A common item for mud rooms, garages or back patios, rain boots come in overwhelming numbers and styles. To help, we purchased 10 of the top models and compared them side-by-side. We want a pair that will instill the utmost comfort, trend, and confidence for whatever task is at hand. From the occasional snow of the Fall season, sleeting rain, and the questionable, moody overcasts, we took on the varying characteristics of 10 different rain boots. With weather protection, comfort, style, traction, and warmth as the main metrics for testing, we ranked each boot according to their cumulative performances from the last few months. Read on for the gritty details and more on each model.
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Updated January 2018
In a neighborhood with dirt roads, slippery pine cones, and a beautiful variety of mountainous terrain, we tested each along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. From driving into town to run errands, seeing friends, splashing around on the bank of a river, grassy inclines, wooded acres, and garden tasks, we wanted to experience all these boots had to offer. Fairly new to the market, some of these contenders were purchased for their notable brand names, and the rest were previous award top-performers, competing again for their titles. The Hunter Original takes the cake as the best overall, while the Kamik Heidi is the winner of our Best Buy award. The Xtratuf Legacy is our Top Pick for those that work outside.
Hunter Original Back Adjustable - Women's
The Hunter Original Back Adjustable ranked high in weather protection due to its adjustable mouth and tall shaft, and also scored high in comfort, traction, and style. This award-winner truly has it all, especially if you're looking for something functional, sleek, and cute. The only true drawback is the list price of $160. These boots are imported from the UK, so if you're buying them directly from the manufacturer, there's a potential for high shipping costs. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for; so if you can shell out the cash, there's no question in our minds that this pair is of remarkable quality.
Adjustable opening yields a custom fit and superb weather protection
Flexible shaft construction
No insulation for snowy conditions
Read review: Hunter Original Back Adjustable - Women's
Best Bang for the Buck
With all the qualities of a top contender, scoring well in comfort, traction, and style, the Kamik Heidi is a dream come true, especially when the price tag reads $50. Coming in $90 cheaper than the competitive Hunter, and $30 cheaper than the next similar model, the Kamik is the price of a typical low-top. While this boot only rises 12 inches from the ground and is classified as mid-calf height, it's truly a worthwhile purchase, particularly if you're looking for a dependable mild-weather boot. Outfitted with high-quality tread, the Heidi is flexible and fashionable with a glossy appeal. For the second year in a row, the Heidi is our Best Buy winner. It is a deal that is truly hard to beat.
Sufficient weather protection
Thinner sole/less foot support than others
No insulation for snowy conditions
Read review: Kamik Heidi
Top Pick for Working Outside
Xtratuf Legacy 15" - Women's
The Xtratuf Legacy model grew on us as time went on. They have the thickest soles, which offer the greatest foot support and long-lasting comfort for the day, outperforming all the other models in this sense. While working in outdoor environments, whether it be on a farm, on a boat, or in a garden, comfort is invaluable. As far as style goes, the brown neoprene is not necessarily unappealing, but they aren't the most stylish in the bunch, either. This model offers a fish or octopus print lining in honor of the famous Alaskan Salmon Sisters, who have used these boots heavily on their commercial fishing boats. Right out of the box, however, this model did have a strange, oily sheen to them. The main drawbacks were above average performances on snow and ice, a slightly big fit, heavy weight, and a lack of relative warmth. But depending on where you're living and working, many of these facets just won't outweigh their hardworking and technical appeal.
All-day comfort and foot support
Chemical resistance for work environments
Dependable, no skid-mark traction
No insulation for snowy conditions
Oily/sticky residue out of the box yields an unaesthetic appeal at first
Read review: Xtratuf Legacy 15" - Women's
Analysis and Test Results
The ideal rain boot is the one that is the most functional in the environment that you spend the most time in. Right out of the box, aesthetic appeal and sizing often leave the biggest impressions. We were fond of the Kamik Heidi from the get-go with its red-wine lining and clear, synthetic rubber upper (which thoughtfully lends more depth to the color). Style and overall quality certainly play a huge influence on how we select shoes, and thankfully, brands tend to be cognizant of making technical and comfortable boots that are aesthetically pleasing.
