Thanks to their timeless style and infinite color options, there's nary a situation in Portland at which a pair of Vans is unacceptable. They've become the default footwear option for everyone from trendy teens out on the town to high-powered agency execs with a point to prove (editor's note: the Vans Old Skool in black and white ($60) is the current the go-to "cool guy" sneaker) , but there's still one scenario that serves as the great buzzkill for devotees of the SoCal skate shoes: a torrential downpour.
With winter rolling in, and with it the promise of perpetual dampness, any Vans owner can feel the pangs of reluctance that come with knowing it's time to move on to a clunkier, more weather-appropriate choice in footwear. Popular water resistant options include Doc Martens boots ($135), hiking shoes from Columbia or duck boots from L.L. Bean, but each carries a considerable downside in bulk and dexterity issues compared to the stylish, barely-there feel of Vans. If only there was a logical halfway point that happened to be waterproof.
As it turns out, there is. In 2015, Vans began rolling out a series of all-weather footwear known as the MTE series. Adding cold weather-approved amenities like upgraded traction, a water resistant exterior and 3M Thinsulate lining, it's now possible to score a pair of Sk8-Hi's ($65) that won't leave you wishing you listened to your internal dad voice while you suffer with soggy feet on the ride home from a busy shift in a kitchen across town. It sounds almost too good to be true, doesn't it?
After spending two winters with a pair of the Sk8-Hi Del Patos, the answer is both yes and no.
Styled as a hybrid of Vans hi-tops and the aforementioned L.L. Bean duck boot that's been a go-to on the east coast for decades, the looks of the Del Pato are as classic as it gets. The upper is a soft and supple synthetic suede, while the lower has that unmistakable Vans sole that offers support without bulk. People will know almost certainly these are Vans right away.
The winter performance of the MTE Del Pato is commendable considering the relative low profile of the shoe. On a recent jaunt through a the mucky Lower Macleay Trail in Forest Park, my feet remained dry and toasty after frequent exposure to small puddles and intermittent bouts of rain. The supposedly upgraded traction of the waffle tread on the sole is a tad overstated, but that's not to say it isn't a marked improvement over the originals. I wouldn't count on staying dry after being submerged in water for elongated periods of time, but the boots should be more than adequate in the urban scenarios in which they're more likely to see use. They're Vans after all, which means the thin feel of the sole is dialed in more so for city stepping rather than the mountainous environs the banner ads you've likely come across for the MTE series shows them in.
If you're looking for a technical winter shoe that's totally waterproof and impossibly comfortable, you've come to the wrong place. But if you're looking for a stylish, lightweight and relatively inexpensive shoe that's just warm and waterproof enough to count on for those days when the weather is undecided, the Vans MTE series is a great place to start.
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