When the day’s work (or sport) is done, relaxing and being comfortable is the main priority. The first thing that most people do, when reaching home or camp is take off their footwear. What they put on next will determine how far they get into the comfort zone.
On an evening in early spring, I was relaxing in my favorite 10-year-old pair of moccasin slippers and working on a project that required a tool from my shop. Since it’s in a detached building and I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of changing shoes for such a short jaunt, I went in my slippers, which are leather without the protection of a sole. A cold wind was howling so I went quickly, not paying attention to where I was stepping. The result was a stone bruise on my heel that took weeks to stop hurting.
The next day, as I hobbled downstairs, I made a mental note to find a better pair of slippers that would prevent future limitations and limps. From a staggering number of options, I selected a pair of Cabela’s shearling moccasins with a rubber sole that can be worn just about anywhere.
The selection process was challenging, due to the fact that Cabela’s makes 24 different groups of slippers, with several different styles within each group. Styles vary from the traditional "house slipper", which is called a slide or scuff, to the twin-gore slip-on with an elastic panel for easy entry and removal. The moccasin is one of the more popular styles of slippers but newer designs have increased the ankle height. The lounger style is usually shearling lined and ankle high, although models are available up to 11-1/2 inches high.
What struck me most about the selection is that as with most things today, "they aren’t what they were back when." In some cases that’s bad, but in the world of slippers it’s a major improvement. People are demanding more from the products they buy, and in the world of slippers it has been a quantum leap.
Bill Renkert, Cabela’s casual footwear expert explained that "slippers" are not really slippers as they have been historically defined. Today, the footwear that would fall into the "slipper" category is more performance oriented with more technical outer materials and versatility with increased variety in sole options. Today’s slippers are intended to meet a wider range of uses and are definitely not limited to the confines of the family den. They’re designed for extended use around the house, camp, outside in the yard or around the town.
A major factor in the move to more versatile slippers is both psychological and physiological. Uncomfortable footwear affects our entire bodies if the level of discomfort is sufficient and continued. The effects are cumulative in our feet, knees, hips and back. Put succinctly, if your feet aren’t happy, you won’t be either. Just pay attention to the change that you experience after a long day in a heavy pair of boots or even dress shoes. Only a few minutes after taking them off and putting on a comfortable pair of slippers you feel physically and mentally rejuvenated.
The construction of slippers has three main areas of concern, interior lining, sole construction and upper materials. The options of outer materials available today are numerous, and for outdoors enthusiasts, in tune with our interests. Popular leathers today include bison, elk, moose and deer, and their durability qualities are in the same order, with elk and moose having about the same durability. Bison is the most durable, and deer hide the least. While leather made from deer hide is very comfortable, the nature of this leather makes it more susceptible to being torn or worn through over time .
You can opt for the basic moccasin, which is unlined with no sole. With this option you’ll be walking on a thin layer of leather that is great for indoors, but this thin layer of protection can be problematic if you venture outside very often. Adding a wool or synthetic footbed creates a cushioning layer, which is an improvement to both comfort and protection, but for outdoor wear a sole is the best choice. You’ll also find some models with a full-length closed-cell foam or felt footbed. The felt adds a nice cushion, while the foam forms around the shape of your foot for a very soft feel. The addition of a footbed is an excellent feature if you spend a lot of time standing, especially on hard surfaces.
With the complement of a sole, slippers offer greater protection from rocks and the occasional toy that’s left on the floor. Sole materials vary from very soft and pliable materials, such as a natural crepe rubber, EVA, or TPR - thermoplastic rubber, to a more durable modern rubber outsole that will take you anywhere and last a very long time.
TPR stands for Thermoplastic Rubber, a synthetic rubber related to resin-rubber or a blend of petroleum-based synthetics that produce rubber-like qualities but which can be fused by heat and therefore processed.
Elon is an ICompression-molded compound of rubber and EVA, which is more durable and resilient than standard EVA.
EVA stands for Ethylene Vinyl Acetate, a chemical compound with rubber properties appropriate for soling in the blown or micro cellular form. This is an excellent shock-absorbing material that is lighter than polyurethane.
When you’re sitting behind a steering wheel for hours on end, ankle support and a surefooted sole pattern are far less important than comfort. Slippers with soles suitable for outdoor wear have become very popular for long stints behind the wheel. They’re easy to slip on an off, even while driving, which can help keep you alert and break the monotony. While it won’t reduce the number of miles you will feel better during the trip and after you arrive.
Of Cabela’s slipper footwear options, shearling is the most popular. Shearling is the name for a tanned sheepskin with the wool left on. You may also see the term double-faced shearling, because the wool is still attached to the skin that is now leather. This is the most durable option for footwear. Spun wool attached to a fabric backing is the other option for a wool lining. In this technique, the wool is cleaned, carded and attached to a fabric backing. While this type of wool lining is good as far as comfort, it will not last as long or wear as well as double-faced shearling. The main advantage to wool linings is its excellent insulation properties. Wool is nature’s perfect insulator, winter or summer, since wool will also wick away moisture in warmer months.
Improvements in tanning technology have created new design options for footwear manufacturers, since the soft, insulation qualities of wool can now be dyed and used inside with suede on the backside for an attractive outer material. Another technique that is gaining in popularity is tipping. Tipping adds a complementary color to the tips of the wool and is quite attractive.
Shearling lined shoes are intended to be worn without socks. With shearling linings, you should buy a pair that fits pretty snugly on the forefoot. It will feel a little confining at first, but once it conforms to your foot you’ll have a perfect fit.
While synthetic simulations of shearling are available, this fabric does not perform as well in either the insulation or breathability categories. If you’re looking for an inexpensive pair of slippers, they’ll meet those needs, but not much more.
Cabela’s footwear is made with performance leather, a term that can be somewhat nebulous without clarification. In a nutshell, performance leather is waterproof so that it will not stain when liquids are spilled on it. For the footwear to be waterproof, an additional membrane, such as GORE-TEX®, must be sewn to the upper material.
I can’t think of an instance when I would want a pair of waterproof slippers, but then I live in an area that only gets 12 to 15 inches of moisture a year. And that’s why Cabela’s has so many options for slippers. No matter how diverse your needs and expectations, you’ll find a slipper solution at Cabela’s.