Introduction: Wherefore Art Thou a Wellie?
From Paddington Bear to TV couple Barbara and husband Tom from The Good Life, the Wellington boot holds a definite if at times comic place in the nation’s affections. Irish comedian Jimmy Cricket appears regularly in fishermen’s wellies worn on the wrong feet as a long-standing gimmick, and to quote stand-up Scots comedian Billy Connolly: “If it wisnae for yer wellies, where would ye be?” Mud and muck stand no chance against this humble item of footwear with an illustrious history.
Introduced by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, also known as the “Iron Duke”, in the early 1800s, it was the wax rubbed into the leather that made them waterproof. Soon taken up by the gentry as the only footwear to be seen in when hunting or pursuing country sports, this original pedigree leaves today’s Wellington with a lot to live up to. In fact, in terms of looks, all that the bog-standard Wellington really has in common with its predecessor is the name.
Probably the closest modern equivalent to the original specimen is the knee-high riding boot, normally in leather, but also popular in inexpensive rubber, beloved by horsemen and women on a budget.
As for the common or garden Wellington, this aristocratic take on the cavalry boot lost much of its elegance as it morphed into the round-toed rubbery rain-repeller we all know and love. Shape-wise, indeed, there have been experiments with a pointed-toe, narrower style of wellie designed with women wearers in mind, but the more generous familiar snub-nose of the regular gumboot is infinitely more practical and comfortable, designed to avoid problems with pinching.
A quick trawl through your own memory bank will soon turn up a host of different joyous moments made possible by Wellington boots: rock-pooling, mud-pie making, fishing for minnows, snowball-fighting and, best of all, perhaps, sledging. Over time, there have been experiments with various looks, from draw-string tops, to Cap’n Jack Sparrow-style cuffs, and even Fair-Isle knitted tops.
Most of us have been splashing with alacrity through puddles since early childhood, thanks to our wellies, although many of us also remember bruised ankles from extended wear. Welly-rub is where skin has been irritated, or, worse has broken under the constant movement of heel or ankle against unforgiving lining. A degree of movement of the foot is unavoidable, and, of course, extended walking exacerbates the problem.
Important therefore is to weigh up aspects of boot quality and fit when on the hunt for the best Wellington boots. There are wellies for huge broad feet and stout calves, wellies for slender wearers with narrow feet, wellies for babies and children and wellies for professional country people for whom this is workwear. The best welly boots to buy inevitably vary from person to person.
Deciding Which Rain Boots to Splash the Cash On
Finding the best wellie boots for your needs is less straightforward than it may seem. Whereas at one time a gumboot was a gumboot, a cold, unwelcoming rubbery piece of footwear worn reluctantly in only the worst of weather, and none too safe in icy or snowy conditions, today, both the technology and the demands of the customer have come a long way. A whole day in wellies is not the crazy, painful prospect it sounds. There are individuals who from the moment they happily walk the dog before breakfast, through chores around the stables, shopping, meeting friends, and all the rest, can remain in wellies for twelve hours.
If comfort is your top priority – and why not? – then look for wellies that have cushioned soles, removable insoles and ergonomically shaped feet to mirror anatomical accuracy. Wellie technology even takes its lead from the world of trainers, and although running is unlikely in wellies, there exist designs that factor impact into the mix. While you wouldn’t choose to work out in wellies – and would certainly be banished from the gym if you tried – you can, at a price, find a design that even offers metatarsal protection. Try saying that after a long, strenuous day in the garden!
Really serious thermal insulation is provided in specialist boots intended for extreme cold, on the market for close to £500. Think Arctic expeditions. But thermal insulation of a more modest kind is available in several models of everyday Wellington. They are usually a good buy for those who spend hours in winter in their wellies.
Wellington boots have become accepted workwear in a variety of outdoor occupations. Correspondingly, there are now heavier models with steel toecaps and also steel reinforced soles to withstand being pierced from below.
If you are looking for the best Wellington boots for walking, factor in not just insulation, but also tread pattern. Deeply incised non-slip tread is essential for enjoying year-round rambling. An instep and slight heel is also useful.
When it comes to exterior pizzazz, kids have been the lucky ones for several decades, with a tantalising choice of dazzling colours and patterns to choose from. This shrewd strategy has helped good parents overcome any wellie-phobia that might prevent their children from having dry-footed fun in the snow. But adult wellies needn’t reek of common sense either. Not everyone wants to be a member of the green-wellie set. Look for quality boots in stunning colours, sporting animal prints, raindrop designs and abstract patters of every kind.
The best wellies to buy are the ones that best suit your purposes. So if you are buying a pair merely to attend a music festival, then bright colours may take precedence over sturdiness. If regularly going on a day’s shooting in all weathers and tramping over every type of terrain, then comfort, durability and the right shade of green will all be considerations.
