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Sperry Saltwater Duck Nylon Review

With an extremely low flood-height, these boots are only suitable for light use around town
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Price:  $120 List | $79.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Extremely light, stylish
Cons:  Poor traction, very low water-line
Manufacturer:   Sperry
By Richard Forbes ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 3, 2020
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43
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#14 of 14
  • Weather Protection - 30% 2
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Traction - 20% 2
  • Warmth - 15% 5
  • Style - 10% 8

Our Verdict

Sperry is a legacy brand and is best known for its preppy boat-shoes. We had hoped that their excellence in boat-related footwear would translate to rain-gear, but our rigorous testing regime did not find this to be the case for the Saltwater Duck Nylon boot. While we liked these boots for their light weight, flashy looks, and decent microfleece insulation, they ultimately ranked poorly for weather-protection and traction, and we would not recommend them for any wet weather use.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

When we received the Saltwater Duck and ran it through our testing regime, we realized quite quickly (within 15 seconds of stepping in a lake) that these boots are only waterproof up to the top of the rubber, which is a mere 2.8" up the boot. While we like the light weight (2.44 lbs, the lightest in our test) and its fun looks, these qualities can not compensate for the lack of waterproofing or poor traction. Ultimately, we don't recommend these boots for any serious use.

Performance Comparison


We really like the looks of these boots. If only that top nylon were waterproof!
We really like the looks of these boots. If only that top nylon were waterproof!

Weather Protection


When we were researching the Sperry Saltwater boots before testing, we couldn't figure out whether the nylon upper was waterproofed. We liked the looks of these boots enough to buy them and try them out, assuming that a boot that was advertised as "waterproof" would have a waterproofed upper, but as soon as we stepped into a lake to test weather protection, we realized that we had been wrong.

The exact moment when we discovered that these boots are not very waterproof.
The exact moment when we discovered that these boots are not very waterproof.

Instead, these boots are only waterproof up to 2.8", or up to the top of the rubber.

Illustrating the deepest these boots can go into water. However  functionally  you can't even go this deep  as splashes from shallower water still got our feet wet.
Illustrating the deepest these boots can go into water. However, functionally, you can't even go this deep, as splashes from shallower water still got our feet wet.

To be clear, the nylon keeps out light rain (in the same way that a suede sneaker does), but we found the nylon couldn't protect us from heavy rain or even light splashes. If only these boots featured a waterproof lining, they would be waterproof up to the gusset (at 7.5"), but alas.

When these boots got wet, we also had issues with the microfleece lining holding in moisture — read about it in more detail in the warmth section below.

Once these boots got wet  they did not dry quickly.
Once these boots got wet, they did not dry quickly.

Comfort


The Saltwater feels a lot more like a sneaker than a pair of boots. This isn't a good thing in regards to some things but actually serves the boot in the comfort category. We like how absurdly light this boot is, weighing in at only 2.44 lbs for a size 13.

These boots are so light they will make you feel like your feet are floating!
These boots are so light they will make you feel like your feet are floating!

However, this boot weighs so little because they skimp on a lot of important features, including a supportive midsole — they are unpleasantly flexible, especially under the forefoot, and don't protect the feet at all from rocks or sharp edges. The Saltwater also has a thin insole that doesn't provide any arch support and tended to make our feet feel tired after just a few hours of active wear.

This is a pretty thin insole
This is a pretty thin insole

However, we ultimately decided that the Saltwater is a pretty comfy sure, as long as you're just using it for light around-town use. The light weight will make you forget you're wearing boots, which is pretty nice. We also like the laces, which you can keep loose or tight, depending on your preference.

Left untied  this boot is pretty sloppy in the heel  but when cinched up snugly  this boot provides a great fit.
Left untied, this boot is pretty sloppy in the heel, but when cinched up snugly, this boot provides a great fit.

Traction


Sperry claims that the "lugged rubber outsole with molded Wave-Siping provides no-slip traction," but we disagree. Nothing about the soles made us think of the word "lugged." And while the "wave-siping" might be good on boat decks, we didn't find it secure on any type of terrain besides concrete.

We wish these boots had more traction - the "wave-grip" doesn't do much on slippery terrain.
We wish these boots had more traction - the "wave-grip" doesn't do much on slippery terrain.

When we conducted our slip-tests on wet terrain (rocks and wood) and slippery terrain (pine needles, mud, and loose dirt), we found our feet slipping all over the place in these boots. We wouldn't recommend the Saltwater if you need good traction on anything other than the most standardized of surfaces.

These boots even slipped on this slightly damp rock.
These boots even slipped on this slightly damp rock.

Warmth


The entire inside of these boots is lined with microfleece — and this makes them very cozy in colder temperatures. It is a true pleasure to pull these boots on during cold mornings. That said, this has some surprising drawbacks. When this boot got wet in our immersion testing, the microfleece seemed to hold the moisture inside the boot, and despite 30 hours of drying, they still felt damp to the touch, making our feet colder than they should have been. We didn't dock them for this, but if you anticipate your boots getting wet, they will not dry out quickly.

The Saltwater boots tested quite well in our ice-bath test since the microfleece is indeed very comfortable. However, due to their low waterline, we couldn't immerse our feet in the ice water without getting leaks, so this wasn't a perfect comparison with burlier boots that we could fully surround with ice water. Ultimately, these boots scored around the middle of the pack for warmth.

This boot scored decently for warmth  but it wasn't really a fair comparison. Due to the very low waterproofing line  we could only immerse our feet in very shallow icy water.
This boot scored decently for warmth, but it wasn't really a fair comparison. Due to the very low waterproofing line, we could only immerse our feet in very shallow icy water.

Style


This is where the Saltwater boots shine. We really like the duck boot look, especially with the quilt-patterned nylon uppers and distinctive red-stripes up along the back of the boot. Our style consultants were surprised by how much they liked these boots in person, and there's no denying it — they draw the eye. However, you can't wear them out in just any weather unless you want to worry about wet feet.

These boots definitely photograph well
These boots definitely photograph well

Fit


A size 13 boots fit our size 12 feet with a half-inch of room. It felt like there was some extra width available for our D-width feet as well. In other words, they fit exactly how we like. And we especially appreciate the laces: we always enjoy the opportunity to fine-tune a fit, and laces are a great way to get boots snug. We liked having the option to tie them tight or loose, and when we laced these tight, they were very comfortable, with no heel slippage.

These boots are super comfortable for kicking around the woods.
These boots are super comfortable for kicking around the woods.

Value


If you are looking for a sturdy pair of boots to keep your feet dry in the rain and bad weather, you will not get your money's worth out of the Saltwater Duck Nylon. However, if you want to buy them for their looks and don't mind getting another pair of boots to wear when the weather's poor, then these may be worth the purchase. However, there are other boots in this test that both look good and keep your feet comfortable despite the weather.

Boot modeling at a rustic cabin up in Maine
Boot modeling at a rustic cabin up in Maine

Conclusion


We enjoyed wearing these boots thanks to their microfleece lining and extremely light weight. If this were a different type of review, perhaps for comfortable sneaker-like shoes, we might recommend these boots. However, we can't recommend them because their flood-height is just too low. We couldn't even step in shallow puddles without feeling like we were going to get our feet wet, and this makes it difficult for us to classify these as "rain boots." Unless you're sure you don't need a rain boot, we'd recommend most people look at some of the other boots in our review to meet their needs.

Richard Forbes