Rubber boots protect feet and footwear from excessive water, extreme heat and uneven landscapes. By the early 19th century, fashion and labor trends required tighter fitting and more functional boots. The revolutionary process of vulcanization popularized the use of rubber boots and galvanized the entire rubber industry. Rubber boot designs fall into two categories: the overshoe and Wellingtons.
In his book, The Reign of Rubber, Dr. William C. Greer identifies native people on the banks of the Amazon River as the creators of the first rubber overshoes in 1800. Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, commissioned a set of boots in 1817 that could easily be worn underneath trousers. Since then, rubber boots are often called Wellingtons. In 1844, Charles Goodyear created the process of vulcanization; this method, which combines heat and sulfur to increase durability, improved the manufacturing efficiency of rubber boots and shoes.
Rubber boots are divided between Wellingtons and galoshes. Wellingtons fit snugly around the foot and leg; galoshes are overshoes and require another set of footwear to be worn in conjunction. Galoshes also come in two types. The first is thick soled and made of heavy rubber; this type of rubber boot is meant for extended periods of walking in wet areas. The second is made of a thinner and more elastic rubber; these boots are intended to provide portable protection against dampness.
Rubber boots are used to protect the feet and lower legs against wetness. Their heavy sole and durable lining provide protection against extreme temperatures, high water levels and rough terrain. Rubber boots are invaluable to soldiers, farmers, laborers and anyone residing in areas with heavy precipitation. Overshoes cover regular footwear and shield shoes from temperature and water damage.
Rubber overshoes originated in South America and Wellingtons come from England. The most notable advances in the production of rubber boots, however, occurred in the United States. The vulcanization technique invented by Charles Goodyear was the most significant advancement in rubber history. In 1847, the rubber boot trade was centralized in Rhode Island and Connecticut; by World War I, the functionality of rubber boots caused production to spread worldwide.
The characteristics of rubber boots include: thick soles, rounded toes, and a waterproof lining. Usually, the boot covers the whole foot as well as the lower leg.