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Hands-on Gear Review
Sorel Joan of Arctic Review
Cons: Heavy and bulky, lacks traction
Bottom line: Our Top Pick for Severe Weather will keep your tootsies toasty in the worst weather that winter can throw at you.
If you endure long winters, regularly slog through the snow, or just want a winter boot that is going to keep your feet warm and dry without making you look like you completely gave up on fashion, then the Sorel Joan of Arctic boot is exactly what you need. Taking home our Top Pick for Severe Weather, the Joan of Arctic is ready to protect you from frigid temperatures and tall snow drifts. When it dumped fifteen inches in Ridgway, Colorado during the 2016 Polar Vortex, the Joan of Arctic was the clear choice to brave shoveling the sidewalks and venturing out to walk the dog.
The Joan of Arctic is the only product in this review that has a removable liner; this helps increase warmth and allows the boot to dry more quickly if it ends up getting wet inside (even just from sweat). Additionally, these Sorels earned some of our highest scores in weather protection and warmth. We were thoroughly impressed with many aspects of this winter boot, but were disappointed that it wasn't more lightweight and comfortable. None of our testers liked wearing the Joan of Arctic all day long and we don't recommend it for anything longer than a short walk due to its heavy, bulky design. That said, if you absolutely need the most severe weather protection, our Top Pick winner is the best of this bunch. It's a perfect choice if you're standing around in the cold, waiting for the bus, or working the lifts at a ski resort.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Winter Boots For Women of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Our Top Pick for Severe Weather will keep your toes toasty and your pants drier than any other boot in our review. Even though this product earned some of the highest scores in our review, keep in mind that it is super heavy and not very comfortable for everyday wear, especially if you regularly walk medium to long distances each day. It's a better boot if you plan on standing outside in cold temperatures, but not being super active.
We first tested this boot during the 2016 "polar vortex" that brought double negative digit temperatures to Colorado. Even during that super cold week, this boot kept our toes warm. We won't go so far as to say they were toasty, but we definitely weren't uncomfortable in the cold. We went Christmas shopping in sub-zero temperatures without a problem. Again, our feet weren't necessarily toasty, but warm enough that we weren't worried about being out in the cold.
In addition to keeping your toes warm, this boot has one of the tallest shafts in our review. Its extra height adds additional heat and the faux fur cuff creates a cozy seal around the mid-calf. Surprisingly, this boot's closest competitor for warmth was the Vasque Pow Pow II, a very comfortable winter hiking boot with 400 grams of Thinsulate insulation. If you're seeking a very warm boot that can take you off the snowy sidewalk and onto icy trails, the Pow Pow is an excellent choice.
The Joan of Arctic comes fitted with a removable liner made of six-millimeter thick recycled felt. This removable liner is crucial if you plan to wear this boot multiple days in a row. Simply pull the felt liner out and place it near the fire, heater, or even in bed with you and it will likely dry out by morning. Additionally, the Joan of Arctic has a wide footbed that allows for increased air flow around the toes and foot, which allows the air in the boot to really warm up. At first we were a bit disappointed with the somewhat sloppy fit of this product; however, we later realized that we could slip an extra heat-reflective insole underneath the felt liner for even more warmth and a better fit.
If you're looking for a warm boot that is much more affordable, then be sure to consider our Best Buy winner: the Kamik Momentum.
Comfort & Coziness
Our Top Pick for Severe Weather really fell short in the comfort and coziness category. In fact, it was one of the lowest scoring pieces in this category, along with the Columbia Minx-Mid II and Sorel Tofino II. While the Minx-Mid II was lightweight, the Joan of Arctic is not. We tested a size 9 pair that weighed in at a whopping 4.16 pounds, which is about a pound and a half more than many of its competitors. Moreover, the Joan of Arctic model has a very wide toe box and a wide footbed that doesn't offer much support. Add in the shoe's extra weight and you have a boot that is extremely clunky and uncomfortable. Even though we hate to say it, wearing these boots felt a bit like wearing heavy clown shoes. They were also quite uncomfortable to drive in. If you're in the market for a much more comfortable boot that literally feels like your feet are wearing a pair of clouds, check out the UGG Adirondack II.
Unfortunately, the Joan of Arctic doesn't have much to offer in the way of coziness either. The removable felt liner is not super soft and it started to ball up in the bottom of the boot where our feet were rubbing. If you are sold on Sorel's performance and like the look of the Joan of Arctic but don't want the extra weight and clunkiness, check out the Sorel Tofino II (even with its small design flaw). If you're looking for a boot with a similar style and a much higher level of comfort, we'd recommend checking out the Northside Kathmandu. On the other hand, if you want the ultimate in comfort and coziness, the UGG Adirondack II is definitely the way to go.
We were blown away when we saw the level of weather protection this boot brought to the table. In both our slush bath and submersion tests, this boot outperformed the rest, keeping our feet dry and happy in all extremes we subjected it to. We learned that this boot can withstand puddle depths of 10 inches, and snow banks build up to 13 inches tall!
