Over the past 7 years, we've bought and tested 30 different pairs of rain boots. For this 2021 review, we purchased the best 14 boots we could find and stomped into the elements for testing. From sloshing around in lakes, rivers, and the ocean, to slipping and sliding in sub-freezing temps, our experts have found the best boots for whatever wet weather you face. We took painstaking measurements of flood heights, weights, and insulation efficacy in an ice-filled tub to truly put these boots through their paces. We then scored each boot based on its performance. Whatever your needs are, we're here to show you the right pair of boots for the job.Related: Best Rain Boots for Women of 2021
Best Rain Boots for Men of 2021
|Price||Check Price at Backcountry|
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|$164.95 at Amazon||$134.99 at Amazon||$149.95 at Amazon|
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|$184.95 at REI|
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|Pros||Great looks, extremely warm and comfortable, versatile||Extremely weatherproof, decently lightweight, great traction||Well insulated, ideal comfort, easy to take on and off||Lightweight, great traction, adjustable fit, everything you want in a boot||Extremely comfortable, lightweight, and trendy good looks|
|Cons||Expensive, included wool insole can be too warm for all conditions||Pretty pricey, thin-feeling underfoot||Lower shaft height, less traction||A bit pricy, cushioning in midsole is slightly lacking, long-term durability issues||Pricey, only waterproof to 2.75"|
|Bottom Line||While admittedly pricey, these good-looking boots can do it all||These boots performed highly in every test we threw at them, and we're confident they'll keep you dry and happy||This boot will keep you warm, dry, and comfortable even on the longest, coldest, and wettest days||These boots are just about perfect for most applications and perform excellently when new, but we've had some durability issues after months of use||While they've got a low waterline, these boots are at the top of our tests for comfort and style|
|Rating Categories||Blundstone Thermal...||The Original Muck B...||Bogs Classic Ultra...||Bogs Workman||Sorel Madson II Moc...|
|Weather Protection (30%)|
|Specs||Blundstone Thermal...||The Original Muck B...||Bogs Classic Ultra...||Bogs Workman||Sorel Madson II Moc...|
|Weight per Pair (size 13)||2.93 lbs||4.72 lbs||5.76 lbs||4.97 lbs||2.63 lbs|
|Flood Height (inches from bottom of sole to lowest point at top of shaft)||6.7"||18"||12"||14.75"||2.75"|
|Mouth Circumference (inches)||9.75"||18.75"||17"||16"||13"|
|Lining/Insulation||Thinsulate||5 mm neoprene||7mm waterproof Neo-Tech insulation||7.5MM Neo-Tech waterproof insulation||Textile and synthetic|
|Upper Material||Leather + Elastic||Rubber||Rubber||Neotech/Rubber||Waterproof leather|
|Outsole Material||TPU Outsole||Rubber||Siped self-cleaning non-slip rubber||BioGrip slip resistant outsole||Molded rubber|
|Insole||Removable sheepskin insulated insole||EVA||Aegis antimicrobial contoured insole||Modular Algae-based EVA footbed||EVA|
|Unique Features||Cushioned Midsole||Breathable air mesh lining||Easy to put on due to handles, easy to take off due to heel studs, neoprene shaft||Seamless Construction to reduce weight + Heel Lock||Suede collar and tongue-top|
|Width Options||Regular + Wide||Regular||Regular||Regular||Regular|
|Sizing info||Order next size up||Order next size up||Order next size up||Order next size up||Order next size up|
Best Overall Men's Rain Boot
The Original Muck Boot Company Wetland
The new Muck Boot Wetland boots are our latest top performer, due to their high marks in almost all our tests. We loved their 18" shaft height, which kept us warm and dry no matter the weather, their light weight (they're significantly lighter than any other comparably high boot), and their solidly studded outsole, which kept us upright in the worst of conditions.
The Wetland boots are just about ideal. We wish that they were black (the drab browns aren't subtle), and they're a bit too flexible underfoot for our taste, but we really had to go looking for these critiques. In all other ways, these boots are perfectly protective, well-insulated, and easy to slip into whenever you head out the door. If you need a reliable pair of rainboots, look no further.
Read review: Original Muck Boot Company Wetland
Best Bang for Your Buck
The Baffin Enduro looks like the classic rain boot — the type you'd imagine if you closed your eyes and someone told you to imagine a rain boot — in design and style. With its tall 16.25" rubber shaft and a solidly lugged outsole, the Enduro will keep you happy in even the wettest and worst conditions. Due to their large 17.5" circumference shaft, you can easily slip into and out of these boots, and their price to performance ratio is unbeatable.
