Where can you find the nicest scarf? Who makes the best cashmere sweater? Every year around this time — like holiday classics on the radio — certain gifts become popular all over again. To determine the very best versions of those things, we’re talking to experts, adding our own opinions, and even testing products ourselves to find the greatest gift (plus several runners-up).
With the holidays falling in the middle of winter, warm slippers will always be an appreciated gift. Even if they’re not the main attraction, gifting a cozy pair of slippers as a bonus present can be one of the more immediate pleasures on a December morning. “Wool slippers provide warmth, comfort, and breathability,” says Dyansa Calderon, lead buyer at Zappos. “You’ll want to find quality, boiled wool slippers and ensure they’re not itchy or scratchy to avoid any chafing when you walk,” says Calderon.
We asked Calderon for her suggestions of the best slippers, consulted past guides we’ve done for worthy competitors, and then tested a bunch of these tried-and-true pairs to find the ultimate wool slipper. While each pair offered a little something unique, there was definitely a clear winner. Don’t miss all of the Strategist’s holiday gift coverage right here, too.
The best wool slippers to give
Let’s start with work we’ve done before. When writer Lauren Levy tested wool slippers last year, she found that Glerups’ open-heeled slippers came out on top. To see how they compare to a new batch of contenders, I requested a pair to try around the house. They really do deserve their reputation as the best slippers — they were hands down my absolute favorite. Designed in northern Denmark, they’re comfortable for walking around and the wool feels warm, soft, and not at all itchy. They hug your foot and mold to your shape the more you wear them. The only notable downside to the style we tried out last year was the thin, flexible calfskin sole that wasn’t fit for wet sidewalks or streets. This new version, however, has a rubber sole that offers more grip and protection for heading out.
“We see new brands pop up with one or two styles for slipper season in the fall, but it’s hard to compete with the tried-and-true classics,” says Calderon. One of the heritage brands she likes is Giesswein, an Austrian company that’s been around for over 50 years, and she says their basic Veitsch style has long been a bestseller. They’re also her personal favorite because of their “wider versatility thanks to [the] more prominent sole. With the added protection, you can bop around the house, water the lawn, and step out to run errands,” she says. Giesswein’s shoes are known for offering generous arch support, so I called in a pair to test out. The arch is extremely high- profile — which could be fine if you happen to know your gift recipient likes an exaggerated arch — but for me this felt like having a rock under my foot. The wool is very soft while not being itchy, and the thick sole is durable enough for venturing outdoors — before retreating back to the couch.
Like Giesswein, the German-based Haflinger is a five-decade-old company inspired by alpine adventurers. Calderon explains that both brands also started as personal passion projects that families have continued over the years. Now, Haflinger is actually the largest manufacturer of boiled wool in Germany. She says they stand out because of the felt liner that touches the foot can be more comfortable on the skin than wool. They’re also among the best-reviewed slippers on Amazon. Since these came highly recommended from Calderon, and were finalists in last year’s story, I had to try them out. They are seriously soft and cozy, and will keep your feet warm all winter. Unfortunately, these do have one significant drawback that keeps them from being a universal favorite — the raised seam on the top of the slipper itches your foot and can get irritating if you’re wearing these barefoot. This very same seam held these back in last year’s testing, too. Not the worst choice, though, if you bundle them with a pair of wool socks.
These pared-down slip-ons look like something you’d find in an upscale Tokyo hotel or spa. So it makes sense that their design is inspired by the Japanese aesthetics principle of artful simplicity, wabi-sabi. They’ve been a staple in Camper’s lineup since 2000. Calderon says they’re similar to the Haflingers but do offer a cleaner look and an alternative to the top seam. “Both have a thin cushion offering meant for easy on and off, [and] the toe box on both slippers is generous in size,” she says.” While some of the other slippers have a textured wool knit, these feel smoother, with less potential for itchiness. They do have a weather-ready rubber sole, but the completely flat arch might make these uncomfortable for more than padding from room to room.