Welcome to The Inertia’s definitive wetsuit review where we rate some of the industry’s best rubber so you can get better informed before you purchase your winter skin. We used a five-star rating system to rank each of our suits’ features. Here, we look at Vans Surf Boot 2 Hi V 5mm.
Testing Location: Los Angeles, CA
Water Temperature: 55°F
Air Temperature: 62°FC
Warmth: 4.5 Stars
First thing’s first. Booties were not required attire during the early-November testing phase in Los Angeles, California, where the water temperature during sessions hovered in the mid-to-high-50s. That said, my feet were toasty, which is the ultimate function of said booty. And, to be honest, my feet are cold babies. By extension, I am, too. So even though booties aren’t essential just yet, we’re getting to the time of year where I’ll start to err on the side of comfort and warmth. Which means booties. Especially on dawn patrol, when the sand feels about as cold as the water in the morning. The fact is, Southern California has softened me completely. Booty season here begins now-ish, and these boots kept my dogs warm.
Durability: 4.5 Stars
(Updated 1/22/2022): I’ve now been wearing these booties essentially nonstop for two months during an exceptional winter of surf – meaning I’m probably surfing more this winter than ever. Probably averaging five times a week as the surf has been nonstop. And these have held up. They’re easier to get on and off, and no major wear issues at all.
And if Vans shoes and footwear are any indicator of their booty quality, chances are that these will stand the test of time. I was intentionally clumsy and heavy-footed when trudging across yards of rock reef, and the rubber showed little-to-no signs of wear. I yanked them on and off quite a few times – even testing the heel strap – as I’ve found that can be a vulnerable spot on many booties, and they stayed strong.
Comfort, Flexibility, and Grip: 5 Stars
(Updated 1/22/2022): After two plus months of nearly daily wear, I have to say these are the most comfortable, grippy booties I’ve ever owned. The “skate grip” sensitivity claims that I was initially skeptical of have proven true upon more use. Where many booties have applied a foot-condom-like numbness to the sensitivity and board feel, these seem to have melded to my feet.
Interestingly, Vans opted not to include a split-toe on their Surf Boot 2 Hi V 5mm. Pretty much all of the booties I’ve worn over my lifetime feature a split toe. Kinda like a mitten separating the thumb from the hand. I’ve always assumed that was to enhance control. In that respect, these were something of a revelation. It caused me to question whether the split toe was the wrong approach this whole time, because I didn’t miss it. When it comes to warmth, it stands to reason that keeping your toes together would be more effective; but, alas, I am not a scientist. Just a mediocre surfer.
Vans is also quite proud of their rubber outsole with the trademark “micro-waffle siping” to optimize board feel and grip. When I first started using them, it was literally my first session transitioning from bare feet to boots, and it’s kind of hard to overlook how dramatic that transition is. I was also riding cruising on thigh-high waves on a mini-Simmons, so I’m not exactly pushing any high-performance boundaries where that attention to detail is of consequence. But after two months of heavy wear, their claims felt wholly authentic to me. When it comes to grip, these feel much more like grippy socks than thick boots. Color me impressed.
The Vans Surf Boot 2 Hi V 5 mm features a gusseted collar that seals on the calf to keep water out, and the bottom-half is dipped in rubber, which provides structure where it’s needed. The new hook-and-loop strap has been designed with maximum adjustability.
Taking design cues from Vans iconic roots, the Surf Boot 2 Hi V 5mm maintains Vans’ signature Sidestripe and heel scab, with Checkerboard accenting on the heel pull.
These are the most comfortable booties I’ve ever worn. Vans is an iconic footwear manufacturer, and it only makes sense they’d put a bold Sidestripe on their product to try to claim the category. Warm and comfy. Not much more you can ask for when it comes to insulated foot pillows for surfin’. They literally feel like gloves for my feet, and I’ve also never had more sensitive board feel with boots before either.
For surfers hoping to fly under the radar, that bold Sidestripe might not be the most intuitive fashion choice. I kinda felt like my surfing wasn’t living up to my booties. I suppose that could be motivating. I’d also like to suggest making a version with a black side stripe. Confident and understated. Only those looking very hard at other surfer’s booties would nod silently with approval.
Of universal note, and not specific to these lovely boots, I peed in my suit in the first and second tests, and I’m gonna go ahead and put money down that the urine is somewhere in these boots. I’ve employed my tried-and-true system of hang drying them face down in shade, but they’ve already developed quite the stench. Feel free to share any anti-booty smell suggestions.
Overall: 4.5/5 Stars
The Vans Surf Boot 2 Hi V 5 mm are warm and comfortable booties. Granted, I won’t be using them in the Arctic and probably just a handful times a year in water below 45 degrees. But when it comes to winter in Southern California, these are outstanding. After two months of heavy use, I honestly feel these are the best booties I’ve owned. I hope they continue to hold up for many seasons to come. And if I still feel self-conscious about the white stripe, well, Sharpies exist. And, I’m going to venture to guess I’ll be pioneering Vans Surf Boot 3 if I break the Sharpie out.