When winter thaws into spring, you can count on terra firma feeling a little less than firm. Mud puddles engulf trails and fields, and even rain-slicked sidewalks can threaten to douse your socks. Now’s the time to arm your dogs with a pair of rubber boots. Some people call them mud, utility, or rain boots, but whatever your preferred name, all pairs share two main elements: high-traction soles to keep you on your feet and impenetrable rubber (or a similar material) to block water. We tested several pairs to find out which will serve you best when you’re out in the garden, doing chores on the farm, or cleaning up a flooded basement.
Read quick reviews of four great picks, then keep scrolling for helpful buying advice and in-depth evaluations of these and other top-performing models.
Protection You Can Count On
In the face of squishy muck, a pair of rubber boots is the armor you need to stay dry and stand tall. Both latex-based natural rubber and its petroleum-based synthetic counterpart are naturally impervious to water. The disadvantage: They don’t let water vapor out the way the breathable membrane booties used in waterproof hiking boots do. So as your foot naturally sweats, that moisture is more or less trapped. A low- or mid-cut boot will be more comfortable in this regard because there is less rubber, but a high-cut option will save you from getting a boot full of mud when you’re wading through deep bogs.
Utilitarian models have a molded one-piece rubber upper that’s bonded to the boot’s midsole and outsole. Heavy-duty options incorporate a flexible neoprene bootie within and extending beyond a rubber shell surrounding the foot. Neoprene was developed in 1930 as the first synthetic rubber, and it acts as insulation and a second barrier against water and oils, appropriate for job sites and other construction and project settings. The added warmth is worth the extra investment if you’ll be wearing your boots in the cold. There’s also the classic duck boot, which is typically lighter and has a rubber and full-grain-leather upper, more suitable if you plan on wearing them primarily for tracking across slushy sidewalks or muddy paths.
Another critical feature is a boot’s tread. You won’t really know how grippy an outsole will be or how well it sheds debris until you’re out in the field, but some basic knowledge can steer you in the right direction. Deeper lugs are better at biting into the ground but could hang on to mud and muck if the lugs aren’t spaced far enough apart. Dirt has less room to get stuck in the shallower nooks and crannies created by shorter lugs, but those won’t provide the same traction benefits. Still, it’s enough to keep you from slipping on slick pavement or uneven terrain.
Finding the Right Fit
Ordering the proper size mud boots can be a particular challenge. Tall slip-on designs tend to have roomy ankles so your foot can get in and out easily, but this can invite blisters as your foot slides within the boot. Choosing a duck boot with traditional laces offers the most customizable fit but requires more time to put on and take off. No matter the height or lacing style, models generally come in only whole sizes. What’s more, some brands default to “unisex” sizes based on men’s feet. For the best fit, find gender-specific shoes and consult a brand’s sizing chart. A good rule of thumb for people in between sizes is to choose the smaller of the two, unless you’ll frequently wear them with thick socks.
How We Tested
After vetting 27 models based on construction, features, style, and cost, we tested several pairs near our eastern Pennsylvania headquarters in early winter. Recent rain showers made for fertile testing grounds during our use testing, but first we started with head-to-head comparisons about weight, waterproofing, and cleanability.
We weighed each pair on our own scale and reported our findings below on a per-boot basis.
To confirm they were as waterproof as the manufacturers claim, we submerged the boots in a small pool filled with 3.5 inches of water and potting soil for one hour. When time was up, we checked to see if any sludge managed to get in. That happened with only the L.L. Bean Boot.
We then hosed down the muck-covered boots to see how easily it was to clean them, should you need to do the same before heading inside. The models that did the best were slip-on designs with moderately aggressive outsoles.
Finally, our test editors wore them in backyards, on trails, around farms, in creeks, through fields, and on sidewalks to gauge traction and overall comfort. Taken together, these data points assured us each boot is worth the investment, however big or small.
Bogs Classic Ultra High
Weight Per Boot: 1 lb. 13.7 oz. | Upper: Neoprene and rubber | Available Heights: Mid and tall
There’s no shortage of work boots out there, and many are even waterproof. But when your work is happening on a farm or anywhere with a lot of water, you’ll want easy-to-clean, waterproof rubber, not water-resistant leather. We like the Classic Ultra from Bogs. The handles on both sides helped us get the boot on and off easily. We found a comfortable platform in the spongy yet stable midsole and excellent arch support, a rarity within the category. Where other boots slipped on loose grain and hay, the Classic Ultra didn’t falter. The rubber shell didn’t hang on to much dirt and what was left behind rinsed off cleanly. Despite topping out as the heaviest boot in the test, the weight felt less bothersome on our foot. Just be aware: The Classic Ultra runs small. Buy one size up.
Weight Per Boot: 1 lb. 10.2 oz. | Upper: PVC | Available Heights: Mid
You might know Dunlop as a tire maker, but the company name has graced boots for more than 90 years now. Its lineup includes a slew of boots designed for rugged environments, but if all you need is waterproof protection, turn to the uninsulated Chesapeake. The PVC upper has many of the same benefits as rubber, just in a lighter trim. It likely won’t have the same long-term durability, but our new test pair was as impenetrable as the competition. Aggressive lugs create an outsole that handled well along a sandy creek bank and on inclines, despite a few twigs and pebbles occasionally getting stuck. Of course, the major selling point is the boot’s shockingly low price tag—a fraction of even other budget options on the market. It’s an incredible deal, though one that will cost you some level of comfort. There’s no shock-absorbing midsole or rigid heel cup to prevent twisting an ankle. The “unisex” fit wasn’t perfect either; our female tester’s foot slid around inside the boot, though she never experienced any blisters. We recommend men go one size down and women go three sizes down. Ultimately, we don’t think these weaknesses should be deal breakers for everyone. Where it counts most, Dunlop doesn’t disappoint, and that makes the water-tight Chesapeake a reliable pick for warm days or anyone on a tight budget.
