The Best Slippers
We recommend the $89 Haflinger AT slippers for keeping your feet warm and sweat-free when it’s cold out. We spent more than 30 hours researching and tested 12 slippers hands-on (or rather, feet-on), and we found the Haflingers had the best combination of comfort, warmth, and moisture wicking compared to top competitors. And they get better and better the more you wear them in. Made of boiled wool, they’re soft but not stifling, super comfy, easy to keep clean, and, thanks to their latex hardsole, you can wear them for a quick jaunt outside to the corner store or the mailbox.
The Haflingers may not look like the soft, fluffy things you think of when you think slippers—soft, cloud-like piles of fleece, freshly shorn from a baby sheep. But we found that boiled wool just does a better job at all the things slippers should do and is much more breathable. Sure, in terms of pure warmth, you just can’t beat wool fleece, but for balancing warmth, wicking power, and comfort, you want boiled wool—more specifically, you want Haflinger.
But if you’re a die-hard fluffy-slippers fan, you should be well-served by the L.L.Bean Wicked Good Moccasins, which cost $69 (women’s, men’s). And if you prefer something cheaper, or if you’re a vegan, Dearfoams (for women and men) are decent, but not comparable to slippers made from natural materials.
How we picked
To narrow our contenders first from all slippers to our 24 finalists, then to our 12 testers, we looked at ratings and reviews from Amazon and Zappos in addition to blog articles and editorial roundups. By far the most exhaustive slipper overview can be found at Good Housekeeping, and Oprah.com has its own roundup. But beyond these, editorial is mostly based on style, not comfort, warmth, or sweatiness. So we had to do some work of our own.
We started off by eliminating all shoes that were either too expensive or too cheap—there’s no need to pay $110 for a pair of slippers when $60-$90 is more than enough to get you high-quality materials and construction. Similarly, you don’t want to go too cheap: Drop too far below $60, and you’ll find shoes with synthetics mixed in, which can make them flimsy or hot, or with cheap soles.
For that matter, we looked exclusively at shoes made with a firm sole. While very few slippers are intended to be worn both inside and out, and it is true that wearing them outside can help track in the very dirt you bought them to prevent, it is nice to be able to run outside to get the mail or around the corner to the bodega without scraping up the delicate soft bottom of the shoe. As such, we eliminated everything with a soft sole.
Evaluating the quality of the soles via the limited information available on retailers’ websites was quite difficult, but differences in quality were glaringly obvious once we had them on our feet. Some, like the Cabela’s slippers, were made of a hard, unbending rubber that was hard to walk on. Others, like our well-loved Minnetonka slippers, had a softer, more pliable rubber sole that bent with your feet and made walking comfortable.
Additionally, we narrowed down to pairs of slippers that are easy-on, easy-off, like clogs, mules, and moccasins. As a general rule, you’re more likely to wear your slippers if you can easily slip them on and off. Booties with cuffs are warmer, but if your house is so cold that you need ankle coverage, you might do better to spend a bit more on heating than slippers.
We had two testers (one male, one female) try on all of the slippers in our final list. After eliminating the ones that had obvious flaws—very flimsy, overheated, or terribly sized—we were left with six brands for more serious consideration: the Haflingers; the Giesswein Ammerns; the Ugg men’s Scuff and women’s Scuffette II; the Minnetonka Mules for women and Moccasins for men; the L.L.Bean Wicked Goods; and the Acorn Ewe Collar for women and Romeo II for men.
After narrowing down the field, both testers wore each pick around for at least a week—often longer, for our top picks. While doing so, we noted fit issues, unusual pain or discomfort, and any wear and tear.
Let’s talk a bit more about the boiled wool—also often called felted wool—that makes these slippers so great. We admit that it’s a far cry from the fluffy fleece the word “slippers” might call to mind, but ultimately, we found boiled wool a far superior material. The company’s website calls boiled wool a “natural insulator,” promising warmth in the winter and cool comfort in the summer.
Maddy Cranley at MaddyCraft.com (PDF warning!), a crafter whose creations are popular on sites like Ravelry, said, “Felt is a warm, windproof fabric that despite its matted texture remains remarkably lightweight and soft to the touch.” It absorbs odors, wicks sweat, hides dirt, and breathes better than anything short of mesh. Which makes it great for all kinds of conditions.
They fit well out of the box and only get better over time. Due to the nature of the boiled wool they’re made from, they stretched and adjusted to fit my feet over time. At first there was a little squeezing to contend with, but after about a week, they’re form-fit. I can slip them on easily while blind in the middle of the night and head at a rapid clip towards the bathroom. And don’t think that just because the wool isn’t fluffy they won’t be comfortable; sure, they’re not fleece, but the insides are soft and never irritating.
