LL Bean 8" Gore-Tex/Thinsulate Review
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LL Bean 8" Gore-Tex/Thinsulate
|Price||$229 List||$159.99 at Backcountry|
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$156.90 at Amazon
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|Pros||Storied history, great crossover performance, stylish, proven durability||Great traction, adjustable fit, everything we want in a boot||Extremely warm, grippy||Highly waterproof, stiff construction for rough terrain, great traction||Great looks, extremely warm and comfortable, versatile|
|Cons||Expensive, unremarkable traction||A bit pricy, cushioning in midsole is slightly lacking||Too warm for most uses, too tight to easily slip on and off||Looser fit, lacks insulation||Expensive, included wool insole can be too warm for all conditions|
|Bottom Line||These durable duckboots are the perfect cross-over, both stylish and capable with excellent durability||These boots are just about perfect for most applications and perform excellently||This impressive boot will keep you toasty when all else fails, though they'll be far too warm for normal conditions||This workhorse boasts a very fair price for such a rugged boot||While admittedly pricey, these good-looking boots can do it all|
|Rating Categories||LL Bean 8" Gore-Tex...||Bogs Workman||The Original Muck B...||Baffin Enduro||Blundstone Thermal...|
|Weather Protection (30%)|
|Specs||LL Bean 8" Gore-Tex...||Bogs Workman||The Original Muck B...||Baffin Enduro||Blundstone Thermal...|
|Weight per Pair (size 13)||3.91 lbs||5.11 lbs||5.35 lbs||5.49 lbs||2.93 lbs|
|Flood Height (inches from bottom of sole to lowest point at top of shaft)||8"||14.75"||17.6"||16.3"||6.7"|
|Mouth Circumference (inches)||15.5"||16"||15.25"||17.5"||9.75"|
|Lining/Insulation||Thinsulate||7.5MM Neo-Tech waterproof insulation||Fleece||Synthetic||Thinsulate|
|Upper Material||Full grain leather||Neotech/Rubber||Rubber||Rubber||Leather + Elastic|
|Outsole Material||Rubber||BioGrip slip resistant outsole||MS-1 molded outsole||Rubber||TPU Outsole|
|Insole||Cushioned footbed||Modular Algae-based EVA footbed||EVA molded midsole with contoured footbed and 2mm thermal foam underlay||Gel-Flex shock-absorbing heels and midsoles||Removable sheepskin insulated insole|
|Unique Features||Steel shank||Seamless Construction to reduce weight + Heel Lock||Neoprene shaft, thick insulation, and aggressive outsole||Aggressive outsole||Cushioned Midsole|
|Width Options||Narrow, Medium, Wide||Regular||Regular||Regular||Regular + Wide|
|Sizing info||Order next size up||Order next size up||Order next size up||Order your true size||Order next size up|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Ever since Leon Leonwood Bean started making Bean Boots in 1911, they've been popular. You've probably seen a pair on someone's feet, especially if you're from the Northeast. And while they've become a highly sought-after boot over the last decade, there's a good reason. Regardless of whether you like their looks, they last forever, they're warm, waterproof, and will fit just about anyone (as long as you wear thick socks). While they don't have the same heavily-lugged outsole as some of the competition, they make up for it with their handmade construction and solid weatherproofing. As a result, they're stylish and casual enough for kicking around town while also being fully legitimate workboots.
While you can waterproof the unlined LL Bean boot with waxes, we went with the Gore-Tex/Thinsulate lined version to test one of the more protective variants.
When we got them, we were impressed — the lining goes all the way up to the top of the boot, so we got a full 8" of waterproofing. Other low boots we've tested over the years have been docked points for their low gussets, so we were happy to see the extra lining here.
We also weren't sure how waterproof the lining would be, but after 30+ minutes of wading around in Western Montana rivers and creeks in spring flood, we can say they're pretty dang waterproof. And while we haven't done this yet, we're planning on sealing the outer leather, which will keep things even more watertight.
We sized the LL Bean up a bit, and with thick socks, they were super comfortable. The laces let us dial in our fit, but because we're lazy, we tied "Eastland Knots." This turned them into slip-ons, allowing us to tighten or loosen them easily without tying our shoes. We also really appreciated the Gore-Tex/Thinsulate, which is lined with microfiber and helps keep things cozy on chilly mornings.
One thing to mention is that the uppers are made of thick leather, so they may be a bit stiff to start with. Just keep wearing them — they'll break into your foot soon enough and become much more comfortable.
We weren't super impressed by the insoles on this boot. We pulled them out, and they were remarkably floppy in our hands, especially in the forefront. This doesn't seem to be a new issue, and some reviews we found recommend getting LL Bean's shearling insoles to help add some heft and warmth. As is, these weren't the worst insoles in the test, but they also weren't the most supportive.
This metric is where the LL Bean didn't wow us. While they performed better than some of the more casual low-topped boots, we felt that their "cable-pattern" outsole wasn't deep enough to grab onto loose or slick material. Other boots feature deeply-incised lugs, while these tend to slip a bit more. They are perfectly adequate on most surfaces but get a bit squirrelly on wet wood and mossy rocks.
For what it's worth, LL Bean Boots are resole-able, so if the cable pattern wears away over time, you can send them back to Maine to get spruced back up.
We were impressed by how warm these boots are. The version with Gore-Tex/Thinsulate lining kept our feet surprisingly toasty in the cold Montana winter, and we barely noticed even when we'd been out in the snow for a few hours. The lining has microfiber on the inside, so they are warm almost as soon as you slip them on in the mornings.
Thanks to the lining, these boots did well in our ice-filled bathtub test, and we barely noticed a chill, even after 10+ minutes.
We realize the LL Bean Boots might be polarizing. Not everyone grew up in the Northeast, where duck boots are a completely normal style. But duck boots have become positively stylish in the last decade, so we're confident that if you like the look, you can get away with it — though the further you are from Maine, the more comments you might get. In the same way that XTRATUFs mean Alaska, Bean Boots signify Maine and New England.
We especially like the leather uppers, which, after time and use, will become more and more weathered and broken-in.
There are a lot of forum posts and reviews about how Bean Boots fit, and there's a lot of advice out there. Here's our take: they're meant to be worn with thick socks. Most folks recommend buying your size, which will have a bit of room for thicker socks. We really like having some extra toe-room, so we sized up a size, and they still fit fine. If we really want to get them snug, we just tighten down the laces.
For some real specifics: our feet measure size 12 on a Brannock device, which measures American sizes. We bought a size 13 for these, and they fit just fine. Our feet are a D width, and these were perfect. For narrow or wide-footed folks, these also come in a narrow width (B) and a wide width (EE), so you should be able to find something that fits perfectly.
We know the Bean Boots are on the more expensive side of our test, and we're not arguing they're a budget buy. But no other boot in our test has the same number of testimonials guaranteeing their durability. Countless reviews discuss how these boots have lasted decades (with a few factory resoles). No other boots in the test have that kind of proven longevity, so sure, these are a bit pricy to start with, but they're pretty much certain to last. In our opinion, that makes them a pretty great value, especially when it comes to their impressive performance in our other tests.
After years of living in Maine and the Northeast and seeing others wear these boots, we were excited to try them out. And, in our opinion, they lived up to the hype. They fit well, are warm, comfortable, and impressively waterproof. While their traction leaves a bit to be desired, they still outperform more casual boots in our test. We're confident that these boots are a great option if you're looking for a stylish but fully capable workboot.
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