The Best Shoes for Rainy and Snowy Weather

“Watch out for that first step, it’s a doozie.” Winter weather comes and goes, repeating itself every year. While many of us love layering, wearing coats, heavy flannels, tweeds, and the like, sometimes it feels like it is a Groundhog day every day, every winter. With the snow, the rain, the sleet and ice, we have to be more cautious with our footwear, in order to protect it and ensure it sees its maximum lifespan. As such some shoes are better than others for tempo di merda, so here are some examples of what I consider the best shoes for rainy and snowy weather.

With the recent inclement weather throughout Europe and the US, you are bound to see some wear on your soles, especially if you accidentally wear leather soles out and don’t realize it’s going to seemingly spontaneously hail and rain in the “ever sunny” Los Angeles. Even if you escape the season’s unpredictable rain, you might just step right into one of those puddles that appear shallower than they actually are as you are crossing the street. Let’s start by acknowledging that there is no such thing as waterproof shoes (unless we consider rubber Wellingtons an acceptable footwear option). However, the good news is you can invest in shoes made for inclement weather, like the infamous, and forum favorite, L.L. Bean Boots. Originally designed in 1912, the boots have long protected feet from wet environments for over a hundred years. They are probably one of your best bets for winter storms in the American Midwest or Northeast, seeing as they won’t look completely out of place.

Sometimes, you need or want something a bit more elegant: for this reason, rubber-soled shoes are a popular option since they work reasonably well in winter weather. Although many people might prefer a Dainite sole for a dressier look (when compared to a commando-style sole made by Vibram), Dainite soles are not optimal for wet weather since they provide little in way of increased traction–they are marginally better than leather soles at best. However, the Dainite sole helps to prevent wear to the sole of the shoe, increasing the lifespan tremendously. Because they are rubber, even though they are not high grip on wet surfaces, they work well in light snow or preventing water from getting into the cork bed or upper. I have a pair of Loake 1880 Chukka boots with Dainite soles which is my go-to travel shoe when I’m uncertain what the weather might be, seemingly because they are casual enough to be worn with denim, but elegant enough to go with odd trousers.

DAINITE SOLE
Loake 1881 “Kempton” Chukka Boots
Allen Edmonds Strand Cap-toe Oxford

 

If your style leans toward streetwear, you could look for something with more traction: I would consider a Vibram branded sole or a commando-style sole. The commando-style sole has all the lugs to provide extra grip, which add more visual weight to the sole, providing heavier-chunky appearance that belongs with streetwear more than tailoring. However, that isn’t to say you probably can’t find a place in your wardrobe for a pair of Alden with a commando sole to go with some moleskin or corduroy pants. These are excellent for heavier snow and provide the protection and grip that you need when the weather is at its worst. In addition, the higher sole helps provide more distance between your leather upper and the salted ground.

STREETWEAR APPROVED
Alden “Indy” Boots
Cobbler Union “Miquel” wholecut

If boots are your thing, but you prefer classic style, you’ll want something that is a bit more pragmatic than leather-soled boots when the streets are wet and slippery. That said, those of us who want something a bit more sophisticated and elegant -but still need grip or water protection- might consider a pair of boots such as these from Cobbler Union that feature studded combination leather and high-density rubber sole. The soles have some minor lugs set into it, which help to break up the flat surface and provide traction; simultaneously, the upper part of the sole and the welt are leather, contributing to the elegant look of the boot.

DRESSIER BOOTS FOR INCLEMENT WEATHER
Cobbler Union “Guillaume”
Tricker’s “Stowe” with double leather

