‘I don’t know, they’re kind of expensive.’
It was 2002 and I was heading on my first solo overseas trip. The boots I was trying on were $295, which back then was a lot of money. Especially as I was working part-time in a bar earning $18 an hour. That was 16 hours of work, a whole week in part-time land. Plus I was about to go the UK – I needed to save every cent for beer and West End theatre tickets.
‘Oh for god’s sake Carly just buy them! They’re perfect. They fit, they’re comfortable, they’re waterproof. You’ll get SO MUCH WEAR OUT OF THEM. It’s okay to spend money you tight ass!’
The lady helping us buy the shoes laughed. ‘Listen to your mother!’ She said. ‘They’re perfect.’
I hesitated for a moment and then bought them and wore them out of the store.
They were, without a doubt the best boots I’ve ever bought. Not only did they last me a full eleven years (I think they had their last winter in 2013), they were waterproof, unbelievably comfortable and worth every god damn cent I spent on them. Here’s me wearing them in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013.
At the end of 2013 I took them to my boot maker and she sadly shook her head. The zipper was broken beyond repair and they’d been re-soled so many times there was nothing left to add a new sole to.
I was devastated. I went home and googled the brand and found out they were from a brand called Journey. I desperately emailed the company asking if they might have a box of decade-old stock in a warehouse that had a miracle pair of my boots in it. No such luck.
Ever since then I’ve been super strict about my winter boots buying criteria. I’ve made a few mistakes since then but for the most part, I’ve nailed every boot purchase I’ve made. Yay me.
Dress from Frankie and Dash
Tights from Muji
Boots from Ecco
Here’s how I choose awesome winter boots…
1. Spend some $$$
About three years ago I impulse bought a pair of boots for $150. They were leather and seemed quite sturdy but they only lasted me two seasons. I thought that was okay for $150 but what really upset me was the effort I went to break the damn things in. Have you ever broken in a pair of leather boots? It’s weeks of wearing them around the house with thick socks and always carrying a box of band-aids with you in case you get sneaky blisters. This is why I only want to buy new boots every five years or so because I can’t handle the regular trauma of having to break in new boots. I’ve found that spending over $250 (at least) seems to be the magic number when buying boots. This is only based on my own experience but the two pairs of boots I’ve bought that have been over that threshold have been amazing purchases and all the boots I’ve bought under that threshold have sucked pretty hard.
2. Make sure they’re waterproof
Fashion boots are kind of shit. Don’t kid yourself that a pair of boots from a fashion retailer are going to keep your feet dry and warm on a rainy day. They won’t. I bought a pair of fairly decent leather boots from a store that sells both clothing and footwear and after a month they started leaking. What a waste of money. For hard-wearing winter boots, I stick to boot and shoe specialists like Merrell, Ecco and Dr Marten. When I say ‘fashion’ boots I mean boots that are designed to look good, not necessarily be practical. Fashion boots have their time and place like if you’re going out for dinner but they’re not going to be much help when you’re schlepping through the snow on a walking tour of London.
3. Get ones with adjustable sides
I’m a weight fluctuator and this extends all the way to my calves. If I gain a few kilos, I won’t be able to zip up leather boots unless they have elastic or buckles on the sides. Also sometimes I’m just retaining a bit of fluid and my legs are puffy. Elastic or adjustable sides are essential, especially if you’re planning on getting ten years of wear out of them. Most people tend to go up and down in weight over the course of a decade and elastic or adjustable sides will keep you wearing your fave boots no matter how puffy your calves are.
4. Make sure they’re able to be re-soled
The more the sole looks like a traditional shoe with a separate heel and toe segments, the easier they will be to have re-soled. You can also ask before you buy them. When I bought my Ecco boots I asked if they could be re-soled and the staff said they could arrange re-soleing themselves. Awesome. I didn’t end up using that service because I have a bootmaker walking distance from my house but it’s nice to have it as an option.
5. Don’t go too small
They need to be slightly firm to allow for stretching but just remember you’re going to wear socks under them. If you like thin socks, don’t stress too much but if you like wearing thick, warm socks, better go up half a size to accommodate. Also, take the time to get fitted properly in store. I’m a massive fan of buying things online but if I’m going to drop $300 on a pair of boots I’m happy to pay for the expertise of a trained person to help me get the right fit. As a rule, I generally don’t by shoes online because I have weird shaped feet from dancing as a kid. They’re kind of boney in weird places so I get blisters really easily. For most other stuff, I’m all over the online shopping but for shoes? I’m a bricks and mortar gal.
This outfit was worn for a day of meetings, client work and a whole bunch of other stuff. It’s turning out to be a rather busy winter…
Extra reading for the keen beans…