Which Bean Boots are best for winter? I tried them to find out
I pitted the shearling-lined duck boots against the original.
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As a lifelong New Englander who lived in a log cabin until I was six, I love L.L.Bean. Seriously—I am so New England that I’ll drink iced coffee in 20° weather. Surprisingly, I have never owned the L.L.Bean 8-inch Thinsulate Bean Boots, although my dad swears by them. I got the chance to try them during the testing process for our guide to the best winter boots for women. We tested the boots via a combination of real-world use and lab procedures, including submerging each boot in four inches of ice water and taking long walks to see how each one would hold up.
The verdict? It may be an unpopular opinion with Bean Boots enthusiasts, but I am not a huge fan. The L.L.Bean shearling-lined Bean Boots, however, are a completely different story. Soft, cozy, and cute all in one, I fell in love with them. Apparently, I can drink ice-cold beverages in ice-cold weather without a care but I need my feet to be nice and toasty.
If you've been considering purchasing a pair of Bean Boots, you might be wondering how the shearling-lined Bean Boots stack up to the original—and which pair should you buy, if any. Here's why I recommend the fuzzy Bean Boots and why I'd skip the OG Bean Boots for winter wear.
What are Bean Boots?
Invented by Leon Leonwood Bean, who came up with the idea on a hunting trip, the original Bean Boots combine the rubber of rain boots with sleek leather uppers. They’ve been around since 1912 and, over 100 years later, are still in style. Bean Boots have been seen on catwalks at fashion shows, on the feet of celebs like Kerry Washington and Kanye West, and all over social media. According to the brand, sales have tripled over the last few years, with over half a million pairs sold annually.
Bean Boots are available in both men's and women's sizes and come in a variety of styles. There's the original Bean Boot—the classic duck boot everyone is familiar with—along with a shearling-lined and chamois-lined version. There are also a range of colors to choose from.
What I like about the L.L.Bean shearling-lined Bean Boots
The first thing I noticed about the shearling-lined Bean Boots was just how warm they are. You don’t even need wool socks to keep your feet toasty. Despite having only 200 grams of insulation, the addition of the sheepskin puts the shoes' heating power on a whole other level. The fleece is soft and lovely, and I could tell it was high-quality the second that I stepped into them.
The boots are made of supple leather that the brand claims will get softer the more you wear them. The rich brown color is beautiful and easy to match with most outfits, and it's dark enough that it won't look dingy with regular wear. They held up much better than their classic counterparts during the submersion testing (where we sloshed around in ice water), so you can believe that the leather is, in fact, waterproof. The only thing I didn’t like about the shearling version was the traction, as I slipped a bit while walking over ice.
How the shearling-lined boots compare to the classic Bean Boots
The major failing of the classic Bean Boots is that you won’t know if they work for you until it’s too late to return them. They're arguably even harder to break in than Doc Martens (and I would know). The only way that I could avoid getting blisters on my heels during the walk test was to tie the laces almost uncomfortably tight. The leather is stiff and rough on the inside, as it brushes up against your ankles and is just uncomfortable overall. You’ll also skid over ice as there isn’t adequate traction on the soles.
Consumers often mistake the classic Bean Boots for winter boots because of the Thinsulate insulation and rubber bottom. While they’re a better choice for spring or fall if you have the patience to break them in, they are simply not equipped to handle winter. During the weeks I spent testing these boots, the lining was not thick enough to keep my feet from getting cold and wet, even with thick socks. While Thinsulate is top-quality insulation for winter weather, these are simply not built for frigid temperatures or deep puddles because there isn’t a proper lining inside of the leather upper. The L.L.Bean Classic Boots are also lacking arch support and would not be the best choice for someone with an orthopedic foot condition unless you added an insole or custom orthotic, which is also true of the shearling-lined version.
Are the L.L.Bean shearling-lined Bean Boots the best winter boots you can buy?
If you’re an L.L.Bean fan like I am and have your heart set on duck boots for winter, the shearling-lined ones are the best you can get. They're a good choice for keeping your feet warm and looking stylish at the same time. If you're looking for an everyday boot that doesn't need to withstand the elements, these Bean Boots are a great pick.
Despite my love for them, however, the shearling-lined version isn’t perfect. They have the same rubber bottom as the classic Bean Boots, which provides little to no arch support. While the fluffy lining is soft and cozy, like any shearling, it will dull over time and it’s not replaceable. Plus, the traction on these for ice and slush is also not ideal. For the warmest, most waterproof winter boots, we recommend the Sorel Women's Caribou Boot instead.
- Get the L.L.Bean Boots 8-Inch Thinsulate Boots from L.L.Bean for $159
- Get the L.L.Bean Women’s Bean Boots 10-Inch Shearling-Lined Boots from L.L.Bean for $229
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.