Muck Arctic Sport II Mid
Weight Per Boot: 1 lb. 8.8 oz. | Upper: Neoprene and rubber | Available Heights: Mid and tall
When we’re gearing up for a cold, wet day outdoors, we reach for Muck’s Arctic Sport. The 5mm-thick neoprene bootie offers much-needed insulation, but we found a standout feature in the fleece lining. This cozy interior could pass for our favorite pair of winter socks were it not for all the rubber. But once we head into a muddy mess, we’re glad for that rubber. Water and mud fall away from the boot easily, even on the lugged outsole, which gripped on a variety of surfaces without issue. (For slick winter conditions, we recommend the similar Arctic Ice instead. Its Vibram Arctic Grip sole has performed exceptionally well on snow and ice.) Another critical feature: the slightly springy EVA midsole. It’s supportive like your favorite sneaker, so full days of use passed by without any fatigue. And we appreciate how easy it was to slide our foot into the wide opening. Getting the Sport off was slightly more challenging and often caused our sock to slip slightly. But on the whole, we found the Sport is equal parts comfort- and performance-oriented, well worth the hefty investment.
—MOST SECURE FIT—
Dunlop Snugboot Pioneer
Weight Per Boot: 1 lb. 12.6 oz. | Upper: Purotex and Purofort | Available Heights: Tall
A rubber boot’s wide opening makes it easy to get on and off, but if you like the security that comes with a close-fitting style, choose the unisex Pioneer. It’s part of Dunlop’s new Snugboot line, and it delivers on that promise. The flexible neoprene-esque Purotex on the upper felt like a thin foam sleeve gently hugging our calf. Meanwhile, the heel counter anchored our foot in place, something no other boot managed to do as well. We appreciated this feature all the more given that the Pioneer runs big. Like the Chesapeake, we suggest ordering one size down for men and three sizes down for women. Dunlop skips rubber in the upper and outsole in favor of its durable polyurethane-based Purofort material. We plowed through mud, slush, and wet grass without a single drop of water getting in or slipping. Given the design, we weren’t surprised that we felt warmer in the Pioneer than other boots. Still, this pricey and slightly heavy pair was one of the most comfortable we’ve tried. Its tight fit ensures the Pioneer won’t get trapped no matter how deep the mud puddle, so you can move ahead freely.
—WOMEN’S RAIN BOOT—
Weight Per Boot: 1 lb. 3.4 oz. | Upper: Synthetic rubber | Available Heights: Mid
As the temperature rises, the heat-trapping power of neoprene quickly becomes suffocating. Stay dry without overheating in the women’s-only Jessie. Kamik skips out on any insulation and opts for synthetic rubber that’s just as waterproof as the natural stuff yet weighs less and keeps the price tag in check. The relatively thin upper also saves weight. Our test sample measured just south of 1.25 pounds, a considerably low figure for a taller boot like this. We appreciated this lightweight build and the cushy foam insole when our biggest obstacles were large puddles on the sidewalk. The small lugs on the outsole fit this light-duty use, too, but lent more grip than a casual boot would. As for fit, the toe box is tight and narrow, and there’s hardly any room between the insole and the top of the shoe. Our foot felt cramped in the low-volume design, though from a length perspective, we would have been better off sizing up anyway. (We recommend following the European size chart, if you’re familiar with that, as it seems to be more accurate than the U.S. version.) Kamik also doesn’t neglect style; the Jessie has a plain silhouette (a good thing) and comes in more than half a dozen muted or bright colors. Pair your favorite with any spring or summer outfit when rain showers are in the forecast.
—BEST DUCK BOOT—
L.L. Bean Boot 8-Inch
Weight Per Boot: 1 lb. 3.2 oz. | Upper: Full-grain leather and rubber | Available Heights: Low, mid, and tall
Perhaps no shoe has more staying power than L.L. Bean’s original duck boot, which the brand first made in 1912. For some, it’s an all-weather wardrobe staple. Others wear it as a fashion statement. Regardless, the iconic half rubber, half full-grain-leather design has the chops to see you through rain puddles or gnarlier turf. Today, the Maine company offers several heights and models, such as a Thinsulate-lined option for cold-weather use. But we like the flexibility of the uninsulated eight-inch boot. Our tester wore a size smaller than her usual and found the boot was still roomy enough to pair with a chunky sock in cold weather. A large majority of mud boots are slip-on, and that makes the regular lacing employed here distinct in a good way. Yes, it takes a bit more time to put them on and take them off, but it’s worth it for a dialed-in fit. The leather on the upper is more breathable than rubber or neoprene, though not as easy to clean and less waterproof. Nearly 1.75 ounces of water seeped into our test pair during the waterproof test. (If you want a truly waterproof option, opt for the Gore-Tex model.) But when you won’t be tromping calf-deep in mud or standing in water for hours at a time, the L.L. Bean Boot is a great blend of protection and style.
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