Blundstone Thermal Chelsea Review
Cons: Expensive, included wool insole can be too warm for all conditions
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Our Analysis and Test Results
We first found out about Blundstones several years ago, when they became popular in the States, though the legacy brand has been making boots in Australia since 1870. One of our testers picked up a pair of their Chelsea boots for a wet weather trip to the Netherlands and found that their non-waterproof leather still kept out most rain — though they weren't warm enough for the 30-degree temps. So when we saw that they had a thermal version, fully waterproof and insulated, we couldn't wait to get our hands on them. And they delivered, just as we hoped, providing the perfect combination of weather protection and style, thanks to their solid soles, waterproofed elastic, and premium handcrafted leather.
These boots bridge the gap between the lower casual boots and the higher workboots, with their 6.7" of shaft height. And, after years of testing rain boots, we're ecstatic that a manufacturer finally seems to have listened to our complaints about non-waterproofed elastic/gussets on low boots and went the extra mile to make sure the Thermal Chelsea are waterproof up to the top of the elastic.
These boots aren't tall enough for wading in creeks or moving water, but they're definitely sufficient for deep puddles and normal wet-weather use. If your day-to-day doesn't involve venturing into deep water, these will be perfectly sufficient.
This is where the Thermal Chelsea really starts to pull away from the competition — these are easily the coziest boots in our test. We love our standard Blundstone boots, and these feel almost exactly the same — the insulation doesn't change the fit at all. They've got a well-cushioned midsole paired with what Blundstone calls its "SPS Max Comfort." We're not exactly sure what that acronym stands for, but we know that they're comfortable after many hours of use, and that's enough for us.
The reason these boots max-out the cozy scale is their absurd insoles, which are lined with shearling wool. As soon as you slip these on, your feet are warm. This isn't always ideal (if it's warm out), but it's delightful if it's chilly out. And if you don't want this boot to be so warm, you can always sub-in uninsulated insoles instead.
We do want to warn you — Blundstones are handmade with premium new leather, which means that there's always some variation in sizing. Additionally, each pair of boots starts stiff and requires breaking in. So if they feel tight around your ankles immediately after purchase, they'll be perfect after around a week's worth of use.
Despite how stylish the Thermal Chelsea boots look, they actually have a solid pair of outsoles, and while they're not the most heavily studded, we found they were more than adequate to keep us upright. They scored right in the middle of our test and outperformed most of the other style-oriented boots, which rarely have properly treaded outsoles.
While we found these boots to be a bit slick on wet wood, almost no boots were grippy in this use-case, so we can't be too critical. Overall, we were quite impressed.
These boots really shine in colder conditions, with their Thinsulate lining and shearling insoles. Even though they aren't as tall as some of the burlier models in our review, we often found ourselves choosing to wear the Thermal Chelsea over other models because of their extravagant sheep-wool lining.
These boots did quite well in our warmth test, likely due to their delightful insoles, and our bare feet felt very comfortable thanks to the warm sheep's wool. We were highly impressed that the Thermal Chelsea was so competitive with heavier and burlier boots in this category.
This is definitely where any Blundstone boot would stand out. The waterproof Thermal Chelsea model looks exactly the same as the standard model, which we've used for a huge variety of adventures, from job interviews to date nights to speaking in front of large audiences.
If you're concerned about your style but still want to have a solid pair of boots to keep you warm and dry, we're confident that this one will deliver for you. Our fashion consultants also appreciate the classy good looks of this boot and rewarded it with extremely high marks.
The sizing on these Australian boots can get a little strange, so we want to be as clear as we can be. Our feet measure size 12 on a Brannock device, which measures American sizes. We have a lot of experience wearing Blundstones, so we ordered an American size 13, which we knew would fit us. However, since Blundstones are Australian, our boots say "size 12" (Australian/UK sizing) on the bottom.
The strangest part about Blundstones is that while they offer half sizes, our research suggests that the half sizes are actually wide sizes. So if you are an American size 10 and need a wide size, you will want to try a size 10.5 (American) or an Australian size 9.5.
We realize this is confusing, and if you're mixed up by all the numbers, Blundstone offers a lot of helpful info on their FAQ page. Also keep in mind, since these are handmade, you'll find some minor variation between every pair. Rest assured that if they feel tight around the ankles, they'll break in after a week or two of regular use.
We recognize that these boots are expensive. However, over the last few years of wearing standard-model Blundstones, we've become convinced that these types of boots can be worn for anything. We've used our pairs for a wide variety of formal and rugged adventures, and they've always delivered. We even have a friend who works construction and whose footwear of choice for every job site is the standard Blundstone. So now that the waterproof Thermal Chelsea has come out, we feel very confident recommending them for any and all uses. We love the fact that you can replace the shearling insole with your own insoles and wear them on warmer days, and we think this extreme versatility makes them worth their high price.
We love the Blundstone Thermal Chelsea boots for their warmth, style, and solid traction. As soon as we put these boots through their paces, we knew we had to give them an award for style. But looks aside, this is still an impressive all-around boot. And after all our tests, we think they're an easy choice for anyone needing a boot that looks good and performs well. We know we'll be wearing these boots regularly throughout the cooler and wetter months.
— Richard Forbes