Review: The North Face ThermoBall Traction Mule (Women vs Big Kids)

The cloud shoe (a.k.a. pillow shoe a.k.a. puffer shoe) has been brewing as a microtrend since 2020, and I had judged it as not particularly functional or pretty at first. But I had a change of heart earlier this winter–on day three or four of a sustained cold spell–and ordered these ThermoBall Slippers from The North Face. I wondered if they are as warm and cozy as the synthetic down-alternative that they are named after.

In short: they are not. But they are also growing on me, in an ugly-cute way. I might try a pillow ankle boot next.


I like how lightweight these slippers are. The fleece lining, rubber outsole with traction (not suitable for ice), and collapsible heel are all thoughtful touches. And at $59 (or $45 for the Big Kids version), these shoes are rather affordable for a trendier “in demand” style.


The Thermoball Mule is only available in whole sizes (sizes 5-11), and fits (mostly) true to size. If you are in between sizes and plan to wear these primarily as outside shoes (i.e., with the heel non-collapsed), consider sizing up.

For those with small feet, try the youth version; to convert women’s shoe sizes to “Big Kids” sizes (up to size 6, or women’s size 8, in this style), subtract 2 from your normal shoe size. Note that the fleece lining is noticeably thinner on the youth version, as compared to the women’s version; but the former has a useful pull tab on the instep, so I consider it a wash.


While the Thermoball Mule‘s rip-resistant upper is treated for water-repellence, the low-top design will not keep water out, so it is not a substitute for snow boots. And though the cushioned insole can be removed for cleaning, the fleece lining doesn’t dry easily. This shoe is best worn as indoor slippers or on dry but somewhat cold (above-freezing) days.

Buy The North Face ThermoBall Traction Slipper at Amazon, Macy’s, Nordstrom, The North Face, and Zappos.

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