While moonboots are an absolute Godsend to those hardy souls who venture out in cold weather, it’s no secret that they can be a real liability if you plan to do more than an absolute minimum of walking: they flop around; they make your feet ache; and your socks ride down and gather in painful lumps in the ball of your feet.
Still, that’s the price you pay for warm feet, eh? Hiking boots are obviously a much better idea for moving around in, but the trade off can be feet so cold and painful that your whole day can be spoilt. And God help you if you actually stand in the water if your boots weren’t waterproof, or if the water is more than a few inches deep!
And wellies? The worst of all possible worlds, but at least they’d keep your feet dry.
So on the face of it, Skee-Tex field boots are the perfect solution to these compromises .
They are formed from a moulded waterproof plastic foot section, with a resilient, heavily treaded non-slip sole. Onto this bottom section is fixed a synthetic suede (that’ll be "plastic" then), lace-up upper part, reaching to about mid calf.
The tongue of this upper section is of a "bellows" design: that is, it is attached to the upper with a tough woven synthetic material gusset, in such a way that there is no open gap anywhere between the upper and the tongue.
Inside the boot is a removable fleece liner just as thick as that in the Skee-Tex "moonboot", and liner also contains heat retaining aluminium "astro foil" – similar to the material used to make survival blankets.
In use, Skee-Tex boots really do live up to a lot of their press. They seem to be sized rather small: I only have size 7 feet, but found the size 71/2 – 81/2 boots very tight initially, even without thick socks on. They do seem to free up quickly though.
The lace up part takes up some effort to pull really tight too (which is important in order to create an effective seal between feet and elements – more of this later), especially if as is most likely, you want to tuck your trousers into the boots.
Once everything is properly tightened up though, they deliver two of their major design criteria very effectively indeed: they are very warm. They actually seem to be nearly as warm as "proper" moon boots; and as someone who has chronically cold feet, I can assure you I’d notice any significant difference!
And yes, they are also infinitely more comfortable to walk in. In fact the first time I wore them (in temperatures which never got above minus 8 degrees Celsius), I found myself deliberately finding excuses to "just have a wander over to that side of the loch for a look-see" (yes Timmy, I was in Scotland at the time), an activity I would avoid like the plague in moonboots! The difference was that impressive.
Adverts for these boots also tell you that "although these boots are 100% waterproof, they are not designed to stand in water above the lower boot level for more than three or four minutes", whereas the Skee-Tex website states that the bottom section is 100% waterproof, and that the upper section is "98% waterproof".
Hmmm… I’m sad to say that this is where my love affair with these boots comes to an end!
Seeing the above statements about the waterproof qualities of the boots, I’m sure you’d agree that it would be a reasonable expectation to be able to stand in water barely above ankle height for 30 seconds without getting two soaking feet?
Well, I did just that, and yep, I got two soaking feet for my trouble! This was at the very beginning of another days Scottish piking in sub-zero temperatures, and as a result my feet were b****y freezing all day. I was extremely unhappy about this unanticipated turn of events!
Although the materials used for the boot are waterproof, the stitching holes between the upper, tongue and base parts of the boot allow water in all too willingly.
Because of this it is essential to get the laces really tight, to ensure the best seal possible between the tongue and the upper: the bellows part must be fully tucked inside the boot to seal at least some of the many stitching holes up. I have to say that with anything other than thin socks on, I found it very difficult to manage this – and I don’t have strangely shaped feet or power-lifter’s calf muscles!
Even cinched up as tightly as possible, there are still plenty of stitching holes to let water in. There also seems to be ample opportunity for water to access where the upper is attached to the base – the join isn’t sealed at all.
I know that some people haven’t found this to be as much of a problem, but the simple fact is that if there are holes and unsealed joins, there will be leaking, and there can be a lot.
Of course, it is possible to waterproof the boots by taking the liners out, putting each one in a watertight plastic bag and putting them back (an aftermarket product line for Skee-Tex?); and I’m going to try to improve the waterproofing by the judicious use of some silicon bathroom sealant.
As it is though, while they do indeed allow you to choose to be both mobile and warm in cold weather, I feel that as it stands, the advertising for these boots gives an unrealistic expectation of the level of protection on offer.
To my mind, in the same way that you can’t be "slightly dead" or "a little bit pregnant", there is no such thing as "98% waterproof": a thing either is, or is not, waterproof. And in fact my experience is that these boots really are simply not waterproof.
To imply that they’re "as waterproof as makes no difference…" seems to be an attempt to pass them off as something they are not. At £50 a pair, this isn’t really on.
All in all, rather a disappointment, I’m sad to say…