Wellington Boot Reviews
1. Dunlop Unisex Wellingtons
When pondering what are the best Wellington boots, these budget wellies manufactured by a household name achieve “the look” at a low price. In suitably muted country green, they have a trio of small ridges just below the rim on each side to ease the pulling-on process. These plastic boots have soles that sport fairly deep tread to facilitate stability on muddy ground. They discreetly carry their brand name on the outside of each boot. At a price that starts at £6.99 depending on size, affordability is the chief plus.
• Low price
• Well-established trusted brand name
• Classic fuss-free styling to suit a range of activities
• Constructed from relatively thin plastic, hence no protection against cold
• Reportedly slightly constricted heel area, which may mean purchasing the next size up.
2. Men’s Wyre Valley Neoprene Gardening Walking Yard Winter Wellington Boots Size UK 6-12
These boots are made for walking. A mid-priced popular boot suitable for walking the dog and tending the vegetable plot, it comes in one colour, a dark iron grey. The fabric top made from Neoprene in a fetching shade of green contributes to the claim that this is a more comfortable boot. This fabric gusset cuts down on the pressure against the back of the leg.
A second practical feature is the lip behind the heel of each boot, allowing for easier removal. They certainly compete for the title “Best Wellington Boots for Walking”.
• Designed with built-in comfort features
• Well-respected brand
• Good looks
• The fabric section can catch on thorns and hence be a nuisance/ liable to ripping
• The boot’s rubber material is reportedly prone to splitting.
• Relatively costly, starting from £43.99, depending on size
3. Kangol Women’s Tall Wellies Ladies Wellington Boots Rubber Rain Design
An affordable boot for ladies in a choice of either black or a fetching muted dark pink named “Berry”, this design from Kangol might just be the best Wellington boots for walking. Lightweight, designed with comfort in mind, this is one boot best purchased in your normal size.
There are reports of the plastic material degenerating over a fairly short time period, and some care should be taken when walking on slopes, as some buyers have found the soles to be slippery.
• Attractive and tall boots
• Popular enduring brand
• Adjustable buckle at the top allows for wider calves
• Relatively inexpensive, starting from £17.50, depending on size
• Lining reportedly prone to wrinkling/detaching
• The generous width is not ideal for thinner legs
• Limited colour options
4. PYLOVEBUY IGLOO Flat Festival Wellies Wellington Rain Boots
Price: depends on size starting from
Banish thoughts of dull old grannies and grandads pottering on allotments when considering the role of the wellie. Cue this antidote to dullness. Not surprisingly, this festival-ready item of footwear is a popular purchase. The boot comes in a range of colours and cool prints. Each jolly print design has a contrasting coloured sole.
Among the assorted patterns rampaging across these cute wellies are repeated VW camper vans in a riot of different colourways; assorted dachshunds; and candy-coloured iced doughnuts.
All Wellington boots have a weakness around the seam area of the heel due to the amount of wear and tear from the wearer’s rising foot, and this model is no exception. Restricting use to a few weekends per year will doubtless extend the life of this pair of boots. The question of whether these are the best wellies to buy remains unanswered, but what is certain is that they are among the cheapest, and do offer style on a budget.
• Never boring to look at
• Reportedly high on the comfort scale, but like most Wellingtons better when suitably thick socks are worn
• Handy adjustable buckle to the outside of the boot collar allows jeans to tuck in comfortably
• Good looks on a budget, starting at £14.00
• Heel seam reportedly weak
• Can feel floppy on super-slim legs
5. Dirt Boot® Neoprene Wellington Muck Boot Pro Sport Green/Camo
Prospective customers looking for the best wellies for shooting will come across this Dirt Boot in their search. A three-quarter height Wellington, it is made from a mixture of Neoprene and natural gum rubber. Looks-wise, it certainly scores points, with its camouflage-style print. The design also makes it popular with dirt-bike riders.
Some wearers have reported discomfort around the heel area, and there have been a few reports of rapid disintegration of the material. Size is sometimes an issue with boots but is always the case with this model, so do make sure you order the next size up.
• Tough no-nonsense appearance suits the hunter image
• A projection behind the heel aids with kicking the boots off
• Described as having reinforced toe and heel areas3
• Might seem pricey at an RRP of £79.99, but deals can be found
• The camouflage print on the boot fades over time
• Concerns regarding the life of the product frequently reported
So What’s Afoot?
The future of the Wellington looks assured, certainly for as long as rain continues to fall, and while UK royals keep wearing them.
Nevertheless, attention to the issue of durability would not go amiss, as virtually every Wellington on the market has some disappointed customers, and the recurring theme of their complaints concerns disintegration. That said, rubber as a material is known to wither naturally. The strain put on the product inevitably leads to weak spots, since by its very nature – i.e. a waterproof casing for the human foot and lower leg during physical activity – wellie boot design has to combine rigidity with a plastic/rubber formula to withstand water ingress.
Probably no best wellie boots exist and, just like trainers and other equipment that takes a battering, will always have to be regularly replaced. This is ever more true now that the wellie is accepted almost everywhere and wellie-wearers get to waltz through life.