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.Editor's Note: This Sorel boot review received an update on February 23, 2022, to include more information to help you find the boot for you.
Sorel Explorer II Joan Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Stylish, great warmth-to-weight ratio, good coverage
Cons: Minimal snow traction, not warm enough for long periods outside, narrow fit
Compare to Similar Products
Sorel Explorer II Joan
|Price||$83.83 at REI|
Compare at 2 sellers
Check Price at Amazon
|$101.97 at Backcountry|
Compare at 3 sellers
|$73.83 at REI|
Compare at 3 sellers
|Check Price at REI|
Compare at 3 sellers
|Pros||Stylish, great warmth-to-weight ratio, good coverage||Good value, ultra warm, great traction, highly waterproof||Warm, great weather protection, removable liner||Lightweight, super soft interior, durable leather exterior||Lightweight, flexible, good coverage, adjustable calf|
|Cons||Minimal snow traction, not warm enough for long periods outside, narrow fit||Only ankle-high coverage, hiking-specific style, narrow fit||Clunky fit, very heavy, not very stylish||Unimpressive outsole traction||Not the warmest, limited traction, not sturdy enough for trail use|
|Bottom Line||A stylish sneaker boot that is warm enough for everyday winter wear but does not function well as a boot for snowy activities||This well-priced boot hits all the marks with a winter-friendly design that maintains great traction, weatherproofing, and warmth||A 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 activities||One of the most comfortable choices in our lineup, with a soft, heat-retentive interior and durable, waterproof exterior||This lightweight, breathable boot is fashionable for everyday wear but best used for milder winters|
|Rating Categories||Sorel Explorer II Joan||Merrell Thermo Chil...||Sorel Caribou - Wom...||The North Face Shel...||Bogs Crandall II Ta...|
|Weather Protection (25%)|
|Comfort and Fit (20%)|
|Specs||Sorel Explorer II Joan||Merrell Thermo Chil...||Sorel Caribou - Wom...||The North Face Shel...||Bogs Crandall II Ta...|
|Maximum Puddle Depth Before Major Leaking||7"||6"||10"||7"||10"|
|Measured Shaft Height (from bottom of sole to top of shaft)||7.75"||6"||10.5"||10"||13"|
|Measured Weight (per pair, size 7)||1.66 lbs||1.79 lbs||3.78 lbs||2.25 lbs||3.03 lbs|
|Type of Boot||Casual winter wear||Winter hiking||All-around winter||All-around winter||Winter workwear|
|Fit Details||True to size||True to size||Runs big||True to size||Runs big|
|Lining/Insulation||Synthetic (100g)||M Select Warm (200g)||9mm recycled felt liner||Heatseeker Eco Pro (200g)||3mm Neo-Tech waterproof insulation and low-pile faux fur|
|Footbed||EVA, microfleece||Kinetic Fit BASE||N/A||OrthoLite||BLOOM EVA|
|Upper Material||Suede||Waterproof PU-coated leather and mesh||Waterproof nubuck leather||Full-grain leather and ballistic nylon||52.5% textile/47.5% rubber|
|Outsole||EVA, rubber||M Select GRIP||Aero-trac rubber||Surface Control rubber||Rubber|
|Company Claimed Cold Weather Rating||Not stated||Not stated||Not stated||Not stated||-40°C/-40°F|
|Temp Change in Ice Bath||-6.3 F||-5.2 F||-6.9 F||-6.5 F||-13 F|
|Sizes Available||5 - 12||5 - 11||5 - 12||5 - 11||6 - 12|
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 the 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.
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.
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.
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.
Comfort and Fit
We found the Explorer II Joan exceptionally comfortable and supportive. The midsole and footbed are 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 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 prolonged 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.
We weren't too impressed with the Explorer II Joantread. 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, especially if the rubber compound is on the stiffer side. When walking up trails with 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.
Should You Buy the Sorel Explorer II Joan?
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. 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.
What Other Winter Boots Should You Consider?
If you need something more than a commuter boot in light snow and cold, this Sorel isn't as suitable as the Sorel Caribou - Women's. The Caribou offers better weather protection, warmth, and traction, making it the superior Sorel no matter what you consider essential. Alternatively, if you need the best all-around boot or something lighter than the Caribou with similar specs, the UGG Adirondack III performed the same for warmth and weather protection but offers a better fit and a more precision feel for easier driving and walking long distances. While the traction suffers some for the Ugg, it will get you where you need to go as long as the trail isn't too technical or vertical.
— Liz Chamberlain
Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.Learn More