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Are all rubber boots stiff?

Hello folks:

I plan to travel all the way to snowy Hokkaido, Japan in Feb 2024 to attend its Snow Festival. Though this destination is close to world class ski resorts, I will just stay in the urban areas. Hokkaido is ultra cold and therefore insulated snow boots are a must.

My feet are problematic: a wide toe box + plantar fasciitis. Needless to say, it is not easy for me to find suitable footwear. I ordered a few pairs of waterproof snow boots, which are all rubber (but insulated) or are rubber in the foot section. I find them to be stiff. Will they eventually "break in" and mold to my feet? They don't really stretch, do they?

In addition, what type of outerwear do you suggest? I really don't want to wear down due to animal cruelty.

Posted by
598 posts

I don't think rubber boots stretch or mold much. My leather riding boots do, but, well, they're leather. And they're not insulated. Hope you have a great time. My son was there in 2015 (alas it rained).

--Marty

Posted by
261 posts

Barkinpark:
The sad news is that rubber will not flex or stretch enough to fit better. I worked and played in Alaska for 44 years including in the cold and snow. I never encountered a rubber boot that has insulation worth diddily squat (maybe you did find some). We knew those rubber boots as "breakup boots - worn in above freezing and wet conditions. You may be able to make them work wearing heavy wool socks as Hokkaido is not even as cold and snowy as the Northern US.

I still have a pair of Sorel Caribou boots that I wore all those years for Alaska's snowy winters including work on the "North Slope." Replaced the felt liner and the laces, but the boots are still in good condition. I think that a felt insulation liner will give enough to be more comfortable for you. Also check out Canadian brands such as Kamik. Not sure about walking conditions where you are headed but getting some ice grips for any shoes and boots before you go is a good idea.

Synthetic insulation in coats and gloves works better than down as they still insulate when wet. Silk or poly long johns and under shirt are a good idea. Wool socks are mandatory whatever the foot gear. Have a good trip.

Posted by
1467 posts

Hello Marty and Larry: thank you for your replies so far.

I did try one model of Kamik -- the lowest part of the boot is rubber (kinda like a rain shoe) while the shaft is fabric (polyester or nylon). It's very narrow and they don't offer wide widths. In fact, I read reviews about Santana Canada and Olang (both Canadian brands), and the conclusion is that they are very narrow too. Perhaps our neighbors have more slender feet?

So far, only one pair of boots seem "wearable": it's an all-rubber tall boot with Sherpa (not sure if it's wool or synthetic) lining. I bought a full size larger than my true size so that my wide feet can be accommodated. I just wish they molded to my feet somewhat better. However, I have been wearing them for 30 min inside my house and they have not caused pain. They aren't perfect but neither are my feet.

Posted by
8525 posts

Barkinpark, I haven't had a pair for years but, I think LLBean's boots come in wide sizes: LLBEAN boots

But I think I would be looking more for the goretex + insulation of Matterhorns, or something in hunting boots from one of the major outdoor retailers. .

Because rubber bends, I dont think it can ever "conform" to your feet.

Posted by
16415 posts

Another former Alaskan here—-7 winters in Fairbanks, where the temperature could reach 60 below, but mostly was around 20-30 below. The only boots that kept my feet warm at those temperatures when I was outside for long periods were my “bunny boots”, which I finally found in a small women’s size at an army surplus store.

https://bootspy.com/bunny-boots/

I am certainly not recommending you get a pair of these, as I doubt you will encounter those extreme temperatures. But one can learn from these boots, such as how important it is to have sufficient insulation underfoot—like a thick sole and a felt liner insole. I like my foot to be at least an inch off the cold ground, and that means a think and possibly stiff sole.

For warmer temps, around zero F, I like Sorels. They are what I continue to buy for winter wear in snow country. My current Sorels are not the traditional rubber bottom, leather top style, but all leather with Sherpa fleece lining. Not as warm as the ones with a removable felt liner, but fine down to zero degrees. And no rubber at all, apart from the soles.

Note that if it is really cold, as you imply with the words “ultra cold”, waterproof is not essential, as water does not exist at those temperatures . It is all frozen (ice or snow). If you brush off the snow before going indoors where the ice will melt, your boots will stay dry. If you look at winter boots worn by traditional cultures in the northern Scandinavian regions, you will see wool and felt, maybe part leather, but no rubber, apart from maybe on the soles. So an all-rubber boot may not be what you want.

Thick wool socks are part of the equation.

Posted by
609 posts

I have high,insulated Bogs that look like rain boots. They are the warmest boots I've ever had, and I can walk/snowshoe in them for miles. I have a short, uninsulated pair that I'm taking to Norway next week.

Posted by
4931 posts

I just want to reiterate what Lola mentioned. You don't need waterproof boots when it is "ultra cold". There won't be water underfoot, just snow and ice. Although I will argue that average temps of -1 to -10C don't come close to being ultra cold, it is still cold enough not to be overly concerned about waterproofing. What you need to be concerned with is insulation and a good, thick, non slip sole. You want a pair of boots that are wide enough so your foot is comfortable wearing 2 pairs of wool socks.

Posted by
1467 posts

Thank you, everybody.

The LL Bean boots look good. I like that they are still made in the US.

I will check out Sorels. They offer many models. I tried two pairs at a local outdoor (REI) store but they are too narrow.

I am a gal. For some reason, shoe makers still make many female styles with a pointed tip.

In Hokkaido, I will attend the Snow Festival to see ice and snow sculptures. According to internet websites, the heavily trafficked crossings may have melted snow and become icy. Lots of tourists slip and fall.

