The Original Muck Boot Waterproof Chelsea Review
Cons: Very low shaft height, leather soaks up some moisture
Manufacturer: The Original Muck Boot Company
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Muck Chelsea boots defy all expectations for a rain boot with their casual aesthetic and rugged outsole. They are easily comfortable enough to wear all day, and no one seems to notice that they happen to be waterproof too. These are some of the best looking boots in our review, and we were surprised by how grippy they are. They're perfect to wear around town as the Seattle rains settle in.
The Chelsea boots prioritize looks over water resistance. While their website advertises a "boot height" of 7.35", we think this is disingenuous. Sure, 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 our test, hence its low score.
We find 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 our lineup. We wish the Chelsea had used something similar, so they'd be waterproof up to ~7" (where the elastic stops). Since they're only waterproof to 2.8", you have to be careful in deep puddles, something you wouldn't even notice in higher boots.
We can, however, attest that the Muck Chelsea is waterproof everywhere besides the elastic at the sides. 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. If you think you will be stepping in a lot of water, you might want to consider sealing these boots on a regular basis.
With their polyurethane footbed and low weight (only 2.9 lbs), these boots are easy to wear all day. They aren't too heavily cushioned, nor are they very stiff, but this works with their casual design. They are comfortable enough for long shifts on the feet, and light enough not to be burdensome. And we are especially happy with their leather construction, as they've gotten more and more comfortable the longer we've worn them (especially when compared to rubber boots, which don't break-in at all). We will admit that the Muck Chelsea are a bit loose in the heel, but that's pretty normal for rain boots in general, and thicker socks improve this issue.
The insoles aren't remarkable in any way, besides being more rubbery than other models. They don't feel like they cushion the feet too much or too little, and we honestly don't notice them one way or another until the end of a very long day.
We're surprised by how much traction the Chelsea boots provide, as we didn't expect them to have much, based on their looks. However, they can't compete traction-wise with more heavily studded work boots, so they end up in the middle of the pack. They did, however, do well enough in all the conditions we tested (mud, wet rocks, wet grass), but if you need traction, you're probably already getting a higher, more serious boot to deal with the worse conditions. That said, 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, because leather (even with a waterproof liner) breathes much better than thick rubber. This means that these boots are comfortable in far warmer conditions than rubber boots, and we found ourselves even wearing them comfortably on summer evenings in Seattle, which range between 60 and 70°F.
The Chelsea doesn't have any "insulation" to speak of, but, again, the leather does a better job than rubber in this respect. We were surprised to find that these boots were relatively comfortable during our ice-bath test — 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 (which rarely get lower than 35°F).
Everyone we asked loved the looks of the Chelsea boots, which are a perfect example of the traditional "Chelsea"-style boot 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 also really appreciate their reinforced heels. They aren't totally leather, instead featuring 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.
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 a D-width. The Chelsea fit us well immediately, and with their leather construction, we think they'll only continue to break in and get more comfortable over time.
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, this boot fits 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.
For a low, waterproof, slip-on boot, the Muck Company Chelsea boots are hard to beat. We love the way they look, and we find ourselves sliding them on even when the weather is nice outside, just because they work well with what we're wearing. We never do 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 enjoy being totally incognito about the fact that our boots are rainproof.
— Richard Forbes