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Sorel Explorer II Joan Review

A stylish sneaker boot that is warm enough for everyday winter wear but does not function well as a boot for snowy activities
Sorel Explorer II Joan
Photo: Sorel
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Price:  $140 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Stylish, great warmth-to-weight ratio, good coverage
Cons:  Minimal snow traction, not warm enough for long periods outside, narrow fit
Manufacturer:   Sorel
By Liz Chamberlain ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 6, 2021
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66
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 13
  • Warmth - 25% 6
  • Weather Protection - 25% 6
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 9
  • Durability - 15% 6
  • Traction - 15% 6

Our Verdict

We welcomed the Sorel Explorer II Joan with open arms. Sorel has started integrating streetwear style into their winter boot designs, and they’ve done a solid job mixing fashion and function. While performance is lost in some areas, the Explorer II Joan still exceeded our expectations in certain categories. The boot is super light and kept us warm and dry throughout workdays, and on early morning dog walks. Unfortunately, it was not built for deep snow activities and provides limited traction and waterproofing capabilities. This boot wouldn’t be our first choice for a proper snow boot, but it is a great option for everyday streetwear when things are a little slushy.

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$190 List
$199.95 at Amazon
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Pros Stylish, great warmth-to-weight ratio, good coverageFull coverage protection, highly durable, reliable tractionGood value, ultra warm, great traction, highly waterproofWarm, great weather protection, removable linerLightweight, super soft interior, durable leather exterior
Cons Minimal snow traction, not warm enough for long periods outside, narrow fitPricey, very heavy, retains moisture, difficult to drive inOnly ankle-high coverage, hiking-specific style, narrow fitClunky fit, very heavy, not very stylishUnimpressive outsole traction
Bottom Line A stylish sneaker boot that is warm enough for everyday winter wear but does not function well as a boot for snowy activitiesThis highly durable boot is completely waterproof and great at insulating, though it's a bit too bulky to wear on low-snow days or during high-output activitiesThis well-priced boot hits all the marks with a winter-friendly design that maintains great traction, weatherproofing, and warmthA warm, bulky, and durable boot built for a lifetime of Alaska-grade winters but that isn't light or comfortable enough for extended use or mobile activitiesOne of the most comfortable choices in our lineup, with a soft, heat-retentive interior and durable, waterproof exterior
Rating Categories Sorel Explorer II Joan Muck Boot Arctic Ic... Merrell Thermo Chil... Sorel Caribou - Wom... The North Face Shel...
Warmth (25%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
Weather Protection (25%)
6.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
Comfort And Fit (20%)
9.0
7.0
9.0
5.0
8.0
Durability (15%)
6.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Traction (15%)
6.0
9.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
Specs Sorel Explorer II Joan Muck Boot Arctic Ic... Merrell Thermo Chil... Sorel Caribou - Wom... The North Face Shel...
Maximum Puddle Depth Before Major Leaking 7" 16" 6" 10" 7"
Measured Shaft Height (from bottom of sole to top of shaft) 7.75" 16" 6" 10.5" 10"
Measured Weight (per pair, size 7) 1.66 lbs 4.59 lbs 1.79 lbs 3.78 lbs 2.25 lbs
Type of Boot Casual winter wear Winter workwear Winter hiking All-around winter All-around winter
Fit Details True to size Runs big True to size Runs big True to size
Lining/Insulation Synthetic (100g) Fleece M Select Warm (200g) 9mm recycled felt liner Heatseeker Eco Pro (200g)
Removable Liner? No No No Yes No
Footbed EVA, microfleece bioDEWIX Kinetic Fit BASE N/A OrthoLite
Upper Material Suede Rubber Waterproof PU-coated leather and mesh Waterproof nubuck leather Full-grain leather and ballistic nylon
Toe Box Suede Rubber Rubber Rubber Rubber
Outsole EVA, rubber Vibram Arctic Grip A.T. M Select GRIP Aero-trac rubber Surface Control rubber
Company Claimed Cold Weather Rating Not stated Not stated Not stated Not stated Not stated
Temp Change in Ice Bath -6.3 F -9.5 F -5.2 F -6.9 F -6.5 F
Animal Products? Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Sizes Available 5 - 12 5 - 11 5 - 11 5 - 12 5 - 11

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Explorer II Joan isn't the most reliable on trail hikes, particularly when going up and down inclines. The tread also left us hanging on snowy or icy surfaces, and the thin upper is not as reliable in terms of support or long-term durability. Still, this was one of the more comfortable and lightweight boots we tested for all-day wear. The wave pattern on the outsole is designed for wet surfaces rather than snow or ice, but it adds a few millimeters of surface area beyond the midsole that creates a spongy, cushioned feel on pavement. All in all, this is a great boot for the fashionable city slicker but won't live up to burlier winters in a mountain town.

