also goes by 'tuffs, Southest Sneakers, or just rubber boots--like, is there really another kind?
When I go to visit my family in Southeast, this is the only pair of "shoes" I pack. Seriously, they go with everything. And, yes, it is acceptable to wear them with skirts here in Alaska. You wouldn't get a second glance...Heck, some people even wear them at their weddings.
The BUNNY BOOT
These are the monster truck of boots--and they are supposedly one of the warmest boots in existence. I listened to a radio spot about them the other day, and I had no idea they had such a colorful history. I won't go into that here--all you really need to know about these boots is that they keep your feet very warm, the have a pressure-release valve which makes them a favorite among the bush pilot lot, and they make you several inches taller. They are also heavy (In my opinion), and a bit clunky. These boots are also becoming a relic; I don't believe they manufacture them anymore. Lucky for us there are a ton of them hanging around at army/navy surplus stores, or on Craigslist--for sale cheap by people who are in a hurry to get the hell out of Alaska... because, seriously, do you really want to live somewhere where your boots need to keep your feet warm at -80? Think about it people.
aka "elf boots"
One of the most misunderstood boots out there. Just ask our friend Scotty, who wore them home to Arkansas one Christmas. I believe his family is still wondering about him. These boots are actually from a Norwegian manufacturer. They are lovely on the feet--light, breathable and incredibly warm. Some people may find them confusing at first, because there is no defined left or right. After you wear them a while they shape to your foot. My husband rocks a pair of these all winter, and as long as the weather isn't wet, he says they never fail to keep his feet toasty warm. They have gained popularity as many mushers in the Iditarod wear them, but they are a solid product in and of themselves. I also think they are the cutest baby boots EVER. I may have to splurge on a pair for Sadie next winter.
The STEGER MUKLUK
aka the boots that my perpetually cold feet stay warm in.
All my life I have been plagued by cold feet. When I moved to Nome I knew I was screwed. So I went ahead and bought myself a pair of big, clunky Sorrels. And guess what? That winter my feet froze. Then I started seeing these mukluks around. Yeah, they look like something that Robert Redford would wear to the Cannes Film Festival, but these babies are the real deal. I splurged on a pair my second winter in Nome. Three years later and my feet have never been cold in them. They are extremely light and flexible, and wearing them feels like walking barefoot. That is the method behind the toastyness-- they keep blood circulating through your feet, all the way down to your littlest piggies. Once you go Steger, you never go back--until it gets wet outside, then you switch back to your 'tuffs.
The Real Deal-SEAL SKIN MUKLUK
If you are lucky enough to know someone who still knows how to make a real pair of these, I hear they are THE way to go. Apart from being a work of art in and of themselves, they are the warmest most water and weather resistant boot out there when it comes to fending off the arctic chill. All our fancy modern materials and the original product is still the best. It is pretty hard to beat Inuit ingenuity when it comes to boots and boats.
So if you are coming to Alaska and you want to blend in with the locals, may I recommend that you invest in one of these forms of footwear? Just make sure you wear the right item to the right region at the right time of year, otherwise, you will stick out like a sore, um... BIG TOE.