The Sorel Explorer Joan is a sneaker-like winter boot with lack-luster performance in all of our technical metrics. While you certainly can don it for the jaunt around town or wear it out to dinner with friends, don't expect it to be your go-to all-around awesome winter boot. It's not very warm, protective, or easy to use. While it certainly looks good with a pair of skinny jeans or tights, we'd recommend keeping it at home if you plan on sledding, shoveling the driveway, or embarking on a winter hike. If you're simply seeking a cute boot for winter, that doesn't need to perform, this might be high on your list. But for everything else, it's not one we can easily recommend. If you do buy it, be sure to size up at least a half size, or a full size if you like to wear thicker socks.
Sorel Explorer Joan Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Cute style, lightweight, good on soft snow
Cons: Poor warmth and protection, traction is sub-par on hardpacked surfaces, liner deforms when wet, poor value.
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Our Analysis and Test Results
This casual winter boot is far from warm or protective - but it does look good! It is built to simply take you from the car to your work or to carry you on a nice latte-like stroll around town. It's not intended for high snowdrifts or technical uses, earning a much lower overall score in this review.
Built with 100-grams of Thinsulate and a relatively breathable design, this shoe-like boot is designed for weather that isn't super cold. Bluebird days where storms have subsided and there isn't a ton of snow is where it does best. Its thinner design in both the heel and through the body vents heat, and doesn't keep it in to maintain all-day warmth. We tested it in zero degree weather and found our feet to be quite cold when standing still. However, when walking, it did good work to keep them dry with a thin, wool sock. If you are really sold on its style and want to buy it, be sure to size up at least a half size. Running small, it'll be hard to pair with a thicker pair of socks, and a little extra room in the toe box for movement offers better overall warmth anyway.
We tested this boot after winter storms, where snowdrifts are high. Our main tester lives in Colorado where drier climates prevail with light, fluffy snow.
Given the shorter height of this boot, it doesn't offer a whole lot of protection from snowdrifts, but the faux fur liner at the top of the boot does help to keep snow out. We hiked with it on a local trail and found it to be sufficient when snow is packed down. In addition, it fits nicely underneath wider pants if that's what you intend to use as your main form of protection.
In our water tests, it didn't do so well. The suede exterior offers great wicking power when plowing through the odd puddle, but when we stood in a river and marched for about one minute (to simulate agitation of seams while walking), water began to pour in at the stitching. For an expensive boot, we're a little upset with this performance. It's total puddle protection stopped at a whole two inches. Don't expect this boot to offer the best weather protection. Though, it'll do if you're simply running chores around town or want to pair it with a nice pair of leggings while at work.
Comfort & Fit
The boot is comfortable enough. It features a more narrow fit that doesn't offer a whole lot of stability through the ankle and comes without arch support.
The toe box is more narrow, and you'd be smart to order a whole size larger. The footbed is comfortable for all-day wear. The shaft of the boot is flexible and doesn't chafe or rub in any weird spots. We also appreciate the lightweight construction that doesn't feel bulky while you head on over to your favorite coffee shop.
Our only qualm is the liners. When wet, they deform and bulge out. Getting our foot in and out of the boot took a little work as the insole would pull up. But with some rearranging, it was okay. Overall, it's a comfortable boot but you need to size up, especially if you prefer to wear a thicker sock.
Ease of Use
Outfitted with a laced structure and a less rigid boot shaft, be ready to use both hands when getting in and out of this boot. Its laces work well enough, but don't offer a full tightening structure when you pull the laces. A specific fit takes a little work, but no more then what'd you expect with a pair of running shoes.
The traction is decent, offering purchase on most winter surfaces. The lugs are flat and without structure, making them okay on snow, but super slippery on ice and over slush.
We tested them on a winter hike and found ourselves slipping on steeper surfaces as they are truly built for flat terrain. Once again, given this lackluster performance, we'd recommend it to wear around town, and only if your town is relatively flat. Wherever you'd wear tennis shoes, you can wear this boot.
When considering the price and its relative winter performance, we'd say this shoe simply isn't worth the money. There are plenty of other options out there that offer much better technical performance to keep you safe on slippery surfaces than this shoe-like boot. That said, if you're in search of a stylish trendsetting winter boot that you can easily pair with some skinny jeans and wear to a tinder date, you might be willing to throw down the bills. Just know it is not very warm, doesn't have the best traction, and won't protect in the face of miles of puddles and slush.
The Sorel Explorer Joan is far from a performance winter boot and is built for casual wear. This is a boot we'd pair with some tights or skinny jeans and wear to work or out with friends. But for all the winter chores and fun, we'd leave it at home. While it is cute, it isn't very warm or protective.
— Amber King