10 Best Winter Boots Reviewed & Rated for Performance
When the weather gets colder, the sky gets darker, and the weather gets more temperamental, its time to invest in a dependable winter boot. Winter can be a fun season full of outdoor activities, and none of them should be stopped due to improper cold weather footwear. Though winter brings with it the chance for making a lot of memories, it can also mean perilous situations due to rapidly decreasing temperatures, high winds, rain, snow, and mud.
Winter boots need to be able to withstand a variety of environments and climates (such as the combat boots reviewed here). Things to look for in winter boots include extra layers to their interiors to protect against cold temperatures, insulated linings, crack-resistant rubber, and the addition of fur and quilted trim. They should also be waterproof or at least water resistant, depending on how much rain or snow fall you expect.
When selecting the right winter boot, always consider breathability. Instead of focusing on a tight, snug fit, remember that a breathable winter boot will be a bit loose. It will also have some sort of mesh component to let cool air in. This allows for better blood circulation, which means that extremities, like your feet, won’t get so cold that they risk injury or worse. You can also check out the best boots made specifically to tackle snow terrain.
10 Best Winter Boots
1. Sorel Joan of Arctic
These boots have a removable, recyclable inner bootie for a more precise fit, and all the seams are sealed for a waterproof construction that is your defense against rain or snow. A vulcanized rubber shell ensures durability and flex support, allowing a full range of movements from heel to toe. Because of the heavy duty D-rings of the lace front closure system, the fit can be customized to your preference.
Sorel boots are designed with winter activities in mind. From hunting, fishing, and sledding, to extreme sports like snowmobiling, their cold weather footwear provides maximum protection and comfort. They’re designed to fit slightly loose so that you still retain your circulation, a tighter fit contributing to cold feet and heel chafing. The boots are breathable enough to make sure that your feet stay warmer longer.
Cost and Value:
The Joan of Arc boot is an expensive boot, but its top of the line features and quality construction mean it provides the best standards of any winter boot on the market. They are engineered to fit comfortably, let your feet breathe, and provide lasting durability and waterproof protection. Whether you’ll use your boots for winter sports, outdoor activities, or just fighting the elements to get to work, you’ll look ready and put together in these winter boots.
- Watersealed seams
- Vulcanized rubber sole
- Heavy-duty D-ring lace up closure
- Removable inner felt bootie
- Have to get used to looser fit
2. Keen Targhee II
The nubuck leather used in the construction of the Targhee II works together with a specifically engineered hydrophobic mesh lining that wicks away moisture and lets the foot breathe. Waterproof technology helps to keep water out, so that if you get caught in a heavy downpour or have to hop across some snowbanks you’ll have the best protection from the elements. The outsole has deep lugs to ensure great traction should there be any rocky terrain veiled by a layer of snow.
With a roomie toe box, adjustable lace up vamp, and cushioned collar, these ankle cut boots provide comfortable relief if you’re planning on spending a lot of time outdoors this winter. They haven ESS shank going down the midsole, ensuring a stable footbed and secure arch support. The liner is leather and mesh and made to be breathable and ensure proper circulation for your extremities.
Cost and Value:
The Targhee II is a fine example of a mid-range winter boot that once invested in, will last many winter seasons and continue to be resilient. It’s combination of leather and mesh materials for breathability, quick dry engineering, and great traction make it perfect for the rugged outdoors. Besides being highly functional, it’s been made with comfort in mind as well, and there aren’t many winter boots that have shanks put into their midsoles for arch support and stabilization. Investing in KEEN brand cold weather footwear is investing in a fun winter.
- ESS shank in midsole for stability
- Mesh and leather liner for breathability
- Large lugs for traction
- Runs a 1/2 size small
3. Merrell Moab Ventilator
The Ventilator has a leather and mesh fabric lining to maximize air flow, as well as a rubber toe bumper and heel counter. A vibram multi-sport plus sole provides you with great foot support and traction. For those whose winters are filled with wet, soggy environments with mud, leaves, and lots of moisture, these boots and their moisture wicking properties will be perfect.