The Enduro is uninsulated, so you'll need to pair them with thick socks if you're in colder weather, and the included insoles aren't great, so if you intend to put in a lot of time wearing these, you'd be best served by a more structured insole. But when we dialed in our sock and insole game, we found we could cheerfully spend entire days wearing these boots. They even kept us comfortable when we were pushing a 14 hr work-day. If you're looking for the best price and don't need the most deluxe option, we'd highly recommend the Enduro.
Read review: Baffin Enduro
Best for the Worst Weather
The Original Muck Boot Company Arctic Sport
Most people don't need the Arctic Sport boots, and we don't recommend these boots casually. But if you spend time in truly rugged conditions — picture heavy rain, snow, and cold temps — this boot is the best. No matter how frightful the weather, we're sure your feet will be comfortable and warm in these dreamy boots.
We love these boots for their heavy insulation, extra-tall shaft, and secure-feeling weight, but these qualities also make them pretty uncomfortable when you're just looking to bop around town on a warm fall day. When we slid them on in temps warmer than 40 degrees, our feet started sweating immediately. And while the tighter shaft keeps the toasty air in, this also means that you'll need to reach down to pull them on and off. If you're spending time in truly icky (wet and freezing) weather, then these are definitely the boots for you. If you're not, maybe look at a more casual boot.
Read review: The Original Muck Boot Company Arctic Sport
Blundstone Thermal Chelsea
If you want your rain boots to do double duty — to keep your feet dry in the wet and look good — the Blundstone Thermal Chelsea is the boot for you. The cozy sheep's wool insole and Thinsulate lining will keep your feet warm no matter the weather, and these boots perfectly balance between workboot (with their great outsole and seam-sealed leather) and style boot (with their premium hand-crafted leather.)
The only legitimate drawback to these boots is that they're not as tall as some of the other options in our test. So if you actually need a boot with a shaft higher height than 10", consider one of the other award-winners. Otherwise, if you're interested in a stylish boot with almost no drawbacks, the Blundstone Thermal is the way to go!
Read review: Blundstone Thermal Chelsea
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is written and produced by Richard Forbes. Richard spends his time adventuring across the perma-soggy Pacific Northwest — which is ideal for his rain-boot-oriented lifestyle. Every day is a new opportunity to get outdoors, and he often finds himself wearing rain boots in ridiculous testing situations (from "approach rain boots" to "rock climbing rain boots" to "whitewater rain boots"). He has not yet climbed anything too serious in a pair of rain boots, but last summer he saw a tween exhaustedly slogging toward Camp Muir in a pair of Bogs at 9,500' on the side of Mount Rainier, and he was both inspired and worried (for the tween's safety, the boots were fine). Richard has worked as a farmer, ecological researcher, conservationist, outdoor guide, and storyteller worldwide and reluctantly admits that he is a gearhead, which means he has more strong opinions about gear than there are days to go outside.
Every new iteration of this review starts with prep work: hours of reading and research, assessing the competition, and surveying all the new boots released each season. Once we've identified the best-looking new models, we buy them at full price and then beat them up. We make sure to practice good science and create hypotheses for each boot before we test them. With our hypotheses in mind, we begin testing the boots over several months. At this point, many years in, we've spent over 600 hours testing, wearing, and measuring various rain boots. Some tests, such as warmth, are best assessed in the "laboratory," where we submerge the boots in a bathtub filled with ice cubes and monitor their internal temperature with bare feet. Other tests, such as comfort, are tested by long days wearing the boots in various conditions, so we do our best to slog around in every type of weather we can find in the Washington Cascades (which means we get a lot of rain and damp cold). At the end of every review, we take our strong opinions about each boot and write them up, so read on to see what we learned.
Related: How We Tested Rain Boots
Analysis and Test Results
Waterlogged feet will ruin your day, no matter what you're up to. Throughout our tests, we consider each boot's weather protection, all-day comfort, grip, traction on wet ground, warmth, and style, and we write up detailed notes along the way. For every performance metric, we rate each boot between 1 to 10, (with 1 being the worst). Then we weight each score to show the value of each category (for example, to most folks, weather protection will matter more than style, so we give weather protection a heavier weighting). Let's be clear, we're not trying to give absolute ratings; each value is relative to every other boot in the review of this particular year of the test.
