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Blundstone vs. Dr. Martens Chelsea boots—which are better?

This was the toughest decision I've had to make all week.

Chelsea boots for fall, Blundstone and Dr. Martens Credit: Blundstone/Dr. Martens

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There’s one boot style we can collectively agree reigns supreme once the temperatures dip: Chelsea boots. The boot, which originated in Chelsea, England’s chic mid-century fashion scene, shows no signs of leaving our wardrobes. Not only are they super practical with their (often) weather-resistant materials and cushioned footbeds, but they pair well with nearly everything, from camel-hued trench coats to wide-leg corduroys and fall-friendly dresses. They boast an equestrian-inspired unisex silhouette and have features that help make long days at the pumpkin patch or apple orchard a joy, from non-slip midsoles to helpful pull tabs.

Not sure which Chelsea boot to add into your fall footwear rotation? I asked myself that same question six years ago when I began my quest for the perfect pair. After spending hundreds of hours walking, living, and running around in boots by Blundstones and Dr. Martens, I’ve gained some wisdom to help you decide which pair is right for your feet this season.

What is Blundstone?

Blundstone
Credit: Blundstone

While on the pricey side, Blundstone Chelsea boots provide unmatched value.

Blundstones may have catapulted to popularity recently (we’re talking the last decade or so), but their history spans over 150 years. It wasn’t until the early '90s that tourists seeking solid work boots discovered the brand's two-story, family-owned shop in Tasmania. From then on, “word of foot” spread, and Blundstone became a go-to boot for festival-goers, factory workers, and athletes around the world.

Currently, its most popular pair is the Original #500 in stout brown, which goes for $199.95. I opted for the Classic #558 boots because, after conducting some research, it made sense to spend an extra 10 bucks for the sturdier materials and better shock absorption found in the 550 line. (If you haven’t read my previous review of my Blundstone boots, you’ll learn that fighting off the harsh Canadian elements is my part-time job). They feel incredibly lightweight and are made with water-resistant leather uppers and cushioned midsoles and toe springs for extra bounce and reduced fatigue.

What is Dr. Martens?

Dr. Martens
Credit: Dr. Martens

Docs will forever remain the coolest thing in your closet—even after you've worn them down to their soles.

Dr. Martens, commonly dubbed "Doc Martens" or "Docs," may initially evoke images of 6-inch goth-looking combat boots, but its beginnings are a little more humble. In post-war Germany, Dr. Klaus Maertens, a 25-year-old soldier, needed to fix a broken foot—stat. Using salvaged cobbler materials, he whipped up a therapeutic cushioned sole that fast-tracked the soldier's healing and then partnered up with a mechanical engineer to take his design to market. The two initially used discarded military materials to mass-produce their boots, eventually reaching an adoring overseas market. To the brand’s surprise, ska-, grunge- and punk-loving fans started rocking them everywhere, from work to concerts to skate parks.

While the 1640 Leather Lace Up Boots are one of Docs’ most iconic silhouettes, I decided to trust the 2976 WinterGrip Chelsea Boots, which retail at $160, based on how well the pair fit when I tried them on at the store. Their allure lies in their improved traction, fleece-lined interior, and full-grain oil-finished leather.

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The WinterGrip Docs were my go-to boots for several years, so I was surprised to find them taking a backseat to my Blundstones once I added them to my roster three years ago. Now that I’m downsizing, I won’t have the luxury of holding onto both styles. Here’s which style will stay in my closet, and which one will get the boot.

Which boot is more comfortable?

For many folks, fall boots are less about comfort and utility, and more about conveying a sophisticated aesthetic that’ll look great over fallen colored leaves in Instagram photos. With these preconceived notions in mind, I audibly gasped when I put the Docs on for the first time. The narrow upper supported my instep without crushing it, almost feeling like a chronic hug. The upper is made of oil-slicked cowhide leather that cradles the foot without taking up too much surface area, requiring you to size up (I’m looking at you, shearling Uggs). After six years of wearing the Docs, their traction is starting to fade. While this isn’t a huge issue for the great outdoors, walking on slick floors like shopping malls requires I engage my quads and core with each step to prevent any slips. Not fun. Not fun at all.

Where Blundstones come out on top, however, is their sheer lightness. They feel so airy you almost forget you’re wearing anything. This is disconcerting at times, forcing me to look down at my feet in downpours just to make sure I’m not stuck in some sick shoe-less dream. I end up remembering I’m wearing them when the collar inevitably begins poking my lower shin, costing them comfort points. What I like is that they don’t rely on (potentially) gimmicky furs to create a sense of comfort—what you get is a flexible, supportive leather that moves with your foot rather than against it. While this is no fault of the brand, I got a 7 in women’s sizes because they were out of my usual 6 and I had an urgency to own them at that very moment. I feel most stable in them wearing two layers of thick socks. In many ways this is a nuisance, in others it adds to the comfort factor.

