The days when a pair of wellies was simply that, are long gone. Now these once humble and essential items for country living have become as specialist as any other item of country wear clothing, and some have become amazingly fashionable in a very short time.

However buying a pair of wellies is in fact a minefield these days and if you get it wrong you will regret later on. For long term comfort and performance it's imperative to find the best fit to suit your leg and foot and what you want to do in the boots. Remember everyone is different so don't put up with the "cheaper one size and model fits all" philosophy unless they happen to suit you. You are far better advised to go to a specialist retailer.

So what then should we be looking for in buying a pair of wellies? Well without doubt the arrival of the neoprene lining has been amazing as neoprene can stretch with the foot and is incredibly warm. The need for thick extra socks has gone. It's also worthwhile getting a pair that zip up so they're easy to get on and off and a buckle at the top helps to trap in that warm air. However there are those that argue no synthetic material can duplicate the properties of soft, full grain leather; insulating, breathable, durable and supremely comfortable.

A lot of wellies are designed for wet, muddy conditions but have no insulation, so in winter your toes freeze. Fortunately someone's come up with another solution, wellies with washable fleece linings that keep your feet warm in winter but are removable for spring and summer.

Footwork is so important in wellies. Therefore it's also a very good idea to consider the tread of the boot so you get the maximum amount of traction and grip over a range of surfaces from muddy fields to slippery tracks. I also think one of the best attributes you can find on a welly is whether or not its got a ring pull at the top on the back to help you get them on plus a reinforced toe cap and heel can be handy.

Where once the blue and green welly reigned supreme now all manner of designs and colours are available. Indeed some are veritable works of arts in their own right. Several manufacturers now produce camouflaged pattern wellies that have all the technical attributes of their plain green or black cousins. I've been particularly impressed by Muck Boots Torray Cammo boot, LaCrosse (A lovely American boot) whilst Aigle do a particularly nice children's version.

However the explosion from functional item to trendy garment has resulted in ladies and children wearing some colourful examples. (Check out To me this is simply marvellous as too many people in my opinion forget that our work is also all about fun.

Some manufacturers now offer wellies in many different models, colours, linings, soles, foot fittings, calf fittings, and heights. If you think about it, it's really no different from going to a tailor to be fitted for a suit. Ladies models are also available to cater for the difference in ankle and leg shapes, so do take your time and get a pair that are just right for you.

Do remember that prices can vary depending on where you buy so the prices we've shown here should be taken as a general guideline, we have also included a list of web sites that sell wellies for you to browse through at your leisure. Remember too that this is just the tip of the iceberg, most manufacturers produce up to six models and styles of boot.

Take your time when buying a pair, get it right and they will pay you back in dividends. You wouldn't go out and buy a coat straight off the peg without trying it on, so why not do the same with a pair of wellies that may well last you for ages and probably become very good friends?

Looking after your wellies Once you've bought your wellies you want to make them last. It's a very good idea to invest in a boot remover which stops excessive stress to the boot's heel, which can eventually result in splitting. It's much better for your back.

Always wash your boots with clean water. If you can get a silicone protector as well that's even better. If you've got a zipped pair make sure the zips have been cleaned of mud and leave your boots to dry in a cool ventilated place. When storing them hang them by the heel on a boot rack if you can an never expose them to extremes of heat and cold as this can crack the rubber.