While the mesh and leather lining keeps your feet dry and temperature controlled, the anatomical footbed gives your feet some extra cushion. The boots also boast a nylon injected shank in the midsole for arch support and stability. A compression molded EVA footframe gives the midsole a nice air pad, which certainly helps if you plan to wear these boots for long hours.
Cost and Value:
These are a mid-range priced boot, with comparable features to Sorel or KEEN boots, namely in the breathability of their construction and their comfortable design. They favor keeping your feet dry and comfortable over a lot of unnecessary thickness, so they aren’t as heavy as other winter boots. But though they’re mostly comprised of mesh and leather, it’s almost indestructible and will certainly hold up to the elements.
- Nylon shank in midsole for arch support
- EVA molded footframe
- Moisture wicking lining
- Not waterproof
4. Columbia Minx Mid II
This geo-quilted winter boot is waterproof, and made from a woven textile that has jacket-esque baffling. It has 200g’s of insulation, as well as heat-trapping reflective lining, and a unique outsole that, instead of horizontal lugs or grooves, a series of triangular pinwheels that grip the ground from all directions. Don’t let the fabric, moccasin look of these boots fool you - they will keep your feet warm and dry all winter, trudging through snow and splashing through puddles.
For those wearers that require arch support, these offer a cushioned midsole that will give you the stabilization you need. You can wear these boots in outdoor temperatures under 15 degrees and still feel very warm and dry. Though all winter boots are meant to be a little roomie to allow for proper circulation, these have plenty of laces to help adjust their fit and a small removable liner.
Cost and Value:
Columbia is known for its sportswear and sportsgear, and now presents a unique pair of cold weather winter boots that are not only highly functional, but unique looking as well. Not looking out of place in a chalet, they also look like they’d be underestimated. But one trip outside in freezing weather lets you know that these boots, with their 200g’s of insulation and quilted comfort will not be outclassed by a more rugged looking winter boot. They are definitely worth the price tag.
- Reinforced bootie overlay
- 200g’s of insulation
- Good arch support
- Not as much traction
5. Kamik Nation Plus
It has a felt removable liner, ensuring your feet won’t overheat even if you’re exerting yourself a lot outside. The lining is also moisture-wicking, ensuring your feet stay dry. The collar and tongue have a lot of extra padding, eliminating a major cause for chafing along the leg.
These boots can protect against temperatures of -40F, and are waterproof. It features 200B Thinsulate insulation to keep you feet from ever feeling the inclement frosts outside. It’s lacing system is rustproof and made for quick lacing. The bottom tread is thick and deeply grooved to grip even the slickest, most slippery surfaces.
Cost and Value:
These are a great, everyday practical boot for someone that wants to experience the wintry outdoors knowing they are wearing superior winter protection. Work outdoors will not be a grueling process with these boots, especially given their thick rubber soles, malleable leather construction, speed laces that are rust resistant, and extra padding along the collar and tongue. They are rated to withstand some of the lowest temperatures of any boots on this list, and cost a fraction of the price.
- Can withstand -40F
- 200B Thinsulate liner
- Deep tread for superior traction
- Rust resistant laces
- No side support
6. Columbia Bugaboot Plus III Omni
The Columbia Bugaboot Plus III Omni has technologically specifically designed for it, such as Omni-grip traction along the outsole to give you extra grip on precarious surfaces, such as uneven ground or rocky trails. It’s special Omni-heat reflective lining offers 200g insulation. A series of small silver dots reflect heat back onto your feet, ensuring they stay warm and dry.
With the molded feel of a piece of athletic footwear, these winter boots mean that you can spend the day trekking in the snow in these boots and barely feel them on your feet. They have a special Techlite lightweight midsole and extra padding along the foot bed to ensure that no matter what fun you get into this winter, your won’t suffer any foot fatigue.
