My Search For
A Good Rubber Boot
(Part 1)

Dateline: 10 January 2016 AD

This one doesn't qualify.

I bought a pair of rubber boots a couple years ago at the local BassPro store. They looked like the boot above. I liked them a lot when I got them. They cost me around a hundred dollars. I don't wear rubber boots a lot but they are nice to have at certain times. I figured the boots would last me many years.

But two months ago I wore the boots to do some digging in a muddy part of my field, and my right foot got soaking wet. A closer inspection revealed that there was a 2" split in the back of the boot by my heal. The split wasn't due to any damage on my part. It just split open all by itself. The boots still looked practically new, but one was no good.

What do you do when you're digging a muddy ditch and your boot leaks? You work with a wet foot. And that's what I did. 

A little while later a friend showed up to return the cider press I had loaned him. He was wearing a pair of old green rubber boots. 

"How old are those boots you're wearing?" I asked

"I've had them over 20 years," he replied.

"Do they leak?'

"No. I've had to patch a couple of small holes but they don't leak."

Do you wear them much?

"Yes, I wear them a lot."

"Do you know what brand they are?

He looked but couldn't find any name.

Well now. It's just not right that an almost-new pair of $100 rubber boots comes apart like that boot of mine did. I went to the internet to do some research and found that my experience is not unusual—a lot of people are disappointed with the quality of rubber boots these days. Rubber boots are simply not holding up like they used to.

Further research on the subject brought me to the conclusion that the reason why the typical rubber boots being sold these days don't hold up like rubber boots used to is that they aren't made of rubber. They are, instead, made of injection-molded thermoplastic, a.k.a., synthetic rubber.

Now, I'm here to tell you there is a big difference in the durability of synthetic rubber as opposed to genuine latex rubber. I know this better than most people because I sell Kent C-25 chicken plucker fingers that are made with natural latex rubber. The fingers I sell are a lot more expensive than the synthetic rubber plucker fingers everyone else sells. But the fingers I sell last a very long time before they break. Here's an excerpt from an e-mail I recently received...

"My husband and a friend built a turkey plucker last year and our friend got a different finger than the Kent C-25 one we used on our Whizbang chicken plucker. The other brand of fingers are a year old and we plucked 20 turkeys last week, and 16 broke off. We have been using our Whizbang plucker with the Kent C-25 finger for over six years now and haven't lost one..... and we process about 400 chickens a year!"

That right there illustrates the difference between synthetic rubber and the real thing. And there isn't a doubt in my mind that it holds true for rubber boots as much as it does rubber plucker fingers. (By the way, my Whizbang plucker is now 17 years old, has plucked thousands of chickens, and not a single finger has broken... yet).

So, with a true appreciation for rubber boots that are made of real rubber (unlike my $100 BassPro boots) I searched the internet some more...

I thought traditional Wellington boots (commonly known by the name Hunter) from the UK would be what I wanted. But it turns out that Wellington boots are no longer made in the UK. They are made in China, and the traditional quality has apparently plummeted. My assumption is that they must not be made of natural rubber. 

Then I thought of LaCrosse. They have a reputation for making good rubber boots. They certainly look like good boots. But they say their boots are "made with more natural rubber than most other boots."  

Well, that marketing jargon tells me pretty much nothing. Most other boots are made with no natural rubber. LaCrosse is playing semantic games. That doesn't set well with me. If their boots had any respectable amount of natural rubber they would be saying so.

Then I found two long-time rubber boot makers in France. Aigle and LeChameau. Both companies have been in business for a a very long time. They say their boots are made with natural rubber, and their boots were highly rated by people who owned them.

This YouTube movie shows how Aigle boots are made. This YouTube movie shows how LeChameau boots are made. Those two videos show rubber boots being crafted, piece by piece, using real rubber. 

Even if you are not in the market for a new pair of rubber boots, I'm pretty sure you will enjoy watching those videos.

In my next blog post I will tell you which kind of boot I ended up getting, and where I traveled last November to get them. 

No, I didn't go to France. :-)


deborah harvey said...

very interested. the 2 pairs i have bought in the last 28 years do not stretch for the ankle to go in and they smell terrible.

the same quality issues have plagued modern hot water bottles.

An At Home Daughter said...