Unlike fluffy slippers, the Haflingers didn’t have the obnoxious problem of dirt getting trapped between fibers deep in the fleece pile (because, of course, there’s no pile to speak of). Granted, if you’re using your inside shoes properly, your bare feet should never touch the ground—but let’s be realistic. Accidents happen. Removing dust and dirt from these is miles easier than it is with piled fur. Since the exterior is also made from boiled wool, it’s simple to clean. Unlike delicate sueded sheepskin slippers, the ATs are completely machine washable (according to the Haflinger website, you should wash them in warm water with mild detergent on gentle cycle for five minutes).
If you wear your slippers every time you’re home, you’ll wear them a lot, which is why it’s crucial for them to be ergonomically friendly. In Oprah’s blog, podiatrist Phillip Vasyli commended the Haflingers for their latex-molded arch support, which will help prevent foot problems and is a definite step up from the flimsy rubber soles you’ll find in cheaper shoes.
Associate Editor Michael Zhao bought these at my recommendation and has nothing but good things to say about them: “I was skeptical at the $90 price tag at first because I’ve never been a big slipper person—not that I haven’t had them—they tend to make my feet too sweaty. For the first time in my life, I actually prefer wearing slippers to being barefoot. They’ve quickly become one of my most-loved possessions.”
Online reviewers are also big fans. At Zappos, 79% of its 98 reviewers gave the Haflinger AT five stars. At Amazon, it has 4.5 stars with 191 reviews. And Angie at You Look Fab says most slippers “either stretch out, lack support, tear, make my feet perspire or feel slippery. Haflinger has found the formula that is perfect for me.”
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Depending on where you buy them, the ATs might cost you a pretty penny. At $89, they’re definitely on the higher end of the price scale. But we think they’re worth it—too much cheaper and you run into dealbreaker after dealbreaker.
Lastly, for the first couple wears, the shoes might scratch a bit, but we’ve found that stops quickly once you start wearing them in.
Long-term test notes
The Haflinger ATs have held up well over the past six months. Although I’m currently not wearing them during the summer, that’s more a result of a higher percentage of flip flops laying around my house than any fault or failing of the slippers. The Haflingers remained sturdy and strong, and I found myself preferring them over sheepskin slippers because they just get less dirty. On the rare summer days I do wear them, I haven’t had any complaints in terms of heat retention or loss, and they don’t feel sweaty or clammy.
A pick for (especially) cold feet
It’s a trade-off between this and the Haflingers: These are indeed warmer, but that warmth comes at a price. Even though they were the least clammy of all the slippers we tried, they still weren’t nearly as breathable as the Haflingers. So if your feet get crazy cold in the winter and you don’t tend to sweat a lot, these might be a good pick. (And if your feet get freezing, even cold to the touch, consider upgrading to L.L.Bean’s Wicked Good booties (women’s, men’s), which provide just too much overall coverage for most people, but will do an exceptional job of keeping the coldest feet warm.) But be warned: Our sweaty-footed male tester found the moccasins just barely more tolerable than the rest of the fleece slippers tested (which he uniformly disliked).
We’ve found the best sheepskin slippers, like the L.L.Bean, manage to keep you warm while still wicking away most of the sweat. “Even though the wool felts down, there is still air space in the fiber mesh that allows for the free circulation of the air,” Rick Hege told us. Hege runs Shepherd’s Flock, which creates handcrafted sheepskin slippers, ear muffs, cat beds, and more. He compared these slippers to wool car covers, which are still comfortable and cool, even in the summer.
Like the Haflingers, the L.L.Beans offer enough arch support to ensure your feet are comfortable, and the bottoms are made of an indoor/outdoor waterproof rubber for short outdoor excursions and topped with a memory foam inner. That makes them super comfortable.
Like any sheepskin slippers, their suede outside requires very careful cleaning and dirt tends to get caught within the fibers (unless you’re especially cautious). The fur below your feet will get matted down over time, so don’t expect it to continue feeling quite as fluffy as it will right out of the box. And in terms of lifetime longevity, these shoes likely won’t last as long as the Haflingers: Over time, consistent usage of any sheepskin slippers will eventually cause fleece to rub off, creating holes in the fur. Luckily, user reports indicate L.L.Bean’s lifetime guarantee is as good as it sounds, and if your shoes do wear out, they’ll happily replace them.
Budget pick (and a good option for vegans)
They’re made of microfiber and, like many of the other artificial slippers we tested previously, they got hot and sweaty quickly—although they were among the best at maintaining breathability. They also avoided the tendencies of artificial fabrics to stretch uncomfortably over time, still holding the same shape months after first use, unlike, say, the Minnetonka Cally, which started large and just got more misshapen and uncomfortable over time.
What if our pick is sold out?
If the Haflinger AT slippers are sold out, our best advice is to either wait for them to come back in stock or get the L.L.Bean slippers recommended as our pick for cold feet.
We sometimes try to find a close alternative to our main pick (because, let’s be honest, stuff sells out all the time). In this case, however, we feel strongly that it’s worth waiting or upgrading, instead of wasting your money on an inferior product.
For a long time we thought the Minnetonka Mules for women and Moccasins for men would be our winners: They rivaled the L.L.Beans for most breathable sheepskin and were incredibly soft and comfortable. Until just three weeks into our test, when the sheepskin wore through to the suede. Sure, sheepskin will do that, but it certainly shouldn’t that quickly.