Cost and Value
With specially engineered features like Omni-grip and Omni-heat, the Bugaboot is ideal for outdoor activities, like hiking., sledding, paper routes, or having an impromptu snowball fight. Being waterproof, that could include wading through puddles or getting caught in a rainstorm. 200g of insulation means they’ll withstand most cold weather, but you wouldn’t want to wear these traipsing into the arctic wastelands. Besides being incredibly comfortable and highly breathable, they feel like athletic footwear. These features make the fact that they’re expensive worth the investment.
- Feels like an athletic shoe
- Lightweight midsole
- Great for outdoor activities
- Keeps heat trapped inside with Omni technology
- Slightly more expensive
7. Bogs Classic High Handle
Made with a rubber upper, the majority of the boot is comprised of the shaft which is made of neoprene. Like most winter boots, they have a removable, moisture wicking insole that lets your feet breathe and also acts as an odor eliminator. The rubber outsole is non-slip and ensures you won’t go sliding on any frozen ponds anytime soon.
These boots can take you from slogging in 6 inches of frozen mud to looking elegant and put together due to their no-fuss outward appearance and sleek stylings. Most winter boots are either made for utility and don’t boast much in the way of fashion forward design, or are too focused on fashion to add any functional features. These boots provide the perfect happy medium.
Cost and Value:
For the price point, which is slightly higher than mid-range, the wearer has to ask what they want their winter boots to do. If they simply want waterproof boots that will keep their feet dry, without the need for too much hardware or bells and whistles, then these boots are perfect. They offer good traction, comfort, and are made to keep your feet toasty while also looking great.
- Removable liner
- Good traction
- Neoprene construction
- Some seam issues
8. Baffin Impact
By combining typical molding technology with a foam-heavy inner boot, the Baffin Impact uses the latest in foam technology to multi-layer its removable inner boot so it will act as an insulator and give the boot a glove-like fit to the foot. It’s rubber outsole is designed not to bend or crack in extreme temperatures, and it’s Diamond-Lite ripstop nylon uppers offer maximum durability. Its upper is treated with technology that repels water and doesn’t stain easily. The sole is comprised of polymers that make a lightweight boot that offers superior protection to your feet.
The Baffin Impact has an 8 layer insulated bootie that’s removable, which is even more layers than some of its other models. This ensures the wearers feet will be dry and warm, while Thermaplush insulation is rated to -148F. It has a lot of arch support due to the gelflex midsole and a rubber outsole with deep grooves for superior traction. It has two adjustable snap closures at the shaft and ankle, but otherwise no laces to speak of. This allows them to be slipped on and off with ease.
Cost and Value
These boots are great for all outdoor activities, especially where tall snow is concerned. The drawstring at the top of their shaft prevents snow from finding its way down into the boot. All of the advanced polar engineering that went into making these boots durable enough to withstand arctic conditions means that they’re some of the most competent winter boots on this list. One of the most technologically advanced winter boots on the market, a lot of thought and care went into making them superior, so they’re definitely worth the price point.
- Tall shaft with drawstring top
- Two adjustable, crack resistant snap closures
- Specifically engineered insole mold
- Removable 8 layer insulated bootie
- Can fit loose
9. Vasque Snowburban Ultradry
These boots are specifically designed not to stand around in freezing temperatures. To get the most out of them, you have to keep moving and they will generate heat. That will also do a lot to raise your own body temperature. They boast an impressive 400g 3M Thinsulate Ultra Insulation liner, and are reliably waterproof. They can be laced tight with 550 lb para cord laces and have an additional synch at the very top, to customize fit.
For most hiking boots, they should be snug on the foot, but not too tight. Again, with winter boots, it’s very important not to cut off circulation. They’re light and flexible for a boot of their size, ensuring full range of motion with your gait, and a rubber toe and kick plate that bend without cracking. They’re perfect for those on the move during winter that don’t a heavy boot.