Related: Buying Advice for Rain Boots
While we don't incorporate pricing into our scoring system (as prices are always changing), we know that cost is an important part of your decision-making. However, we'll always describe the general price range of each boot and write about whether we think each boot is a good value. And rest assured, after an enormous number of hours in rain boots, we are sure: more expensive rain boots will almost always look, feel, and last better. In other words, you generally get what you pay for. But this goes both ways — if you're not spending much time in these boots, or if you don't spend that much time in nasty weather, you may not need the most pricey option.
Do you need to pay more for the ultra-protective Muck Arctic Sport, or do you want a boot that bucks the trend and works perfectly despite its low price, like the Baffin Enduro? If we're talking straight dollars vs. performance point, the Enduro (uninsulated) and the Kamik Icebreaker (insulated) are the best deals in the test.
This is obvious, but it must be stated clearly. Rain boots must be water and weatherproof; otherwise, why are you wearing them? The world of waterproofing can get surprisingly complicated if you get into it (dive in for a few hours and research hydrostatic head testing), but we define waterproof practically. Something is "waterproof" if we can stand in water up to the top of the shaft for 10 minutes and not get wet. We've tested weather protection by wading in Puget Sound on a blustery 25° F day, in the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River on a month-long river trip, in a variety of chilly streams flowing out of the snowy Cascades, and in the Atlantic Ocean on the Maine Coast. In all scenarios, wet feet would have been truly miserable, and we were thankful our boots ended up waterproof.
We put each boot into freshwater and saltwater waterways (not for any particular reason but just because variety is nice), from creeks and ponds to the ocean, literally all over the United States (at this point, we've tested in every region of the Lower 48, as rainboots come along on every single trip we go on). The final test involves a standardized five-minute wading test. Since all the tested boots are waterproof (except our faulty Bogs Sauvie model and the Bogs Workman, which started leaking after 6 months), we then assign scores as a function of boot flood height (which we measure as the lowest point at which water can enter).
With its superlative 18" high shaft, the Wetland boots eke out the win in the weather protection category, and their height prevents accidental splashes, easily protecting your feet from rain, deep water, and dumping snow.
We tried fly-fishing in the Baffin Enduro boots and only got water in them when we chased after a trout and slipped into a deep pool. The Arctic Sport are the second-highest boots (just under 1/2" shorter) and are significantly more insulated, with their microfleece lining.
Our tested boots feature a variety of shaft heights. Pick your boots based on your intended use-case — the different boot heights will lend themselves to different uses. This list is in order of height:Calf-height Boots (16" or higher)
- Muck Boot Wetland
- Muck Boot Arctic Sport
- Hunter Original
- Baffin Enduro
Mid-calf Boots (approximately 12" to 16" tall)
- Servus CT Safety
- Bogs Workman
- Kamik Icebreaker
- Bogs Ultra Classic High
Low Boots (lower than 6")
- Blundstone Thermal Chelsea
- Kamik Lars Lo
- Bogs Sauvie
- Sorel Madson II Moc Toe
- Sorel Madson II Chukka
To add a caveat about the low boots: they're highly practical as long as you won't be getting into deep water, as some are only waterproof to a few inches. But low boots like the Kamik Lars Lo come into their own if you'll be using them on strolls through town when there's soggy (but not inclement) weather. The low boots won't keep you as dry as a taller boot, but we think they have their place in more casual use cases.
Our testers are lucky enough not to have any major podiatric (foot) maladies, but they get sore feet like anyone. Our comfort tests are designed to replicate tough conditions (mainly by testing for long periods on concrete and other hard surfaces). And, ultimately, our tests let us know which boots to put on when we'll be wearing them for long days (the Bogs Workman and Blundstone Thermal Chelsea among others), and which boots we won't want to wear for more than half an hour (in particular, the Servus CT Safety).
For some reason, in our experience (which is corroborated by these studies), people tend to ignore foot pain and assume that it's somehow inevitable. Let's be clear: foot pain can be solved. Yes, sometimes it's complicated, but it's so worth it. Help us change this trend! If you suffer from foot pain, take this category seriously. Rain boots (and shoes in general) aren't supposed to hurt you, and some of the models we tested are a genuine pleasure to wear. Consider supplemental insoles, and if you've got a lot of trouble with your feet, please see a doctor or physical therapist; both will help dramatically. Take it from us, happy feet will improve your life.