With varying shaft heights from the ankle to just below the knee, these ten competitors ranged from the most simplistic to the more technical designs. All were made with a multitude of materials from vulcanized rubber to neoprene, yielding a range of flexibility and warmth. All but three had removable insoles, and nine of the ten had nylon, cotton, or other synthetic materials for a lining. In addition to compiling technical specs and perusing online reviews, many factors made up each metric. For example, the comfort category was broken down into elements of the overall weight and mobility of the boots, all-day wear, the ease of putting them on and taking them off, and the actual fit of the boot. Read our How We Test article for more details on how we came to average out the scores for ranking.
This metric held the most weight, for obvious reasons. Inevitably, the tallest rain boots provided the best overall protection, with scores shrinking as shaft height decreased. Even with the aid of an umbrella, the taller the shaft, the more protection you will have from sideways rain or puddle splashes. Throw on a pair of waterproof pants or gaiters over the low-top Joules Wellibob, and you're right as rain. But who wants to do that all the time? In and of themselves, the boots were critiqued on the ability to keep out all the undesirables, whether it be slush, mud, snow, or icy river water.
Through rain and snow, river adventures, and in lab testing, the Hunter Original Back Adjustable was a winner in this metric thanks to the circumference of the boot opening; at 14-19 inches, this award winner easily adapted to our calf sizes. It's also the tallest boot tested, as measured from the floor, and we couldn't imagine a better set-up for a successful rain boot. The Helly Hansen Veierland 2 and L.L. Bean Wellies Tall were also high scorers in this metric, as they are tall, and kept the elements at bay.
Consider the circumference of the boot mouth relative to your calf circumference. This is a personal measurement, of course, so ponder beforehand what certain circumferences would mean for your specific calf size. The wider the mouth is relative to your calf (even if they are tall boots), the more likely they are to collect all that you're hoping to keep out.
Furthermore, we had to consider any cut-outs in the boot shaft for hands or fingers to aid in the carrying or donning of the boots, such as the finger holes in the Crocs Jaunt Shorty. In addition, the Bogs North Hampton boots had two rectangles cut for handles. The North Hampton had an excellent, snug fit about the calves and were of relative height. Ultimately, we echoed concern in our review and found the same across internet reviews due to the handles diminishing the effectiveness of the boot height - from 14.5" to 11"- dropping their overall weather protection score. While these handles aided their score for mobility and ease of putting on, this weather metric still weighs more heavily as it encompasses the fundamental principle of a rain boot.
The second most important metric is the ability to maintain comfort throughout the day. We incorporate aspects such as how each model fits and feels, and whether or not they're easy to carry, pack, put on, and take off. The array of comfort scores came about in very particular ways. Every pair varied in construction, pressure points, and foot support which required a combination of focused assessment and the good ol' tried and true: did we ever forget we were wearing them? And if we found ourselves thinking about them often, why? What made each model comfortable?
Four boots shared top scores for comfort, as shown in the chart above. Yielding the ability to smoothly flex with your legs as you walk due to softer rubber, these four contenders also fit and felt the best overall. While specifics of how they performed varied slightly from one another, such as the neoprene of the Bogs North Hampton feeling cozier than the nylon lining of the Hunter, averaging all these smaller scores together is what ultimately allowed us to conclude scores for overall comfort. The Kamik Heidi was another high scorer for comfort; they fit well, were easy to take on and off, and wearing them all day resulted in a satisfactory level of comfort. You can read more about each model in the individual reviews.