Cost and Value:
For as rugged as these boots appear, the fact that they’re actually lightweight, flexible, and heat your feet while you move make them worth the price. That being said, they’re comparable to Sorel, Merrell, or any other similar winter boot of their size. Their 400g Thinsulate liner make them slightly more ahead of the curve, and their sporty look and feel will appeal to those that want all the features of a big sturdy winter boot but not at the expense of their mobility.
- 400g 3M Thinsulate Ultra Insulation
- 550lb para cord laces with synch at top
- Crack resistant toe and kick plate
- Can get leaks
10. The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack Mid GTX
The Hedgehog Fastpack Mid GTX uses Gore-Tex technology to keep their winter boots lightweight and maneuverable. Cradle Guide technology means a smooth gait and full toe mobility from heel cap to toe box. Vibram soles mean they can go on a lot of different surfaces, urban and rustic. They’re waterproof, and will be stable on wet or dry terrain.
The toe box is comprised of mesh and fabric, which allows for cool air to come in and to prevent overheating of the foot. The moisture wicking liner prevents your toes from getting wet inside and keeps them dry. Even in 20 degree weather, letting some air in is necessary to keep your toes with proper blood circulation.
Cost and Value
These winter boots are excellent if you live in a moderately cold climate and your winters aren’t very harsh. They’re waterproof, lightweight, and feel comfortable and flexible. You can wear them running arounds around town, running through some slightly snowy trails, and be unphased if you get caught in a bit of rain. Overall, they’re worth the price point if they become your go to winter boot when the cold months come.
- Gore-Tex technology
- Cradle Guide technology
- Runs small/narrow
A lot of different components go into selecting the best boots for winter, such as appearance, materials, and cut, but there are features that cannot be overlooked regardless of those; all winter boots must keep your feet warm and dry. Whether your environment or climate means you experience harsh winters or mild ones, you still want a boot that can protect your feet from the elements. Whether you need extra insulating layers, a more aggressive tread, or something easy to slip on and off, they should all be waterproof or at least water resistant. They should fit tight but not snug, allowing for proper blood circulation, and it’s best if they have some sort of mesh component to their construction to allow cool air to get in. The right winter boot will become your dependable piece of cold weather footwear that lasts for many seasons and ensures many lasting fun winter memories.
Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Winter Boots
Winter boots need to be able to withstand cold temperatures, and they do that by having extra layers to their interiors, insulated linings, crack-resistant rubber, and the addition of fur and quilted trim. When selecting the right winter boot, an aspect that is often overlooked is breathability. Most of the time people focus on a tight, snug fit because at the moment when they try the boot on, it feels warm, like it’s completely enveloped and secure. This is actually dangerous! A breathable winter boot means better blood circulation, which means that extremities, like your feet, won’t get so cold that they risk injury or worse. That’s why we’ve highlighted breathability in every winter boot whose brand makes a commitment to maintaining your health at all times during the inclement months. This is done in a variety of ways, but usually involves air vents along the midsole, or mesh fabric along the uppers and towards the toe box to let a little cool air in. Having proper internal regulation for your winter boots means that you can spend more time doing the things you love in the colder seasons rather than worrying about how long until your feet are frost bitten. From walking through a slight drizzle, to several feet of snow, you can feel confident that the winter boots we’ve selected are breathable and help maintain proper temperature regulation.