Boot construction plays a large role in overall comfort. Leather boots are generally more comfortable as leather breathes better, tends to weigh less, and breaks in and molds to your feet. Leather's drawback is that it is less durable than a burly rubber boot. And while you might think all "rubber boots" are equal, we've found a fair amount of variation after wearing so many different boots. We don't have degrees in rubber chemistry (though if we'd spent the last 8 years better, we probably could have gotten at least one Ph.D.), but here's what we know. Boots made with foamed neoprene uppers (Bogs Classic Ultra High and Bogs Sauvie, among others) stretch and bend smoothly when walking on rough surfaces. In contrast, boots with fully rubber uppers tend to buckle against the ankle when on the same terrain. And while we don't have the words to describe the different types of rubber, we know that there's a spectrum of comfort between lower-grade rubber boots (like the Servus CT Safety which presses hard against the front of our ankles), and higher quality rubber-like the more flexible XTRATUF Legacy 15 material, which flexes smoothly and doesn't pressure the ankles. However, in general, the thicker your socks, the less you'll notice these issues.
To test for comfort, we spent 20+ hours in every boot, intentionally prioritizing long stints (at least 5 hours) and time on harder surfaces to ensure the test was as difficult on our feet as possible. One significant factor is insole construction: there's a lot of variation in insole sturdiness and thickness. Some boots have thick, cushioned insoles like the Bogs Classic Ultra High and the Bogs Sauvie. One pair of boots, the Blundstone Thermal Chelsea, went even further and added sheepskin. We're disappointed by other boots' flimsy offerings (come on, Hunter boots!) or the budget Servus CT boots, which lack insoles entirely.
Our testers have high arches and generally wear green Superfeet insoles for general use. Once we'd finished testing with the standard insoles, we'd often put Superfeet in our favorite pairs, which only made the boots more comfortable. Depending on your arches (and how exhausted your legs feel after a whole day on your feet), consider talking to a doctor or footwear specialist about whether you'd benefit from a pair of insoles. They make a big difference for us.
For testing, we also wear rainboots during our general day-to-day. They come along as we work, shop at the grocery store during the endless pandemic, and as we go voyaging up into the Cascades every few days. The Bogs Workman and Blundstone Thermal Chelsea both lead the pack in comfort, for different reasons, though both fit snugly around the ankles and minimize the sloppy fit we find in some other boots. Other particularly comfortable boots include the Bogs Ultra Classic, Bogs Sauvie, and Sorel Madson II Moc Toe.
Stiffer-shafted boots are generally more uncomfortable underfoot and jabbed our shins as we walked. The Servus CT, in particular, scored poorly in this category due to their low-quality rubber and because they were so loose in the ankles that our toes were constantly ramming forward into the steel toe (which protrudes internally into the toe box and makes things generally miserable). However, stiffer-shafted boots were not always so uncomfortable. The Enduro boots are pretty stiff (and do buckle a bit), but they're comfortable underfoot, likely due to their "gel-flex midsoles," which sounds like marketing nonsense but actually made a difference, especially after long days.
Weight also plays a role in comfort — have you heard the hiking concept that a pound on your feet equals four lbs on your back? Lighter boots (especially the Blundstone and Madson II Moc Toe) are more comfortable to wear for long days but generally less protective, so it's a pretty obvious trade-off. However, some boots are mysteriously heavy — why does the uninsulated Servus CT weigh more than the more burly and heavily insulated Arctic Sport? And even more mysteriously — how did Bogs make the Workman 15% lighter than the Bogs Ultra Classic while adding more insulation and a burlier outsole? We know they credit their "Seamless" technology, but we're suspicious that there may be some techno-wizardry involved.
Let's also be clear that comfort and warmth can be overlapping and competing variables — depending on what weather you find yourself in, you may sometimes need extra insulation to be happy, but remember: too much insulation makes things sweaty and miserable. And while we'll cover this more in later sections, you can always change the insulation by changing up your socks. However, as we want to try to keep each metric as separate as possible, we'll talk more about how insulation affects general comfort in the warmth section below.
