Way back in elementary school days, I owned only three pairs of shoes: school shoes, after-school shoes, and Sunday-go-to-meetin’ shoes. Items one and three are self-explanatory and were worn only within those narrow and rigidly defined parameters. The after-school shoes were for everything else. And I mean everything.
After-school shoes were what I wore to play, mow the lawn, fish, squirrel hunt, frog hunt, take out the trash, when camping, and even to the pool (I hated flip-flops as a kid, mostly because they were worthless on anything except flat, smooth ground). In the summer, I often slipped those after-school shoes on sans socks and in winter I wore the thickest pair of socks (sometimes two) I could find. If it was really wet or snowy, we used Wonder Bread bags as semi-waterproof liners.
Times were simpler then, but that wasn’t necessarily a good thing when it came to shoes. While I can gripe and moan about the tragedy of rampant consumerism with the best of them, I can also say that it is damn nice to own a couple pair of good-fitting rubber boots, some nearly indestructible snake boots, trail-running athletic shoes, hiking boots, a pair of casual canvas slip-ons, some Doc Martins for nights on the town, all-terrain sandals, dedicated wet-wading shoes, and even a pair of those formerly despised flip-flops with really nice arch support. Growing up has been good to my feet.
But even with this fleet of footwear, there’s still the need for a pair of do-everythings I can wear in a pinch for chores- and treks-lite — in the garden, to the woods, at the camp, in the canoe, after wade fishing. They’re “gap” shoes”, filling the space between specialized footwear and getting back in the house. In years past, this job has fallen to the broken-down husks of worn-out trail shoes. The latest in this line of duty are a pair of Keens with busted toe guards, frayed and frazzled linings, midsoles disengaged from heels, and broken laces. Also, a few years of “going commando’” for short trips like hauling the trash out has imbued them with a stench so bad that they’re not allowed in the house anymore and must stay on the porch. Retiring those Keens has been a priority this spring, and I think I’ve found a solid, actually, far more capable replacement in Irish Setter’s MudPaws.
Irish Setter brand footwear is a division of Red Wing Shoes and is a 100-year-old extension of Red Wing’s “outing boots” — among the first footwear produced for hunting and other outdoor pursuits. From the beginning, Irish Setters were considered multi-purpose among their rural and blue-collar fans serving on the farm, on the construction site, and in the field. MudPaws are aiming for that same degree of versatility.
Sliding into a pair of MudPaws is like sliding your foot into cozy little capsules of snugness—so much so that I rarely wear socks because it dilutes the experience. They feel like house shoes, really. And since each of my size 11 shoes weighs only one pound and 2.8 ounces, they barely add weight to the ends of my legs.
Constructed of vulcanized rubber and neoprene, Irish Setter employs TempSense technology to help regulate the temperature within the shoe. It’s this moisture-wicking capability that alleviates the muggy tendencies common to most rubber footwear, and that helps your feet stay both cooler in the heat and warmer in the cold. Since the frigid days are over and the summer heat is still a month or two away, TempSense hasn’t been tested strenuously. On the handful of sub-freezing mornings and 80-degree afternoons (some on the same day) since I’ve had the MudPaws, they’ve handled the temps with no problems. But outside temperature isn’t really the test. Proof that TempSense works lies in my dry feet even after an hour or so of menial tasks outside.
Adding to the comfort from a different angle, MudPaws are equipped with ScentBan™ antimicrobial scent control and a removable polyurethane footbed, so they’re welcome to rest indoors until needed.
It’s hard to separate the MudPaws’ comfort from their convenience. The shoes are offered in two style options: low-heel slip-on and Romeo. I opted for the Romeo, which is five-inches tall and offers a full heel along with a neoprene “sock” for added water security and comfort. I wanted the shoes for daily trips to the shed and mailbox, but also for more substantial duties like lounging around the campsite and impromptu drives to Walmart. With pull tabs on the heel, I can be shod in MudPaws and out the door nearly as quickly as I can slide into a pair of flip-flops. And then, unlike the flip-flops, I also have weatherproof protection for my dogs.
Well-made rubber shoes and boots are the most waterproof footwear you can buy, and, so far, the MudPaws are a continuation of that truth. A close examination of the shoe’s welds gives me confidence that this truth will remain unchallenged.
I don’t plan to wear these shoes on the trail or for any forays that would require goat-like traction, but I’m not worried about slipping and sliding through modest muck if the need to traverse such terrain arises. Let’s call the MudPaws’ traction adequate-plus.
Yet to be fully tested, of course, but the shoes appear to be built with quality in mind. Irish Setter, along with its parent company Red Wing, has a history of producing tough boots for a demanding bunch of customers.
What’s not to like? MudPaws are exceedingly comfortable, incredibly convenient, waterproof, and come from a lineage molded on the farm and in the field. Everything works.
MudPaws will set you back $80-90, which is about standard pricing for any quality waterproof footwear. Heck, some people spend that on flip-flops, which are as I’ve pointed out, are mostly worthless and barely better than bare-footing. I spent $11 on my flip-flops and still think I overpaid.
In the ultimate anticlimactic conclusion, I say Irish Setter has built the perfect do-a-little-of-everything shoe in the MudPaw. These are the shoes that I can wear around the campfire after a day of chasing turkeys or smallmouth bass, or both. These are the shoes that can keep my feet warm, dry, and pampered after a day in waders out west. These are the shoes I’ll slip on and slip out the back door with a cold beer and a new fly rod for casting practice on the lawn. I figure they’ll be worn season after season, giving my feet a comforting break from the more taxing activities that justify the existence of all those other boots and shoes.