The Difference between Natural Rubber and PVC Gumboots
Let’s get technical!
Most waterproof gumboots are made from either natural rubber or polyvinyl chloride - a synthetic material colloquially known as PVC or vinyl. Natural rubber comes from the rubber tree (Havea brasiliensis), found in the tropics; PVC is a type of plastic formulated in a lab. As can be expected when working with a natural substance versus a synthetic, there are numerous differences in quality, durability, weight, and affordability.
First, let’s chat about natural rubber! All Merry People gumboots are made with natural rubber outer, a substance produced from the sap gathered in rubber trees. To be transformed into boots, rubber undergoes a die-casting process. This is a longer process than the method for PVC gumboots, but the result is higher quality insulation, softness, and anti-corrosion performance.
Rubber sap contains latex, making it elastic, soft, and mouldable and is what allows Merry People gumboots to soften and adapt to your foot with wear. Natural rubber is also quite durable; once it is formed into a shape it will hold - even at extreme temperatures. This is what allows us to rate our boots for below-freezing temperatures. Moreover, as a natural product, rubber is less toxic and damaging to produce and is biodegradable.
With its durability, rubber is a heavier material than PVC and creates boots that are a bit heavier to wear. It is also more expensive to tap and process than plastic, resulting in a higher cost for natural rubber boots. There is, however, a tradeoff to be made as the higher initial cost for durable natural rubber is paid off in the longevity of the material as your boots will not need to be replaced frequently. (And we stand by this longevity and durability with a one-year warranty on our boots.)
Now let’s talk about PVC! PVC is a lightweight synthetic plastic. Boots with a PVC outer are injection-moulded, a relatively inexpensive process, making them a popular low-cost option for waterproofing and for those looking for light-weight boots. This affordability does, however, come with trade-offs. Notably, PVC lacks the stretch of natural rubber and will not stretch to shape your foot. This stiffness can lead to harsh edges to your rain boots and the common complaint that rain boots are uncomfortable. PVC is also less durable than rubber and has a longer product lifespan. So while it may be cheaper to purchase initially, they often do not last as long leading to more replacement or repair costs. Some manufacturers work around this by mixing in natural rubber with the PVC to create a hybrid shoe. This can keep the cost down, but still lacks the durability and longevity of using 100% natural rubber.
At the end of the day, “rubber” has become an umbrella term for any plastic material that has a rubber-like feel (e.g., bouncy, elastic) so it is important to double-check the component of your boots! There is no “right” answer to what material is best as each has pros and cons, but if you are looking for a durable, long-lasting, high-quality natural rubber for your waterproof boots, then be sure to check out our 5-star rated Bobbi boots!
Stay Merry everyone!! xx