The Chelsea boots defy all expectations for a rain boot with their casual aesthetic and rugged outsole. They were easily comfortable enough to wear all day, and no one commented or even noticed that they happened to be waterproof boots. These were some of the best looking boots in the test, and we were surprised by how grippy they were. They were perfect to wear in town as the Seattle fall settled in, and the rains began in earnest.
These look nothing like a rain boot, but still have plenty of grip.
The Chelsea boots prioritize looks over water resistance. While their website advertises a "boot height" of 7.35", we think this is disingenuous. The boot shaft measures that high, but the stretchy material at the ankle of the boot is not waterproof, so we found the actual waterproof line comes in significantly lower. We measured it to be waterproof up to 2.8" — the lowest shaft height in the test, hence its low score.
We found this low shaft height frustrating, as we have had great experiences with other models from the Original Muck Boots Company, and have two of their other boots in this test. Those other boots use waterproof foamed neoprene in their shafts, as do other low-cut rain boots in the test. We wish these boots had used something similar, so they'd be waterproof up to ~7" (where the elastic stops). Since they're only waterproof to 2.8", we had to be careful with these boots in deep puddles, when we wouldn't have even noticed the puddles in higher boots.
We wish that elastic were waterproof.
We can attest that they are waterproof everywhere besides the elastic at the sides, as we submerged the toe as deeply as we could short of the elastic, and no water got in. We do want to point out that the leather does not seem to be heavily treated, even though the manufacturer describes them as having "oiled leather." We could see the leather getting damp after water exposure (even though water never got through the underlying waterproof membrane). The outer leather does soak up some moisture and requires more careful drying than a pair of fully rubber boots would.
You can see how the front boot has soaked up some moisture compared to the dry boot behind it.
With their polyurethane footbed and low weight (only 2.9 lbs), these boots were easy to wear all day. They weren't too heavily cushioned, nor were they very stiff, but this works with their casual design. They were definitely comfortable enough for long shifts on our feet, and they were light enough that our feet felt like they were soaring after we'd tested 5 lb behemoth boots. And we were especially happy with their leather construction, as they got more and more comfortable the more we wore them (especially when compared to rubber boots, which don't break-in at all). We will admit that the boots were a little bit loose in the heel, but that's pretty normal for rain boots in general, and thicker socks improved this issue.
The insoles weren't remarkable in any way, besides being a more rubbery offering than the competitors. They didn't feel like they cushioned our feet too much or too little, and we honestly didn't really notice them until the end of very long days.
That's a pretty minimal insole. Look how floppy it is!
We were surprised by how much traction the Chelsea boots provide, as we didn't expect them to have much based on their looks. However, they couldn't compete traction-wise with more heavily studded work boots, so they ended up in the middle of the pack.
They did well enough in all the conditions we tested (mud, wet rocks, wet grass), but if you really need traction, you're probably already getting a higher, more serious boot to deal with the worse conditions. We never felt unstable in these boots on the concrete and mud we find in our day-to-day lives.
Low boots aren't as warm as their higher counterparts, which means they're significantly better for casual use, as they don't get as hot. Leather boots improve that even further, as leather (even with a waterproof liner) breathes much better than thick rubber. This means that these boots are comfortable in far warmer conditions than the rubber boots, and we found ourselves even wearing them comfortably on summer evenings in Seattle, which range between 60 and 70°F.
They don't have any "insulation" to speak of, but the leather again does a better job than rubber. We were surprised to find that they were relatively comfortable during our ice-bath test, and our feet were comfortable until ~5 minutes into the test. Ultimately, we don't recommend these boots for dedicated winter/snow use, but they are warm enough for most Seattle winters (rarely get lower than 35°F).
We were surprised by how warm this leather was (compared to similar thickness rubber).
Ease of Use
As with all low boots, these were a little bit of work to get on — we had to shoehorn a bit with our fingers — but they aren't too difficult. We found that their collar circumference (11") was perfect for our feet, just large enough to fit in without being too sloppy at the ankle.
We really appreciate their reinforced heels. They aren't totally leather, but instead, feature a rubberized heel plate that's almost the exact same color as the leather surrounding it. The only thing that gives the material away is the texture. This reinforcement allowed us to kick the boot off without worrying that we were going to scuff the leather.
We loved that these boots had reinforced heels, and we especially loved the fact that they were so subtly hidden to add style and function.
Everyone we asked loved the looks of the Chelsea boots, which are a perfect example of the traditional "Chelsea"-style boot, a style originally created in the 1840's (roughly around the same time as rainboots) by Queen Victoria's shoemaker, who patented the boots, stating: "She [Queen Victoria] walks in them daily and thus gives the strongest proof of the value she attaches to the invention."
While we're not royalty, we liked wearing these boots around in the city, and they paired well with our wardrobe. We did find that they looked odd when we wore them with baggy oil-stained Carhartts, which emphasizes the fact that these really aren't meant for gritty conditions. But they look great in a bar with friends!
We love splashing through puddles in pseudo-dress shoes
These boots have around a half-inch of room forward and back (for our size 12 feet) and are just around perfect width-wise for our D-width feet. They're probably right around a D width. These boots fit us well immediately, and with their leather construction, we think they'll only break in and get more comfortable over time.
These boots were so light they floated.
The Chelsea boots verge on the more expensive side of our test, but you're really getting two types of boots in one — a low-rise rain boot (with surprisingly good traction) and a nice-looking casual shoe that's comfortable enough for most urban temperatures. If you need both types of boots, these fit the bill perfectly. However, if you need something for yardwork, muck, and grunginess, spend less money on one of the other options in our test.
While we wish the waterproofing came up higher, we still really liked wearing these boots.
For a low, waterproof, slip-on boot, the Chelsea boots are hard to beat. We love the way they look, and we found ourselves sliding them on even when the weather was nice outside, just because they worked well with what we were wearing. We never did that with any of the rubber rain boots. And while we wouldn't do anything too mucky or gross in these (as we worry it might stain the leather), we enjoyed being totally incognito about the fact that our boots were rainproof.