I’m a picky guy (I prefer “a guy with refined taste,” for the record), and that pickiness is particularly exacting when it comes to footwear.
From running to working in greenhouses and tromping through woods, gardens, and parks, I know what makes a shoe good or bad.
The Original Muck Boot Company’s Muckster II Ankle boots get the thumbs-up from me. Let’s take a look at what’s going on with these gardening boots.
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Upfront disclaimer: I am not a “boot person,” so trying this pair was my first foray into wearing anything resembling a boot in a long time. It’s been a positive experience.
It’s Aboot Time I Got a Pair
These boots weren’t worn lightly.
The only time I typically wear boots is in the dead of winter during snow removal, or in late winter to early spring when the nursery is sopping wet with foot-deep “surprise” mud pits to slip into. Any other time of the year, I prefer sneakers and slip-on shoes – the lighter the better.
However, my usual line of working shoes has experienced a slip in their quality lately, and I was eager to try out something new. So I jumped at the opportunity to review a pair of Muckster II Ankle boots, available on Amazon or direct from the Muck Boot Company.
They feature a natural rubber outer extending into a flexible neoprene cuff that covers your ankle, making them easy to slip on and off. The molded rubber outsole has medium tread to provide traction in slippery conditions.
On the inside, they feature 4-millimeter-thick, comfortable neoprene with an “airmesh” lining to allow for some airflow, and to wick moisture away from your feet.
Key features I look for in a gardening shoe are lightness and fit, comfort over long periods of wear, durability and water resistance, and overall appeal.
Let’s review each of these.
Lightness and Fit
Light and easy to move in, I was surprised most of all by the minimal weight of the Muckster II Ankle boot. The shipping weight for these was a mere four pounds, and each shoe weighs just 21 ounces (don’t tell my wife I used the kitchen scale!).
When I popped them on, I was delighted that they felt as if they were barely there. Super light and airy… but they fit a bit loosely. It turns out this is the way they are intended to fit, providing a roomy neoprene collar above the ankle.
They sort of “lock in” on the lower part of your ankle – not unpleasantly – and hold your foot in place while providing airy room above. The idea here is to give you the option of tucking your pant leg comfortably into the boot, should you wish to.
That sensation took a bit of time to get used to. I like shoes to fit snugly, and wearing these ones is an exercise in liberating your foot from the feeling of a more confining shoe.
It’s important to note that I prefer wearing thin socks, and this contributed to my experience of such a loosey-goosey feel.
The Original Muck Boot Company says that a medium-weight sock will increase the comfort and fit considerably, and after trying them with thicker socks, I agree. Thick wool socks were the most comfortable to wear during the coldest days.
A Little Uneasy on Hills…
One day, I was hoofing it up and down hills in wet conditions. The Muckster II Ankle boots kept my feet dry and comfortable, but that looseness was a bit stressful.
Tighter shoes prevent my feet from wiggling around on uneven ground, and the relaxed fit of these allowed for a little too much movement for my liking.
My personal preference is for shoes to be tight-fitting and snug, so in my experience this is an area where these are lacking.
Your experience may differ, especially if you aren’t climbing around like a mountain goat all day long – or if you typically wear thicker socks than I do.
I’m happy to give these five stars for comfort, and that’s no exaggeration. The Muckster II Ankle boots kept my feet dry, comfortable, and warm through many hours of work – although not always in one stretch.
Warmth and Breathability
These shoes use neoprene insulation with an airmesh lining to keep your feet warm and dry by wicking perspiration away from your feet.
I wore mine first during the early days of spring when temperatures were still cold in the morning with wet conditions, and I never experienced a bit of discomfort. This was by far the most comfortable shoe I’ve ever worn in colder temperatures.
As the temperatures climbed during the spring, these boots were still comfortable to wear throughout the day. But once the mercury started climbing over 80°F, I had to ditch the Mucksters in exchange for my normal work shoes.
Being comfort rated for temperatures ranging from sub-zero to 65°F, they are not ideal for use in very hot conditions.
Long Hours of Wear
I’ve not been able to wear my Mucksters for more than four or five hours at a time.
A vital trait I look for in a shoe is good ground feel. Thick and inflexible soles are a no-go for me.
Heck, I ran barefoot for years and still prefer the thinnest running (and working) shoes possible. The more my feet can feel the ground and flex, the more comfortable I am.
The Muckster II Ankle boot has a thick outer sole that is not conducive to ground feel. I very much felt like I was standing on a piece of inflexible, unfeeling rubber.
Waterproof and durable, sure, but these provide almost no ground feel at all.