Not all stitched soles are created equal. The stitching methods favored by the Italians, Blake method stitches the outer directly to the upper and insole, leaving out a welt, and thereby permit more water into a shoe. In Blake-rapid stitching, there is slightly more waterproofing on account that there are two stitches like in a Goodyear welted shoe (separating the stitching channels for the shoes): the Blake stitch that goes between the midsole, outer and insole, with the rapid stitch that stitches the midsole to an outsole. By adding in a midsole, the stitching for the inner part of the shoe is not exposed to the elements from the bottom sole as much as in Blake constructed shoes. Goodyear welted shoes, on the other hand, see the sole attached to a piece (oftentimes made of leather) called a welt, which acts as a medium for stitching between the upper and the sole. Besides allowing for easily repaired soles in the United States and UK, the welting process helps keep water out of the footbed.
You might further consider waterproofing your welted shoes by seeking out stormwelts on Goodyear welted shoes. In this case, the manufacturer puts a storm welt on the shoe when performing a welt-stitch (either handmade or Goodyear welted). The storm welt is a wider piece that bends to create a seal between the upper and the midsole. These are seen oftentimes on shoes from makers like Tricker’s.
A final stitching method that provides the most waterproofing is the Norwegian stitch. You now see Norvegese construction more often on the work of higher end Italian shoemakers (in terms of quality, not “designer” priced). The Norwegian construction features two stitching lines, one which connects the welt, upper and insole, and the other connecting the welt upper and sole. When joined together, they create an even more closed channel, helping to further keep water out of the shoe.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE STITCHING
Heschung “Richmond” with Norwegian welt
Grenson “Fred” with triple welt construction

Finally, you might be stubborn and wear leather soled shoes everywhere. If that’s you, I encourage you to invest in galoshes. In environments with snow and salted roads, the galoshes serve to protect your leather from salt stains. Swims makes a good pair of galoshes that can go around the leather soled shoes and provide protection from the elements, helping to extend the lifespan of your shoe. You can keep a pair in the office or in your car so that you’re not caught unprepared in case of unexpected showers. However, I will warn you that they do not have the best traction on slightly slick surfaces. I’ve slipped and fallen walking in them when I was walking over metal grates. A commando sole will be better for traction.

IF EVERYTHING ELSE FAILS, CONSIDER SHOE CONDOMS
Swims Classic Galoshes
Tingley Overshoe

In the end, the lesson here–just like when I’ve stepped into that bottomless puddle–might just be to pay a bit more attention to where you step.

 


 

Please note that a correction was made to clarify Blake vs Blake-rapid construction.

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e. v. Empey

e. v. Empey

Mr. Empey is the type of guy who prefers English style in the winter and Italian style in the summer. Or at least he used to. Now he's uncertain where he stands, since he travels a lot and has to visit a fair number of places where Americana workwear would be the best option. His appreciation of menswear stems more from a love of artisanship, so naturally, he also appreciates other crafts including cocktails and quality cuisine.

14 Comments

  1. Reply

    Andy

    March 10, 2018

    How are Meermin’s rubber soles for traction in the wet? They look a LOT like Dainite, but they are not; therefore whatever compound they are may provide more traction than real Dainite. Can anyone speak to this?

    • e. v. Empey
      Reply

      e. v. Empey

      March 10, 2018

      Hi Andy, I don’t have a pair of Meermin, but from what I can gather looking at reviews, it looks like the Meermin rubber and double rubber soles are Meermin’s version of Dainite (not just an aesthetic copy, but a copy of the properties, meaning non marking materials). It seems they are just not Dainite branded but might exhibit the same properties; in which case they may not provide much traction. I could be wrong though since someone who has both a Dainite branded pair and Meermin’s rubber/double rubber soles could compare the two.

  2. Reply

    Fede

    March 11, 2018

    Hello,

    In my experience the best construction for “tempo di merda” is Veldtschoen. The uppers fold outwards and are stitched on top of the welt, therefore there is nowhere for the water to “form a pool” and start leaking its way inward. Well know brands thay have offerings in this construction type: Rannoch, Cheaney, Edward Green, Alfred Sargent, Crockett and Jones and others.

    Good regards,

    Fede

    • e. v. Empey
      Reply

      e. v. Empey

      March 12, 2018

      Ciao Fede, you are correct, Veldtschoen is an excellent construction method for water proofing, and something I completely forgot about. Thank you for your input!

