The Hunter Original boots, priced at $155, are "name-brand" rain boots (and the brand was established in 1856). But beyond the name, styling, and handcrafted natural rubber, these boots deliver pretty standard performance for a rubber boot. Measuring 16.9 inches tall and weighing in at 5.42 lbs, these boots lack insulation, which makes them more useful in warmer weather. And while this is hard to quantify, these boots were extremely floppy and did not provide much support. Overall, we weren't impressed by these boots when comparing them to the products that were designed with function first and form second.
While these boot's strongest suit is their looks, they performed adequately during our wading and traction tests.
With a 16.9-inch shaft height, these boots had the second highest shaft height in our test, only measuring .7 inches shorter than the Original Muck Boot Company Arctic Sport. However, the Hunter boots far more flexible rubber made them feel much less protective against splashes, a feeling accentuated by their larger circumference at the top of the shaft (17 inches to the Arctic Sport's 15.5"), which felt like water might slosh in the top.
While they kept our feet dry, they definitely didn't keep our feet warm in the cold Puget Sound.
The Hunter boots were very squishy, but not in a supportive way. It felt more like we were just standing on a stack of relatively soft rubber. And while they came with an insole, it was flexible and thin enough to be almost entirely cosmetic. The fit was snugger than several of the other competitors, so the Hunters didn't flap around on our feet as much as looser options, but this was not as important an issue as their relative lack of support underfoot.
An insole shouldn't do this...
The Hunter boots did not have much traction when compared to the other boots in the test. They feature "traditionally calendered soles", which, as far as we can tell, means they roll the rubber on large metal rollers (calendars) to make a sheet of rubber, which they then trim with heated knives to give it three-dimensional shape. In our tests, we found that this process didn't create much traction. The sharply cut heel piece helped grab the ground as we went down wet grass and muddy hills, but when we went up the hills (on our toes), the heels couldn't come into play, and the Tall did not hold well. They had even less traction on snow and ice.
We slipped around a fair amount in the Hunter's on snow and ice.
The Tall boots were not insulated and provided no warmth beyond the sock we were wearing. During the ice water test, our bare feet felt the cold immediately, and we were uncomfortably cold after 30 seconds.
These boots did not keep the cold out, though when paired with a thick enough sock, they were bearable.
The Original Tall boots are designed to look a certain way. Our fashion consultants significantly disagreed on this boot. We found that the women universally liked them, while the men were a little more uncertain about their molded styling. However, the men in our test almost all tend toward the Carhartt/utilitarian aesthetic, which does not overlap with these boots. Ultimately, if you like their looks, get them and don't listen to us!
Ease of Use
Hunter boots are relatively frustrating to use, as their tightly cut ankle means they're difficult to get on. You have to sit down, grab the flexible top of the shaft and tug them on. And they're too flexible to kick off, so you have to grab the heel and really wrench them off. They're a far cry from boots you can just step into and go (like the Baffin Enduro).
They would always get stuck on our heel when we were taking them off.
You may find, after some use, that a whitish powder will appear on the outside of your boots. This is called the "bloom" and is a normal occurrence for natural rubber. While it's not bad for your boots at all, Hunter sells a ($10) boot buffer to help clean your boots should you want to get it off, or you could just soap them off and then rub in some olive oil.
The Hunter boots fit with our size 12 feet with a half inch of room and are comfortable for our D width feet without being too snug. We expect they'd measure in at a D width: they would not have enough room for a wide foot. And they fit far more snugly on the ankle than any of the other boots (besides the XTRATUF Legacy 15"), which is nice because they don't flap around, but frustrating because the rubber pushes into the front of our ankles as we walk in them.
This buckle doesn't do anything...
If you like the aesthetic of Original Tall, and it's rainy, then wear them on errands and out on the town. But due to their subpar traction, overly squishy rubber, and general commitment to form over function, we do not recommend these for intense use of any sort.
While the Hunters were fine for casual stream wading, we didn't feel secure enough in higher stress situations.
The Original Tall cost $155, as they are handcrafted natural rubber. If you like the looks enough and want to have a rain boot that looks a certain type of way, they may be worth that much to you. Multiple women who we met wearing ours around Seattle told us that they'd all gotten several years of winter use out of them, so they're definitely durable (under typical urban use).
The Hunters' relatively smooth sole didn't do it any favors in our traction tests, but its good looks and all-round decent performance have kept it popular for 162 years!
The Hunter Original Tall boot is designed for those who want to own a piece of history, and for who like the way they look. The boot is handcrafted and built using old-school methods and natural rubber. Their 16.9-inch shaft height means they'll provide a fair amount of water resistance, but due to their other limitations (relatively uncomfortable, too squishy to trust on rough terrain, lack of traction and insulation), we do not recommend them for most.