It’s time for another installment in our series on men’s style items.  This go ‘round is brought to us by my search for a pair of black boots for the winter.  Not winter boots, per se (in other words, not for shoveling snow), but boots that worked for heading into the office that looked good, and would stand up to slush and show.  One day as I was taking a look at what Touch of Modern had to offer, I ran across these UT Lab Argonaut Explorers, and thought I’d give them a go.

From the start, I knew that the UT Lab Argonaut Explorer was going to be a different shoe than I would normally go for.  These days – aside from shoes for the gym – I’m all about quality leather and welted soles.  This being because, with good care, they will last for a good long time.  Here, instead, we have all manner of man-made materials, and, though there is a stitched detail on the sole, I am fairly certain it is cemented in place.

Also different about the UT Lab Argonaut Explorer?  It’s weight.  These are by far the lightest boots I have ever owned, with each one coming in at around 450g.  Here again, this is due to those man-made materials.  Put an EVA foam rubber outsole on there (instead of natural rubber), and use microfiber, Kevlar, and Tyvek in place of the leather, and you get yourself a pair of light boots.  Let’s dig into those materials a bit, shall we?

As I mentioned, the sole is an EVA foam rubber.  It has a tread somewhat reminiscent of a lug sole, but it’s not overly aggressive.  When we had the ice and snow hit here in Chicago, I found it had more traction than flat soled shoes, but I wouldn’t say I was a sure-footed as a mountain goat.  Somewhere in-between.  Once things were cleared a bit more, then they were doing better.  Next up, we have the microfiber.

This is listed as a leather-grade microfiber (whatever that might mean).  For the boot, it means instead of those flimsy glass-cleaning cloths, you have something that actually does look like leather, and has some rigidity to it.  It looks nice, the salt wipes off of it quickly, and it offers a nice bit of water resistance as well.  Next up the stack you have Kevlar.  More than for making your feet bulletproof (the weave is way too open for that) it gives an almost tweed-like detail to the boot, which serves to mix up both the texture and the color.

That serves as a nice transition to the topmost layer of the UT Lab Argonaut Explorer, which is Tyvek.  Yup, the same stuff that you see new houses wrapped in before the siding goes up.  This has a papery consistency, albeit a rather tough one.  This makes for a very flexible collar on the boot, and led to no issues on the ankle bones as the boots were broken in (the microfiber did take some time to adjust to my feet).  It’s an interesting material choice, and presents almost like a waxed canvas with it’s sheen.

Unlike a waxed canvas, though, the Tyvek does not do a good job of holding the speed lace “grommets” in place.  I would sometimes find that that had rotated around, which would require some fiddling.  On the hole, though, getting the boots on and off is a cinch.  Between the smooth laces and the materials, pulling the boots open (and snugging them back closed when putting them on) is a cinch, and I found them to be the easiest on and off of any footwear I have currently.

There is one other callout I want to make with the materials on the UT Lab Argonaut Explorer, specifically as it pertains to winter.  None of the materials is particularly insulating.  With a thick leather boot, you come to expect some measure of protection from the cold; here, that cold gets through more quickly.  This is sorted for us commuters by a good pair of wool socks (I’m partial to Darn Tough link), but it is something to be aware of.  Then again, this same property also likely means that these boots will be comfortable for warmer weather.

Across the lineup, you can pick yourself up a pair of UT Lab Argonaut Explorer for $138 directly from the brand.  While I got a black pair with black soles, there are four other color combinations they have available.  As I mentioned at the outset, I picked these up from Touch of Modern, which brought along a nice discount (if you’re not a member on that site, you can use this referral link to get free access and some instant credit).  At the discounted price, I was willing to take a flier on these.  At $140, I start getting a bit more on the fence about these.  For someone who prefers to not have animal-derived materials, then yes, they’re solid boots.

If leather is not a holdup for you, then I might save up some more for boots that will be more of the buy-it-for-life variety, than the replace-every-few-seasons.  With the UT Lab Argonaut Explorer, I’ve a feeling the uppers will hold up fine, I’m just not certain how long those foam rubber soles will last.  Time will tell, I suppose!  While I’m testing these out more and more, be sure to sound off (or drop us a line) below on what your favorite winter boots are.

Boot Overview
  • Brand & Model:  UT Lab Argonaut Explorer
  • Price: $138
  • Who we think it might be for: You’re looking for boots that aren’t made from leather, and/or that can be worn year-round without sweating you out
  • Would I buy one for myself based on what I’ve seen?: Well, yes, I already did.
  • If I could make one design suggestion, it would be: I wouldn’t mind seeing a welted sole option so these boots could have some extra longevity come along for the ride
  • What spoke to me the most about these boots: Lightweight, water resistant, and stylish.  Great combo for us city commuters!

Details From UT Lab
    • Impossibly Light: 450 grams per shoe (USM 11)
    • Water-resistant
    • Removable Insoles
    • Machine Washable
    • Creature Conscious: Made with no animal derived materials.
  • Tyvek Collar
  • Kevlar?Nylon High Quarter
  • Rugged EVA Foam Rubber Boot Outsole
  • Poliyou Insole
  • Machine wash cold or handwash; Air Dry

Categorized in:

Featured, Men's Style, Reviews, Under $500,

Last Update: January 9, 2017