Because of this, my feet felt tired and uncomfortable by lunchtime, and at that point I’d swap over to my normal work shoes.
But They’re Boots!
Well, this is why I tend to not like boots! These are by far the most comfortable boots I’ve ever worn, but in my opinion, a boot is still a boot.
For many gardeners and workers, the Muckster II Ankle will feel like a light, comfortable piece of footwear. But if you’re like me and prefer the most ground feel possible, you’ll be disappointed.
Traction: A Note on Slipperiness
Most of the time these boots felt safe… but not all of the time.
A few weeks ago, I was walking down a slick bunch of fieldstones and slipped more times than I care to say. Before that, I was on wet grass, and felt myself similarly slipping all over the place.
It’s safe to say they aren’t the best when it comes to providing adequate traction in very wet places. This might have been “user error,” but I rarely slip in other shoes. In these, I found myself walking delicately in the slippery conditions.
Durability and Water Resistance
I’ve kicked around through rock piles, hoofed it through briars, and tossed piles of pruned branches and rose canes around while wearing my Mucksters, and they’re still fully intact with nothing more than a few cosmetic scratches.
I’ve used them for driving shovels into rough soil and they’ve never felt too thin or flimsy, and the natural rubber sole is still unmarred.
While carrying the boots around, I’m not very gentle (and that’s purely part of the review process). I’ve tossed them around, left them in my work van overnight, and washed off only the worst of the mud, and they’re still kickin’.
These are entirely waterproof from what I can tell.
I’ve worn many shoes with a claim of being waterproof, but they all lie! The Mucksters, on the other hand, are genuinely waterproof, and not just while working in naturally wet conditions.
I put mine on outside while reading one day with my feet in a bucket of water, and my feet were 100% dry after an entire hour of submersion.
Care and Maintenance: Super Easy to Clean
Most of the time, plain water is enough to clean up these shoes. But if you want them looking spiffy, a little bit of mild soap is safe to use.
The Original Muck Boot Company suggests avoiding the use of any sort of conditioner on the outsoles, to prevent the soles from becoming slippery.
I use a hose and a towel and that cleans them up just fine. They’re gardening boots, after all, and a bit of mud and dirt does them well!
The Muckster II Ankle is kind of goofy looking, if you ask me. But fortunately it’s a boot with (relative) style, and it comes in no-nonsense color combinations of two-tone browns, two-tone greens, and black.
Additionally, it’s available in what’s described as “Real Tree” – if you were so inclined.
It definitely looks like a true gardening boot, and I like that a lot.
The semi-flared neoprene collar is what really makes it look a little silly, but that might be because I was wearing shorts for a good chunk of the review time. If you’re gardening in long pants, this won’t be as apparent.
This is perfect for slipping on while doing some yard work, whether that’s deadheading geraniums or digging and tilling the soil.
I wouldn’t call them stylish, but they don’t need to be. They work, and they work well.
Would I Buy Another Pair?
When (if) this pair kicks the bucket I will buy another to replace them. It’s not my favorite shoe in the world, but it gets the job done well and excels in areas my previous shoes did not.
The Muckster II Ankle boot, available direct from the Muck Boot Company or other fine retailers where gardening shoes are sold, is a solid middle-ground option for all types of work and I like that versatility, but the low option might be better for wear throughout hot days of summer.
Lovers of sturdy, heavy footwear will find that these provide a lighter, more comfortable fit, and they are breathable and flexible.
Folks with a “less is more” mentality regarding shoes will find the Muckster II Ankle to be the perfect option when you need a real boot but don’t want to commit to a pair of Wolverines.
Check out our garden shoe roundup for more options, and let us know in the comments below what you think about the Muckster II Ankle!
And if you’re looking for more gardening gear, you’ll need these guides next:
- Get a Hand in the Garden: The Best Hand Cultivators
- Oh, Felco-F-2, and All the Things You Can Do!
- 5 of the Best Hori-Hori Knives for Gardeners
Photos by Matt Suwak © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via Amazon and The Original Muck Boot Company™. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock. With additional writing and editing by Clare Groom and Allison Sidhu.
About Matt Suwak
Matt Suwak was reared by the bear and the bobcat and the coyote of rural Pennsylvania. This upbringing keeps him permanently affixed to the outdoors where most of his personal time is invested in gardening, bird watching, and hiking. He presently resides in Philadelphia and works under the sun as a landscaper and gardener, and by moonlight as a writer. An incessant questioning of “Why?” affords him countless opportunities to ponder the (in)significance of the great and the small. He considers folksy adages priceless treasures and is fueled almost entirely by beer and hot sauce.