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