Style

A Guide to Duck Boots (featuring the Bean Boot)

The final break-out post from my Fall and Winter Boot Guide is the amphibious member of the boot family, the Duck Boot.

What is a Duck Boot?

The term duck boot and Bean Boot are sometimes used interchangeably, but “Duck” refers to the style while “Bean” refers to a particular brand.

Kind of like calling all adhesive bandages Band-Aids.

A duck boot is a waterproof, shoe-like boot that has a rubber lower section and a leather or waterproof textile upper.

There are a bunch of styling variations such as lacing system, tread pattern, and upper material across different brands, but the basics remain constant.

History

The most famous in this category, and original, is the Bean Boot.

After returning from a hunting trip with cold/wet feet, Leon Leonwood Bean (L.L.Bean) decided to blend the comfort of a leather boot with the functionality of a rubber workman's boot to create what he called the “Maine hunting shoe”.

After an initial blunder was corrected, production continued and an entire new genre of footwear was created, not to mention one of the largest outdoor retailers!

My Experience

The boots are comfortable right out of the box, no break-in required.

When you try them on in the store, they'll basically fit the same way a year down the road. Most likely, you'll have to size down a full size for uninsulated boots.

I'm a size 12 and an 11 fits perfectly. Your best bet is to stop by a store and get fitted in person.

As I mentioned in my boot style guide, I wore my Bean boots on a 6-mile bicycle commute last winter (recall the winter of the polar vortices).

The streets of Chicago were absolutely filthy for months, brimming with slush full of salt, oil, garbage, and who knows what else.

I didn't clean the boots all winter, despite being coated with that nasty concoction on a daily basis.

Before storing them for the summer, I just wiped them with a damp cloth and they looked good as new.

Things to Consider

The main choice you'll have to make when purchasing is whether or not you'll go with the insulated variety.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but going for insulated boots will automatically assign them to temps under 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

You can forget about wearing a dedicated snow boot on a rainy autumn day –  unless you want to feel like you've got saunas strapped to your feet.

To maximize versatility, I went with an uninsulated pair which had enough room to wear heavyweight socks in cold conditions and thin socks for warmer occasions.

They'll even work on rainy summer day hikes. Buying them to fit thicker socks means that they'll also be a little loose with thin socks, allowing air to circulate.

When the mercury drops, I just reach for a pair of heavy wool socks and I'm on my way.

You could alternately buy a dedicated kick-ass snow boot and a separate rain boot. That all depends on your cash flow and how lean of a wardrobe you're trying to build.

I personally place a higher value on having greater versatility and that's why I opted for the Bean boot.

How to Wear

In tough conditions, being practically dressed trumps fancy any day. Think you'll look cool playing sloppy-puddle hopscotch on the city sidewalks in those polished oxfords?

Keep your composure and wear a waterproof boot on your commute and then switch to dress shoes at the office.

The best thing about duck boots is that there really isn't a right or wrong way to wear them.  Think of them like an umbrella – if it's raining, they go with everything.

Errands with a Chance of Showers

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Ready for any Weather

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Bonus Action Shot:  When Lake Michigan Attacks!

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Options (don't go for cheap imitations here, a waterproof boot that leaks, well, isn't).

Bean Boots – Take your pick. You can have insulated or not, and ankle height through mid-shin.

Sorel – This would be my pick for a no-nonsense snow boot. It doesn't get much better than these for extreme conditions.

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8 Comments

  • Reply
    vincent nixon
    November 13, 2014 at 12:30 am

    I liked your post, very good information. I already own a pair of llbean boots as I got them about a month or so ago. Good read though I liked your wardrobe ideas as well.

    • Reply
      Nate
      November 13, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      Thanks for the feedback Vincent and enjoy the boots! Just wipe ’em down with a damp cloth occasionally and they’ll keep looking great.

  • Reply
    John Navarra
    January 12, 2017 at 8:12 am

    i have to say no on the Sorel’s. I bought mine about the time you posted this blog and they lasted only a year before the rubber uppers broke.

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 14, 2017 at 7:17 am

      I’ve never heard of a pair wearing out that fast – thanks for the info. That’s another reason to go with L.L. Bean and the lifetime warranty.

  • Reply
    Joe
    January 12, 2017 at 11:30 pm

    Is your Bean Boot that of the 10” variety?

  • Leave a Reply

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