Performance Comparison


Taking a stroll down our favorite river side trail getting a feel...
Taking a stroll down our favorite river side trail getting a feel for the support and stability of the Sorel Explorer II Joan.
Photo: Kati Clark

Warmth


With 100 grams of insulation, we weren't surprised by this boot's ability to keep us warm. The felt liner is soft and sultry with a slipper-like feel, and the thin layer of suede in the upper allows for better breathability than winter boots with thicker insulation layers. Unfortunately, the thin upper has half the amount of insulation as some of the burlier winter boots we tested, limiting overall warmth and heat retention.

The Explorer II Joan performed well on wet rocky and uneven surfaces...
The Explorer II Joan performed well on wet rocky and uneven surfaces but didn't grip the ground as much as we had hoped on snowy inclines. It did however, keep us decently warm.
Photo: Kati Clark

Weather Protection


Thanks to a higher shaft height, the Explorer II Joan scored decently in this category. The 7¾" shaft height provides more coverage than a mid boot, and the slender construction of the upper creates a tight fit around socks or pants.

The Explorer II Joan has great coverage and kept our feet protected...
The Explorer II Joan has great coverage and kept our feet protected from snow intrusion. The boots are not, however, built for long term exposure to snow.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

This boot also proved to be surprisingly waterproof — we submerged it up to 7 inches in a river without water leakage. We felt the chill of the water, but we didn't experience any water flowing into the boot.

We dipped the Explorer II Joan in the Truckee River up to the collar...
We dipped the Explorer II Joan in the Truckee River up to the collar of the boot and found it to be surprisingly waterproof. The suede does show wetness after a soaking, though.
Photo: Kati Clark

Comfort and Fit


We found the Explorer II Joan to be particularly comfortable and supportive. The midsole and footbed shaped perfectly to our testers' narrow feet, while the outsole has a foam-like reactivity that makes for a supportive, cushiony base. That said, testers with wider feet felt the toe box was too small for their liking, while those with narrow heels felt there was too much room in the heel cup. As always, if you can, try this boot on before committing. But in general, if you're looking for a light, form-fitting, wear-to-work boot, the Joan will likely keep your feet happy all day long.

The lacing structure on the Explorer II Joan is taut and form...
The lacing structure on the Explorer II Joan is taut and form fitting for those who like a snug fit, but may be too tight or narrow for those with high arches or wider feet.
Photo: Kati Clark

Durability


The Explorer II Joan is one of the less durable options in our review group. Due to the thin nature of the upper, heavy use or long exposures to water and snow will inevitably cause the structure of the suede to wear and thin out. It is also likely the waterproofness may deteriorate if frequently used in wet conditions. Although, keep in mind that proper care of Sorel suede will extend the lifetime of the footwear. And, the EVA and rubber-based compound in the sole is likely to last a long time as long as it isn't dragged over sharp objects or rugged terrain.

The Explorer II Joan has one of the most fashionable exteriors that...
The Explorer II Joan has one of the most fashionable exteriors that we continually reached for when going out on the town on wintery nights.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

Traction


We weren't too impressed with the tread on the Explorer II Joan. Throughout our testing, we've found that a flat outsole with a wave pattern is not nearly as capable of gripping snow and ice as a sole with lugs, particularly if the rubber compound is on the stiffer side. When walking up trails with both light and sloppy snow, we felt like we were slipping around, wishing we had a better grip. We believe this boot performs best when it sticks to the pavement and flat terrain.

The Explorer II Joan has an interesting wave pattern with carved out...
The Explorer II Joan has an interesting wave pattern with carved out spaces lining the exterior of the foot to add traction on wetter surfaces. Unfortunately, this didn't do much for us in the snow.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

Value


The Explorer II Joan comes at an average price point for a winter boot, though you're paying more for the style element of the shoe rather than the functional elements. If the boot provided more traction or a greater level of warmth, we would be more inclined to consider it a high value. Unfortunately, we would be hard-pressed to choose this boot over other options with greater performance and more versatile winter applications in truly cold or messy weather.

Conclusion


The Sorel Explorer II Joan is a fashionable boot designed to keep you dry and warm in the winter months. It is soft, snug, and lightweight, making it a top choice to wear to work for those that work indoors in the winter. We would recommend this boot to those looking for warm urban streetwear, but not necessarily the mountain town folk who need more coverage, warmth, and traction in their snow boots. We give the Explorer II Joan a thumbs up in the sneaker-boot category but would not consider this a top choice in this review group.

We like the design of the Explorer II Joan and were surprised at how...
We like the design of the Explorer II Joan and were surprised at how warm 100g of insulation kept us on cold days.
Photo: Liz Chamberlain

Liz Chamberlain

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