We generally don't wear rain boots when it's nice outside — they're for nasty conditions when comfy sneakers aren't enough. And when it's nasty, it's generally slippery, so we want to make sure whatever boots you get will keep you up and on your feet, not slipping around on the ground and making a scene. Some boots feature deeply-incised lugs that grab muck and snow easily, like the Bogs Workman, while others have less textured outsoles better suited for flat pavement and casual use as the Sorel Madson II Chukka boots do.
We test our boots in a variety of slippery conditions: wet grass, mossy wood, deep mud, slick asphalt, riverbeds, (shallow) lake beds, and on ice and snow. The Arctic Sport is a clear leader with its mega-studded sole, allowing us to feel secure no matter the surface. The Baffin Enduro and Bogs Workman also perform impressively in this category.
More casual boots are obvious — they have shallower (or no) lugs on the outsoles and feature lower-quality rubber. As a result, they do noticeably worse during traction tests. While wearing less grippy boots, we found it harder to stay upright on ice, snow, and mud. In particular, we find that the wet grass hill-running test lets us separate the slippery wheat from the grippy chaff. The low-scoring Hunter boots made us look like beginner skiers (as we slid down the hill), while the better performers made us feel like we were wearing crampons. However, through all our traction tests, we never fell over, which is probably thanks to our good balance and that the boots are all decent enough.
Thanks to our research science background, we love to read the literature, and so we spent a few fun hours reading scholarly articles about warmth and workboots. Who knew — there's a hardy segment of the scientific community devoted to feet and ergonomics (the scientific field that studies people's efficiency while they're working). And according to the literature, feet get colder than other body parts for three reasons:1) they feature a lot of surface area without having mass
2) they are extremities that get de-prioritized first
3) they contain no big muscles to produce heat during exercise.
Maybe it's just us, but we're fascinated by how the human body responds to cold stress.
TL;DR: It's probably no surprise: your body doesn't heat your extremities as efficiently as it heats your core, so your feet will get cold if it's cold outside.
As a result, insulated boots make a big difference and work especially well during active work, when your body heat (from the inefficiency of your mitochondria) gets caught and contained by the boot. We looked at another study that measured foot temperatures during cold exposure which stated that, according to Sweden's version of OSHA, cold conditions make work significantly harder, and that over 70% of cold injuries are caused to the hands and feet. In other words, and you probably know this already, lots of people get cold feet when they're out in the cold and wet winter. We realize all the references are a lot, but the point of all these citations is to prove to you that you need to take your foot warmth seriously.
To bring it back to rain boot warmth: think about the typical temperature range of the region in which you'll be wearing these boots. How cold will it regularly get where you live and where you're going? Then make your purchase primarily with that assessment (and boot height) in mind. We've lived all over the country and needed to prioritize different types of boots in Maine (cold and pretty wet), Colorado (extremely cold but not that wet), and Washington State (not that cold, extremely wet). Once you've thought about your intended climate and your intended use-cases, keep reading.
The warmest boot isn't always the best, as rain boots are generally bad at releasing heat (rubber does not breathe well, which is one of the reasons it's so protective). If you're hoping to wear the ever-toasty Arctic Sport at 60°F fall sports games, prepare for sweaty feet. Though if you wear those same boots in foot-deep snow at 15°F (with windchill), we know you'll stay comfortable thanks to these boots' almost knee-high microfleece-lined neoprene.
If you know you'll never see snow or cold temps in your boots, go with an uninsulated model like the Baffin Enduro or the XTRATUF Legacy — your feet will thank you when you're doing chores on warm and wet fall days. If you want the best of both worlds, go with the Bogs Workman boots or the Wetland boots, both of which are warm enough for snow use but also tolerable (though not wonderful) in warmer temps.
Boot material makes a big impact on warmth/breathability. Rubber boots (11 out of the 14 boots in our test) don't breathe very well, while the three leather boots (the Blundstone Thermal Chelsea, the Sorel Madson II Moc Toe, and the Sorel Madson II Chukka) are a lot more comfortable in warmer weather. Leather doesn't insulate as well as a rubber boot, which is why the Thermal Chelsea is the best of both worlds — it has Thinsulate built-in and features a fuzzy shearling insole that's quite cozy, though if you're expecting warmer temps, you can remove this insole.