We have had many pairs for our family of the cheap black ones. They last forever! Just aren't very comfortable. Before my sister moved away, she bought some boots with a pretty print on them. They were very comfortable and she left them behind, so I wore them. The next winter I pulled them out to use and they began cracking. They were made of a softer rubber, so it must be that synthetic you are talking about. I have some Muck boots now. My parents bought them. Muck is an expensive brand. I think they will last a long time. They are very heavy duty, and I have already had them for 2 years. The downside to them is they are very heavy, and warm. Warm of course is good in the winter, but we irrigate in the summer every week and that means walking around in heavy, hot boots in the summer.

timfromohio said...

I had the same problem when searching for good, durable rubber boots. My wife bought me Muck (brand) boots several years ago. They were very expensive. I was excited when I first opened the box and then disappointed to see that they were made in China. I promptly returned them and have resorted to buying the cheap, $15 or $20 boots from Walmart (very thin, made in Canada?) and just accept the fact that they are thin, not warm, and will last on only a couple of seasons. Looking forward to hearing how your search goes.


Unknown said...

I had a pair that looked exactly like those I got from Gander Mountain. About the same price. After two years I couldn't even wear them they had so many holes. I stored them in my garage. I took them back to them and they told me I shouldn't have stored them there because the gas and other things break down the rubber.... ?????? Sounded like a lame excuse but I guess I don't know for sure. I have since been wearing a pair I got from L L Bean for the last 5 years. They seem to be doing fine.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to hearing what you've chosen. Seems I go through at least one pair per year..our property is in a flood zone and I have to walk through water on an almost daily basis.

Judah Chadwick said...

I'll be interested to see what you found! They aren't technically all rubber boots, but I've had good success with Muck Boots. They are amazing in winter snow (no numb toes!), but in summer they might be a bit much. The insulation is so good that your feet will start sweating, so in warmer temperatures I just rolled the tops down a bit. The thing I don't like about them is that the sides are a bit too soft and tend to tear on thorns and wire. Just something to keep in mind.

Everett R Littlefield said...

Canada for your boots?LOL

Everett R Littlefield said...

Hi Again, got carried away before I was done. I have been buying BOGGS for the last 10 years or so. They last for about 3 years before the neoprene upper pulls away from the shoe part of it. But then you have low top ankle boots for summer!

I have a pair of old fireman boots with no name that are at least 20 years old. They had small holes in them that my youngest son fixed by spraying them with that stuff that they use to hold the boat together in the commercials on tv. After spraying on 3-4 coats they have been working well for the last two years.CANNOT FIND A DECENT ONE ANY MORE!

David The Good said...

Good anything is hard to find anymore. I look forward to seeing what you found.

Bobbie said...

My husband is hard on rubber boots. We buy the Boggs. As soon as I see the tiny slit starting (on the side where the seam is), I simply take the boots back (in the original box, with the receipt) and the store gladly replaces them. With each new pair of boots, we have been getting a year guaranty.
Ha! He finally got fed up with this "game," as he called it. Just got back from buying another pair of boots for him. I'm sure we'll be heading off to the Farm Store soon, to look for another pair. I'm looking forward to what boots you purchased and where we can order some.
P.S. In the meantime, that leaking boot? Slip on one of those grocery store bags over your foot and slip it into your leaking boot. It will work to keep your sock dry until lunch.
Happy Day To You ~ Bobbie

Mrs. V said...

National Geographic just did an article on rubber this month. Apparently the demand is so high that huge amounts of biodiversity are being wiped out by monoculture where swaths of Asia "resemble a cornfield in Kansas." but w/ rubber trees.

We wear rubber boots every day, my 10yo plays running & tree climbing games besides his mucking chores. It's not so bad because his feet are still growing but 2 years is the most we've gotten out of his preferred brand, Tingly's.

Anonymous said...

i just bought a pair of LaCrosse (the black insulated ones). Have purchased Lacrosse boots for 30 years, but only about 4 pairs - they just have lasted a long time and i do wear them most everyday in the winter and a lot during the constant rain we seem to have anymore. However, the pair i received last week does not seem the same quality as the earlier versions; so time will tell. My last pair pretty much dry rotted and started leaking around the ankles wear they bend a lot when i walk. My husband and son like Muck, bit i don't like the concept.