Do garden shoes exist? I promise, I’m not trying to wax philosophical. Perhaps I should use the term “gardening shoes”. Or “clogs”. Are there any differences?
When I learned about gardening clogs, I was a touch surprised. I hadn’t thought that such things existed and, after more research, I still didn’t really understand the difference between “garden shoes” and good old crocs. The Sherlock Holmes in me smelled a marketing ploy!
In this article, I try to shed some light on the topic, along with reviewing my favourite products. Let’s dive in…
Quick Guide: Best Gardening Shoes
|Sloggers Premium Garden Clog||$||10/10|
|Crocs Unisex Classic||$||9/10|
|Hi-Cut Muck Boots (Original)||$$$||10/10|
|Bogs "Urban Farmer" Clogs||$||7/10|
|Lowa Men's Renegade Boots||$$$||8/10|
Just what are gardening clogs?
Gardening clogs are thick-soled, plastic clogs that were made first by a company called Sloggers. They proudly proclaim that their clog “started it all” in 1997.
The basic idea is a pretty good one: waterproof, durable shoes with a thick sole that can easily be slipped on and off. Dirt is easily cleaned and doesn’t ruin their appearance.
Generally speaking, there are four types of “garden shoes”:
- Sandals – For a “spot of gardening” – deadheading the roses before dinner on a summer evening – you can’t beat sandals.
- Clogs – I’ve pretty much summed these up above. To reiterate: waterproof, thick soles, durable, all in a clog design and made (more often than not) from plastic or rubber.
- Wellies – Because of clogs’ low ankle, wellies are more suitable for heavy gardening. Good pairs are also very comfortable.
- Boots – I always thought that proper gardeners wore boots. Growing up with episodes of Gardener’s World and Ground Force (apologies if you’re not British) blaring from the telly, that always seemed the right way of doing things. Plus, I think it finishes the “look”. I garden in old hiking boots and I’ve included a pair of Lowas in my list of top picks.
What features should you look for in gardening shoes?
Here’s a quick rundown of some features to look for in shoes:
Waterproof – Boots and shoes that get saturated with water can take days to dry out. They’re also awfully uncomfortable. By making sure that any shoes you buy for gardening are waterproof, you’ll be giving yourself an easier job with cleaning (and with comfort) later down the road.
- Thick sole – You’ll want a thick sole for digging and to protect against rough undergrowth.
- Tight(ish) fit – Particularly if you’re wearing socks, you’ll want a tight fit to stop debris and water from getting in.
- High ankle – No matter how tight the fit, if you’re in the garden for long enough then low-ankle shoes will let stones and soil in. The beauty of high-ankle boots and wellies is that they allow you to get into even the muddiest and boggiest areas without any issues.
A quick side note: in defence of Engo blister pads
With clogs and wellies, there’s always the risk of blisters. Because of the moist environment it creates, plastic is probably the worst material in this regard. This is particularly the case if your feet are rubbing against the inside back walls of the shoes for hours on end.
I’d highly recommend Engo blister pads. The pads – which are adhesive on one side and made of a smooth, frictionless material on the other – attach to the inside of your shoes. When I go hiking I always carry a pack with me.
Best Gardening Shoes: Top 5 Picks for 2017
1. Sloggers Premium Garden Clog
These “traditional” garden clogs from Sloggers closely resemble the original design released by the company in 1997. The material that they’re made from is 100% recyclable (they don’t go into details) and is fully waterproof.
The (removable) insoles are moisture wicking, which means that they draw sweat away from your feet, resulting in a dryer feel. Both the material from which the clogs are made and the inner lining are soft and comfortable. The “tightness” of the fit also finds just the right balance.
They come in a few different colours (my favourite is the turquoise-blue) and are available for both men and women (the picture links through to the women’s’ version).
2. Crocs Classic Unisex Clog
I think I’m probably right in saying that Crocs classic clogs are one of the most widely-recognised types of shoe in the world. They have a lot to recommend them and their simple design means that they’re perfect for use in the garden – breathable, waterproof, sturdy and thick-soled. They’re also ideal for slipping on and off.
A lot of gardeners swear that they prefer going barefoot when the temperature allows. The only drawback with crocs is they’re not very good at keeping bits of your garden out. That said, if you’re unbothered by (or even prefer) the feel of water and soil on your feet, then these are just right. They’re easy to wash and, despite their…debatable…appearance, incredibly comfy.
I was once told that the rubber from which Crocs are made is moulds to the wearer’s foot shape over time. I’ve never been able to verify that but I wouldn’t be surprised.
3. Muck Boots Chore Hi-Cut
I’m aware that there are a lot of “originals” on this list. In the case of gardening shoes, however, the big players seem to have got it right. Muck Boots are geared more towards heavy work (they’re popular with farmers) but they’re ideal for gardening too, particularly if you’ve got some more intensive jobs to do.
The rubber used to make both the heel and the toe area is reinforced for protection and the sole is made with a steel shank for extra strength. A “shank” is a piece of metal that is inserted down the middle of the sole to limit flexing over uneven terrain and protect against penetration of sharp objects.
Despite their heavy-duty nature, the boots are surprisingly breathable, owing to the mesh uppers and the porous insulation. They are, of course, fully waterproof.
4. Bogs “Urban Farmer”Clogs
Bogs is another big name in the gardening clog world. If you’re not keen on Sloggers, then these are the way to go. Along with being Mother Earth News‘ top pick for gardening footwear, I also really like them.
They’re made from rubber, so are completely waterproof, and fit very closely to the wearer’s feet. The sole is one of the stand-out features – thick enough to deal with digging but also having a lot of extra traction. There’s also a wicking lining on the inside and a removable insole.
The wonderful thing about these clogs is that they come in a range of colourful and floral designs. If you don’t like the black, that is.
5. Lowa Hiking Boots
I had to include some boots from my hiking arsenal. I actually used to review footwear for a hiking magazine, so I’ve seen my fair share of gear. Boots like these, completely waterproof and very comfortable, will last you a lifetime if you look after them. The features that allow the wearer to plod over uneven, rocky terrain for days on end – padding, waterproofing, ultra-thick soles, high ankle cut – also make them ideal for gardening.
These Lowa’s blend a perfect mix of comfort and durability. They’re made with a vibram sole, padded interior and (I think) have a very attractive brown leather exterior. Much like the Muck Boots, if they’re properly looked after, these will last you a lifetime.
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below!
What are your thoughts? Have you tried any of the boots on this list? Do you have your own suggestions? Leave a comment below and let me know!