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Hands-on Gear Review
Hunter Original Tall Review
Cons: Impractical for intense use, relatively uncomfortable
Bottom line: While Hunter Boots have a lot of history, these were not the most utilitarian boots in our test.
Shaft Height (in inches - from bottom of sole to lowest point at top of shaft): 16.9
Lining/Insulation: Woven nylon lining
Manufacturer: Hunter Boots
Hunter boots have been around for over 150 years, and while their dedication to handcrafting their boots with natural rubber is impressive, we did not find that these boots performed better than average in our grueling series of tests. Their high shaft height and unique styling weren't enough to compensate for their lack of comfort, traction, and functionality. For a more functional rain boot (but a similar fit), check out the XTRATUF Legacy 15". But if you want to save some money, our Best Buy Baffin Enduro cost significantly less than both.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Hunter Original Tall boots, priced at $150, are "name-brand" rain boots (and the brand was established in 1856). But beyond the name, styling, and handcrafted natural rubber, these boots deliver pretty standard performance and scored an exact 50 (out of 100) in our weighted score table. Measuring 16.9 inches tall and weighing in at 5.42 lbs, these boots were the second highest boots in our test. They lack insulation, which makes them more useful in warmer weather. And while this is hard to quantify, these boots were extremely floppy and did not provide much support. Overall, we weren't impressed by these boots when comparing them to the products that were designed with function first and form second.
With a 16.9-inch shaft height, these boots had the second highest shaft height in our test, only measuring .7 inches shorter than the Original Muck Boot Company Arctic Sport. However, the Hunter boots far more flexible rubber made them feel much less protective against splashes, a feeling accentuated by their larger circumference at the top of the shaft (17 inches to the Arctic Sport's 15.5"), which felt like water might slosh in the top.
The Hunter boots were very squishy, but not in a supportive way. It felt more like we were just standing on a stack of relatively soft rubber. And while they came with an insole, it was flexible and thin enough to be almost entirely cosmetic. The fit was snugger than several of the other competitors, so the Hunters didn't flap around on our feet as much as looser options, but this was not as important an issue as their relative lack of support underfoot.
The Hunter boots did not have much traction when compared to the other boots in the test. They feature "traditionally calendered soles", which, as far as we can tell, means they roll the rubber on large metal rollers (calendars) to make a sheet of rubber, which they then trim with heated knives to give it three-dimensional shape. In our tests, we found that this process didn't create much traction. The sharply cut heel piece helped grab the ground as we went down wet grass and muddy hills, but when we went up the hills (on our toes), the heels couldn't come into play, and the Tall did not hold well. They had even less traction on snow and ice.
The Tall boots were not insulated and provided no warmth beyond the sock we were wearing. During the ice water test, our bare feet felt the cold immediately, and we were uncomfortably cold after 30 seconds.
The Original Tall boots are designed to look a certain way. Our fashion consultants disagreed on this boot (almost as much as the RK Boot), and we found that the women universally liked them, while the men were a little less enthusiastic about their molded styling. However, the men in our test almost all tend toward the Carhartt/utilitarian aesthetic, which does not overlap with these boots. Ultimately, if you like their looks, get them and don't listen to us!
Ease of Use
Hunter boots are relatively frustrating to use, as their tightly cut ankle means they're difficult to get on. You have to sit down, grab the flexible top of the shaft and tug them on. And they're too flexible to kick off, so you have to grab the heel and really wrench them off. They're a far cry from boots you can just step into and go (like the Baffin Enduro).
You may find, after some use, that a whitish powder will appear on the outside of your boots. This is called the "bloom" and is a normal occurrence for natural rubber. While it's not bad for your boots at all, Hunter sells a ($10) boot buffer to help clean your boots should you want to get it off, or you could just soap them off and then rub in some olive oil.
The Hunter boots fit with our size 12 feet with a half inch of room and are comfortable for our D width feet without being too snug. They would not have enough room for a wide foot. And they fit far more snugly on the ankle than any of the other boots (besides the XTRATUF Legacy 15"), which is nice because they don't flap around, but frustrating because the rubber pushes into the front of our ankles as we walk in them.
If you like the aesthetic of Original Tall, and it's rainy, then wear them on errands and out on the town. But due to their subpar traction, overly squishy rubber, and general commitment to form over function, we do not recommend these for intense use of any sort.
The Original Tall cost roughly $150, as they are handcrafted natural rubber. If you like the looks enough and want to have a rain boot that looks a certain type of way, they may be worth that much to you. Multiple women who we met wearing ours around Seattle told us that they'd all gotten several years of winter use out of them, so they're definitely durable (under typical urban use).
The Hunter Original Tall boot is designed for those who want to own a piece of history, and for who like the way they look. The boot is handcrafted and built using old-school methods and natural rubber. Their 16.9-inch shaft height means they'll provide a fair amount of water resistance, but due to their other limitations (relatively uncomfortable, too squishy to trust on rough terrain, lack of traction and insulation), we do not recommend them for most.
— Richard Forbes
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