My wife tends to be the reasonable, rational one in the family – which is a pretty nice thing, considering how unreasonable and irrational the rest of us typically are. So when she starts raving about something she bought and tells me, You have to do a review of these, I know there must be a pretty compelling reason for it.
In this case, the trigger was a pair of Soft Star Phoenix boots she grabbed when last season’s models were on sale at the end of summer. She hadn’t worn them for an hour before I started hearing things like, I really like these a lot, or these are awesome, or I’m really happy with these. All that in addition to the one she eventually told me multiple times: You HAVE to review these.
So, OK … I’m reviewing them.
I can’t say that I know a whole lot about boots, but here’s what I know about Soft Star: all of their products are handcrafted in the USA with premium leathers, and the sheepskin lining of my Roo slippers is insanely comfortable and cozy. Their outdoor models have durable and flexible Vibram outsoles that allow your feet to bend and function as if you were barefoot. The Phoenix boot combines all of these features: leather uppers and suede cuffs, fully lined with sheepskin all the way into the footbed, with a rugged outsole that’s ideal for winter cold and slush.
Here’s what my wife knows about boots: if you get the right pair, they are an ideal multi-purpose option for lounging around the house, doing errands, or going out on the town. She’s been a loyal Ugg user for years, has also been a fan of a similarly-designed Merrell boot, and wanted to check out the Phoenix because the styling of it was so appealing. She also figured (correctly, of course) that the real leather upper would stay cleaner much better than Ugg's suede. I don’t know if she expected them to vault to the top of her favorites list, but that’s exactly what happened.
So now she’s essentially glued into her Phoenix boots, which has the nice collateral benefit of transitioning her towards more natural foot function; she’s gradually moving down the path of natural/minimal footwear, and the Phoenix is a big improvement over other lined boots with arch supports, elevated heels, or a slope from heel to toe. By minimalist standards, the outsole is pretty thick at 13mm, but it’s completely flat and flexible – and when it comes to winter boots, this is about as natural as you can get.
It’s also pretty obvious that the Phoenix looks to be super warm and crazy comfortable. The entire boot is lined with genuine sheepskin which is a natural heat regulator, and the sheepskin footbed is removable if you prefer it that way. My wife noted that the cuff is cut slightly narrower on these boots than on her Uggs, which effectively keeps the sheepskin closer against the leg. This is probably the reason she says the Phoenix boots keep her feet warmer than Uggs as well.
Because of the thick sheepskin lining, my wife points out that the initial fit of the boots feels fairly snug when sized properly, but the sheepskin gradually packs down to a nice comfortable size that maintains contact with your skin without being restricting. And as I mentioned earlier, it didn’t take her very long at all to settle into these and decide that they were the most comfortable boots she’s ever worn. They remain comfortable even after long days on her feet, thanks in large part to the flexible outsole which is a pleasant contrast to her Uggs, which she says are very stiff by comparison.
(One more note about these boots that's neither here nor there: apparently when my wife wore them with shorts one day, our 6-year-old daughter told her "You look like a teenager." We've decided to interpret that as a compliment.)
So what would she recommend for improvement? The Phoenix boot only comes in one cuff height, and my wife suggested that a taller option would be nice (Apparently that’s the style now – I just take her word for these things). Also, there’s only one color option – chocolate leather upper with brown cuff – available on the website, and even though Soft Star does custom orders on the Phoenix as it does with all of its models, they don’t take exchanges or returns on custom Phoenix orders.
At $225 from the company website, Soft Star’s Phoenix boots don’t come cheap, but this is a case where you get the quality - of materials, construction, and comfort - you pay for. There’s a popular sports expression derived from boxing: in order to become the champ, you have to knock out the current champ. In our house, the Phoenix boot has knocked out the Ugg, and will reign through the winter as the undisputed champion.
*Product NOT provided by Soft Star – purchased independently.
** See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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