It's no surprise that when the Polar Vortex hit Ridgway, CO, bringing two feet of snow and sub zero temperatures, this was the boot we preferred to wear over the others. This is attributed largely to its great construction. The sole is made of vulcanized rubber, while the upper consists of waterproof suede and full-grain leather. Finally, the faux fur cuff helps keep out unwanted wetness.
The vulcanized rubber sole on this boot did not provide very impressive traction. Instead of featuring a lug-based outsole, this boot (along with other competitors tested) features grooves. The Sorel Tofino II had a similar design, but because the boot is more streamlined and the grooves are deeper, it provided better traction.
Other competitors like the Vasque Pow Pow II, which is designed specifically with winter hiking in mind, offered notably better traction then both Sorel options. Some models feature Vibram soles with deep treads. Others, like the UGG Adirondack II, feature Vibram soles with shallow treads. Even though the tread was shallow, the rubber was stickier and grippier than the the Joan of Arctic. That said, in snow, the Joan of Arctic did better than the UGG Adirondack II, but on rocky, slippery surfaces, there was no comparison. This boot performed fine while walking slowly on slick surfaces in wintry conditions, but we certainly wouldn't take them hiking and expect to cruise over rocky surfaces.
If you want a boot that compares in performance and style, but doesn't sacrifice on traction, check out the Editors' Choice winner, The North Face Shellista II.
Style & Fit
This winter boot runs true-to-size; our size 9 tester was happy with a size 9. However, if you want to layer extra socks or even an extra heat reflective insole, you may want to opt for a half size up (though keep in mind that this will make this already-clunky boot feel even bulkier). Women with wide feet will happily fit into this boot (which we can't say for competitors like the Sorel Tofino II, which has a more narrow fit). Amazingly, even though wearing the Joan of Arctic feels a bit like wearing a clown shoe, it does not actually make your feet look absolutely enormous, which is a huge plus in the style category.
This boot scored very highly in our style category. It isn't as chic as the Sorel Tofino II or as cute as The North Face Shellista II, but it does have a very attractive winter look. With the faux fur cuff and the leather detailing around the laces and up the back of the calf, this boot will certainly earn you compliments. Although you may have to sacrifice comfort, you can still be warm and stylish in these Sorels.
If you're looking for a boot with a similar style and a more affordable price, check out the Northside Kathmandu. The boot isn't as well constructed, but it is cute, with many colors to choose from.
Ease to Take On & Off
Boots that were easier to take on and off typically feature a rigid shaft, wide opening, and a one pull lacing system.
Due in part to the rougher felt liner, this boot was particularly difficult to take off. Putting them on was fine; the boot shaft is stiff enough to stand up on its own, and we found that when the laces were properly loosened, we could just slid our foot in. However, when taking this boot off, we often had to loosen the laces so much that they came unlaced from the top eyes, and simply 'kicking them off' wasn't so simple.
The removable liner would also sometimes pull up while kicking them off, which made it more difficult to get them ready to put back on. Additionally, the Joan of Arctic's felt liner snaps onto the upper with pull tab looking straps; however, we discovered that these do not double as pull tabs. When we tried to use them as finger holds, they usually came unsnapped and one eventually broke after six months of use. Other boots like our Best Buy winner, the Kamik Momentum makes taking the boot on and off simple. Its one pull lace up system and wide opening allowed feet to slide in and out easily. We found that the Northside Kathmandu was much easier to take on and off (once we removed the floppy, cheap insoles).
Our Top Pick for Severe Weather Award winner will keep your feet toasty, but at the price of limited comfort. Since this boot is so heavy and uncomfortable, it is not suitable for activities like winter hiking and we wouldn't choose it for all-day wear, unless you're just standing around or working the lift at the local ski hill. We loved it for outdoor chores, like shoveling snow and for around town use (although driving in them took some getting used to). This boot will keep your feet warm and happy during non-technical pursuits all winter long. Not only that, but it's the best choice when snow drifts are as high as 13 inches!
Throughout our testing process, we were impressed at how well the Joan of Arctic performed. Although it has a slightly higher price tag - $170 — we think it's well worth the investment if you are in need of a warm, tall winter boot. Add in the fact that it has some stylish good looks and our Top Pick winner is a great all-around value. That said, if you want a boot with a similar level of performance, with a small sacrifice in style, check out our Best Buy winner the Kamik Momentum. Or, if you're in the market for a boot with a similar style, but lacks some of the performance, check out the Northside Kathmandu for just $90.
A winter crusher, the Sorel Joan of Arctic is hands down the best choice for women enduring long, cold, snowy winters. Although our Top Pick for Severe Weather Award winner sacrifices on comfort and traction, it makes up for its shortcomings by outperforming its competitors in warmth, water resistance, and style.
— Amber King
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