In some models, stiff and inflexible rubber resulted in hot spots, and, in two cases, felt baggy and unwieldy despite wearing thick socks. These contenders failed to provide the highest standard of comfort, and as a result, we had tired and achy feet at the end of the day. Even though the Crocs Jaunt Shorty were short, the resin they are molded from was firm enough to dig into the shins if we were going uphill. The L.L. Bean Wellies earned one the lowest comfort scores, a 5 out of 10; it was one of the stiffest models and the most inflexible of the lot. They were also the hardest to remove and ran large, contradictory to the manufacturer's recommendation for sizing online. They were the heaviest in the fleet and produced a robotic and baggy experience relative to the others. The Helly Hansen Veierland 2 was the other model to earn a 5 out of 10 in the comfort metric, as the rubber was stiff and didn't allow for as much movement as some of the high scorers.
Style is of the most subjective categories for ranking, and it can be challenging to settle on rankings. We based each score on out-of-the-box appeal, the versatility of being both fashionable and practical, and any cultivated opinions over time. We also sent pictures to friends and asked them to provide feedback. In the end, we compared these scores to our own, and voila. While being as objective as possible, this metric will inevitably remain a subjective reflection of a handful of outdoor enthusiasts, where the most technical and straightforward looking boot can surprisingly yield a rather stylish appeal, like the Xtratuf Legacy.
The tallest three boots, the Hunter Original, Helly Hansen Veierland 2, and the L.L. Bean Wellies, all had relatively slim profiles with added buckles, finger loops, and other molded accents. The L.L. Bean looked the most like a black horseback riding boot, with the Helly Hansen Veierland 2 had a similar design. The Hunter had the most streamlined profile.
The next tallest models were remarkably varied. The Kamik Heidi stood out with its deep red and glossy finish. The Bogs and the Xtratuf shared technical style in that they came across as sporty and built for the rough-and-tough outdoors, with the Xtratuf Legacy designed more for marine lifestyle.
The Bogs North Hampton has been a long-time favorite with their matte black neoprene, glossy toes, and cut-out handles. In contrast, the UGG Shaye were a beautiful forest green with a black lining, which made for a very fashionable yet simplistic look. The Shaye, along with the Kamik Heidi, were the two highest scorers in this metric thanks to their great looks.
The shortest rain boots also varied considerably in style. Crocs are in a class of their own. With a bright yellow Croslite resin, the Crocs Jaunt Shorty reminded us of boots from children's bedtime stories. They are very bold and wide, which, in their short nature, felt and looked like clown shoes to some. Nonetheless, they are straightforward and classic for those who genuinely enjoy the brand. The Joules Wellibob boots were unique in that they were lined with white, synthetic fur and had a distinct heel and color profile (navy blue and pink) that was enjoyably feminine. We could see this contender romping about the urban environment.
It's a delicate balance, yet sometimes brands seem to prioritize the fashion sense of the boot over the practicality of it. Surprisingly, we found the Sperry Saltwater Duck Boot to be such a case; as a well-known and celebrated boat lifestyle brand, the Duck Boot is made with a detached tongue and a non-waterproofed side-zipper. Because of this design, it invariably had the shortest effective shaft height and the least amount of practical weather protection of the bunch. As one of the most "trendy", these boots were lined with micro-fleece, and had rawhide uppers and lacing. Interestingly enough, the rawhide laces did not tie into a bow when attempting to tighten the boot; they seemed, again, to be only for aesthetic appeal, which reminds us of the popular urban style of undone laces. Cute in their own way, we wished their waterproofing was a little more thought out.
Whether working or playing outside, traction is something many outdoor enthusiasts consider and prioritize.
This metric often contends with comfort and style, but we believe that it is almost just as important as the essential weather protection. There's little point in a product being completely weatherproof and cozy if you're slipping around in light snow and using your hands to steady yourself. Take, for example, the Bogs North Hampton. It appears to be a sporty boot with traction that seems only to relish the flattest and simplest surfaces. With above average performance, the North Hampton quickly lost its holistic luster when testing in powdery snow, icy conditions, and across wet river rocks. But, in many instances, a winter boot would be the preference for snow or icy conditions. If you need a warm and comfortable boot to get you from your house to your car to the office building in relative style and don't plan on wearing them in the ice or snow, the Bogs, and any of the boots with above average traction scoring, like the Helly Hansen Veierland 2, are a decent buy.
