With regular intervals I check out some the collection of rainboots on offering in online stores. In most cases it is just a bit of day dreaming, or seeing if there are any noticeable trends, but this time I was actually looking for a pair of comfortable rubber boots to supplement my 2 pairs of very cheap, but also very bulky, work boots from Dunlop. While the PVC boots from Dunlop are holding up fine, they are not really intended for long walks with their lose-fitting shafts and basic soles.
My shortlist of boots to look at was mostly limited to Hunter, Aigle, and Le Chameau and based on feedback I decided Le Chameau would probably be the best fit. Luckily availability of the brand is pretty good in The Netherlands with several hunting, hiking, and farming webshops having a decent range available.
The boots are made of natural rubber and have their distinct rubber smell when still new. The look and feel of the rubber is surprisingly distinct from other brands as the boots are not completely smooth. The rubber has a barely observable texture which maybe best resembles leather. It will certainly not be noticeable with brand new boots but it will become clearer once the boots get dirty and some dirt gets stuck in the deeper parts. I experience this as something positive, where the boots have a slightly used look and change color noticeably once they get wet and the green shiny rubber takes over the lighter combination of dry rubber and dirt.
Compared to other brands the rubber is also more stretchable. This is something that stands out when you get stuck in some serious mud and need to hold the edge of your boots with both hands to pull them out of the sticky situation. Unlike previous boots you can feel the rubber giving in to the pulling force slightly.
Most boots of Le Chameau are sold in two different versions, one with a blue neoprene lining suitable for a colder climate and one with a jersey lining. As I wear my boots year round, I opted for the jersey lining as that gives me the possibility to wear them with thin socks in the summer and thicker socks in the winter. The look of the jersey lining also gives them a “British upcountry vibe”, even though the brand is French.
These wellies have a strap to adjust the calf size which is closed with a plastic clasp. The plastic actually feels really strong and suitable for a pair of wellies that is going to see a lot of mud. A steel clasp would possibly be more suitable regarding durability, but I am hopeful they will not break down at this spot.
The reputation of Le Chameau is excellent. They have been making high-quality rubber boots for decades, since 1927 actually, and the workmanship on the boots I have are absolutely up to expectations. The main problem I have been experiencing with previous wellies so far is the longevity as I walk a good 25-30 kilometers per week on my boots going through water, mud, and sand. With a purchasing price that is above the average Hunter or Aigle boots I figured investing in a maintenance spray, to hopefully extend the lifespan of these boots, would be worth it.
After use I simply rinse my boots off with water and store them indoors to avoid extreme hot or cold weather. And every now and then they get a few sprays and a quick rub to keep the rubber in optimal condition. This should keep the rubber flexible enough so it can handle the stress of every step with easy and just bounce back to its original form without cracking. Time will tell if they will hold out over a year though.
The Vierzon rubber boots are very basic and simple. The area around the feet is relatively bulky and the boots narrow down around the ankle. The overall design of the boots is less recognizable than the design of the Hunter boots, but as a pair of “Country wellies” they are not intended to turn heads. The functional side-adjustment strap is simplistic and unassuming, but what does stand out is the extra rubber in that area that will be pushed against the boots by the strap. Where other brands do their best to make the material stick out as little as possible, by having it fold over on top of itself, these boots get more easily recognizable by the bulge of rubber on the side. This can be a turnoff for whoever is looking to get a pair of slim fitting and stylish wellies.
An interesting detail in the design is a small patch of rubber on the inside of the boots at the back of the heel. This area will normally see a lot of wear and tear when the foot moves inside the boot, which would quickly wear down the jersey or neoprene lining, so adding the rubber there makes sense. And for the enthusiast it adds a little treat when walking around: the sound of the movement against the rubber.
It is always hard to decide on sizing with rubber boots as physical stores have often been replaced by online shops. Instead of simply putting on a few different pairs of boots in different sizes you will either need to order several pairs and keep one, or take a guess and hope for the best.
In most cases I order my boots a bit on the large size as that gives the option to line them during winter with a pair of thick socks. For my Le Chameau boots this was no problem with a relatively tight fitting around the ankles and perfectly snug fit around my calves, although going with my actual size would have probably fitted me even better. When I walk down a slope I notice my feet moving forward within the boots and based on that I would recommend simply purchasing your true size instead of going one size up to be able to fit in thicker socks.
Price and Availability
These boots are not cheap with prices of the Vierzon rubber boots with jersey lining starting around 150 euros. It surely helps to shop around online to see if some stores have a discount going or possibly give a bonus for creating an account at their webstore.
Availability is surprisingly good in The Netherlands with dozens of online shops selling Le Chameau wellies. Many of the shops are actually aimed at small target audiences like hunters, farmers, or fishers and not so much at the general rainboot audience looking for some hip fashion wellies.
Interestingly enough very similar Le Chameau boots are also available as waders but I could not find any good excuse to purchase a pair of hip waders as that would be over-the-top for the 20cm waterways I need to cross. Maybe I can think of one in the future.
While the overall look of the boots is not very fashionable they are absolutely killing the country-life look with the checkered jersey lining and availability in only 2 tints of green. As mentioned before the tiny structure in the rubber will make the boots look used when they are completely dry, which is a look I actually love. These boots are made to get dirty, not to prance around with in the city. Pictured below the boots right after purchase when the green rubber was still clean; that did not last long.
As you might have read between the lines already I am absolutely in love with my Le Chameau Vierzon rubber boots. The overall look and feel of these boots is so different from my PVC Dunlop wellies making them the perfect addition to my rainwear collection. And the feel of wearing them is like heaven with a near-perfect fit and how they change in looks when they get water splashed over them. These boots have been my daily footwear of choice since the day I purchased them and time will tell if they will last me long enough to make me feel loved back equally by them.