To compare boot insulation, we did warmth tests in an ice bath with ~20 lbs of ice and a half-pound of salt to lower the freezing point of the water. We wore each pair without socks (to keep things standardized and properly miserable), then submerged each pair of boots as deeply as we could without water incursion (roughly as deep as the measured shaft height). We kept track of the time from initial immersion until "the cold set in" — a temperature which we tried to standardize. We warmed up our feet in between tests with jumping jacks. We set a cut-off time at 20 minutes so we wouldn't have to sit with our feet in an ice bath for too long (though only one boot has ever made it to 20 min — the Arctic Sport). This test was about as hard on the boots (and our feet) as it could have been — we were stationary and didn't get too much circulation, so our feet cooled down quickly in the less insulated boots. We prioritized the ice-water test in the scoring, but we also made sure to test boots in real-world situations — in the rain, snow, ice, and other cold conditions. Ultimately, we incorporated each boots' ability to keep us warm during these practical tests into their overall scores.
For context, the boots with the lowest scores did not keep our feet warm at all and almost instantly cooled our feet to discomfort. Those models were the Hunter, Servus CT, and XTRATUF boots, all of which feature thin rubber and no insulation. Their low scores in this category are not disqualifying, though — poor insulation makes them strong candidates for use in reliably warm and wet weather. On the other side of the spectrum, the Arctic Sport is the reigning champion and lasted the full 20 minutes in the ice test. The Bogs Workman was a decent second and kept our feet warm enough until 18 minutes into the ice bath.
Boots closer to the middle of the range are the generalists — generally comfortable in a wide variety of ambient temperatures but not great at extremes. Remember, our ice-water test is designed to be both easily standardizable and hard on the boots, but it's not that realistic. We hope for your sake that you never have to wear your boots without socks on (it's not comfortable), and socks dramatically affect a boot's insulation. So if the boots you want didn't do well in this test, just put on a thicker sock (as long as you have a large enough size to fit it in)!
While rain boots are typically designed for function above all else, our testers (and fashion consultants) think certain models look better than others. As this metric is quite subjective, it's weighted at only 10% of the total score, but we still think it's important to discuss.
Most boots go the practical route (most blatantly the rubbery and pebble-patterned Baffin Enduro boots, which pair easily with our oil-stained Carhartt overalls). Some boots, especially the low leather options like the classy Blundstone Thermal Chelsea and the Sorel Madson II Moc Toe and Sorel Madson II Chukka, pair easily with most clothes and are much more reasonable when the weather's not too bad and you're just wearing them out and about. And other boots, like the Hunter Original Tall, seem to be designed as fashion statements.
To get an objective idea of the stylishness of each boot, we asked a diverse panel of male and female friends to rank the boots from worst to best, asking them to make their decision about whether they'd be happy to wear them (or have their SO's wear them). We then averaged these style scores. Some boots were controversial (in particular, the Baffin Enduro, which received a wide variety of scores) and ranked differently depending on who was doing the ranking, and how much each consultant liked rain boots.
Our most valuable style consultant is a New Zealander, where rain boots (called "gumboots") are the unofficial national footwear and shine to their fullest potential when paired with rugby shorts - an aesthetic that we briefly experimented with before abandoning due to our lack of confidence. He's an Aucklander, not a country boy, so he's not as deep into the gumboot life as we've gotten during our stints on farms down there, but gumboots still run in his blood.
We don't want you to feel that this style assessment provides any definitive takeaways, so please wear whatever strikes your fancy!
Sizing + Fit
We are footwear nerds. We take sizing and fitting shoes extremely seriously, and we spend many hours deliberating which shoes fit perfectly, from backpacking boots, climbing shoes, ski boots, trail running shoes, to approach shoes, and casual shoes. But the truth is that you probably don't need a super technical fit from your rain boots, so save your fit obsessing for the technical gear.
But if you're a tricky case, or if you just like talking and thinking about boot fitting, let's talk through some terms we've learned in our years of research:
- Foot Size: This is the length of your foot, measured from the back of your heel to the end of your longest toe (which is not always your big toe, depending on your foot shape). There are a variety of sizing standards, but most people in the US default to their "Brannock Size." These measurements have annoyingly nothing to do with inches or even centimeters, though other countries (like Japan) have more sensible metrics.
- Foot Width: This is the width of your forefoot, measured across your foot, beginning at the inside of your first metatarsal head (the bump on the inside of your forefoot). Brannock sizing describes widths with letters (Super-narrow AAAA, AAA, AA, A, B, C… to extremely wide EEEE). D width is generally considered standard width for men, and E or EE means wide. We recognize that this also makes very little sense, but just go with it.