Not all winter boots are made for protection for extreme conditions, nor do they need to be. Environmental factors and the climate of where your winter is experienced determine how severe the conditions will be for you and what proper footwear is needed. Boots like the Baffin Impact, with their 8 layer insulated removable booties ensure that your feet will be dry and warm, even in the coldest of conditions. Their Thermaplush insulation is rated to -148F, which means your feet won’t feel how extreme the temperatures are outside even if you’re knee-deep in a snow drift. Sleek winter boots like the Bogs Classic High Handles are waterproof and anti-slip, which means if your winters mean a lot of rain and mud, these boots will keep you upright and dry. There’s nothing worse than being out in the snow or rainy weather for a couple of hours and having your boots soaked through. Not all boots designed for extreme conditions need to be particularly heavy or laden down with hardware – some, like the Vasque Snowburden Ultradry, are actually lightweight and are still just as tough as their heavier counterparts.
Winter can be a beautiful time of year, when the light wanes in the sky and the landscape becomes a series of picturesque snowy vistas. It also brings with it a lot of perilous situations, from slipping on icy surfaces, to sliding through muddy, wet patches of ground, and traversing terrain that’s pock-marked with puddles. Outdoor activities can take you on uneven hiking trails or slick sidewalks, and without proper traction on your winter footwear, you can risk serious injury. That’s why boots with deeply grooved lugs and thick tread are essential to prevent you from falling, sliding, or skidding into an accident. Kamik Nation Plus boots have some of the thickest tread around, perfectly designed to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground.
Not all winter boots need to be heavy to combat the glacial elements of the season. They can be lightweight, like the Columbia Bugaboot Omni III Plus, and feel just like an athletic sneaker while still giving you lots of protection against water and cold temperatures. Some boots, like the Kamik Nation Plus is a heavier boot that wants to make an impact on snow and mud, specifically designed for trudging through terrain and meaning the difference between you reaching your destination and surrendering to the forces of your environment. However, if you’re in a winter climate that only gets cold but doesn’t have much in the way of snow or mud, you’ll want a lighter bit of footwear that doesn’t impede your movements and lets you get where you’re going quickly. These sorts of cold weather boots tend to have more stylish designs that allow you to maintain a certain aesthetic that isn’t so utilitarian.
Shock absorption, like breathability, isn’t something most wearers consider when finding their perfect winter boots for the season, but it can be a vital feature depending on the outdoor activities they plan to participate in. If you’re someone who likes to go sledding, snow mobiling, or running around throwing snowballs in the winter, you want a boot that can withstand a lot of impact. Likewise, if your profession is a postal worker, a waste removal specialist, snow plow driver, or anything where you’ll be spending a lot of time on your foot, you want a boot that can protect your joints. Many brands today make their cold weather footwear with removable EVA footbeds that have shock absorbing pads, just like running shoes do. This means that every time your foot strikes the ground, from heel cup to toe plate, the boot outsole will absorb the brunt of contact, not your joints.
One of the most annoying things about winter is that it can be hard to get comfortable when it’s cold, wet, or otherwise miserable. There can oftentimes be no relief from the onslaught of wind, rain, and snow, making us all desperate for anywhere warm and dry. The proper winter boots should be nothing but comfortable, since that often means the difference between enjoying the season and facing it with bitter resolution. Winter boots should be well-lined and insulated, often with materials like felt or fleece. They should have cushioned, shock absorbing midsoles, padded collars, tongues, and uppers to avoid ankle chafing even in wool socks. They should have some mesh component to their design so they release heat and let cool air in, ensuring proper circulation. They should fit tight but not snug, as that will cut off circulation, and only serve to make your extremities colder. You want them to be slightly loose, allowing for some mobility and flexibility. They should be of a weight that isn’t so cloddy as to make you feel like you’re going to trip, so find a pair appropriate for your size. They should have a way to adjust their fit with laces, buckles, or clasps, and they should never be a hindrance to your daily life, work, or extracurricular fun.
Proper fit is essential in a winter boot, as ill fitting cold weather footwear can mean serious injury where environmental factors are considered. Winter boots can be slip on or lace up, short or tall, but should never fit too snugly. A snug boot cuts of blood circulation, makes extremities cold, and can result in the wearer not being able to feel the ground beneath them. When your toes are numb, your footfalls become uncertain, and that jeopardizes your equilibrium. To ensure that doesn’t happen, make you you try on several different pairs, and look for boots that have a lot of options for customizing their fit, like laces, drawstrings, or synches.