  3. Reply

    colco

    March 11, 2018

    I find Alden’s crepe leather sole is great for wet conditions, and comfortable for extended walking. Traction is pretty grippy with dainite on wet pavement etc, less so if from ice or slush. Presuming snow, then trousers of a heavier weight fabric make either Bean boots or commando soles a great choice!

    • e. v. Empey
      Reply

      e. v. Empey

      March 12, 2018

      Thank you for the feedback colco. I have never tried Alden’s crepe sole, since in the past I’ve been burned by cheaper shoes with crepe soles that have been absolute rubbish outside of dry weather (and even then, the wear they show was heavy, but I might put more weight when I step down than normal on my heels).

      But you are correct, dainite is not great on ice or more frigid surfaces. However, for most people dainite works well for most of the year, serving as a base need with only commando soles seeing necessity in the worst weather.

  4. Reply

    Jason blood

    March 11, 2018

    I’m all about the Edward green “Utah” grained leather with rubber soles I especially like the Piccadilly but any and all are a terrific investment

    • e. v. Empey
      Reply

      e. v. Empey

      March 12, 2018

      Jason, Edward Green is a wonderful investment. Unfortunately, a lot of people can’t afford them, which is one reason I didn’t include Edward Green on this list. Though, if I were wearing Edward Green shoes, I personally would protect them with a pair of galoshes should I be faced with terrible weather. Despite being dainite soles, I’m quite partial to the aesthetics of the Galway myself. They would serve you well in all but the worst weather.

  5. Reply

    Jønathan

    March 11, 2018

    Thank you for this article. All too often I see men in suits wearing their Alpine hiking boots just because we’ve gotten a little snow when there’s plenty of decent-looking alternatives. A couple of years ago I bought a pair of Cole Haans that are listed as waterproof and I pretty much only use them for the inclement weather and they are great. They’ve got a lug sole with black leather uppers and look professional enough to wear with a suit.

    • e. v. Empey
      Reply

      e. v. Empey

      March 12, 2018

      Thank you for your kind words Jønathan. I would agree that many people choose to wear inappropriate shoes in winter weather, oftentimes resorting to sneakers with dress trousers or, yes, more sporting hiking boots and the like. I’m glad you have found a pair shoes that work well for you: the issue is always a matter of fit, but also what goes well with your wardrobe. Hopefully this article provides some inspiration for future pairs.

  6. Reply

    fels

    March 13, 2018

    Suede chukkas (or any suede) in inclement weather? Maybe there’s something about suede or shoe waterproofing that I don’t know; please enlighten me. Sincere thanks.

    • e. v. Empey
      Reply

      e. v. Empey

      March 13, 2018

      I actually find suede relatively durable and easy to maintain/clean. The leather can be shampooed and you can easily recreate a nap. If you get water stains aand they don’t go away after drying naturally, you can shampoo them and blend the stains/shoe, and I’ve never had a problem making them look new (except against oil of course–which would ruin pretty much any leather shoe). Plus a little wear gives it some character sometimes. However, yes, waterproofing them with a suede protector can further help.

      To each their own however; I wouldn’t choose to wear them in the countryside among mud, but nor would I wear any leather shoes I care about in mud.

  7. Reply

    emptym

    March 13, 2018

    This is incorrect: ” blake-rapid methods, stitch the outer sole directly to the upper.” The upper is stitched to a sole, as in Blake. But then Blake-rapid adds another sole stitched to the first sole. Check Rider’s posts on it.

    • e. v. Empey
      Reply

      e. v. Empey

      March 13, 2018

      Thank you for the correction. I will adjust that.

      I should have written Blake construction there; the point was to note that it is not welted or providing the benefit of added waterproofing. Although, it should be wise to note that the method for Blake-rapid would leave it more waterproof than Blake stitching. If we refer to diagrams that Rider created in the past, it would be better to say that the major difference between Blake-rapid and Blake is that in Blake-rapid features a midsole; the outer is stitched between an insole and midsole, while the rapid stitch stitches the midsole to the outsole.

      The major difference is that with Goodyear welt there is further waterproofing with the welt stitch between the welt, midsole, upper, insole and cork.

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