Wellies are named after Arthur Wellesley (the first Duke of Wellington) who asked for his riding boots to be modified without tassles. The first brand Hunter (still popular today) made them of rubber, it’s only in recent years other brands have used cheaper PVC. Wellies became popular during both world wars, as the waterproof rubber helped prevent ‘trench foot’ for soldiers who had to stand in rainy weather for hours. Black wellies then became the norm for working in harsh outdoor weather or gardening.
Most conventional wellies are made with PVC (a toxic plastic), so choose brands made from natural rubber (air-dry for 24/48 hours after use, stuffed with newspaper to keep the shape). Wash polyester welly warmers in a microplastic catch bag, to stop non-biodegradable fibres breaking off in the machine and reaching the sea.
- Evercreatures make rubber wellies in all styles. Built for comfort with a 12-month guarantee, they feature flexible footbeds, a unique sole unit and adjustable gussets (fully tested to 10,000 stress steps). A few pairs have PVC (and one pair of slippers use leather), but the rest are eco-vegan.
- Lakeland Footwear is made in Sri Lanka from certified sustainable rubber. Fully waterproof and vegan-friendly, these are designed to withstand rugged terrains, inspired by agricultural lifestyles. Choose from short or tall styles, in several colours.
- Gumleaf (Warwickshire) lines natural rubber with cotton (or neoprene) for winter to keep feet warm. Produced since 1937, they are comfortable enough to hike 20 miles a day. Handmade in Austria, they feature a soe grip and adjustable straps. Designed by farmers for British weather, the factories are also heated by wood.
Natural Rubber Wellies for Children
Frugi Wellies are made with natural rubber in funky styles, and feature contrasting trim and cosy cotton linings. Made Fair Trade in India, these are sent in biodegradable packaging, made from potatoes!
Wellies for Dogs?
Most paw pads are fine without wellies, just wash dog paws after walks if in contact with river water (bacteria), the sea (salt) or rock salt (can burn indoors at higher temperatures). If the pavement is too hot for your hands, it’s too hot for dog paws.
For dogs that need them, WagWellies are made from natural rubber, with open-vented slits to slide on, yet create a secure fit. Sold as a set of 4 in different sizes, introduce them gradually (as dogs can’t feel the floor when wearing them). Don’t leave on longer than needed (paw pads have no sweat glands, so could overheat). Some dogs may not like them, but they can be good for dogs with foot injuries (if they drag their feet).