Terrain and environment play a big part in deciding what winter boot to wear. In mountainous environments with high altitudes and temperatures that drop low in a matter of hours, tall boots with superior insulation and traction are paramount. In areas where winter means a little rain or a slight change in temperature, it may mean that you’re out on a hiking trail, running errands, or out getting a hot beverage, in which case your winter boots may be lightweight, flexible, ankle cut, and slip on.
Common features to expect on winter boots
- Water resistant/waterproof materials
- Crack resistant rubber
- Heavy lugs on the outsoles
- Mesh fabric for breathability and blood circulation
- Traction and grip on the soles and outsoles to be slip and skid resistant
- Layered insulation to withstand cold temperatures
- -40F Rating
- Rust resistant laces
- Materials to make it lightweight
- Arch support at midsole
- Drawstrings at the top of the shaft
Since your winter boots will often become the boots you wear during the entirety of the colder months, it’s important that they have a lot of flexibility and energy return. Look for boots that are made with crack resistant rubber at low temperatures so that you know the soles and toe cap won’t start to break where you flex the most in your stride. A high degree of energy return will also prevent against foot fatigue and allow you to wear your boots longer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How much insulation is best for winter boots?
A. Depending on the climate and environment you live in, the amount of insulation you want in your boots will vary. Many brands make a removable liner, so you can customize how much insulation you need to meet the weather requirements. Look for boots that can withstand at least 20F, and if you need cold weather footwear for particularly arctic climates, then look for those rated to withstand -40F.
Q. Are all winter boots waterproof?
A. While many winter boots are waterproof, some are only water resistant. This means they can take some time in the rain or snow, but won’t give you all day protection. Waterproof winter boots ensure that your feet will never get soaking wet, and that you won’t have to spend a lot of time in an uncomfortable boot. This can be achieved by either a treatment that coats the entire boot, waterproof seams/stitching, or by virtue of the overall materials themselves that are used to construct it. Neoprene is a good waterproof material that many brands use at least partially in the construction of their cold weather footwear.
Q. What brand of firefighter boots is the toughest?
A. Due to the fact that there are so many winter boots that are made for so many purposes, the standard for the toughest winter boot usually falls to those brands that specialize in protection from extremely cold temperatures and have made their boots from hardware that is exceptionally long lasting. Columbia, Merrell, Sorel, and Baffin are known for making products that can be taken into extremely harsh conditions, with Baffin boots rated for serious zero degree exposure and in performing such activities as mountaineering, snowshoeing, and cross country hiking in snow. Boots like Kamik aren’t rated for as extreme of temperatures, but their construction is solid, well made, and their tread is thick and heavy, meaning that if you live in an environment with uneven terrain during the winter, your footing won’t be compromised.
Q. Can winter boots withstand salt from snow blowing?
A. Most boots can withstand the risk of the salt from snow blowing getting on them without corrosion. Most boots have rust resistant laces, or are made from materials that salt cannot eat through. Some boots, such as those made by Columbia, are less resistant to it, but most boots if not all can be treated with a spray to protect against such incidents.
Q. How long do winter boots last?
A. Winter boots should last you several seasons if purchased for utility and not for fashion. Fashion winter boots will degrade over time because they’re not made for the severity of winter weather conditions. If the climate you live in isn’t known for getting snow or rain, this may not be the case, but since winter almost always signifies an extreme change in temperature, you still want your winter boots to be able to keep your feet warm. That being said, even exposure to cold, moisture filled air can have a deleterious effect on boots that are purchased for their looks alone and not for their cold weather features. Proper winter boots are waterproof, have many layers of insulation, and are made from crack resistant rubber all so that environmental changes won’t wear them down.
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