Posted by
2332 posts

If you are concerned about slipping on ice, you may want to bring some YakTrax. You just slip them on over your boots.
Yaktrax Hiking and Walking Traction Cleats for Snow, Ice, and Rock https://a.co/d/6a3Hf4N

Posted by
261 posts

Barkinpark:
You want comfort - not style. Try boys/mens sizes as they are usually wider. I don't like to wear double socks with boots as they seem to slip around on me. You can add insulation by using foam sole inserts. Rubber soles/lowers are fine as they often have better grip and snow does not seem to collect on them. After checking on Hokkaido, I think definitely get some kind of pull-on ice cleats/studs. My wife always gets colder that I do - she actually doubles up on long johns by wearing a heavy pair over a thin pair. And she wears an insulated vest under her parka. If your hands tend to get cold, try mittens with liners.

Posted by
609 posts

For those rubber boots doubters;), technology has improved greatly over the years. My Bogs are rated down to -58F and have the best traction I've ever had on a winter boot (I didn't use Yaktrax once this past winter). The knee height is great for keeping out the snow. I have lived in rural northern Minnesota for almost 70 years, and this is the best boot I've had. I have slipped them on in the summer without socks when I want to walk through the woods or high grass to help keep the ticks off (one bout of anaplasmosis was more than enough). The soles are stiff, but very comfortable and well insulated. They might not be the right fit for the OP, but don't rule them out if you are looking for a new winter boot.

Another popular option is the Steger Mukluks. Patti Steger started making them in Ely, Minnesota after she wore a pair of mukluks on an artic dogsled expedition back in the 80s. I actually had one of their brochures in my hand last night I saw last night when we were on a walk, but I put it back as I love the pull-on ease of my Bogs and will probably add a shorter insulated Bog to my collection this winter. Lots of my friends and relatives wear Steger Mukluks, though, and they come in wide.

I walked by the Wintergreen Northern Wear store last night (another business based in Ely). They make quality outdoor clothing that is tested right in Minnesota.

Mittens are warmer than gloves, and we use hand and toe warmers if we are going to be outside for an extended period of time. I wear a balaclava to keep my neck warm.

Posted by
4154 posts

Try Eddie Bauer for synthetic down jackets. You can get some that pack small. I'd checking the ratings for windproofing and water repellent as well.

Posted by
1467 posts

Hello folks. Thank you again for your replies.

I have Eddie Bauer's Girl on the Go Insulated Parka. Not sure if this is enough, even with a merino wool base layer and another merino wool top. Bottoms are challenging too, as few pants offer enough insulation except ski pants.

Posted by
14067 posts

Just a comment about traction devices for your boots. I prefer the Kahtoola Nano spikes over the Yaktrax. I was having trouble with the Yaktrax flipping off the end of my boot in heavy snow. The Kahtoolas come up higher over the toe so don’t come off.

Posted by
4154 posts

I have Eddie Bauer's Girl on the Go Insulated Parka. Not sure if this
is enough, even with a merino wool base layer and another merino wool
top.

https://www.eddiebauer.ca/p/20612671/women
If this is it and you scroll to the bottom you'll see it's rated to -25F. It appears that the lows in Hokkaido are around +14F. I can't speak to your tolerance to cold, but it appears to me that you're more than covered. Just in case though layers are your best friend.

Posted by
1467 posts

Thank you, again and again.

I am just now learning the hard way--it's expensive and stressful to shop for extreme winter clothing/footwear!

So, for outerwear, I will bring:
(1) my EB Girl on the Go insulated parka + inner layers
(2) a long wool-like acrylic/polyester coat to be layered heavily with more layers. The latter is not waterproof. I will add a poncho to the exterior. What do you think of this? I am just trying to see if I can get away with purchasing less big ticket apparel that I won't use much.

However, from internet searches, it seems that the vast majority of people in photos or videos wear down or down-like puffy coats (kinda like the Michelin tire person). I am a US size 12 (L) and therefore won't likely find clothes locally, should I need to purchase more clothes there. Japanese ladies are far more petite.

Posted by
609 posts

I wear these if I'm going to be outside shoveling or snowshoeing, or if the temp is really low (like -20F) and we have to go somewhere. I have several pairs of lined pants, but these fit the best without much bulk.

Your trench is rated for low temps so it should be fine with wool layers if the arms are lined along with the body of the coat.

Posted by
14067 posts

I’m having trouble picturing what you mean by your description of your 2nd coat. Wouldn’t the Go-girl cover (🙄😆) all your needs? Or are you thinking you’d wear #2 under the Go-girl?

Many like base layers and I do wear base layer bottoms in winter but a base layer on top is usually too warm for me unless I’m out standing around/inactive in the cold. I am, however, pretty cold tolerant.

Posted by
1467 posts

Thank you again.

I am bringing the second coat just in case the weather is so bad that my Go Girl parka (thigh length) gets too wet.

I don't know anybody in Hokkaido. However, one person who lived in Michigan said that he/she attended this Snow Festival a few times and it was "beyond cold."

Posted by
247 posts

Posted by Larry42

You want comfort - not style. Try boys/mens sizes as they are usually
wider.

I second the "try boys/mens".
i have to wear steel toes for work. The women's shoes hurt my toes. I find that the men's have a wider and higher toe box. Luckily my feet are big enough to be able to wear men's. I've also found that the uglier they are, the more comfortable they are.

Posted by
4931 posts

I am bringing the second coat just in case the weather is so bad that
my Go Girl parka (thigh length) gets too wet

How wet do you think you will get with the temperatures below freezing? If you want to insure against rain (snow is much more likely), just bring along a lightweight poncho that you can throw over your parka. Keep it in your day bag in case you need it.

Posted by
26 posts

Muck (brand) Boots from Tractor Supply. I'm sure other sell them.