When I moved to Finland two years ago, there was one Finnish word I kept hearing: loska. It means something between slush, sludge, and straight-up wet snow, and Helsinki was full of it. For weeks, the entire city was covered in a wet, grey loska blanket. It didn’t take long for me to learn that there are few things worse than the feeling of gravelly sludge splashing over the tops of your shoes and soaking your socks on the way to work. So I started paying attention to what all the other commuters were wearing on their feet.
That’s how I first came across the Nokian Hais. As soon as I looked down, I noticed that so many Helsinki commuters were wearing Nokian Hais that they practically looked like a uniform. The Hais were originally designed for sailing in the 1960s, but over the last 60 years they’ve become the boots to be seen in — from city types cycling in Ruoholahti to Kallio hipsters having after-work drinks, everyone has a pair. So what makes them so good?
They’re made with natural, soft, bendable rubber, which means that walking in them for half an hour doesn’t make your feet ache. They have a reflective band, so cars can see you, and their soles are slip resistant. They’re sturdy and protective without feeling clompy, and they’re roomy enough that you can wear an extra pair of thick socks underneath them, which means there’s no need to size up.
The boots come in standard black, dark red, yellow, and blue — but new seasonal colours are released every autumn and spring. I have them in black, but this season’s “It” colour is a delicious coral pink. The classic yellow boots are by far the most popular, and they’re certainly the most distinctively Hai. Swedish competitor Tretorn offers a good (slightly cheaper) city Wellington alternative, and Nokian’s full-length Kontio boots are popular too — think Nordic Hunters. But while they’d be perfect for long, muddy walks in the countryside, when it comes to city Wellies that’ll keep your feet dry in the persistent drizzle, you can’t beat Hais.
[Editor’s note: Amazon carries a selection of Hais in small sizes – up to a UK 3.]
Some other Strategist-recommended boots
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To find the best Chelsea boots out there, we asked stylists, fashion bloggers, and all-around stylish women for their favourites, from sleek leather ones to chunky platforms and everything in between. This chunky take on the Chelsea was called out as a favourite by two of our panelists, including journalist and podcaster Pandora Sykes, who says she lives “in a pair of chunky-soled, patent oxblood short Chelsea boots.”
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