- Foot Volume: How much foot material do you have? This is determined by your bone structure and the height of your foot — do you have a high volume foot or a low volume foot? This is more of an informal spectrum — footwear shops don't have a way to easily measure this, but it's a good variable to keep in mind. If you often get heel blisters (like our testers do), chances are you have low-volume feet. And if you often have trouble fitting into shoes, you probably have wider, higher-volume feet.
- Arch: We don't want to get annoyingly complicated, but you actually have three arches (medial, lateral, and transverse). However, when people talk about arches, they're generally talking about their medial arch. You can have "higher" or "lower" arches, but this doesn't matter too much when it comes to your rain boots, and we don't want to get too far into this. If you experience significant arch pain or struggle with plantar fasciitis, please go see a doctor, research foot strengthening exercises, and/or think about supplemental insoles (with the help of a footwear expert).
In general, don't wear shoes (or rain boots) that match your measured "foot size." Your feet change size as you stand on them, and you also want extra room for thicker socks. So try to go up a half-size (or if there aren't half sizes, go up a full size — bigger shoes are better). And shoe sizes are complicated, so don't expect them to be consistent from brand to brand (or even model to model).
Our reviewers get US size 13's for every model except the Baffin Enduro (which our research suggested runs larger than average, and we've been happy with a size 12). All our boots fit pretty well. To be clear about what we're working with: our head tester has almost exactly US size 12 feet (though one is slightly longer than the other), and has a standard D width. These measurements are from a Brannock device, which can be found in any American footwear store. We generally wear 13s to ensure a healthy amount of toe space while keeping enough room to wear thick socks and in case we want to add insoles (socks and additional insoles generally add warmth and comfort).
If your feet are on the narrower side, take a look at the narrower Sorel Madson II Chukka and the Bogs Sauvie or the XTRATUF Legacy (which feel just a bit narrower than standard). And if your feet are truly wide (EE or wider), the Bogs Workman features modular insoles that let you make the boots wider if you need it!
Ease of Use & Cleaning
Three updates ago, we removed two sections from our grading — Ease of Use and Cleaning — as they felt too wishy-washy. However, we want to mention both criteria, as they can make a difference to some.
We recognize Ease of Use may seem unimportant — just how hard can it be to use a rain boot? But after many hundreds of hours in rain boots, we truly appreciate the pairs that kept things easy. And let's be real, one of our favorite things about rain boots is that we can just slip right into them as we're walking out the door with our arms full.
In general, larger circumference boots are easier to slip on and kick off. We appreciate, in particular, boots that feature heel studs to make kicking them on and off easier (Bogs Workman and Bogs Classic Ultra High). The Classic Ultra goes the extra mile with cutouts for grabbing, but these lower the shaft height and haven't proven to be that durable (they've developed rips in the neoprene after 2+ years of use).
Low boots are the most difficult category to put on, and our testers often had to shoehorn them on with their fingers. The laced boots in particular require extra work! We also had trouble putting on and taking off boots with snugger shafts and ankles, such as the XTRATUF, Hunter, and Arctic Sport. These models, if you're standing up and try to slip your foot in, generally bend and buckle once your foot is halfway in, so you'll have to reach down and finish up the job. This may or may not matter to you — we are shockingly lazy people, so we notice these things.
And regarding cleaning: rain boots will always get dirty, due to the nature of how we use them, so we wanted to assess how easily we could hose off each boot (the outsole and upper). We found that almost all of them are extremely easy to clean. At most, we'd have to smack them against a hard surface after a quick hose-down. But there are two big exceptions — the XTRATUF and the Enduro.
Both of these boots, especially the XTRATUF, use negative space to make their outsoles grippy. On the face of it, this doesn't seem like a bad idea, but we found that gravel and other hard objects inevitably get lodged in these spaces and need to be pried out with pliers. If you don't pry the rocks out, you'll make clicking noises every time you take a step. If bigger pieces of gravel get stuck, you can even feel them underfoot. If you're mainly spending your time on boat decks, this probably won't matter to you, but at any other time, it can be pretty annoying.
If you spend a lot of time in wet and chilly weather, you owe it to yourself to get some rain boots. And if you haven't tried a pair on since the miserable days of clunky childhood rainboots, we promise that things have really turned around. There are some great models out there, give one of our award-winners a try!
— Richard Forbes