The Ugg Scuffette IIs are extraordinarily soft and comfortable, and if we were picking a slipper for women that care exclusively about comfort, they would probably be the best. But the men’s Scuffs were rife with problems: First, the dye used on the outer suede rubbed off on our male tester’s feet. Then the cuff running along the upper foot irritated and rubbed the skin, making them incredibly uncomfortable to wear.
The Acorn Ewe Collar for women and Romeo II for men fit very snugly and never loosened up to fit our feet in the time we wore them. This still might not be a dealbreaker—after all, some people really like snug slippers—except that they ranked lowest among the sheepskin slippers in terms of breathability. Each time I wore them, I was soon plodding around in a puddle of sweat. No fun.
The Giesswein Ammerns are very similar to the Haflingers, and they share many of the same benefits that boiled wool provides. But they lack the ergonomic foot support and overall feel much flimsier. For only $3 in savings, it’s not worth downgrading the footbed so drastically.
The Old Friend slipper we tested—the Ladies’ Scuff—had enough problems to convince me it wasn’t worth testing more. Despite my following sizing directions perfectly, it was so small that only my friend with a shoe size two smaller than mine could fit comfortably inside. In addition, the sheepskin quickly wore down and wasn’t nearly as soft or as comfortable as the L.L.Beans’—which makes sense, considering its low price, which indicates that some artificial fibers are threaded in somewhere.
The Sorel Nakiska slippers have quite the fan base, with a 4.6-star rating on Amazon with 381 reviews. We tested those alongside the equally beloved men’s Falcon Ridge slippers, and found their wool-acrylic blend lining too sweaty and stifling. For the price, they’re decently comfortable, but compared side-to-side with the L.L.Beans, there’s no competition. Plus, user reports of these shoes quickly falling apart make them a no-go.
What makes a good slipper?
We found via our research that best slipper should balance two things: warmth and breathability. That means the warmest slipper really isn’t necessarily the best slipper if it makes your feet sweaty and doesn’t have any wicking power.
We found natural fibers tend to be more breathable than artificial ones. Rick Hege agreed: “The wicking power is because of the wool,” he said. The best slipper materials, boiled wool and sheepskin, come from sheep, but are treated in very different ways Boiled wool is made by shrinking knitted wool until it’s felted into a consistent toughness. This makes for a tight and dense material that is very warm, yet breathable. It’s similar to the effect of a very worn-in fleece slipper after the wool has been pressed down over many years of use. “Even though the wool felts, there is still air space in the fiber mesh that allows for the free circulation of the air,” Hege said.
Sheepskin (or shearling) is made by removing both the skin and fleece of a sheep. The skin is sueded, and the fleece is trimmed to a consistent height. Rick Hege has written in some detail on what the difference between shearling and sheepskin is here, but from researching different styles, manufacturers, models, etc., we found many manufacturers use the terms interchangeably for the same product.
“Some are outright lying. Others are just too clueless to know,” Hege said.
A fleece slipper attaches the sheep’s fur to the outer—usually some kind of faux suede—using a netted webbing. Fleece will have many of the same wicking powers as sheepskin, but we found that the vast majority of fleece-only slippers fluffed up the fur with synthetic fibers, which just doesn’t have the same breathability.
Ultimately, though, if it is true fleece (and not combined with artificial fibers), you should feel the benefits of its natural breathability. But boiled wool is still better, in our experience—it’s not as soft, but much cooler when it matters and warm enough to keep your feet warm.
We debated the benefits of indoor-only soles versus indoor/outdoor soles, but generally, you’ll want to look for a multi-use sole even if you don’t plan on ever taking your shoes outside. The thicker rubber or latex soles that can go outside tend to have better arch support, which is crucial considering how often you’ll be wearing your shoes. A flimsy sole is more likely to lead to foot problems down the line—and even if it doesn’t, it just doesn’t feel as supportive as a solid, indoor/outdoor sole.
Most high-quality slippers will cost you at least $60, and we found $70-$90 to be the sweet spot. Yes, that’s a lot to pay for slippers, but think of it this way: If you’re wearing slippers every time you’re in the home, they’ll be some of your most-worn shoes. Cheap slippers run much hotter, are less comfortable, and fall apart quickly. For something that’s on your foot every day, morning and night, don’t hesitate to pay more.
The absolute best slippers for almost everyone—especially the sweaty-footed everyone—are the Haflinger AT slippers, which cost $89 at Amazon. They’re warm enough for winter, breathable for summer, soft and comfortable, and have a hard latex sole so you can wear them indoors or out. If you really want something fluffy, or your feet run cold, look towards L.L.Bean’s Wicked Good booties (women’s, men’s), which were more breathable than any other sheepskin slipper. And for a budget pick (or if you don’t want any animal products in your slippers), the Dearfoams clog slippers are your best bet.
Originally published: February 20, 2014