My pick: Dr. Martens

Which boot is more stylish?

Brown pair of Dr. Martens Wintergrip 2976 boots.
Credit: Dr. Martens

Dr. Martens 2976 Wintergrip Chelsea boots in brown.

My initial reaction is to say they’re both equally beautiful because they’ve served me so well on multiple occasions, but there is a clear winner.

What irks me about Blundstone is the double pull tab at the front and the back. This limits the type of pants you can wear with the boot since they may make a straight-leg pant flare out. The colorway I chose is a black leather that veers on glossy, which looks luxurious. Because they’ve been so easy to clean with a damp towel, they look crisp enough to wear on a casual date or work event. They sport a gorgeous mesh panel on each side of the foot that adds visual depth. While the outsole has protected my feet from many puddles, it looks too much like a running shoe for me to find it particularly attractive.

It’s tough to say how stylish my Doc Martens are because I’ve worn them to the ground, so they now boast the aesthetic of a well-used pencil eraser. I remember gravitating towards them because I thought they looked perfect for every occasion. They appeared (and to some effect still do) like something you could wear to tell the world that you have impeccable taste in rock music, while still remaining sophisticated. I chose the black version that’s gotten more matte over the years, and I struggle to keep them looking new, partly because I wear them so often, partly because they boast a rougher leather that’s harder to wipe clean. The half-inch platform is one of my favorite attributes of the boot, reminding me of a men’s dress shoe. I initially didn’t care so much about how deep the creases have gotten, but ever since sneakerhead culture started penetrating the zeitgeist, I’ve become more self-conscious about how far I’ve let them go.

My pick: Dr. Martens

Which boot offers more insulation?

If you’re not all about looks, insulation is an integral factor to consider when buying Chelsea boots. I’ve felt safe walking out into the dead of winter wearing both boots, but I’ve hesitated to wear the Doc Martens in snowfall. Their leather material feels a lot more porous compared to the Blundstones. This is a shame because it doesn’t allow me to take advantage of what appears to be highly insulated fur. No matter the climate, my feet always stay bone-dry in Blundstones.

Because the Blundstones feel a lot roomier, as opposed to the Docs that tightly envelope my foot, I have to go with Docs on bitter-cold days. Knowing that the Blundstones feel like they’re made of a thinner leather that’s free of fur might also give me the placebo effect of favoring the Docs.

It does worry me that neither brand indicates the minimum temperature their boots are able to withstand like other winter-centric brands like Columbia, North Face, and Sorel. This tells me they don’t really pride themselves on insulation.

My pick: Dr. Martens

Which boot offers better value?

Woman lying on a boat wearing a pair of Blundstone boots.
Credit: Blundstone

Blundstones are the more versatile Chelsea boot.

I’ve gotten tons of mileage out of each boot, so they’re both a pretty good value for the number of years they’ve lasted me and how often they’ve made long walks that much more comfortable.

While Docs do a superb job of protecting against the cold, they just aren’t as versatile as the Blundstones. This means I’m only wearing Docs for half of the year. Meanwhile, I can throw on Blundstones any given day and look and feel great.

I measure value based on how many times I can use a product in a meaningful way without having to make too many sacrifices. While style is obviously important—it helps you to feel confident and non-verbally convey your identity—the Docs can’t carry the torch based on those features alone. Blundstones are an ideal choice from everything from summer festivals to winter hikes to spring picnics. For the extra $40 ($160 vs. $200), Blundstones give you unadulterated access to virtually any climate. You just don’t get that kind of versatility with Dr. Martens, which I reserve for a very specific type of weather that’s hard to come by in Montreal where I live—cold, dry, and free of ice.

My pick: Blundstone

The best boot in the game: Dr. Martens

While you can get more mileage out of Blundstones than a Toyota Camry, I wish I wore my Docs far more often than I do. It just so happens that icy and muddy weather confine me to Blundstones, but I can’t ignore the love-at-first-fit when I got my Docs. If you want a Chelsea boot that’s as chic as it is practical, both are a fantastic bet.

Now that you’ve walked a mile in my boots, congrats on being one step closer to finding your perfect fall Chelsea.

Get the 2976 WinterGrip Chelsea Boot from Dr. Martens for $160

Get the #558 Women's Classic Boot from Blundstone for $199.95

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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