Duck boots have come a long way from what were once simple hunting shoes. Present day, they can function as anything from work boots to casual boots, and are especially popular for wet and nasty conditions. But are they effective in this type of weather? Are duck boots warm and a good option for winter cold weather?
Yes, duck boots are warm and because the base of the shoe is made with rubber, they’re equipped nicely to handle wet and sloppy winter conditions. Although duck boots are warm, for extreme weather, you will want to opt for an insulated duck boot. This is where you can view popular insulated duck boot options.
Even though the simple answer is yes, duck boots are warm – what is the more complex answer? What specifically makes them warm? Is it wise to wear duck boots when it’s snowing and freezing cold outside, or are there better options?
This article will tell you what you need to know about the warmth of duck boots and how they compare to other winter boot options.
We already know that duck boots can keep our feet feeling cozy against the cold. Listed below are the features that make them especially warm and suitable for winter.
Design-wise, duck boots are suitable for cold days. They’re high-top shoes that usually reach over the ankle up to midway of the calf (some versions finish lower near the ankle).
This makes them good for winter because they offer more coverage and protection against rain, snow, and cold weather.
Some people think the rubber and leather combination is uniquely stylish. But these materials also serve an important purpose.
The reason why rubber is used on the lower part of the shoe, including the sole, is because of its waterproof quality. In addition to this, rubber is also a good insulator. This means it can slow down the loss of heat from your feet, helping to fight off the cold.
Aside from the warmth it can bring, rubber also has high friction that makes it grip well on wet, snowy surfaces.
Leather, on the other hand, is water-resistant. It’s attached to the rubber to make up the shaft portion of the boot. Leather is also very good at insulating, even if it isn’t as waterproof as rubber.
The benefit to having leather above the ankle (and not rubber) is leather is a much more comfortable, and flexible, material, which makes the boot more flexible above the ankle, and easier to wear.
To read more, visit my article that discusses how waterproof duck boots are.
For more extreme conditions, you will want an insulated duck boot.
The leather portion of the duck boot can be lined with shearling, fleece, flannel, or other material. Synthetic insulation is often used on the rubber portion—the part that holds the feet.
For example, here are my insulated duck boots:
These boots use a shearling lining to help insulate above the ankle, and a synthetic lining to insulate around the foot.
Why do boot use different insulations? Well, because the shearling lining is thicker, it could affect the fit of the boot if used around the foot. So, instead, companies will use a synthetic insulation around the foot because synthetic insulation (like 3M Thinsulate or PrimaLoft) is very good at trapping heat while also being thin and non-bulky (which doesn’t affect fit).
Duck boots that are not insulated will be better for rain or more mild winter weather. If you opt for an unlined duck boot, you can wear them with thick socks if needed for additional warmth.
Were Duck Boots Always Made for Winter?
Leon Leonwood Bean, the maker of duck boots, was an avid hunter and a fisherman. One problem that he constantly faced was coming home with cold and damp feet after a day in the woods. That’s why he thought of creating footwear that can solve this problem.
Eventually, L.L Bean made the first pair of duck boots in 1911, in his hometown in Maine. Here’s a look at my L.L. Bean duck boots:
The Evolution of Duck Boots
When duck boots were initially introduced, L.L. Bean used rubber for the bottom and affixed leather for the upper part of the boot.
This was a mix of two types of boots mostly worn at that time—rubber boots, which were waterproof and usually worn by farmers; and leather boots, which were durable, well-fitting, and popular among hunters.
L.L. Bean used these materials and put them together to maximize their efficiency. He then made 100 pairs of these boots and sold them all to hunters around Maine.
He gave them a condition where he’d give their money back if his boots aren’t the best they’ve ever used for hunting. Sadly, he received 90 pairs back and had to refund their payments. But this only made him more determined to make a better version of his hunting boots.
A few of his improvements on the duck boots were:
- Triple stitching the leather portion to the rubber bottom—which is now an iconic look of the duck boots
- Applying a split backstay instead of the usual strip counter running down the Achilles tendon for fuller back support
- Adding the rubber brush guard to prevent dirt and debris from entering the boots
- Coming up with the five-bar design on the front of the boots for shedding water and dirt
Naturally, duck boots have gone through refinements over the years to make them sturdier and more appealing. It was in the early 2000s when they started gaining attention from elite prep school students.
They became even more popular in the 2010s—when they were reported to be frequently sold out.
Since then, duck boots have become one of the go-to footwear for rainy or snowy days. Up to the present time, they’re still made up of a distinct combination of rubber lower section and leather upper support.
Duck Boots vs Rain Boots for Winter
Duck boots and rain boots can both be considered good options to wear for winter. Let’s evaluate the better option depending on these attributes.
Keeping Feet Dry
Rain boots are entirely made of rubber. So yes, they’re waterproof. The main purpose of rain boots is, of course, to protect our feet from getting wet when it rains. This also applies to snow.
Duck boots have rubber and leather parts. The rubber bottom can prevent water from entering the interior of the shoes; the leather upper part is also water-resistant.
In general, both rain boots and duck boots do a great job of keeping your feet dry. However, for extremely wet conditions, an all-rubber boot would be best.
Most duck boots have laces, which allow you to tight then boots around the leg to help hold out moisture (there are also slip on duck boots available). Many types of rain boots are pull on boot, which means they can’t be tightened. For lace-up options, visit our article about lace up rain boots.
Rain Boots are not designed to ward off the cold. The rubber used to make rain boots is thinner, making them less capable of holding onto heat or restraining cold temperature.
Rain boots are also typically non-insulated. If you want to see a few insulated options, click here.
Many Duck Boots are insulated. The type of insulation can vary, and therefore the warmth can vary. But certain types of Duck Boots can be temperature rated down to sub-zero temperatures. Duck Boots are made of thicker, more durable materials that can block out the cold (waterproof vs insulated boots).
Rain Boots are stiff because they’re made entirely of rubber, making them a bit uncomfortable to walk around with. Duck Boots are more flexible because the leather portion of the boots.
Where to Find Winter Duck Boots?
Many companies sell insulated winter duck boots. Sperry, Sorel, and LL Bean are three popular companies that make quality Duck Boots for winter weather. To see options, visit my article that discusses the best Duck Boots for winter.