Nonetheless, the top performers for traction were the Hunter Original Back Adjustable and the Kamik Heidi, with the L.L. Bean Wellies coming in close behind them. Sharing second place were the UGG Saye and the Xtratuf Legacy models. They all have rubber outsoles, tread design, and enabled sensitivity (via sole thickness), which are primarily responsible for effective gription. The Kamik was an example of a thinner sole offering more sensitivity, although a drawback was feeling more of the uncomfortable surfaces like gravel and sharp rock.
This metric holds the least amount of weight when determining overall scores due to the nature of differing consumer locations and variable needs for warmth.
Each boot was ranked according to how well they retained heat across snow while wading through an icy river, or throughout a casual rainy day (or even a non-rainy day). The warmest boots performed the best in the snow and performed the worse, of course, during the warmest days with temperatures ranging from (approximately) 50-70 degrees-F. The leading example was the Bogs North Hamptons, with insulation apparently rated down to 5F (we found that a more realistic rating might be down to 20F).
The majority of our fleet had a more traditional amount of insulation, which is little to none. This means that boots like the Xtratuf, Hunter, Kamik, and notably the Helly Hansen Veierland 2, failed to hold heat in the snow and the icy river test. On the other hand, this also meant these boots would function quite nicely in places with continuous mild and warmer weather (or until you're ready to switch out for your winter boots). If you're only looking for a pair to wear fun, thick socks with for spring and fall showers, we would prefer a model that had versatility across a range of temperatures as opposed to boots that might dominate one end of the spectrum.
If you do live in cold environments, keep in mind that you are already likely to own a specific pair of winter boots, so buying a rain boot for snow purposes could be redundant. In this case, we would still lean towards a contender set for mild-weather, summer thunderstorms, and the convenience of puttering about the garden.
Rain boots are already atypically warm as shoes go, due to the very quality of being waterproof and having little to no breathability. Consider this when shopping for a model with more pronounced insulation, as it could lead to sweaty, unhappy feet if you live in a warmer climate.
Invariably, fit is something that will never be perfect, especially with rain boots that all too commonly lack half sizes. Fit will also vary depending on sock preferences, from those who prefer a snug foot box and a thin sock to those who prefer a roomy foot box and a thick sock. More often than not, boots will run too large or too small, which means you'll want to read up on sizing charts and reviews. Even then, weigh in your intuition, as manufacturers may suggest something you have no preference for, such as, "Those who are half-sizes, size up," when you are one to prefer a snug foot box and thin socks instead. Fit is not a metric we score separately, so read each individual review for specifics on how every boot fit and felt, and how fit played a role in determining the overall comfort scores.
A couple of the models were notable and provided an excellent fit for us. The top three include the Bogs North Hampton, Kamik Heidi, and the Hunter Original Back Adjustable. Boots that did not fit us as well were the L.L. Bean Wellies, Helly Hansen Veierland 2, and the Crocs Jaunt Shorty. These last three had stiffer rubber or shaft material, which we believe highly impacted the perception of fit. Furthermore, the L.L. Bean and Crocs ran too large, so fit was amiss from the get-go despite adhering to sizing recommendations.
Deciding on the perfect boot is a daunting task, from weighing personal style preferences, reading as many online reviews as humanly possible, to inevitably finding out for ourselves. With all there is to consider, remember the fundamentals of what makes a pair of rain boots so great: weather protection, comfort, style, traction, and warmth. In addition, of course, consider the price tag, and don't forget to check out our Buying Advice article to further aid your quest for an appropriate and affordable purchase.
— Sara Ann Aranda
Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.